Amnesty International’s latest controversial report released on Feb. 1 during a press conference in Jerusalem, this time accusing Israel of apartheid, has come under fierce condemnation from the Israeli government and Jewish groups around the world as being “anti-Semitic.” The Biden administration rejected it as “absurd.” Some U.S. lawmakers denounced it as “rooted in historic prejudices and false narratives.” But Amnesty has doubled down on its accusation, claiming any argument to the contrary is simply an obfuscation of the facts.
Avi Bell, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, told JNS “the big challenge would be to find any claims by Amnesty that are defensible from a legal point of view.”
According to Bell, the report is “a compilation of tired propaganda, lies and distortions” and “boils down to a simple message: The world’s largest Jewish community should drop dead.”
Bell suggested that the length of the nearly 300-page report “is intended to substitute for substance.”
In response to a JNS inquiry about the report’s findings, Amnesty replied that “any suggestion that this is an attempt to destabilize Israel or is anti-Semitic are simply false and baseless, and a smokescreen to divert attention from the human-rights abuses and violations suffered by the Palestinian people.”
“As an anti-racist organization, Amnesty stands against anti-Semitism, which is antithetical to human rights,” Amnesty told JNS in an email. “We oppose discrimination, racism and hate crimes in all forms, including against Jewish people or people perceived as Jewish.”
“We are consistently clear … that we recognize the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, that we condemn and seek justice for attacks on Israeli civilians, and that our criticism is targeted at the Israeli authorities and not the Jewish people.”
But the report itself is a testament to Amnesty’s real intentions and, according to experts who spoke to JNS, Amnesty appears to have drawn its dangerous conclusion before it even began its research, and even then, the research is shoddy.
Notably, Amnesty relied in part on information provided by at least four human-rights NGOs designated by Israel as terror organizations.
Israel designated six Palestinian NGOs on Oct. 22 as terror organizations for their close ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The report’s findings
In its report, Amnesty claims that Israel has “established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis—a system of apartheid—wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948.”
Amnesty accuses Israel of “territorial fragmentation; segregation and control; dispossession of land and property; and denial of economic and social rights.” It then proceeds to list numerous examples as proof of its accusations.
Amnesty then calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation” and calls on all states to “exercise universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice.”
It calls on the international community “to urgently and drastically change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;” calls on the U.N. Security Council to “impose targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes, against Israeli officials most implicated in the crime of apartheid”; and calls for a “comprehensive arms embargo on Israel.”
Amnesty also calls for the UN General Assembly to re-establish the Special Committee against Apartheid in order to investigate Israel.
Problems in the report
While Amnesty accuses Israel’s defenders of throwing up a “smokescreen,” the organization has itself used smoke and mirrors in the report, according to those who analyzed it, beginning with the absence of the identities of those who actually authored the report or the experts it consulted for its analysis.
In its original, embargoed report, Amnesty wrote: “This system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948 and has been built and maintained for decades.”
This reference to 1948 signifies that Amnesty perceives Israel as illegitimate since its inception.
One of the many issues with the report is that it infantilizes Israel’s citizens and decides for them what they should be called. Many Arabs in Israel self-identify as Israeli Arabs or Arab Israelis, yet Amnesty decided to call them “Palestinians.”
Amnesty complains that Israel’s 2018 Nation-State Law, which declares that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, “does not recognize any other national identity despite Palestinians comprising 19% of the population within Israel.”
One of the problems with this accusation is that the 19% of the population to which the report refers is Israeli Arab and not Palestinian.
A case in point is the Israeli Arab NGO “Together Vouch for Each Other,” which on Twitter condemned Amnesty’s “false and defamatory report.” The group, it emphasized, is made up of Israeli Arabs “who live, study and make a living here; we are all an integral part of the society and enjoy equal rights.”
Amnesty’s report almost completely ignores the history of extreme violence directed at Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorist organizations and ignores Palestinian incitement.
What makes this report different than those published by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem last year is that Amnesty now makes the claim Israel is guilty of apartheid throughout the entire country, and not just in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
It ignores the reality in much of Judea and Samaria where Israelis and Palestinians drive on the same roads, shop in the same stores and eat in the same cafes. The report further ignores the fact that Israel’s Arab citizens sit in the Knesset, are ministers in Israel’s current government and sit as judges on the country’s Supreme Court.
Amnesty’s definition of Israel as an apartheid state has been denounced by experts as violating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Amnesty’s recommendations to solve the alleged apartheid issue would result in the elimination of Israel since the organization demands a Palestinian “Right of Return.”
‘Actions the Israeli government can take with teeth’
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at the George Mason University Scalia Law School and the director of its Center for the Middle East and International Law, in addition to director of the International Law Department at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, told JNS that Amnesty’s goal is to “build up a virtual condemnation through international institutions by the ICC and UN and hope it trickles down and creates a narrative reality of Israeli apartheid.”
The irony is that currently, Israel has a coalition government with wide representation, including from the Arab Ra’am Party. Many could argue that it is the most diverse Israeli government to date. And in the past, it wasn’t a specific Jewish political leader in Amnesty’s crosshairs as much as the Jewish state itself.
“It was never [opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu or the Likud that was the problem, but rather, it was always Israel [itself] that was the problem” for groups like Amnesty, said Kontorovich.
“America, and most democracies, are said to struggle with systemic racism, but Amnesty does not call them apartheid states,” he charged, “because ‘apartheid’—like ‘Zionism is Racism’ before it—is a call for the dismantling of the State of Israel.”
“It has never been about 1967,” he said, referring to Israel’s acquisition of Judea and Samaria after the Six-Day War. “It’s always been about 1948 [the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel],” he concluded.
Shai Glick, CEO of the Israeli human-rights organization B’Tsalmo, called on Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman to drop Amnesty’s tax-exempt status in Israel. Glick told JNS, “The Amnesty Israel branch, which feeds the falsehoods to Amnesty International, deserves all condemnation and denunciation and certainly does not deserve the tax benefits it currently receives from the Israeli government. … Anyone who harms or boycotts Israel should know that they [themselves] will be boycotted.”
David Wurmser, an American foreign-policy specialist, told JNS human-rights NGOs like Amnesty “have declared war on Israel’s existence” and Israel must therefore “get serious.”
“There are actions the Israeli government can take with teeth, such as declare anyone affiliated in any way with these organizations, including donors, as personae non gratae,” he said. “Staying silent and trying to ignore the problem away will not work in a hyper-charged environment of growing anti-Semitism.”
Like Glick, Wurmser suggested that Israel “annul the tax-exempt status of the organization and ask allied countries to do the same.”
He also said that Israel should “start a campaign to enact legislation in Congress that annuls the tax-exempt status of any organization that considers Israel’s very existence an immoral act that implies Israel’s destruction.”
According to Bell, “The hysterical and fantastical claims of Israeli Jewish evil reflect, more than anything, the desperate refusal of ‘human rights’ and ‘anti-racism’ organizations to understand that their embrace of Corbynist ethnicism has ensured their irrelevance. The report will not affect Jews and Palestinian Arabs, but it accelerates Amnesty’s tragic descent into a moral abyss that will ultimately lead to the organization’s demise.”