Israel advocacy, from Dreyfus to Amnesty

We are a generation with countless tools at our disposal; we just need the willpower, knowledge and skills to use them.

Amnesty International. Credit: www.amnestyusa.org/about-us/.
Amnesty International. Credit: www.amnestyusa.org/about-us/.
Asher Stern
Asher Stern
Asher Stern is head of operations at the International Legal Forum.

J’Accuse…!, written more than 100 years ago during the Dreyfus Affair, may well have been published in 2022, just repackaged as Amnesty International’s baseless assault against the State of Israel.

Whereas a century ago, Alfred Dreyfuss was scapegoated by the French government because he was a Jew, today the State of Israel is being scapegoated by Amnesty International, because it is the Jew among the nations.

For millennia, the Jewish people have been singled out, attacked and condemned for no other reason than because of who we are. The late U.K. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in describing anti-Semitism as a “mutating virus,” observed that “in the Middle Ages, Jews were persecuted because of their religion; in the 19th and 20th centuries they were reviled because of their race. Today, Jews are attacked because of the existence of their nation-state, Israel.”

Sacks concluded that anti-Semitism “takes different forms but it remains the same thing: the view that Jews have no right to exist as free and equal human beings.”

The year 2022 may as well be 1894, and one might be forgiven for asking if much has changed since the Dreyfus Affair.

The most recent high-profile example comes courtesy of organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the latter recently releasing a 280-page diatribe demonizing Israel as an “apartheid state” and calling for the Jewish state’s dismantlement.

Once bastions defending the defenseless, these organizations have taken the trust bestowed upon them by millions worldwide and thrown it away to become mouthpieces of the “lawfare” campaign against the sole Jewish state.

Whenever their so-called reports are published, thoroughly researched articles debunk and expose their false and malicious claims. Yet they continue to get away with it. Despite their baseless allegations, NGOs such as Amnesty are embraced by so many others who join the effort to delegitimize Israel. Where is the modern Émile Zola to cry out “J’Accuse“?

The answer may be simpler than we think. We need to look inward. We must take the advice of the great sage, Hillel, and ask: “If not for myself, who will be for me?”

The best way to truly counter anti-Semitism is to look into the darkness and declare: “I see you, and I am not afraid.” Yes, this is a daunting task, especially with the recent explosive surge in global anti-Semitic violence. But if we allow those who try to terrify and silence us to succeed, if we fail to stand up for ourselves and the Jewish state, then they will have truly won.

But what can be done beyond just shouting J’Accuse? What practical steps can Jews, pro-Israel activists or anyone fighting for truth and decency take?

The first and most important step is to call out those who spread lies and fan the flames of hate. Use your voice. Don’t assume as fact a story on Instagram. Always research, fact-check and create your own informed opinion. Create allies in this fight. Learn from experts and organizations on the front line. Most importantly, be proud and unapologetic in your Jewish and Zionist identity.

We are a generation with countless tools at our disposal; we just need the willpower, knowledge and skills to use them. The more we learn and truly understand, the better we can make the case for Israel. We should never be afraid of the debate or to learn more to make us better advocates.

Of course, none of this is to imply that everyone has to unflinchingly agree with every Israeli policy; far from it. That being said, if you call for Israel’s destruction, deny the Jewish people their fundamental right to self-determination or perpetuate anti-Semitic tropes and lies, such as Amnesty has done, the anti-Semitic line in the sand has well and truly been crossed.

Attacks such as these must be confronted no matter where they arise, whether on campus, online or within major organizations by elected officials. We must show that, while open to debate, we will not allow ourselves or the State of Israel to be vilified—that we will no longer stand idly by in the face of hatred and anti-Semitism, no matter what form they take.

We have an obligation and a responsibility, not only to the generations that have gone before us—those who went through hell on earth, yet never gave up on the dream of rebuilding our nation-state in our ancestral homeland—but to future generations, as well.

We cannot continue to allow the blatant lies and hatred of groups like Amnesty to go unanswered. Israel and the Jewish people are here to stay. We are fighting against a relentless enemy that has persisted for millennia. But even the smallest light can push away the darkness. And each one of us, in our own way, must be that light.

Asher Stern is the project manager at the International Legal Forum, an Israel-based network of more than 4,000 lawyers and activists around the world, standing up for Israel and combating anti-Semitism in the international legal arena. 

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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