Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Amnesty International and Hamas

by Elliott Abrams
November 21, 2012


The current conflict between Hamas (and other terrorist groups) and Israel has brought out the worst  in Amnesty International. Amnesty has taken a position that can only be called anti-Israel, treating the terrorists and Israel with an “evenhandedness” that bespeaks deep biases.

The story is well told at the web site of NGO Monitor, an NGO set up precisely to catch self-proclaimedly neutral human rights organizations doing just what Amnesty is doing: taking sides, and in this case taking sides with terrorists. As NGO Monitor summarizes,

  • During the weeks of escalation in rocket attacks prior to the Israeli response, Amnesty International failed to issue a single statement condemning the firing of scores of rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups at Israeli civilians in southern Israel, demonstrating Amnesty’s lack of regard for Israeli human rights.
  • Amnesty has repeatedly blamed Israel alone for “re-igniting the conflict.”

Amnesty asks for two remarkable things in its November 19th statement. One is for the International Criminal Court to take up the Goldstone Report and seek war crimes prosecutions based on it. No notice whatsoever is taken by Amnesty of Goldstone’s own “reconsideration” (largely a recantation) of his own report, in which he notes that

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

The second remarkable Amnesty demand is that

“The UN Security Council should meet urgently to impose an international arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.”

There is Israel, under attack by terrorists launching hundreds and hundreds of missiles and rockets into its territory–not just this week but all year, year after year; threatened by an Iranian regime that states its wish to wipe the Jewish state off the map; in a legal state of war with Syria to its north…Well, one could go on. And Amnesty seeks an arms embargo that would prevent Israel from seeking the means to defend itself. All that in the name of “human rights. ”

It gets even worse, as NGO Monitor reports:

One example of this lack of professionalism is Kristyan Benedict, a staff blogger at Amnesty-UK and Middle East campaign manager. He has used his Twitter account for anti-Israel rants and antisemitic jokes, including a November 19 tweet, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon & Luciana Berger walk into a bar….each orders a round of B52s (inspired by @KarlreMarks Bar quips) #Gaza.” The three people he appears to characterize as warmongers are British Members of Parliament, all of whom are Jewish.

Amnesty is, by such hostility toward and one-sided treatment of Israel, and by its employment of individuals who show such hostility not only to Israel but to Jews more generally, destroying its own reputation. Is there no one on the Amnesty International board to complain, and to demand that objectivity and fairness be restored?

Post a Comment 11 Comments

  • Posted by EthanP

    I only wish I was surprised. I was watching British Parlement on Cspan. While the support for Israel by Conservatives was somewhat tepid, it was support. The comments from all but one Labor MP made me wonder if this wasn’t the Egyptian Parlement.

  • Posted by Lawrence Bell

    How does one force Amnesty Intn’l to respond in writing to this article? LMBell

  • Posted by Rick James

    Pretty sure AI was the organization that hired a Neo-Nazi (Marc Garlasco) to do its analysis on Israel’s alleged crimes during Cast Lead. If so, they lost the plot a while ago already.

  • Posted by Rick James

    Correction: that was Human Rights Watch.

  • Posted by A.T. Halmay

    It would be interesting to do a little experiment with Amnesty International – nothing lethal – but let’s throw some firecrackers into their offices every day for the next 30 days and see how they react.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    One only needs to look at the composition of the U.N. Human Rights Council to see that it’s an utter farce .

  • Posted by Anonymous

    NGO Monitor is an Israel-based org and Elliot Abrams sits on its International Advisory Board! My God, don’t you think that would be relevant to disclose??!!

    And Amnesty ‘seek[s] war crimes prosecutions’ — for crimes committed by BOTH sides. You make it seem like they want Israel hanged while giving a pass to Hamas. War crimes were alleged to have been committed by BOTH sides, and Amnesty wants war crimes prosecuted on BOTH sides. What’s wrong with that? More to the point, how can you in good conscious omit the ‘both sides’ part and deliberately make it appear that they just want Israelis prosecuted?

    If you obfuscate even such small details, Lord knows what agenda you really are hiding!

  • Posted by Less Anonymous

    Anonymous – you have no basis to show that those are relevant considerations. Furthermore, you are stating that Abrams is making arguments that he didn’t make. He is stating that AI is placing the onus for the hostilities solely on Israel, ignoring the thousands of rockets it shot into Israel for years (and increased this year). Also you ignore the obvious – nobody could prosecute Hamas as a non-state actor but many efforts have been made to prosecute Israel, namely in the ICC.

    I would argue that your implication of bad faith is itself a sign of your own.

  • Posted by Anonymous

    @Less Anonymous, Several things you have said are just flat out incorrect.

    – not “relevant considerations”:
    An author having a conflict or interest or even perceived conflict of interest is relevant. Disclosure of such relationships is standard practice.

    – “solely on Israel” … “ignoring…rockets shot into Israel”:
    Objective fact: AI has called for prosecution of alleged war crimes committed by Hamas.

    – “nobody could prosecute Hamas as a non-state actor”:
    The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 are the basis for international humanitarian law (rules protecting civilians, etc.) and this bind all parties, including non–state armed groups, such as Hamas.

    I made two relatively tiny observations about relevant facts not disclosed by the author.
    Strange world when pointing out obfuscations is bad faith!

  • Posted by Less Anonymous

    Anonymous – how is there a conflict of interest. Is AI incapable of reporting on matters impacting the United Kingdom because it’s based in Britain, or Human Rights Watch incapable of reporting on matters impacting the United States because they are based in London or New York? Do you require disclosure on where every NGO is located, or just the ones based in Israel? Do you assume it’s a matter of bad faith not to mention things that are readily available online and are in no way concealed?

    Regarding your objective fact – yes, AI has pointed out that Hamas has committed war crimes (after ignoring this for all of 2012 up until November). Another objective fact: nobody is trying to prosecute Hamas for committing war crimes, but they are alleging that Israel is committing them and attempting to prosecute the state for it (with far less evidence).

    You are arguing that these are ‘obfuscations’ but I don’t see anything deliberate in his statements. An obfuscation is a deliberate, bad faith effort. Accusing him of such with no evidence to justify it beyond your aspersions is, in my opinion, an indicator of bad faith.

  • Posted by More Ananymous

    @ Less Anonymous – I believe the point “Anonymous” was trying to make was that if you are quoting an argument from an NGO that you yourself were the author of, that is indeed relevant to disclose. Saying something as simple as, “The story is well told at the web site of NGO Monitor, an NGO of which I sit on the advisory board, and set up precisely to catch self-proclaimedly neutral human rights organizations doing just what Amnesty is doing: taking sides, and in this case taking sides with terrorists.”

    That is all that would be required to prove that you are not trying to reinforce your point with one of your own arguments published elsewhere. That is a pretty reasonable thing to criticize.

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