Amnesty International has produced a travesty of a report, rehashing old antisemitic tropes and falsely denouncing Israel as an apartheid state. It says a lot more about Amnesty than it does about Israel.
The international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Amnesty International, is a troubled entity, having been entangled in major controversies recently.
It caught flak over its close association with Moazzam Begg, a high-profile jihadi supporter of the Taliban. It has been accused of making outrageous fat-cat payments to departing executives. It admitted in 2019 to a massive hole in its budget, prompting questions over the number and remuneration of its top managers, and leading to the resignation of its recently-appointed secretary-general, South African activist Kumi Naidoo.
An independent report the same year exposed the organisation’s toxic workplace culture of bullying, which led to at least two suicides. An internal review the following year confirmed the claims of whistleblowers that the organisation has a culture of discrimination and outright racism, including systemic anti-black bias and the use of racial slurs by senior staff.
Back in 1990, Amnesty endorsed the false testimony of Nayirah Al-Ṣabaḥ, who was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, to the effect that Iraqi soldiers invading Kuwait had stolen incubators from a hospital, leaving the babies to die. This ‘atrocity propaganda’, later exposed to be part of a public relations campaign paid for by the Kuwaiti government, was cited as a cause for going to war against Iraq in the Gulf War three months later.
In 1963, Amnesty limited its support for refugees fleeing from South Africa into the then-protectorate of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to only those people not engaged in the struggle against apartheid. Amnesty’s founding secretary-general, Peter Benenson, wrote: ‘I would like to reiterate our view that these [British] territories should not be used for offensive political action by the opponents of the South African Government. Communist influence should not be allowed to spread in this part of Africa, and in the present delicate situation, Amnesty International would wish to support Her Majesty’s Government in any such policy.’
A year later, upon learning of Nelson Mandela’s conviction for the ‘violent’ crime of sabotage, Amnesty promptly dropped him from its list of ‘prisoners of conscience’.
While its early opposition to communism was laudable, albeit inconsistent with its later ideological drift, it was clearly very selective in the human rights abuses it sought to highlight, and – at least under its founding secretary-general – didn’t care much about apartheid at all.
Travesty of a report
Clearly not occupying the high ground on matters of human rights, Amnesty has doubled down on its effort to deligitimise, demonise and ultimately, destroy the state of Israel, by publishing a travesty of a report in which it accuses Israel of perpetrating a system of apartheid against Palestinians.
By doing so, it reheated decades-old Soviet propaganda into an antisemitic diatribe that casts Israel as an apartheid state, systematically oppressing innocent Palestinians.
The Abraham Accords signed in 2020 signalled the normalisation of relations between Israel and a number of Islamic states, from Morocco in the west, to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the east. This has led to a surprising warming of perceptions in the Arab world towards Israel as a legitimate Jewish homeland.
Amnesty, however, remains committed to the destruction of Israel, and in pursuit of that goal perpetuates the fiction created by the Soviet Union, that Zionists are colonial oppressors of the Palestinian people.
While whipping up Nazi-like hatred for Jews among Arabs, the Kremlin needed a more subtle way to convince other countries to join the opposition to Israel and its main supporter, the United States. The victims-of-oppression narrative was designed to do just that.
In 1975, the Soviet bloc, together with its Arab allies and the very much aligned Non-Aligned Movement, managed to pass United Nations Resolution 3379, which denounced Zionism as racism.
Around that time, Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB, said: ‘Islam was obsessed with preventing the infidels’ occupation of its territory, and it would be highly receptive to our characterisation of the US Congress as a rapacious Zionist body aiming to turn the world into a Jewish fiefdom.’
Long after the demise of the Soviet Union, Amnesty remains a ‘useful idiot’.
In its report, Amnesty claims the origins of ‘apartheid’ in Israel go right back to its founding, thus attempting to delegitimise the country’s entire existence.
By placing the word ‘defence’ in quotation marks, and using phrases like ‘under the guise of maintaining security’, Amnesty denies not only Israel’s right to peaceful existence, but also its right to defend itself against wars of aggression launched by its Arab neighbours, and against the numerous unprovoked attacks aimed at its civilians from the occupied territories.
Absurdly, it claims that Israel’s sole motive is ‘to establish or maintain a system of racial oppression and domination’.
If this were true, Israel would surely expel the Arabs in its territory, as Jews have been forcibly expelled from almost all Muslim Arab countries. Yet, it has not done so.
If this were true, Israel would surely maintain discriminatory laws aimed at its own Arab citizens. Yet, it does not. Its Arab citizens enjoy full equal rights, and even serve in the present coalition government.
Amnesty’s working definition of apartheid is summarised as: ‘The crime of apartheid is committed when inhuman or inhumane acts are committed within the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed at a civilian population with the intention of creating or maintaining such a system of oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.’
So Amnesty considers the defence of Israeli civilians against attacks by Palestinians to be ‘an attack’ by Israel ‘directed at a civilian population’. This is a perverse lie.
The same Nelson Mandela whom Amnesty hung out to dry after his imprisonment in 1964, said in 1993: ‘As a movement we recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognise the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders, but with equal vigour support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.’
Misinformation and lies
There have been many hearty denunciations of Amnesty’s apartheid report, but perhaps one could start with Bassem Eid, a Palestinian living in Jericho and an internationally-recognised human rights campaigner.
For 15 years Eid ran the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, focusing initially on human rights violations committed by Israeli armed forces, but later expanding its scope to include rights violations by Palestinian authorities and armed forces against their own people.
Eid released a video in which he minces no words: ‘While it is not a perfect country, Israel is definitely not an apartheid state,’ he said, calling the Amnesty report ‘full of misinformation and lies about Israel’.
He said: ‘Amnesty International and other Israeli haters can’t seem to live with the fact that the world is embracing Israel with open arms. They want to continue demonising Israel and denying it the right to exist as the one and the only Jewish state.’
He continued: ‘So here are the facts. The state of Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy that upholds equal rights for all its citizens. The Amnesty report’s claims, that the state of Israel was founded on the basis of discriminating between Jews and Arabs, indicates the ignorance of its authors. Israel was established as a refuge for persecuted people with different backgrounds, identities, languages and cultures. Apartheid which is defined as a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race simply does not exist in Israel. Look at Israeli’s current government. It is a comprise of Christians, Muslims and Jews, people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, descendants of Holocaust survivors, and immigrants. Every sector of Israeli society is inclusive and diverse. Everyone can vote. Everyone can attend school. Everyone can work. In Israel everyone can dream for peace and a better future. So let us set the record straight. Amnesty international and its secretary-general, Dr. Agnès Callamard, are just promoting false propaganda that has been discredited time and time again.’
False and malicious
Justice Richard Goldstone, formerly of the South African Constitutional Court and leader of the 2008/9 United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, was equally clear: ‘The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.’
In 2014, professor Alan Johnson, the founder and editor of the journal Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region, published an excellent and in-depth paper on the ‘Apartheid smear’. He concludes that describing Israel as an apartheid state is ‘factually wrong, malicious, politically polarising and damages the peace process.’
In an article on the subject, Daniel Ben-Ami perceptively notes a disclaimer buried on page 37 of the 280-page Amnesty report: ‘Amnesty International notes and clarifies that systems of oppression and domination will never be identical. Therefore, this report does not seek to argue that, or assess whether, any system of oppression and domination as perpetrated in Israel and the OPT is, for instance, the same or analogous to the system of segregation, oppression and domination as perpetrated in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.’
It is, in fact, so non-identical, that describing it as a system of oppression and domination, or as apartheid, is entirely false.
David Suissa, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal, says that the world needs a Justice International to ‘root out the poison’ that is Amnesty.
He points out that Amnesty overlooks the countries with the worst human rights performance in the world, in order to focus on its campaign against Israel.
According to Statista.com, the list of the worst offenders starts with Egypt, Syria, Yemen, China, Iran, North Korea, the Central African Republic, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma/Myanmar, Libya, Venezuela, Eritrea, Russia and Nigeria.
A Freedom House ranking of countries places Israel among the world’s free countries, the only country in the Middle East and North Africa to enjoy that distinction.
Inaccurate and irresponsible
The Anti-Defamation League, which campaigns against antisemitism, said: ‘We have reviewed Amnesty International UK’s … report on Israel and strongly condemn it as an effort to demonise Israel and undermine its legitimacy as a Jewish and democratic state. In an environment of rising anti-Jewish hate, this type of report is not only inaccurate but also irresponsible and likely will lead to intensified antisemitism around the world.’
NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute, has published a detailed analysis of the Amnesty report, finding it is filled with stock antisemitic tropes, denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination, has an opaque methodology inconsistent with recognised standards, deliberately omits ‘violations committed by Palestinian authorities or armed groups … which are not the focus of this report’, appeals to an arbitrary legal definition of apartheid which is inconsistent with international law, includes recommendations that would effectively eliminate the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland, whitewashes violence and terrorism directed at Israeli civilians with no acknowledgements that these constitute war crimes, and describes terror campaigns by Hamas and Hezbollah as mere ‘popular resistance’ to the Israeli occupation.
‘Every aspect of the Amnesty International version of the apartheid campaign reflects its political agenda of exploiting tragedy to delegitimise Jewish sovereign equality and self- determination,’ it concludes. ‘Essentially, Amnesty demands the elimination of the Jewish State, and justifies doing so by perverting international law, misrepresenting Israeli laws and practices, and presenting an apologetic view of the murder of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists.’
‘The State of Israel absolutely rejects all the false allegations that appear in the report that Amnesty [published],’ said a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement. ‘The report consolidates and recycles lies, inconsistencies, and unfounded assertions that originate from well-known anti-Israeli hate organisations, all with the aim of reselling damaged goods in new packaging. Repeating the same lies of hate organisations over and over does not make the lies reality, but rather makes Amnesty illegitimate.’
The statement quoted Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid: ‘Amnesty was once an esteemed organisation that we all respected. Today, it is the exact opposite. It is not a human rights organisation, but just another radical organisation that echoes propaganda with no serious examination. Instead of seeking facts, Amnesty quotes lies spread by terrorist organisations. Five minutes of serious factchecking were enough to know that the facts that appeared in the report published this week were a delusion divorced from reality. Israel is not perfect, but it is a democracy committed to international law and open to scrutiny, with a free press and strong Supreme Court.’
Just as it is disrespectful to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust to draw casual, unmerited parallels between the Nazi extermination camps and lesser, or different, events, so it is an insult to the victims and survivors of apartheid to hijack the term for propaganda purposes, as Amnesty has done with this report.
The parallel is also entirely false, as evidenced by the views cited above, and as I explained in a previous column about the bullying campaign directed against Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane.
It is time to recognise Amnesty International for what it is. It is no longer impartially dedicated to highlighting human rights abuses. It has become a highly partisan propaganda group on the side of antisemites and terrorist organisations.
While the Jewish state of Israel, the only free democracy in the Middle East, is busy making peace with its Muslim Arab neighbours, Amnesty International remains on the side of warmongers who seek to destroy Israel and push the Jews into the sea.
Amnesty International no longer campaigns against human rights violations. It now agitates against human rights.
Photo: Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, speaks during a news conference as activist Orly Noy (right) looks on in Jerusalem.
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images
The views of the writer are not necessarily those of the Daily Friend or the IRR.