Israel ‘must go on the offensive’ to counter Amnesty International’s misleading content, watchdogs urge


The Israeli government and a host of Jewish groups have denounced Amnesty International’s new report condemning Israel for “the crime against humanity of apartheid”. As such reports from ‘human rights groups’ grow ever sharper in their denunciation of Israel, a question arises as to how best Israel and its allies can counter the groups producing these reports. , who have moral authority even as they call for the extinction of the Jewish state.

“Israel should open a department, perhaps in the Foreign Ministry, to deal with the accusations against Israel,” Alex Safian, associate director and research director at CAMERA, told JNS, noting that there was once a department in Israel’s Justice Ministry which, when Amnesty or similar groups bring charges against Israel, would research the charges and work to refute them.

He hasn’t heard from the Israeli Justice Ministry for some time and assumes the department no longer exists. “It doesn’t have to be 100 people,” he said. “It could be five people. You could do a lot. But you need a quick response, to be able to spread the information quickly.

Israel must also go on the offensive, he said. Safian suggested that hosting events like a town hall with the head of Amnesty would be effective and attract press, especially with a well-known name (Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, per example) representing the Israeli side. “You create an event. If they refuse, it gives them a very bad image.

Safian said Israel needed to keep its case simple when lying Amnesty’s accusations – noting, for example, that if Israel was an apartheid state, then how was it possible that a three-judge panel headed by an Arab Israeli judge sentenced a Jewish Israeli president to prison, as happened to Moshe Katsav in 2011? “You make these kinds of simple arguments to tear down their claims and force Amnesty to back down,” he said.

“They are totally politically motivated”

The NGO Monitor’s legal adviser, Anne Herzberg, told JNS that “the best thing Israel can do is expose the facts – to show that they are making things up. I think the main thing is to expose their lies.

“Transparency is another big issue. I don’t think anyone has revealed who wrote the report yet,” she added.

In terms of concrete action, it gets a little trickier. Herzberg said that although the United Nations is a hostile place, it is possible that Israel will reduce the use of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reports there. “Amnesty and HRW play a huge role in anti-Israel reporting coming out of the UN,” she said.

Israel could also raise objections when Amnesty appears before government committees or when governments rely on Amnesty reports to make laws. She also suggested that individuals and businesses could sue Amnesty if they suffered property damage from BDS campaigns as a result of Amnesty’s report, and that US states could be encouraged to sever ties with Amnesty as its report calls to sanctions against Israel. (More than 30 US states have laws opposing boycotts of Israel.)

As for the possibility of expelling Amnesty employees — as Israel did with Human Rights Watch director Omar Shakir in 2018 for supporting BDS — Herzberg said she wasn’t sure that method would work. “because then they can play the martyr, and they can still write pretty much the kind of reports they want to write.

Amnesty enjoys a “privileged position” in the media, and people need to start holding them accountable, said Herzberg, who has reviewed Amnesty’s work in other countries and found the same shoddy reporting. Israel should not cite Amnesty even if it might serve Israel’s interests. (Amnesty has, for example, criticized Iran.) “That would be a huge mistake,” she said. “It is not a credible organization. I started researching what they were doing elsewhere. I have noticed the same kind of flaws, especially when watching reports on armed conflict. »

“The problem with Amnesty is organisation-wide. It’s not just Israel,” she said. “They are totally driven by politics. The only reason they even started talking about Afghanistan is because the United States invaded it. And even then, they were really only talking about the American action in Afghanistan.

However, the bias is “most acute with Israel.” So much so, Herzberg says, that Amnesty – after virtually ignoring the UAE – suddenly began investigating the country for human rights abuses once it signed the Abraham Accords in the fall of 2020. .

“Even Saudi Arabia – they barely talked about it until it came out that the Saudis were getting a little less, you know, hostile to Israel,” she said. “I think it’s fair to say that in many ways Amnesty is an anti-Semitic organization. There have been so many incidents with this organization in recent years.

She said it is clear from the new report that Amnesty International’s problem with Israel is that it is a Jewish state. “It’s OK to have a Christian country or a Muslim country, or a Buddhist or Hindu country. Only a Jewish country – that, for them, is illegitimate.

“Under the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] IHRA Definition [of anti-Semitism], denying Jews the right to self-determination is anti-Semitism. And the only way, according to Amnesty’s explicit writings in this report, that Israel can rectify the problem of apartheid is to get rid of the things that make it a Jewish country, like the law of return,” he said. she declared.

Safian agreed that Amnesty did not want the Jews to have a state. In this regard, he said, Amnesty’s ideology is no different from that of Hamas. “They only differ in tactics,” he said.

Herzberg noted that reports on Israel from human rights groups have been progressively more extreme. “The next level, I guess, would be to completely endorse violence,” she said, noting that in the current report “they’re already talking about grassroots resistance.”


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