Amnesty Gaza report has 'systematic bias'

By Marcus Dysch, January 21, 2010

Amnesty International’s Middle East director has denied the charity has an anti-Israel agenda and said it works equally to protect citizens of the Jewish state and their Palestinian neighbours.

The organisation’s latest report on Israel and the Palestinians examines attempts to rebuild life in Gaza following last year’s conflict.

Published on Monday to coincide with the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Suffocating: The Gaza Strip Under Israeli Blockade calls on Israeli authorities to allow fuel, food, building materials and other essential goods into Gaza unrestricted.

The charity’s ME director, Malcolm Smart, said Israeli military assaults had severely damaged schools and hospitals, leading to further suffering for Gazans in the conflict’s aftermath.

NGO Monitor’s Professor Gerald Steinberg attacked the report, saying Amnesty was employing “double standards and systematic bias” demonstrating the organisation had “lost its way as a moral force”.

He said: “Amnesty has yet again issued a one-sided condemnation.”

But Mr Smart said: “We are trying to adopt a consistent approach in light of the human rights issues. We are trying to persuade people that we are looking at real problems that do exist and for which the Israeli government is responsible. I would ask people to look at the detail of the report — and if we have things substantially wrong, tell us.

“Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself from rocket attacks but this blockade is not the right policy.

“If people will not look beyond the report’s title, then it’s a pity. We do not have a partisan political position. We want to ensure the human rights of Israelis as much as Palestinians.”

The report acknowledges that armed Palestinian groups have broken the Hamas ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel since the end of Cast Lead, and points out that disputes between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank have created bureaucratic difficulties for Palestinians.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy denied there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and said the government was continuing to allow trucks to deliver construction material, as well as co-ordinating projects to ensure drinking water supplies.

She added: “As long as Gaza is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas, we will continue to balance the people of Gaza’s need for supplies with the people of Sderot’s need to feel safe — people who for eight years have been targeted by Hamas missiles, sadly far away from the skewed eye of Amnesty International.”

Last updated: 3:32pm, January 5 2011