Students shun Amnesty over anti-Israel event

Dozens of Amnesty International student activists are expected to cut links with the organisation over its decision to host a controversial anti-Israel event.

Amnesty (AI) has been attacked by groups including Labour Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies over the panel event – Complicity in oppression: do the media aid Israel? – due to take place at the charity's London headquarters on Monday.

It has been jointly organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor Online.

Amnesty confirmed on Wednesday that the event would still go ahead.

Around 50 students who do grassroots work for AI societies at their universities are "deeply unhappy" with the decision.

More than half a dozen have already pledged to boycott future events, saying they are "extremely ashamed by the de facto endorsement of MEMO". Others are expected to take similar action and protest outside Monday's event.

York student Kirsten Rainbow said: "I expect Amnesty to stand up for real injustice in the world, but it has abandoned its principles, and I simply will not attend AI events in future."

The decision to proceed with the event follows an "internal struggle" between senior Amnesty staff worried about how the evening would affect AI's position in the wider context of the Middle East conflict, and those determined that the event must go ahead.

Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman wrote to AI secretary general Salil Shetty last Friday urging him to cancel the event.

Mr Wineman wrote: "The Board of Deputies implores you to cancel this event and instead hold one which represents the values for which Amnesty is rightly renowned."

An online petition calling for the event to be cancelled had attracted more than 200 signatures by Wednesday.

An AI spokesman said: "The PSC, along with MEMO, has issued a statement condemning all forms of racism, anti-Jewish sentiment and Islamophobia. We remain committed to providing space for free debate on this and other key human rights issues."

    Last updated: 12:48pm, May 19 2011