Amnesty International’s anti-Israel campaign has now extended to support for a confessed spy for Hezbollah.
On January 30, 2011, Ameer Makhoul, the head of Israeli-Arab NGO Ittijah, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for spying for Hezbollah, including during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Makhoul was originally charged with “assisting an enemy in war,” a crime that carries a life sentence, but an October 2010 plea bargain agreement resulted in lesser charges. The judge noted that “The defendant accepted responsibility for his actions, regretted his entanglements which started off with a ‘naïve’ relationship, at the beginning of which he fell ‘into a trap.’”
In contrast to Makhoul’s admission, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, used his NGO platform to state, “Ameer Makhoul’s jailing is a very disturbing development…[He] is well known for his human rights activism on behalf of Palestinians in Israel and those living under Israeli occupation. We fear that this may be the underlying reason for his imprisonment” (Press release: Palestinian Human Rights Activist Jailed in Israel, January 30, 2011).
As head of Ittijah, Makhoul’s rhetoric has been characterized by demonization and antisemitic hate-speech – the opposite of human rights. Makhoul’s political anti-Israel activities During the Gaza war, an Ittijah email claimed, “the IDF is turning Gaza into kind of an extermination camp, in the full sense of the word and with the full historical relativity.” Ittijah’s campaign preceding the April 2009 Durban Review Conference reiterated the original BDS call from the 2001 Durban NGO Forum, as well as the language of “colonial racist state under the Motto: Zionism is Racism − Israel is an Apartheid.” Amnesty’s characterization of Makhoul as a “human rights defender” (Press release: Israeli Must Stop Harassment of Human Rights Defender, May 11, 2010) is a distortion.
Amnesty also alleges that Makhoul confessed “under duress and that he was tortured during his interrogation,” without offering any evidence for these grave accusations. Additionally, Amnesty claims “It also appears that the information allegedly conveyed by Ameer Makhoul was publicly available,” also without offering evidence. In fact, according to the judgment, Makhoul transferred at least ten encrypted messages to Hezbollah, provided the names of six additional Israeli citizens to serve as spies, and was asked to find information on the security details of senior Israeli officials.
This is not the only instance of Amnesty defending those with ties to terror organizations. On January 24, 2011 (Press release: Concerns over Israeli Inquiry into Gaza Flotilla Raid), Amnesty condemned the Turkel Commission for “clear[ing] the Israeli armed forces of wrongdoing” in the deaths of IHH terror group activists on the “Free Gaza Flotilla.” As noted by Eldad Tzioni (Elder of Ziyon blog), Amnesty accused the esteemed Commission of “whitewash,” even though Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart acknowledged, “We have yet to study the full details of Judge Turkel’s 300 page report.” (In August 2008, Amnesty similarly rejected an Israeli army inquiry without reading its report first because the findings contradicted what Amnesty imagined to be true.)
Another example was the Gita Sahgal incident, in which Amnesty’s leading women’s rights activist was forced to resign after questioning the NGO’s cooperation with an alleged Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg. Then interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone, publically condoned “jihad in self-defense,” demonstrating the absence of accountability in the organization’s response to legitimate criticism.
Amnesty’s paradigm of “Israel always wrong” is unsustainable. Ameer Makhoul’s admission and the Turkel Commission’s detailed analysis should lead Amnesty to reevaluate its ideological bias.
Furthermore, the ideologues within the organization – Malcolm Smart; Philip Luther; Frank Johansson of Amnesty-Finland, who referred to Israel as a “scum state” on his blog; those that endorse working with Taliban supporters; the leaders of Amnesty-UK who repeatedly invite Ben White, a radical anti-Israel activist and author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, to lecture at Amnesty events – must be removed immediately from their positions. If not, the immoral abuse of human rights will continue.