Political theater of the absurd

Amnesty International‘s destructive agenda highlights the need for an entirely new foundation to promote universal human-rights principles.

Palestinians confront Israeli troops at the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah, on January 10 (photo credit: ISSAM RIMAWI / FLASH 90)
Palestinians confront Israeli troops at the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah, on January 10
(photo credit: ISSAM RIMAWI / FLASH 90)
FOR DECADES, Amnesty International has been considered the most influential non-governmental organization (NGO) in the world. It claims 3 million members and has branches in 70 countries. Unfortunately, however, it has become the embodiment of the moral failure of the human-rights movement.
The organization has been weakened by financial scandals and promotes a radical agenda far removed from its founding universal principles. In particular, Amnesty is deeply involved with BDS and the campaign to demonize Israel.
On February 26, during “Israel Apartheid Week” on campuses around the world, Amnesty published a “report” accusing the “trigger-happy” IDF of killing innocent Palestinians “with impunity” and calling for “war crimes” investigations and an embargo on the sale of defensive equipment to Israel, including anti-riot materials.
The 85-page publication refers to 45 Palestinian civilian deaths between 2011 and 2013, but neglects to point out that almost all the incidents involved terrorism and violent demonstrations designed to provoke responses by Israeli security forces and create “martyrs.” Amnesty’s analysis distorts the definition of “civilian” beyond recognition, and, in lieu of any investigation, most of the text consists of moving, but entirely unverifiable Palestinian “testimonies.” In violation of the International Bar Association’s guidelines for human rights fact-finding, the authors remain anonymous, making it impossible to assess their bias and expertise (if any).
The report also continues Amnesty’s record of silence on the violation of the human rights of Jewish Israelis, omitting mention of the scores of civilians, including young children, severely injured by stone-throwing Palestinians and in stabbing attacks or killed in fatal shootings during the same period. Israelis are consistently dehumanized and demonized, extending a practice that has long characterized Amnesty and other groups waving the banner of universal human rights.
Over the years, Amnesty has been guilty of gross anti-Israeli canards. In April 2002, an Amnesty official speaking on the BBC was the first to “confirm” an IDF “massacre” in Jenin, which never took place – a blood libel that continues to be propagated. In 2009, the organization played a central role in the now discredited Goldstone Report, which was filled with similar false indictments of Israel after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Amnesty’s anti-Israel obsession is an integral part of the political theater of the absurd that characterizes much of the international human-rights network. Its approach to the massive human-rights crimes in the Middle East – for example, the carnage in Syria and the mass bombings in Lebanon and Iraq – highlights this bankruptcy. Amnesty reports on Syria are significantly shorter, lack details and have no visible impact on a conflict with a death toll reportedly exceeding 140,000 and which has created well over one million refugees.
In addition, instead of employing human-rights professionals with the appropriate experience, several of Amnesty’s “experts” on Israel and the conflict are longtime anti-Israel campaigners. For example, Deborah Hyams was a “human shield” protecting Palestinians from the Israeli efforts to prevent suicide bombings and Edith Garwood was an activist in the notoriously anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement. Another official, Kristyan Benedict, has posted many anti-Israel attacks, including a clearly anti-Semitic “joke” for which he was disciplined, but not removed from the organization. These Amnesty officials reflect a wider culture of hatred directed at Israel.
In commenting on this dismal record, Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, noted, “In Northern Ireland in the ’70s and ’80s I admired Amnesty International even as they heaped criticism on the British security forces of which I was a member,” since they “helped stop a number of real human-rights abuses and were often commendably impartial.”
Now, however, Kemp continued, Amnesty’s leaders have “lost their way,” as evidenced by their “naked anti-Israel propaganda.” He cited the “the glib dismissal of petrol bombs as posing ‘little or no threat’ to the lives of Israeli soldiers. I have seen firsthand how horrifically a petrol bomb can wound a soldier.” Amnesty’s destructive agenda highlights the need for an entirely new foundation to promote universal human-rights principles. The existing institutions have signally failed in this highly important task and many of their officials are tainted beyond rehabilitation.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, who teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University, is president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and coauthor of ‘Best Practices for Human Rights and Humanitarian NGOs’