Amnesty chief stands by its work on Israel

By Marcus Dysch, April 26, 2012
Proud: Kate Allen

Proud: Kate Allen

The director of Amnesty International UK has staunchly defended the charity's approach to Israel and the Palestinians amid claims that it repeatedly displays anti-Israel bias.

Kate Allen said she was "very proud" of Amnesty's work, which has drawn widespread criticism from groups supporting Israel.

She denied that reports produced by Amnesty, and events it had hosted about the conflict, had been "one-sided", and suggested complaints had been taken too far by critics.

"If you look at Amnesty's work we absolutely confront human rights abuse violations where we think they are occurring, whether that's by Palestinians or by the Israeli government. We do that without fear or favour," she said.

"I'm so clear that the work we do, the reports we write, the campaigns we run, do confront human rights abuses wherever they occur in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I think our work is absolutely even-handed and straightforward. If other people don't see it that way then I'm very happy to go and talk to anybody about the range of our work."

Ms Allen – who admitted she was "not on top of the detail" regarding criticism of Amnesty – claimed not to have received a single letter of complaint from anyone in the Jewish community.

She said: "I've had no representations from the community. Nobody has written to me. Let's be clear, I haven't had a letter. Where there have been complaints about events, I know they have been looked into and people have been responded to. I've not had representations from the community about bias in our work. I stand by its impartiality.

"For the whole body of our work on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to now be in question seems to me to take complaints about an event too far. Our record is our record and it's one that I'm very proud of."

Supporters of Israel have complained about events hosted at Amnesty's London headquarters in the past three years. Earlier this year the Zionist Federation appealed to the charity to cancel the launch of a book by anti-Israel activist Ben White, who the ZF accused of "justifying antisemitism".

Labour Friends of Israel claimed last May that Amnesty had a "disproportionate focus" on alleged Israeli human rights abuses and suggested it had been "swayed" by groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor Online lobby group.

Ms Allen said: "I don't know about the Ben White book launch. We organise our own events and we also host other people and organisations and we let out the building. When we do that it doesn't mean we agree with every speaker or everything that is said on the platform. When there are complaints we will take them up.

"I'd happily sit down with them [critics and LFI] and go over the whole range of our work. If you look at the range it's not easy to come to that conclusion."

She conceded: "Perhaps we need to do more in showing people our work. I certainly don't feel I have to be sensitive about it. If we are getting that criticism then perhaps we need to spend longer talking to people showing them the range."

Last updated: 2:38pm, April 26 2012