A travesty from Amnesty?
Feb 4, 2022 | AIJAC staff
Update from AIJAC
This Update is devoted to reactions to, and analysis of, a highly controversial report released by Amnesty International on Feb. 1, labelling Israel as “apartheid” inside both pre-1967 Israel and with respect to the West Bank.
We lead with a solid summary of what the report says, and the key criticisms of it from the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). The BICOM backgrounder also lists numerous ways in which the report leaves out of the picture anything that does not fit with Amnesty’s anti-Zionist narrative. Finally, it provides a bit of history regarding the claim that Israel represents apartheid, a claim which the Soviet Union and its satellites, along with the Arab states, promoted heavily back in the 1970s. For this good first look at the controversy over the report, CLICK HERE.
Some slightly longer, but highly useful, detailed critiques of the report come from NGO-Monitor and CAMERA.
Next up, we bring you a reaction to the Amnesty claims from Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli Arab human rights activist. Haddad condemns Amnesty for disrespecting both his identity and his lived experience – by insisting all Israeli Arabs are Palestinian, and denying the reality that Israeli Arabs and Jews largely live in peace together, with integration between the two kinds of Israelis constantly improving. He also says Amnesty is denigrating the memory of the real victims of apartheid in South Africa. For Haddad’s powerful response to the new report, CLICK HERE.
Another similar response comes from Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, in a short video.
Our final entry comes from veteran senior US official and foreign policy analyst Elliott Abrams – who delves further into the resemblance between Amnesty’s claims and Soviet anti-Zionist extremism and antisemitism from the 1960s and 1970s. He calls the report a “shockingly dishonest document” and lists a few representative examples of where it grossly mispresents history to denigrate and demonise Israel. He argues that Amnesty is not the human rights defender it once was, and appears to have transformed into a “propaganda arm” of a global campaign against Israel’s right to exist. For his complete argument, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in…
- Responses from some international law experts to the key claims in the Amnesty report.
- A summary of some of the scandals – including extreme and antisemitic statements by many employees and researchers – which have dented Amnesty’s credibility over recent years, from UK researcher David Collier. A longer report on these scandals is here.
- A floundering response from Amnesty officials to questioning from the Times of Israel about why Israel was singled out to be labelled Apartheid when other states like China were not.
- An analysis of the significance of an official visit to Bahrain by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz over the last couple of days.
- That visit followed Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s historic trip to the UAE last weekend – which was apparently unsuccessfully targetted by a Houthi missile attack from Yemen.
- A report that Israeli intelligence was vital for the US strike which reportedly killed Islamic State head Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in northern Syria on Thursday.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- AIJAC’s media release on the Amnesty report.
- Summaries of the statements by the many Australian politicians who publicly disagreed with, or criticised the Amnesty report – including PM Scott Morrison, ALP Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong, Dave Sharma, Josh Burns and others – on AIJAC’s Facebook page.
- An AIJAC video on the Israel Apartheid claims.
- An AIJAC video on Israeli President Herzog’s historic visit to the UAE last weekend.
Amnesty International and “Apartheid”
Amnesty International [Amnesty], a once impeachable protector of human rights, has fallen to a new low, with its report labelling Israel as “apartheid” inside both pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank.
The report, a twisted, one-sided account of a complex conflict, damages local and regional hopes of building peace and advancing a solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Amnesty’s argument for using the term “apartheid” hinges on alleging that the Jewish State has had an “intention to maintain … a system of oppression and domination” since its founding moment in 1948. Israel’s intentions are not “oppression and domination” but rather securing and preserving the national self-determination and freedom of the Jewish people, and protecting the lives of its citizens, Jewish and Arab, from military and terrorist threats.
1. Repeating the Apartheid Smear
Israel within the 1967 Green Line is a state in which the 21 per cent Arab minority are citizens with voting rights, who play a full role in society. Arab citizens have reached the highest levels in the public sector, serving in the Cabinet, on the Supreme Court, and filling important positions in the civil service. Last week the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee appointed six Arab judges and jurists (out of 19) to prominent positions, half of them women. In 2021, 58,000 students – 17 per cent of all students entering higher education in Israel – were Arab, double the figure from a decade ago.
The Amnesty report decontextualises in order to demonise the State of Israel. It ignores realities inside Israel that do not fit with its anti-Zionist narrative, particularly over the security situation the country faces. For instance, the security barrier is presented as an example of apartheid, yet was a response to waves of suicide bombings of the Second Intifada and saved many lives. In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered.
Amnesty’s report excludes all consideration of “violations committed by Palestinian authorities or armed groups” which it writes are “not the focus of this report”. This also ‘decontextualises to demonise’ by making Israeli defensive actions appear motiveless and wanton cruelty against Palestinians rather than legitimate acts of self-defence against a deadly terror threat.The report encases the word “terrorist” in scare quotes, and presents anti-Jewish riots in May 2021 as “peaceful protests,” despite the murder and injury of Jewish civilians and the widespread vandalism of Jewish-owned property and synagogues. While Amnesty decries the Israeli revocation of residency status of four Jerusalemites in 2006, NGO Monitor observes that, the four men in question were all Hamas members – Muhammad Abu Tir, Ahmad Attoun, Muhammad Totah and Khaled Abu Arafeh.
The report erases from historical memory Israeli attempts to achieve peace by negotiations and of the serial Palestinian rejections. As Salo Aizenberg argued in Fathom in 2021, “This erasure sustains the libel that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ seeking ‘permanent occupation’ and underpins a ludicrously uncritical attitude to the Palestinian national movement, its leadership, and aspects of its political culture.”
Amnesty’s description of the Gaza blockade ignores the findings of the UN-led 2011 Palmer Commission which stated: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza … the naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.” Israeli self-defence to restore deterrence against the Iran-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad is anathematised by Amnesty as unjustified Israeli aggression.
The report mentions Hamas and the four Israeli-Hamas escalations over the last decade, but inverts the truth by accusing Israel of being the aggressor. Whilst Hamas is given free ride over the impact of its thousands of indiscriminate rockets fired toward Israeli communities and homes. Amnesty calls for the “right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees”, not to a new Palestinian state but to Israel itself. Thus instead of promoting the internationally accepted paradigm of ‘two states for two peoples’, with Israelis and Palestinians fulfilling their rights of self-determination in separate states, this would result in two majority-Palestinian states – one in Israel and one in the West Bank.
2. Hopeful Developments Ignored
The report ignores a series of positive developments that the international community can build on in the pursuit of peace and equality in 2022 and beyond.
Unprecedented Israeli Coalition Government with Arab participation
The current Israeli government consists of eight parties, including for the first time the Islamist United Arab Party (Ra’am), headed by Mansour Abbas. Amnesty’s charge that a Jewish state is by nature “apartheid” contradicts the view of Abbas, who recently recognised Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas said: “The State of Israel was born as a Jewish state. It is the decision of the people and the question is not what the identity of the state is. It was born this way and will remain that way.” He also noted, “The question is how to integrate Arab society into it … there is no doubt that we are on the threshold of a new era, and I say this cautiously and hope that the process will succeed, and that the coalition-level partnership will be a trend towards more different partnerships in the industry and more.” The present Israeli Knesset (parliament) also consists of 14 Arab MKs from six different parties.
The government has made progress in reducing the gap between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. Recently, the government approved a 2022-2026 socioeconomic development programme worth 30bn shekel (over £7bn) for the Arab community. Of that, NIS 9.4bn (£2.2bn) is allocated to improve healthcare, social welfare, and education, as well as £52.8m to encourage Arab citizens of Israel and other minorities to enter the high-tech sector, encourage new tech entrepreneurs, promote innovation and to better incorporate them in the industry. The government is also working to address the rising rate of crime within Arab society. Plans include new police stations in Arab towns, heightened police operations on the street, the drafting of more officers and establishing new units to prosecute gangs.
The Abraham Accords
The report’s purpose of demonising and delegitimising Israel is inconsistent with the progress of peace-making in the region. The Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco has shown the true possibility of tolerance and coexistence. Since their signing in September 2020, Israeli-Arab relations have grown at a considerable pace and expanded into cooperation across several key sectors.
The agreements explicitly acknowledge that the shared heritage of the Abrahamic religions should be the new foundation for the relationship. Specifically, the Abraham Accords state that this shared heritage should be the basis for “a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding, and mutual respect”. In contrast, Amnesty adopts the narrative of extremists and rejectionists that foster a destructive ‘boycott activism’ in the West, and damage the chances of compromise, mutual recognition and further reconciliation efforts in the region.
Confidence Building Measures in the West Bank
After several years of stagnation in the peace process, the Bennett-Lapid coalition recognises the benefits of enhancing political and economic stability in the West Bank, as well as building trust and offering confidence building measures (CBMs). Defence Minister Gantz has met twice with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, most recently hosting him in his home at the end of December. After the meeting, Israel approved a series of CBMs, including approving the status on a humanitarian basis for 6000 West Bank residents, and an additional status approval for 3500 Gaza residents; advancing the transfer of tax payments worth NIS 100 million; and an additional approval of 600 business cards for Palestinian businesspeople, 500 additional permits for businesspeople to enter Israel with their vehicles, and dozens of VIP permits for PA senior officials.
3. The Historical Context of the Apartheid Smear
The “Apartheid” charge originated as an act of political warfare during the ‘anti-Zionist’ campaigns waged by the Communist states during the Cold War. These campaigns frequently descended into antisemitism, with the word ‘Zionist’ understood by all as a fig-leaf for ‘Jew’.
US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan during the 1975 UN Debate over resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. Moynihan famously said, “The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations and before the world that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”
The second key moment came in 1975 when the Soviet Bloc, the authoritarian Arab states, and the so-called ‘Non-Aligned Movement’ used their built-in majority at the UN General Assembly to pass Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. The third moment arrived in 2001 after the failure of the Camp David peace talks.
A group of NGOs and anti-Israel activists hijacked the UN’s World Conference against Racism, Racial Intolerance and Xenophobia in Durban, South Africa to launch a global campaign to demonise Israel as an “apartheid state”. This latest Amnesty report follows others last year by the Human Rights Watch and the Israeli NGO B’Tzelem, that appear to be part of a wider campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel.
In addition to decontextualising Israeli actions and ignoring recent positive events, the “Apartheid” framework is also a poor and counter-productive paradigm for understanding the century-long conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is best understood as an unresolved national dispute between two peoples, both of whom have legitimate claims for national selfdetermination, but who have failed so far to divide the land between them. As Benjamin Pogrund, former anti-apartheid activist, former deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail, and a friend of Nelson Mandela put it: ‘Applying the word “apartheid” to Israelis is both factually wrong and politically naïve.’ The late veteran left wing Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has argued that, “The mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy. The Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict.”
Amnesty has a legitimate role in holding all governments and powers to account for human rights violations. It doesn’t have a legitimate role in deciding that the Jewish people are not entitled to national self-determination and a state where they are the majority, when the existence of such a state is the Jewish people’s only guaranteed shield against pogroms and genocide.
For a fuller discussion of the apartheid smear see Alan Johnson ‘The Apartheid Smear’ (BICOM, 2014), which will be revised and updated in 2022.
Amnesty tries to distort my Arab identity and dismantle Israel
Palestinians live under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or under the control of the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza. What about Israeli Arabs?
By YOSEPH HADDAD
Jerusalem Post, Feb.2, 2022
Israeli Arab activist Yoseph Haddad in his hometown of Nazareth (Photo: Youtube screenshot).
As an Israeli Arab who grew up in Nazareth, Amnesty International’s recent report tries to distort my identity. The 211-page document constantly refers to an “apartheid” against “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” making no differentiation between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
Palestinians live under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or under the control of the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.
What about Israeli Arabs like me? We live under the democratically elected government of Israel with equal rights like any Jewish citizen. No matter how many times Amnesty International tries to erase my identity for trying to advance their political agenda, that doesn’t make it the truth.
I was born an Israeli, and I will remain an Israeli. I am entitled to all the same rights as any citizen of Israel. I was a soldier in Israel’s Defense Forces protecting the north of Israel, where most of the Israeli-Arab community lives, from terrorist rockets attacks by Hezbollah.
Not only that, but I was also a commander of dozens of Jewish soldiers. What kind of an “apartheid” would let Arabs give orders to Jews? The non-existent kind.
A recent report by the NGO Israel Democracy Institute showed that the majority of Israeli Arabs do not, in fact, identify as Palestinian but as Arab or Israeli Arab. Only 7% of those surveyed even identify as Palestinian. A subsequent poll showed that 81% of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel over living in the US or in any other Western country. I guess life isn’t that bad under “Israeli domination,” contrary to the lies Amnesty spreads about our lives in the only democracy in the Middle East.
Amnesty’s report includes numerous falsehoods and cherry-picks incidents that fit its narrative to delegitimize Israel. For example, Amnesty repeatedly mentions physical segregation between Arabs and Jews. Their “researchers” should visit an Israeli hospital where a Muslim Arab woman can receive the best care from a Jewish doctor, or an ultra-orthodox Jewish child can be treated by an Arab doctor.
In our Arab-Israeli community, the majority of citizens want to live in peace with Jews. Many want to be, and already are, an integral part of Israeli society. Instead of promoting cooperation and a vision for a better future, organizations like Amnesty International delegitimize the only democratic state in the Middle East, trying to brand it as an “apartheid” state.
Apartheid is defined as a system of discrimination or oppression based on race. So, let’s talk about it. Israel’s basic laws explicitly state that they protect against all discrimination and preserve the status of the State of Israel as being a Jewish and democratic state. Not Jewish, not democratic, but Jewish and democratic. That means that, since its establishment, this country has specifically protected the rights of religious and ethnic minorities by law.
Does that mean there’s no racism in Israel? Of course not, like in any other country – Israel has its problems that need fixing. In this sense, Israel is no different than any other Western democracy, like the US, France and the UK, which all try every day to do better and fix racial, economic and educational disparities.
As for the Palestinians, the status-quo of occupation is problematic, but still, it’s not based on racial discrimination, but rather on national conflict. A conflict that Israel has proven it would like to end on several occasions when it offered generous solutions for peace, before the Palestinians rejected them. If Israel has a racial issue with Arabs, why did we then make peace with Morocco, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain? Why then are there so many Arabs who are part of Israel’s government, making decisions that impact every Israeli? Why are there Arab judges deciding on the fate of Israeli citizens in court?
“I’ve been to South Africa myself, and I’ve seen with my own eyes how disgusting and soul-crushing the crime of Apartheid is” – The Apartheid Museum, Cape Town, South Africa (Photo: Shutterstock, Tom Wurl)
I’ve been to South Africa myself, and I’ve seen with my own eyes how disgusting and soul-crushing the crime of Apartheid is. This is part of the reason why I can’t stand by and let these lies be spread by organizations like Amnesty International for its own political gain. The accusation of “apartheid” is a serious one and should never be used as a political tool to demonize a country that you don’t like.
Amnesty International, stop disrespecting the history and victims of the actual Apartheid regime in South Africa, and let’s instead work together with Arabs and Jews to resolve these conflicts in a peaceful way, instead of adopting the ideologies and lies that are repeated by extremists who don’t believe that Israel, the only Jewish-democratic state in the world, has the right to exist at all.
Yoseph Haddad is an Israeli rights activist. He is the CEO of the NGO Together – Vouch for Each Other, which aims to create a better understanding and cooperation between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews.
Amnesty International Joins the Anti-Israel Jackals
By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
National Review, February 2, 2022 10:03 AM
Zionist caricature from the Soviet magazine, Krokodil, 1972. Amnesty’s latest report is reminiscent of Soviet antisemitic, anti-Israel propaganda from the Cold War, according to Abrams. (Image: Reddit)
All over the world, from China to Russia and Iran to Venezuela, men and women lie in foul prison cells for the “crime” of peacefully protesting oppression. In 1961, well-meaning people founded Amnesty International to advocate for the release of such patriots.
But Amnesty International (AI) has left that focus far behind, and has now produced a vicious attack on Israel that is reminiscent of nothing so much as the Soviet anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tracts from the height of the Cold War. AI’s report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity, is a shockingly dishonest document whose biases against the Jewish State leap off each of its 280 pages. Some young diplomat in the Israeli Foreign Ministry will no doubt go through it paragraph by paragraph, and assemble a pile of lies that reaches the Ministry’s roof. But for our purposes, a few examples will suffice.
If I said that World War II started when “conflict broke out in 1939” rather than saying that it started when the Nazis disassembled Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, you’d say I was a Nazi propagandist and either a liar or an ignoramus. But that’s essentially what AI does in this document when it refers to “the 1947-49 conflict before and after the May 1948 declaration of the State of Israel,” stating that “thousands of Palestinians and Jews were killed and more than 800,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the context of attacks on civilians.” That Israel accepted partition and the Arab states all then attacked it is of course unmentioned; to hear AI tell it, the “conflict” just happened, more or less like an earthquake or some other natural disaster. That Arab leaders urged Arabs to flee is also unmentioned, as is the desire of some to escape war and violence. No — everyone who left did so “in the context of attacks on civilians.”
Another good example is Gaza. Israel left the territory in 2005 — removing every single Israeli settler, every soldier, and every military base. Yet AI refers to it as “occupied” by Israel about a hundred times in this document. If keeping the border closed to prevent infiltration by terrorists constitutes “occupation” of Gaza, then Gaza is occupied by Egypt as well — but that is a point AI does not wish to make.
Israeli implemented a painful and difficult complete withdrawal of every settler and soldier from Gaza in 2005 – yet Amnesty constantly insists the area is still “occupied” by Israel (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | Licence details).
What about the terrible conditions under which AI says Israeli Arabs live? The report’s authors somehow manage to avoid mentioning that while Arabs are 20 percent of all Israelis, they are 35 percent of Israeli pharmacists. Already in 2015, 16 percent of all medical students in the country were Arab; at the Technion medical school, perhaps Israel’s most prestigious, Arabs comprised 38 percent of students by 2015, and at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, they comprised 31 percent. Today, an Arab party is part of Israel’s governing coalition for the first time in the country’s history — hardly a sign of unbreakable apartheid and oppression.
Throughout this document, Israeli Arabs are referred to as “Palestinians.” Amnesty’s goal here is clear: It wishes to suggest that they are not really Israeli and are instead oppressed and treated as foreigners. According to Amnesty, Jews are Israelis; Arabs are “Palestinians.” But that is not what Israeli Arabs say: a 2020 poll by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem reported “a dramatic rise in the share of Arab Israelis who define their primary identity as ‘Israeli,’ and a concomitant sharp decline in the share who self-identify as ‘Palestinian.’” Amnesty, of course, is not interested in anything that contradicts its party line. This “report” on Israel is 280 pages long. If you’re looking for the 280-page Amnesty report on China, or Iran, or Russia, don’t bother; only Israel gets this kind of treatment.
This document is laced with invective: It relies heavily on charges of “crimes against humanity,” “racism,” “apartheid,” “oppression,” and “domination.” All this is eerily redolent of the worst anti-Israel propaganda of the past. On April 1, 1983, Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ran a full front-page article titled “From the Soviet Leadership.” Here is what it said about Israel:
By its nature, Zionism concentrates ultra-nationalism, chauvinism and racial intolerance, excuse for territorial occupation and annexation, military opportunism, cult of political promiscuousness and irresponsibility, demagogy and ideological diversion, dirty tactics and perfidy.
Amnesty could use those lines as a summary of its report.
Amnesty’s own website explains how the organization began: “In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson was outraged when two Portuguese students were jailed just for raising a toast to freedom. He wrote an article in The Observer newspaper and launched a campaign that provoked an incredible response.” But it also explains that “after more than 50 years of groundbreaking achievements, Amnesty has been through a major transformation.” On that much, AI is right: It has been transformed into a propaganda arm of the global struggle against the Jewish State, which uses language taken from the Soviet playbook and holds Israel to standards no other country is asked to meet.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS was special representative for Iran in the Trump administration. He chairs the Vandenberg Coalition, is chairman of the Tikvah Fund, and is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.