Ma’ariv (p. 4) by Ben-Dror Yemini — Human rights are too important an issue to be left in the hands of human rights organizations. This isn’t the first time that I’ve written that. It’s just that this issue is becoming increasingly important. This time, the organization at hand is Amnesty, once again Amnesty, which has conferred legitimacy on jihad. One is hard put to believe the words one reads.
In the previous installment, which was reported by Ma’ariv three weeks ago, Amnesty’s Gita Sahgal voiced her objection to the association with Moazzam Begg, who is ideologically associated with the Taliban. Sahgal’s statements were published by the London Times. That same day, Sahgal was suspended after 30 years of work with Amnesty. An uproar ensued, but to no avail. Begg remained with Amnesty, Sahgal was ousted. Activists and other groups signed a petition calling for the restoration of fairness to human rights and against the association between human rights organizations and people either affiliated with or who identify with groups, such as the Taliban. The international organization of women who live under Muslim law issued a harshly worded response. After all, they are the ones who lived for many years under the Taliban regime and were subjected to every conceivable form of oppression.
The most astonishing response to Sahgal’s anger came, from all places, from Secretary General of Amnesty International Claudio Cordone, who came out in defense of the connection between Amnesty and the Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg. He said: defensive jihad does not contradict human rights.
Cordone’s response was made a month ago, but it was released for publication just a number of days ago, and elicited furious responses, mainly from Muslims.
The first response was from three Muslim human rights activists from Asia, who wrote : If that is the official position of the leading human rights organization, that will severely undermine the human rights movement.
This time the criticism isn’t being aired by conservatives, but by veteran members of the human rights camp.
Dozens of individuals and groups, the overwhelming majority of which are Muslim, signed the petition against Amnesty International. Human rights activists in Algeria brought to the foreground of their response another point: the problem is first and foremost with the jihadists, and far less with the people who retaliate against them. Let’s hope that that is their opinion with respect to Hamas and Israel as well. They also noted that despite their repeated warnings, time and time again, the human rights organizations have opted to come to the defense of the jihadists.
In Islam there is indeed a distinction between “offensive jihad” and “defensive jihad.” While the former is a collective duty, the latter is a personal duty that must be performed by every individual Muslim. As such, it is the means used by the Islamic fundamentalist ideologues to recruit every Muslim. The “defensive jihad” that Secretary General Cordone defended, is the succinct worldview propounded by Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s mentor, and Sayed Kuttab, the ideologue behind the Muslim Brotherhood. In practice, everyone who practices jihad embraces the slogan of a “defensive jihad.” Moderate Muslim circles tend to oppose jihad in any form. But Amnesty International’s secretary general has granted legitimacy to jihad and castigates the people struggling against it.
This is hardly the first time that human rights organizations have gotten confused between the jihadists and the people who speak out against them. Just three months ago an American feminist organization, Code-Pink, held a solidarity march into the Gaza Strip. Before anyone even tries to say that it is a fringe organization in the United States, one ought to note that the founders of the organization have a connection to Barack Obama, and Senator John Kerry wrote a letter of support to the delegation that left for the Gaza Strip. The oppression of women under Hamas’s regime didn’t bother them They were not alone. They were preceded by the ships of solidarity with the Gaza Strip, which turned into delegations of solidarity with Hamas. At the same time, a march in solidarity with Hamas was held that was headed by British MP George Galloway , a Turkish MP and other “human rights activists” from the West. The identification with Hamas included, as always, an anti-Semitic overtone. After all, anti-Israel demonstrations in the West are always comprised of two groups—radical Islam and radical Left.
Cordone, like many of the people who organize solidarity marches with jihadist organizations such as Hamas, knows very well what the ideological tenets of al-Qaida, Hamas and the Taliban are. He knows these ideologies involve hatred for the infidel, anti-Semitism, wife-beating, withholding basic human rights and imposing strict Sharia law, including punishments, such as chopping off hands. Those were the laws of the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan. Those are the laws that were passed by the Hamas parliament in Gaza; the enforcement of those laws was delayed only thanks to Operation Cast Lead. They know that “defensive jihad” is only a pretext for undermining the stability of the regimes in Egypt, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In practical terms, there is no “offensive jihad” nowadays, only “defensive jihad.” The result has been mass killings, mainly of Muslims. Nevertheless, those are the organizations that Amnesty International and the other human rights organizations justify, call for dialogue to be held with them and identify with them.
Cordone honed a disagreement that has been underway for the past number of years when he clarified that from his perspective the Americans are to blame for the suicide bombing attacks and the turn of events in Afghanistan—and not al-Qaida and the Taliban, which have only resorted to “defensive jihad.” After all, Israel too is to blame for the turn of events in the Gaza Strip, because Hamas has only adopted a policy of “defensive jihad.” In general, Cordone’s letter was a crafted document replete with specious sanctimoniousness about the need to engage in dialogue with the Taliban, as demanded by both Moazzam Begg, who is both an Amnesty International and a Taliban man, and to whose defense the secretary general of Amnesty International has come.
One ought to welcome the uproar that Cordone’s statements caused, because those statements promote eye-opening. If Robert Bernstein, who founded the largest human rights organization in the world (HRW) published an article against the very organization he founded, and if Salman Rushdie published an article against Amnesty International, the very organization that helped him when a fatwa calling for his assassination was issued—then there are signs of mounting eye-opening.
Many of the human rights organizations do important and praiseworthy work in exposing human rights violations. The problem is that they are too deeply invested in anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric, all of which sometimes turns them into pro-jihadists. By so doing, they are shooting themselves in the foot. By so doing the human rights organizations are selling their souls to organizations whose essence is the violation of human rights, and those of women in particular.
And yes, we do need to say that the situation in Israel is no different. Human rights organizations here do important work. But that same connection exists here as well, precisely that same connection with organizations that identify more with Hamas than they do with Israel.