LONDON – Human rights organization Amnesty International refused to heed a
request from a Jewish community organization to withdraw a platform it is giving
to an anti-Israel activist.
Last week the UK’s Zionist Federation wrote
to Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen asking her to reconsider an
event with Ben White, a journalist and anti-Israel activist who once stated that
he understood why some people are anti-Semitic.
The event is a launch for
White’s new book, titled Palestinians in Israel: segregation, discrimination and
democracy, and will take place at Amnesty’s headquarters in north London on
On its website, Amnesty says that White will talk about his
book and have a question-andanswer session. It is also providing a drinks
reception and opportunity to buy signed copies of the book.
letter, sent on January 12, ZF chairman Harvey Rose said that while the
organization supports the freedom of speech and right of people to criticize
Israeli government policies, White’s whole approach towards Israel “goes beyond
the bounds of acceptable behavior.”
Asking why Amnesty is giving White a
platform “to propagate his abhorrent and mendacious views unchallenged,” Rose
asked Amnesty to reconsider its support for the event.
you could postpone it in order to put on a revised event that would enable a
genuine debate to take place with a speaker who holds a different view, for
example, [Jerusalem Post
] journalist Khaled Abu Toameh who lives in Israel,”
According to the letter, White has defended alleged anti-
Semitic remarks made by the former German politician Jurgen Mullemann, who
compared Israeli government action to those of the Nazi regime.
Palestinians, who, in the name of a social-democratic experiment, had to endure
massacres, death marches and ethnic cleansing,” he said in a 2007
The ZF also questioned White’s “dubious sources” and
motivations, saying that he is motivated not by “true concern” for the
Palestinians but an issue he has with Jewish sovereignty.
actions are motivated not by a true concern for the Palestinians but rather an
irrational obsession with and hatred of Israel. If he were truly concerned with
the rights of underprivileged people, why, in all the time that he spent living
in Brazil, have we been unable to find any articles by him on the terrible
discrimination and persecution suffered by those in the Favelas and by the
native peoples in the Amazon region?” the letter asks.
The letter also
questions White’s allegiance to Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic
Movement’s northern branch – “a racist and anti-Semite” – and London-based Hamas
supporter Azzam Tamimi, an advocate of suicide bombing.
Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said that the close
cooperation that Amnesty International has developed with Ben White has
contributed to moral degradation of this once principled
“White’s intense hatred directed at Israel, which is the
embodiment of Jewish sovereign equality in the world, is entirely inconsistent
with the universal values that Amnesty claims to promote. If Amnesty seeks to
restore its tarnished moral credentials, it must end this cooperation, and join
in denouncing White’s anti-Israel campaigns,” he told The Jerusalem Post
Historian and Post
blogger Petra Marquardt-Bigman has also
questioned White’s work.
“Among the issues that have been repeatedly
raised by critics of White’s work are questions about his expertise and his
apparent unwillingness to acknowledge that the sources he relies on are anything
but uncontroversial and have been shown to contain numerous distortions and
misrepresentations,” she wrote.
She concluded that he is “a passionate
ideologue who has little regard for facts that don’t fit his agenda – and his
agenda arguably doesn’t reflect primarily a concern for the Palestinian plight,
but rather a fierce determination to demonize Israel.”
In reference to
his new book, Marquardt-Bigman said in a recent blog that White seems to offer a
message that is not all that different from the one Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad has propagated.
“While he ostensibly focuses on ‘Palestinians
in Israel’ (and the apartheid-like oppression they suffer), his purpose has
remained the same – and Amnesty UK is fully aware of it, since the organization
announces on its website the title of White’s previous Israeli apartheid: a
beginner’s guide,” she said.
Comment is Free Watch, an organization that
monitors the Guardian’s blog Comment is Free, where White blogs, said that he
regularly attributes the malicious slurs of colonization, racism and apartheid
to Israel, acts as an apologist for Islamist violence against the Jewish state,
draws parallels between Nazi Germany and Zionism and flirtation with Holocaust
A spokesperson for Amnesty International UK said that the event
is part of its work.
“Amnesty’s work on human rights in Israel and the
Occupied Palestinian Territories includes raising important issues about
This event is part of that work.
“Ben White’s book
talks of a ‘fresh vision of justice and peace for Jews and Palestinians,’
expressing the author’s support for ‘a future based on a genuine co-existence of
equals’ and a ‘solution that protects the rights of both the Palestinian people
and Jewish Israelis’ [White is an advocate of a onestate
“These are important issues and the event is an opportunity to
explore them,” the spokesman added.