Amnesty in spotlight over hosting anti-Israel event

By Marcus Dysch, May 12, 2011

Labour Friends of Israel has accused Amnesty of having a "disproportionate focus" on alleged Israeli human rights abuses and of being swayed by "anti-peace" groups.

The criticism came as more than a dozen LFI members, including vice-chair Louise Ellman MP, wrote to Amnesty to complain about the NGO's plans to host an anti-Israel event.

Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan - investigated by police following a university lecture at which he referred to a "Jewish lobby" controlling America - is among those due to speak at the Complicity in oppression: Do the media aid Israel? event, in Amnesty's central London headquarters on May 23.

The event is jointly organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO) media and lobby group.

LFI said it was "deeply worried" by Amnesty's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Given Hamas' appalling human rights record, and the PSC and MEMO's apologism for this, it is entirely inappropriate for Amnesty to support their work, especially since it has itself documented Hamas' human rights abuses on a number of occasions."

Amnesty wrote to the PSC last month to raise its concerns over the nature of the event.

An Amnesty spokesman said: "We have received a number of letters raising concerns about the PSC and MEMO, which we are carefully examining and will reply to as soon as possible.

"We are still reviewing the event while remaining committed to providing space for free debate on key human rights issues. AI wishes to stress that we condemn all attacks on civilians no matter what the circumstances."

The JC understands that Amnesty bosses may still cancel the event.

In a joint statement, the PSC and MEMO said there had been a "high level of registration" for the event and added: "Both PSC and MEMO condemn all forms of racism, anti-Jewish prejudice and Islamophobia.

"We await an equal condemnation of all such prejudice from those who purport to speak on behalf of Israel, and their clear support for universal human rights and international law."

Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh, a regular contributor to MEMO, was this week forced to apologise after calling a Jewish pro-Israel blogger a "kike" in comments posted online.

Last updated: 3:39pm, May 12 2011