“We are opposed to the idea—and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate—that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people” — Paul O’Brien, Executive Director Amnesty International USA.

In February 2022, Amnesty International released a 280-page report titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against the Palestinians.” Amnesty asserted that Israel is and always has been an apartheid state, both inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. Statements by Amnesty officials, and the report’s recommendations, highlight that Amnesty’s objective is the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

As documented below, the Amnesty publication is fundamentally  flawed, using lies, distortions, omissions and egregious double standards to construct a fraudulent and libelous narrative of Israeli cruelty. A careful examination of the text shows that Amnesty conducted almost no primary research. The report is bloated with cut-and-paste phrases, quotes and conclusions taken from third-party sources—notably other political NGOs that are part of the same libelous campaign against Israel. The footnotes are glaringly thin on primary documents, such as official Israeli  government statistics, Palestinian documents, court documents, Knesset transcripts and interviews from leading officials, and much of the data is obsolete (often well over a  decade old).  

In preparing this report, we examined and critically assessed every line of the Amnesty  publication and closely read the sources and citations provided. We uncovered five categories of faults: Errors, Misrepresentations, Omissions, Double Standards and Dead Citations. This systematic review conclusively shows, contrary to Amnesty’s  claims, that Amnesty’s allegations have no substance or merit. 

Background  

Amnesty’s report followed similar ones by Human Rights Watch (April 2021) and B’Tselem (January 2021), part of a coordinated legal assault to delegitimize Israel. This campaign was most likely a response to major setbacks to the anti-Israel community such as the Abraham Accords, that shattered the myth that Israeli-Arab peace depended on the Palestinian issue. Supporters of the apartheid charge like to point out that there is a “consensus” among human rights groups and NGOs that Israel is in fact an apartheid state. However, in reality it is a fabricated thesis, created by a tight-knit circle of like-minded activists who share information and work together to create the false impression of broad-based agreement against Israel.  

Amnesty’s report is a particularly vicious stream of invective against Israel. In its narrative, Israel is a cruel state run from inception by a long line of evil leaders who have done nothing but intentionally dominate and segregate another people, the Palestinians, in an inhumane manner. As Amnesty makes clear: “This system of  apartheid has been built and maintained over decades by successive Israeli governments across all territories they have controlled, regardless of the political party  in power at the time.”

Amnesty emphasizes Israeli “cruelty,” a word that appears on the title page and thus on every page of the report, as the title appears in the footer of each page. Israel is depicted as being a serial war criminal since its formation in 1948, intentionally killing civilians and  medical personnel, and vindictively withholding medical care from Palestinian children. In the construction and terminology used in its report, Amnesty portrays Israel as the worst human rights violator on the planet.  

Moreover, Amnesty deliberately assesses Israel in a vacuum among all nations in the world:  

“Amnesty International notes and clarifies that systems of oppression and domination will never be identical. Therefore, this report does not  seek to argue that, or assess whether, any system of oppression and domination as perpetrated in Israel and the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] is, for instance, the same or analogous to the system of segregation, oppression and domination as perpetrated in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.”  

How is it reasonable to argue that there is no need to compare the first and only apartheid nation in history to the second country ever to be accused of apartheid? Amnesty insists that it applies rigorous international law to label Israel as apartheid, but ignores one of the most basic rules of legal analysis: precedent. Amnesty admits that it will not even bother to examine precedent. The reason is obvious: doing so would show that the notion of Israeli apartheid is preposterous.

Despite numerous rebuttals, many based on key factual errors and omissions, a “meta lie” quickly emerged from Amnesty and its supporters. Namely, that those that oppose the report are simply claiming “anti-Semitism,” or generally rejecting the narrative without actually refuting the report, and that no one can actually point out where Amnesty is wrong.

For example, Amnesty’s Paul O’Brien, who is quoted above, said that none of AIPAC’s statements about the report “actually disputed findings of  the report, except to say, in broad strokes, we do not believe that this report is motivated for the right reasons or reaches the right conclusions.”

The purpose of this document is to specifically address the false claim that “no one can show where Amnesty is wrong.”

After uncovering and compiling nearly 300 examples of flaws in the report, the conclusion that emerges is that Amnesty has written a modern-day blood libel. This is not  exaggeration or hyperbole. Based on its deliberately falsified narrative, Amnesty has accused every Jewish leader since 1948, and the institutions that comprise the State of Israel, of numerous “inhumane” acts: stealing land from Palestinians; cruelly dominating and persecuting Palestinians in every aspect of life; systematically killing Palestinians civilians; torturing Palestinians, including children, on a “large scale”; deliberately bombing the majority of Gaza’s healthcare facilities and dozens of ambulances; forcing Palestinians into dense enclaves; restricting basic rights of Palestinians including the right to food and limiting water to amounts that do not “meet their needs.”

In other words, according to Amnesty, since its inception, the Jewish state has been the worst human rights abuser in the world. Amnesty also liberally uses the term “Jewish domination” to refer to Israel’s policies (in fact, “domination” appears in the report’s subtitle, which also appears on every page of the  report), a concept which, along with charges of wholesale theft of land and property, directly evokes anti-Semitic tropes. When these accusations are made by relying on hundreds of deliberate factual errors and misrepresentations, mixed in with gross application of double standards, it is akin to historical libels of the Jewish people.

Methodology 

Rebutting Amnesty’s report in detail was a time-consuming process; the document is massive, with 1,559 footnotes. Amnesty points to the report’s length and to the fact that it took four years to produce as evidence of its veracity, as if mere number of references implied a thorough and rigorous analysis.  

Following our analysis of the report, we documented five categories of faults. There is some level of overlap and subjectivity in how each item was classified, but in the end they are all serious flaws that in aggregate show the report to be mendacious and its authors incompetent.  

Errors: Incorrect facts and figures, mistaken quotes and statements and erroneous conclusions. Errors are typically items that can easily and objectively be proven false. Amnesty commits errors for several reasons: simple mistakes; copying erroneous information from third-party reports which Amnesty did not bother to verify; copying information from  obsolete sources; and in many cases, deliberate fabrication or manipulation of information. While many errors are simply due to the shoddy nature of the research, the scale and nature of many of the errors suggest a deliberate pattern of falsification.  

 Misrepresentations: Manipulation of facts  or events to fit a fabricated apartheid narrative. Examples are false conclusions  inferred from certain data, the deliberate manipulation or removal of certain critical  information that would materially modify or nullify the point Amnesty is making, truncated quotes, using isolated incidents to reach broad conclusions, and information taken out of context. Misrepresentations are similar to errors in effect, and a large number are certainly deliberate.   

Omissions: While errors and misrepresentations may seem to be the report’s most important flaws, it is its omissions that ultimately render the report useless propaganda. Amnesty deliberately and carefully omits an incredible number of key aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Information that may contradict the apartheid libel is not included in the report, which also omits all reference to Arab violence against Israel. A subset of the omissions category is the dismissal of any legitimate security needs that Israel may have. Amnesty presents all Israeli actions that are purported to be for security as a sham, a fabricated excuse and cover for Israel to implement its cruel policies of apartheid.  

Double Standards: Amnesty consistently holds Israel to what we call a  “perfection standard,” whereby any disparity between Arabs and Jews is seen as a result of and evidence of apartheid. For example, higher poverty rates for Arabs versus Jews is seen as part of deliberate apartheid, even if these differences are far smaller than those of minorities in many Western nations. Amnesty deliberately presents all data in a vacuum, as to do otherwise would contradict its apartheid narrative.  

Dead citations: What is quickly apparent upon review of the report is the shoddy analysis and rampant violation of generally accepted rules of research. For example, Amnesty regularly fails to cite first hand sources, and many of the third parties it does cite themselves do not cite a first hand source—what we call a “dead  citation.” Also in the dead citation category are worthless sources, such as data provided by an unknown blogger, or 25-year-old data. This category exposes the fact that much of the report is simply cut and pasted  information from prior NGO reports. These NGOs each cite each other, often with little primary research ever being conducted.  

Overall, our analysis uncovered 287 total flaws, comprising 102 errors, 97 misrepresentations, 29 omissions, 24 double standards and 35 dead citations.  

One aspect of the Amnesty report that this document does not delve into is the  manipulation of international law to redefine apartheid and then apply this newly defined crime to Israel only. Other references and manipulations of “international law,” which are common throughout the report, will similarly not be evaluated in this document. Amnesty’s  falsification of the legal definition of apartheid and its application under international  law, which it performs over 17 pages of its report, goes hand-in-hand with the falsified evidence it uses against Israel to fit this newly created definition of apartheid.

Amnesty’s deliberate errors in its analysis of “apartheid” in international law is well covered in two reports authored by legal experts Joshua Kern and Anne Herzberg and published by NGO Monitor, “False Knowledge as Power: Deconstructing Definitions of  Apartheid that Delegitimise the Jewish State” (December 2021) and “Neo-Orientalism:  Deconstructing Claims of Apartheid in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” (March 2022).”

Reliance on other NGOs

Amnesty relied extensively on dozens of reports issued by other NGOs and self-declared human rights organizations, with over 600 endnotes citing these sources, primarily in the sections where the “evidence” against Israel is outlined beginning in  Section 5 of the report (out of 1,400 endnotes in this part of the report). NGO reports thus comprise more than 40% of the total body of evidence cited against Israel. Amnesty cites itself approximately 130 times, B’Tselem 75 times, Adalah 60 times, and there are about 10 to 30 citations each of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Gisha, Ir Amim, Peace Now, HaMoked, Al-Haq, Bimkom and several others.  

U.N.-related sources (with reports issued by CERD, CESCR, OCHA, OHCHR, etc.) are cited over 150 times; a review of these documents shows many rely on these very same NGOs. For example, one U.N. document cited by Amnesty about 20 times itself cites B’Tselem, HaMoked, Al Mezan and others directly or indirectly at least five times. Amnesty cites another U.N. document three times that itself cites Al Mezan, Amnesty,  B’Tselem, HRW and others at least seven times. The same NGOs are also cited by  World Bank reports relied upon by Amnesty, for example, a report that is cited by Amnesty three times, itself cites B’Tselem, Bimkom and Gisha.

The same  phenomenon is seen in WHO documents, which Amnesty refers to about 25 times. For example, one WHO document cited by Amnesty six times itself cites several of the  same NGOs. We have not examined the trail of each and every citation, but based on  a sample examination of U.N. and other reports, most of these documents rely on the same NGO reports for some of their core data and conclusions.

Executive summary:

Our analysis of Amnesty’s report and documenting its nearly 300 flaws reveals some key assumptions and biases that underpin Amnesty’s entire thesis of apartheid. In fact, anything that Amnesty writes about Israel can be assessed with these assumptions held by this NGO:

1. Jews are always the oppressors and Arabs are always the victims, therefore:

  • The 1948 war was all Israel’s fault; Palestinians were innocently living in their homes until Israel attacked and expelled them.
  • Palestinian terrorism does not and has never existed, thus any Israeli action purporting to be fighting terrorism is always inhumane.
  • There is some minor Palestinian violence, but it is inconsequential, thus any Israeli response to such violence is always inhumane.
  • Israel does not have any serious security needs; any such claim is a pretext to harm innocent Palestinians.
  • All military conflicts in Gaza were initiated by Israel and violate international law.
  • All Israeli military actions against Palestinians are characterized by war crimes.
  • The deaths of Palestinians civilians, medical workers, children and journalists are due to deliberate targeting of such persons by Israel, or as Amnesty puts it, inhumane acts of “murder.”
  • Arab nations never initiated any hostility towards Israel.
  • Israeli fears of hostility from Arab nations from 1948 onward are illegitimate.

2. Defining a state as Jewish is inherently racist and by itself a key feature of apartheid.

3. A law that allows Jews from around the world to obtain automatic Israeli citizenship is apartheid.

4. It is absolutely certain that millions of Arab refugees from the 1948 war have a legal right to literally enter Israel and reclaim their homes; any hindrance of this
right is apartheid.

5. Arab Israelis do not exist; all Arabs in the region are Palestinians.

6. Arabs in Israel have citizenship, but they are still victims of apartheid.

7. Any disparity between Jews and Arabs is due to inhumane acts of apartheid.

8. Israel does not have the right to enforce zoning or building permitting laws; any hindrance to Arab construction in the Holy Land by Israel is an inhumane act of
apartheid.

9. Israel does not have the right to enforce citizenship and residency laws; any hindrance to Arab desires for these benefits is an inhumane act of apartheid.

10. Israel must maintain open borders with Gaza and the West Bank; any hindrance on movement for Palestinians is an inhumane act of apartheid.

11. Israel is required to allow entry into Gaza to anything Gazans desire, regardless of its use; any hindrance or limitation of goods is an inhumane act of apartheid.

12. Israel has never agreed to any Palestinian statehood, and Israeli offers for statehood never occurred.

13. Words and concepts that are irrelevant in understanding or assessing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Camp David, Clinton Parameters, terrorism, Yom Kippur/1973 War, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Mansour Abbas, suicide bombing, tunnels and Arab-Israeli.

The above list, especially the underlying assumption that Jews are always the oppressors and Arabs are always the victims, is starkly confirmed in the Recommendation section of Amnesty’s report.

Amnesty lists about 50  recommendations for the Israeli authorities to undertake. Palestinian authorities are given only two recommendations; the first is to document Israel’s apartheid and the second is to ensure that when dealing with Israel it does not contribute to Israel’s apartheid. Thus, while Amnesty “recommends” that Israel open all borders  to Gaza and allow the free entry of all goods into Gaza, it does not “recommend” that Hamas stop building rockets or tunnels.

While Amnesty recommends that Israel remove the security barrier, it does not recommend that Palestinians halt all activities that promote terrorism, such as the Palestinian Authority’s so-called “pay for slay” program, or its naming of schools after terrorists.

Finally, the greatest hypocrisy and double standard, which demonstrates Amnesty’s hostility to the Jewish right to self-determination: While Amnesty recommends that Israel repeal its Nation-State Law, it does not recommend that the P.A. change its constitution, in which it calls itself part of the “Arab  nation,” states that “Islam is the official religion of Palestine” and that “Islamic Shari’a” is the  principal source of legislation, despite knowing that Palestinians would become the majority in the region were Israel to follow its recommendation to allow all Palestinian “refugees”  into Israel.

The full report is available at the NGO Monitor website.

Salo Aizenberg is an independent scholar and author who writes about anti-Semitism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. His book, “Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards,” was a finalist for a National Jewish Books Award in 2013. 

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