British media outlets omit reason why Amnesty is accused of antisemitism

In 2014, Associated Press’s former Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman commented on a media phenomenon that we’re continually documenting: an unwritten rule within journalistic circles that, when covering Israel, self-styled “humanitarian” or “human rights” NGOs are never to be criticised.  Thus, their partisan and, at times, extremist agendas, as with the flaws in their research, are almost never subjected to serious critical scrutiny.

As such, our prediction today that British media outlets covering Amnesty International’s new report smearing Israel with apartheid would simply copy and paste from the document and avoid fact-checking – leaving it to groups like CAMERA to reveal the ‘small’ lies that inform their big lie – was true.

But, there’s another element of the story that these outlets have failed to cover.  Though all the British media outlets covering the story mentioned that Amnesty – a group which, in 2015, rejected a motion to campaign against the rise in antisemitism – has been accused of antisemitism by Israeli officials and others, most have failed explained to their readers what that charge is based upon.

An article in the Guardian by Peter Beaumont (“Amnesty International calls Israel’s actions against Palestinians “apartheid”, Feb. 1) includes this:

[Yair] Lapid also accused Amnesty of antisemitism. “I hate to use the argument that if Israel were not a Jewish state, nobody in Amnesty would dare argue against it, but in this case, there is no other possibility,” Lapid said.

An article in The Times by Anshel Pfeffer (“Israel leaks Amnesty report on ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians”, Feb. 1) opens thusly:

The Israeli government has carried out what it termed “a pre-emptive strike” against Amnesty International, leaking in advance a report by the human rights organisation and branding the 211-page document as “antisemitic”.

An article in the Financial Times by Mehul Srivastava (“Israel anger at Amnesty allegations of apartheid”, Feb. 1) includes this in the third paragraph:

The report drew immediate charges of anti-Semitism from the Israeli government, which said Amnesty’s “extremist language . . . will pour fuel on to the fire of anti-Semitism” and could lead to violence against Jews around the world.

An article in the Independent by Bel Trew, (“Amnesty accuses Israel of being an apartheid state”, Feb. 1) includes this, in the second paragraph:

The Israeli foreign ministry vehemently rejected Amnesty’s 211-page report saying it was “false, biased and anti-Semitic

Why is Amnesty being accused of antisemitism? Readers of those publications would never know, as no explanation was provided. So, many would likely conclude that it was a change without substance, reinforcing the smear that Jews cry antisemitism to stifle criticism of Israel.

Interestingly, the one exception was an article in the Telegraph by James Rothwell (“Israel labels Amnesty International ‘anti-Semitic’ over ‘apartheid’ report, Jan. 31) which opens thusly:

Israel’s government has accused Amnesty International of anti-Semitism over a forthcoming report which will claim that Palestinians live under apartheid.

Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, branded the report a “collection of lies” which sought to “deny the right of existence of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

This is a double standard, demonising Israel in order to delegitimise the existence of the state of Israel. Those are the components of modern anti-semitism,” he said. “We have no other choice but to say that this whole report is anti-Semitic.”

This is extremely important context.  Haiat is correct that Amnesty doesn’t just accuse Israel of “apartheid”, but, in language throughout the lengthy report, suggests that a Jewish state within any borders is intrinsically racist.

Let’s recall the IHRA Working Definition of antisemitism includes the following as an example of antisemitism:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

First, in the original wording of the report, Amnesty accused Israel of being an apartheid state since 1948, the state announced independence.

Though, evidently due to criticism, they slightly amended one of the sentences in question, other sections of the report use that same apartheid start date, charging that, “since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued a policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony…”. This indicates that the very idea of a Jewish majority state is a manifestation of apartheid, as opposed to any particular polices towards the Palestinians that the state has adopted over the years.

There’s more evidence that this is indeed their view.

Amnesty also faults Israel for denying the ‘right of return’ to all Palestinian refugees and their descendantsThey complain that “Israel continues to deny Palestinian refugees…and their descendants their right to gain Israeli citizenship or residency status in Israel or the OPT.  By doing so, it denies them their right to return to their former places of residence and property – a right, which has been widely recognized under international human rights law”.

In addition to the fact that there is no such right within international law, the risible demand that Israel grant citizenship to millions upon millions of descendants of refugees would make Jews a minority under Palestinian rule – a clear rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Amnesty also appears to oppose Israel’s Law of Return, which codifies Israel as the world’s only safe-haven for Jews escaping persecution around the world. And, indeed, throughout the 280 page report, they deride, and characterise as racist, the goal of maintaining a state with a Jewish majority – which they refer to darkly as the desire for “Jewish hegemony”.

For Amnesty, it seems that dozens of Muslim and Christian states are acceptable, but one Jewish state in the world is one too many – an egregious moral double standard that is both antisemitic and, given the history and persistence of racist persecution against Jews, staggeringly cruel.

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  1. says: Geary

    If Israel were a majority Arab state with the excellent human rights record Israel has,

    a) Amnasty (sic), the BBC, the Guardian, the NYT etc., would be praising it to the skies as the shining example of the Muslim world, as they used to do with Turkey

    b) it would be effin’ miracle …

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