Amnesty International-UK’s Human Rights Centre in London was originally scheduled to host a debate on January 24, between Hillel Neuer of UN Watch and Fred Carver of the UN Association, moderated by human rights attorney and Yahad board member Danny Friedman. The event was sponsored by the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council.
A few days before the event (January 24), however, Amnesty-UK abruptly cancelled the event on the grounds that the organization was “currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements. We do not therefore think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.” Amnesty provided no support for its claims that the groups and speakers involved “actively support such settlements.”
This is the latest in a series of incidents involving extreme hostility towards Israel and the British Jewish Community by Amnesty-UK. It fits with Amnesty’s leading role in demonization and political warfare campaigns against Israel, including supporting BDS and lawfare campaigns.
For example, in April 2015, Amnesty-UK highlighted the organization’s hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy by rejecting a campaign against antisemitism in the UK. At Amnesty-UK’s 2015 Annual General Meeting, 16 of 17 motions were adopted. The only proposed resolution that was rejected called on Amnesty UK to “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK,” as well as “Lobby the UK Government to tackle the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain” and “monitor anti-semitism closely.” According to the motion, “neither AIUK nor the [Amnesty] International Secretariat have undertaken research or campaigning work specifically on anti-Semitism in the UK.”
Another major indicator is the numerous complaints that have been filed by UK-based Jewish groups against Amnesty-UK Crisis & Tactical Campaign Manager Krystian Benedict for making antisemitic remarks. However, Amnesty-UK has repeatedly ignored the detailed evidence presented.
For instance, in a February 9, 2011 interview with Labour Friends of Palestine, Benedict claimed:
- “The USA plays both Arab and Israel sides to generate money, power and control. The main reasons are: The Arms Trade: The conflict makes loads of money for the ‘weapons trade’. Israel always pushes the buttons to make all the surrounding Arabic states such as Syria, Lebanon feel insecure. So they then buy weapons off other states and this is a great profit-making industry.”
- “Israel is now included in the list of stupid dictatorial regimes who abuse peoples’ basic universal rights – along with Burma, North Korea, Iran and Sudan, its government has the same wanton attitude to human beings…. Also, it seems that many in the current coalition are driven by a feeling of ‘ethnic supremacy’.”
- “I also agree with the sentiment of Justice Richard Goldstone in his 2009 UN fact finding mission: ‘The treatment of Palestine is meant to punish, humiliate and terrorize.’”
Benedict’s Twitter has also featured antisemitic statements. In November 2012, Benedict tweeted, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon & Luciana Berger walk into a bar…each orders a round of B52s… #Gaza” – labeling three Jewish MPs as warmongers.
In November 2014, for example, Benedict posted a tweet comparing Israel to the Islamic State, claiming that “Israeli regimes [sic] response to our Gaza report: Amnesty is ‘a propaganda tool for Hamas & other terror groups’ (#JSIL?).” The Twitter tag “#JSIL” stands for “Jewish State in Levant” and is meant to compare Israel and Judaism with the international terrorist organization ISIL (ISIS), implying that Israel’s activities are tantamount to the mass public executions and beheadings performed by ISIL and that Judaism is equivalent to the extreme form of religion promoted by Islamic State.
On April 6, 2012, Benedict tweeted, “‘What Must Be Said’, Günter Grass’s poem in English http://j.mp/HPzT4Y #israel #Iran #hypocrisy.” In the poem, Grass characterizes Israel as a threat to world peace. The poem generated considerable outrage, particularly in Israel and Germany, and was widely criticized as antisemitic.
Amnesty-UK events on the Holocaust also disturbingly minimize or negate Jewish suffering. The event scheduled to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2018 will take place in a church and will focus on groups having “suffered and died in genocides – such as by the Nazis against Jews and other groups; and in genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, and Myanmar. We will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day by stating that we oppose prejudice and racism today.” A July 29, 2015 event on the Holocaust was titled “Remembering Proajmos, the Roma Holocaust.”
Amnesty-UK’s Human Rights Action Centre has also routinely been used as a platform to promote the antisemitic BDS movement and fringe activists on Israel (see chart below showing a selection of these events).
Amnesty-UK silences voices on Israel that are not extreme, overtly and militantly supports BDS, and refuses to tackle the issue of antisemitism in both the UK and within its own office. These are just some the reasons why this once honorable NGO has lost all credibility or ability to claim the mantle of universal human rights.
|Name of Event||Groups/People Involved||Date|
|Student Conference - Israel/Palestine Ban Israeli Settlement Goods||Jonathan Cornejo and Shoomi Chowdhury of Amnesty International|
|Accountability and Human Rights at 50 years of Occupation||Michael Lynk, Amnesty International UK (Kristyan Benedict), Human Rights Action Centre, MAP, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights||June 13, 2017|
|ICHAD Annual Spring Conference||ICHAD-UK (Jeff Halper), Nabila Espanioly||May 28, 2016|
|Camouflage by Ahmed Masoud||Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, Ahmed Masoud||May 18, 2017|
|“How long until justice? A presentation of the Gaza platform”||Amnesty International UK (Saleh Hijazi), Al Mezan, Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University of London, Eyal Weizman, Mahmoud Abu Rahma||July 8, 2015|
|“Discrimination, Displacement and Despair: The impact of Israel’s prolonged occupation”||Amnesty International UK, ICAHD, Itay Epshtain (NRC)||October 2012|
|ICAHD-UK Annual Meeting||ICAHD UK, Amnesty International UK||April 21, 2012|
|Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Current Challenges and Priorities||Adalah (Suhad Bishara), Amnesty International UK (Kristyan Benedict), Palestine Film Foundation||April 5, 2012|
|Film Screening: War Child||Amnesty International UK, Jezza Neumann, Brian Woods||April 14, 2011|
|“The Denial of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”||April 12, 2011|
|“Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy”||Ben White||January 26, 2011|
|BDS Russell Tribunal||Amnesty International UK, Center for Constitutional Rights, Al-Haq, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, John Dugard, Dalit Baum, Pierre Galand, Shir Hever, Stephane Hessel, Adri Neiuwhof||November 20-21, 2010|
|“Capital Murder: Inside the Israeli authorities’ regime of discrimination and control in Occupied East Jerusalem”||Ben White (author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide)||May 12, 2010|
 This is not the first time that a branch of Amnesty International has cancelled an event for not being sufficiently anti-Israel. According to prominent law professor Alan Dershowitz and students at Columbia University, Amnesty-USA forced Amnesty’s Columbia University chapter to cancel an event featuring Dershowitz, for which the group had already advertised and sold tickets. Amnesty International Columbia abandoned the event, handing the program over to an on-campus Israel advocacy group. See Alan Dershowitz, “How Amnesty International Suppresses Free Speech,” Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/How-Amnesty-International-suppresses-free-speech-381436