Amnesty shoots itself in the foot over Israel-West Bank report

An IDF guard looks through a hole in a wall connected to the West Bank security barrier

An IDF guard looks through a hole in a wall connected to the West Bank security barrier

Amnesty International’s claims that Israeli forces in the West Bank are “trigger-happy”, shoot Palestinians with impunity and may be guilty of war crimes have been met with outrage and widespread criticism.

A report published by the charity on Thursday highlighted what it said was a “harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians”.

The 85-page document, entitled Trigger-happy, Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, also called on the US, the EU and the international community to suspend sales of arms to Israel.

The Israeli Embassy in London dismissed Amnesty’s research as a “stunt” filled with “unverifiable and often contradictory accounts”.

It accused the charity of “skewed logic” and said more than 130 people had been injured by stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank last year.

“Scores” of Israelis who had been stabbed, shot and terrorised were ignored by the report, the embassy said.

A spokesman added: “This obsessive, outrageous report has nothing to offer in the genuine and important discussion about how law enforcement authorities should deal with the complex challenges of demonstrations containing violent and potentially lethal elements.”

Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, the Jerusalem-based research institute, said Amnesty’s accusations were “reckless, blatantly biased, and reflect the lack of a credible research fact-finding methodology”.

He said the allegations were repetitions of “unverifiable Palestinian ‘testimony’” and claimed Amnesty had a “disproportionate and ideological obsession with Israel”.

The report detailed the Israeli use of tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition in response to what it describes as “low-level violence, throwing [of] stones and rocks”.

It also considered the social and political impact of what it called “Jewish-only” settlements in the West Bank.

The Foreign Office said there was “no evidence” that British-manufactured weapons or equipment had been used “by the Israeli military forces to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the situation would be monitored and called on Israel to “abide by its obligations under international law, including the appropriate use of force by Israeli military forces”.

Amnesty’s Middle East director Philip Luther said: “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers — and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators — suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

The charity cited the example of 16-year-old Samir Awad from Bodrus, near Ramallah, who was shot and killed near his school in January last year.

He was hit by three bullets while running away from soldiers after protesting against the Israeli security barrier. Amnesty said his death may amount to “extrajudicial execution” or “a wilful killing”. The latter charge is considered a war crime.

Mr Luther said: “The staggering numbers of wounded provide a sobering reminder of the relentless daily danger faced by Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank.

“If the Israeli authorities wish to prove to the world they are committed to democratic principles and international human rights standards, unlawful killings and the unnecessary use of force must stop now.”

Amnesty accused the Israeli authorities of failing to investigate “repeated violations of international human rights law” and called on the Israeli government to open independent, transparent investigations and prosecute personnel responsible for “unlawful killings or injuries”.

Conservative Friends of Israel chairman James Clappison MP said: “Any report has to be seriously considered, but my visit to Israel last week brought home to me the suffering that has been caused on all sides by terrorist actions against Israel in the past.

“Israel is perfectly entitled to take proportionate steps to avert the threat of serious terrorist threats in the future.”

Daniel Taub, Israel’s Ambassador to Britain, said: “Amnesty’s obsessive focus on Israel, and its refusal to recognise the very real threat posed by deliberately-orchestrated violent demonstrations, suggests an agenda that has more to do with politics than human rights.”

Last updated: 12:23am, February 27 2014