Amnesty critic stands for role on charity's board

February 25, 2010

A trenchant critic of Amnesty International's policy on Israel, Eric Lee, is standing for its section board in the UK - effectively the organisation's board of governors, which makes its policy.

Mr Lee, founder of the LabourStart website and a long-time trade union organiser, is one of ten candidates for four seats on the Amnesty International UK Section Board.

Each candidate is allowed a 100-word election manifesto, which will be sent to more than 250,000 Amnesty members in the next two weeks.

New York-born Mr Lee, who was a member of Amnesty in Israel in the mid-1990s, where he helped to build its second largest chapter, has issued an uncompromising challenge to Amnesty supporters.

He said this week: "A lot of people have quit Amnesty, not just over their attitude to Israel but also over this latest row on the suspension of the head of their Gender Unit, Gita Saghal." [Ms Saghal complained of perceived support for the Taliban, a charge which Amnesty denies.]

Mr Lee said it had been "quite tricky" to find the requisite number of Jewish or pro-Israel Amnesty members to support his nomination. But he was optimistic that unhappiness with Amnesty's current policies might yet secure him a seat.

Mr Lee was part of the original staff of Human Rights Watch in New York in 1980 (when it was called Helsinki Watch) and has been involved in support campaigns for dissidents for nearly 40 years.

The section board of directors is the primary governing structure for Amnesty International UK. Board members meet eight times a year.

Lee's manifesto

"I believe that Amnesty has lost its way when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Instead of being seen as an unbiased source, Amnesty is increasingly viewed by many as being anti-Israel.

"Amnesty's uncritical support for the controversial Goldstone Report, the excessive coverage of Israel in its magazine (far more than coverage of, for example, Iran), the partnerships with anti-Israel NGOs like War on Want which label Israel as an "apartheid" society, all contribute to this perception.

"And just as Amnesty demands that governments tolerate dissent, it too must be open to criticism and not smug or defensive."

Last updated: 4:23pm, February 25 2010