Amnesty slammed for Israel 'apartheid' event

Amnesty International has defended its decision to hold a meeting on Israel's policy in east Jerusalem under the title of "Capital Murder", featuring the author of a book on Israeli "apartheid".

Journalist Ben White, who published Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide, last year, is due to speak alongside an East Jerusalem activist at the headquarters of the organisation's UK's branch in London next month.

Amnesty UK explained that the title of the meeting referred to "widely-held concerns that Israeli policies over East Jerusalem represent a fatal threat to a fair resolution to the conflict".

It added: "Like Ben White, Amnesty is seeking to address issues of institutional and direct discrimination, forced expulsions, displacement and other unfair treatment against Palestinians because they are Palestinians."

But Eric Lee, a longstanding critic of Amnesty's stance towards Israel, condemned the event as "completely inappropriate. It commits Amnesty to the idea that Israel is an apartheid state, which is a contemptible lie."

Both the title and the invitation to Mr White indicated that Amnesty has "a political agenda", he said.

Amnesty said that the event would be one of a series on Israel and "the occupied Palestinian territories" to take place this year.

Mr Lee, who is awaiting the results of his bid to be elected to the organisation's UK section board, also criticised last week's departure of Gita Sahgal, the interim head of Amnesty International's gender unit.

"This is a very sad day for human rights campaigners and marks a turning point for Amnesty International," he said.

"Gita represented all that was positive and progressive in the organisation. With her departure Amnesty can more easily complete its transformation into a political front for anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism rather than an organisation committed to human rights."

Amnesty said that it had been agreed that Ms Sahgal would leave over differences about the organisation's links with former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg and the organisation Cageprisoners, which campaigns on behalf of Guatanamo detainees.

Ms Saghal, who has called Mr Begg "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban", has argued that Amnesty has been damaged by its partnership with Mr Begg.

    Last updated: 3:30pm, April 15 2010