NGO Monitor has obtained information on a new Amnesty International BDS initiative, which will be launched on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. Continuing an antisemitic campaign of Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, Amnesty will target Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, and Trip Advisor.
The documents indicate that Amnesty International is largely basing its publication on tendentious claims from local NGOs.
Amnesty’s attacks on the Bible and Jewish history come against the backdrop of extensive, deeply-rooted antisemitism at the NGO.
Contributing to Antisemitism
- Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International Secretary General: In an interview with BDS South Africa (April 2018), Naidoo referred to Israel as a “government that is rogue” and alleged that “some of the intricacies of how the Israeli state operates  sounds very similar to the way the Apartheid state operated.” He added, “History is on the side of the Palestinian people and the justness of their struggle if you are a person of faith…”
- Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty-UK Campaigns Manager: Has a strong anti-Israel obsession, fueled by global conspiracy theories involving Israel, the US, and the arms trade. 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, 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.
- Frank Johnansson, head of Amnesty’s Finland branch: Referred to Israel a “scum state” in a 2010 blogpost. In response to media inquiries as to “whether there are other countries aside from Israel that, according to him, meet the definition of a ‘scum state,’ Johansson did not specify any, but noted that there are Russian officials’ who meet the criteria.” An Amnesty spokesperson attempted to retranslate his comment into “creep state.”
- At least three officials of Amnesty International were members of the virulently antisemitic Facebook group “Palestine Live,” including Alli McCracken (Advocacy Director for MENA at Amnesty International USA) and Alex Neve (Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada). David Birkett, who describes himself as a fundraiser for Amnesty International UK, shared highly antisemetic articles and statements, including Holocaust denial in the group and on his personal Facebook page. The journalist who exposed the Facebook group, David Collier, notes that one of the Admins tagged Amnesty International UK crisis response manager Kristyan Benedict (see above), suggesting that Benedict was once a member and/or is Facebook “friends” with a leader of this antisemitic group.
- In January 2018, Amnesty UK cancelled a debate between Hillel Neuer of UN Watch and Fred Carver of the UN Association, sponsored by the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council and supposed to be held at Amnesty’s Human Rights Centre in London. The event was cancelled on the grounds that it 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.” No evidence was provided to support the claim that either of the planned participants “actively supports such settlements.”
- In 2015, Amnesty co-sponsored a speaking tour in the United States for Bassem Tamimi. Tamimi was convicted in 2012 of encouraging Palestinian youths to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. His appearance in a third grade classroom sparked outrage, and the school’s superintendent denounced the remarks as “inflammatory.” Tamimi has, in addition to inciting violence, expressed support for antisemitic sentiments including the claim that Israelis detain Palestinian children to harvest their organs and that the Zionists control the media.
Denying the Problem of Antisemitism
- Amnesty has done little to no campaigning on the rising number of violent antisemitic incidents in the US and Europe.
- In April 2015, Amnesty-UK rejected an initiative 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”- the only proposed resolution at the Annual General Meeting that was not adopted.
- Amnesty-UK events on the Holocaust disturbingly minimize or negate Jewish suffering. An event scheduled to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2018 took place in a church and focused 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.”
- When Amnesty conducted “an unprecedented large scale analysis of abuse against women on Twitter” (2018), the research included sexism and racism against female journalists and politicians, but not antisemitism. The UK Jewish community condemned this exclusion.
BDS, Demonization, and Singling out Israel
- Amnesty International is among the leaders of the BDS campaigns targeting Israel. No other country in a conflict zone is the focus of similar Amnesty boycott efforts.
- Amnesty was centrally involved in the antisemitic 2001 Durban NGO Forum, where the BDS campaign was launched. Publications such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were distributed, Jewish and Israeli speakers were silenced and bullied, and boycott and demonization campaigns were launched.
- In November, 2017, to commemorate International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Amnesty International UK called for “Banning the sale of Israeli settlement products in UK markets” and “Stopping companies in the UK from operating in settlements or trading in settlement goods.”
- In 2017, Amnesty launched a campaign (“50 Years of Dispossession”) calling on governments to “ban Israeli settlement goods from entering your markets, and to stop companies based in your country operating in settlements or trading in their goods – and help put an end to the cycle of violations suffered by Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation.” This language mirrors that used in preparing the discriminatory UNHCR blacklist, indicating the close cooperation with the UN.
Instead of recognizing antisemitism as a human rights issue worthy of attention, Amnesty instead adds to the hate by targeting the Jewish state.