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Time to call out ‘human rights’ groups for their anti-Semitism

The ADL slammed State Department plans to denounce popular NGOs, yet Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam are all guilty of inciting hate against Israel.

Front page of the Amnesty International website, Jan. 20, 2019. Source: Screenshot
Front page of the Amnesty International website, Jan. 20, 2019. Source: Screenshot
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

For four years, Trump administration critics have accused it of conducting foreign policy that was devoid of the sort of moral leadership that the world was accustomed to getting from the United States. But now that it’s planning to make a seminal statement of principle, the president’s liberal detractors aren’t happy. To the contrary, they’re deeply disturbed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reported decision to call out three prominent international groups for their anti-Semitism.

Incredibly, defenders of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam are saying that Washington’s desire to call them to account for their prejudicial attacks and efforts to undermine the right of Israel to exist is actually proof of the administration’s lack of concern for human rights.

Using the sort of Orwellian “newspeak” that is the hallmark of the radical left, the groups are saying criticism of their prejudice is a boost to human-rights abusers. Even worse, the Anti-Defamation League, which still poses as the defender of the Jewish people against anti-Semitism, is coming to their defense, denouncing the administration for acting to “politicize the fight against anti-Semitism.”

The facts about these groups aren’t a secret. All three are guilty of supporting the anti-Semitic BDS movement with words and deeds, and seek to undermine the right of Israelis to self-defense against terrorism, as well as to promote false charges of war crimes against the Jewish state. Their approach to alleged inquiries about life in the only democracy in the Middle East is inherently prejudiced. Indeed, these three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) act in perfect concert with institutions like the U.N. Human Rights Council, where anti-Semitism and bias against Israel have become its raison d’être.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Oxfam dates back to the Second World War, the efforts of Quaker groups to aid starving populations in countries devastated by the impact of the fighting and Nazi occupation. But it eventually broadened its agenda to a general goal of fighting injustice. And, like other organizations connected to the Quaker faith, it developed a particular animus for Israel and a desire to support the Palestinian Arab war to destroy it. As

NGO Monitor—a vital source for information about the anti-Semitic activities of non-governmental organization—details, it has become a huge booster of BDS and other anti-Israel activities.

Human Rights Watch was begun in 1978 as part of an effort to hold the Soviet Union accountable for its atrocities and oppression of dissidents and Jews. But it, too, eventually expanded its scope and ironically wound up becoming an ardent foe of Israel. As one of its founders noted in a blistering attack on it published in The New York Times in 2009, it had become an enabler of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, and was short-changing the far more egregious human-rights offenses going on in the Arab world because it was obsessed with attacking Israel.

Amnesty International also had a sterling reputation as a foe of oppression around the world. But it became a pivotal ally of the BDS movement, supporting embargos against Israel, falsely labeling it an “apartheid state” and defending those linked to terror under the bogus excuse that they were victims of human-rights abuses by Israel.

Let’s be clear that these three groups are not being accused of anti-Semitism because they are critical of Israel’s government or its policies. Rather, it’s because their activities and advocacy have been consistent with the widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism that has been promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance—precepts that have been officially endorsed by the government of the United States that rightly labels delegitimizing, demonizing and applying double standards to Israel, the one Jewish state on the planet, as acts of Jew-hatred.

Why then are so many liberal groups rising to defend them against the State Department?

The answer has more to do with politics than anything else.

In other contexts, the ADL accepts the IHRA definition and denounces those who violate it. But right now, the group and its CEO, former Clinton and Obama administration staffer Jonathan Greenblatt, have a different priority. As with so many of its stands during the last four years, the ADL is not so much interested in anti-Semitism as it is in defeating President Donald Trump. Acknowledging that this administration has not only been the most pro-Israel in U.S. history but also devoted more resources to fighting anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses, than its predecessors undermines the Democrats’ talking points about Trump dog-whistling or enabling far-right Jew-haters.

Just as troubling, Greenblatt seems to value ADL’s alliances with partners on the left, even if means making common cause with a trio of groups whose policy agenda is antithetical to the ADL’s brief to fight anti-Semitism. Denouncing them for anti-Semitism violates the ADL’s current impulse to see no enemies on the left.

More to the point, while cheering the State Department’s statement ought to be a no-brainer for those tasked with defending Jewish rights, if it means saying anything nice about the administration or Pompeo close to Election Day, the ADL and other loyal members of the anti-Trump resistance won’t do it.

Perhaps some think that once Trump is defeated, they can resume advocacy against BDS hate without having to have their reputations as liberals in good standing threatened by having to make common cause with the president. But it’s not that easy. By opposing calling out anti-Semitic NGOs now, they are essentially granting them a pass and ensuring that a possible Biden administration won’t think about taking the issue seriously. By redefining the fight against anti-Semitism to being only about the far-right, which is a threat to Jews but not the only one, they are doing damage to the pro-Israel cause that can’t be undone. That they are doing so for partisan reasons is not merely misguided but a disgrace.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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