Amnesty International defends official accused of anti-Israel bias

By Marcus Dysch, July 19, 2012
Amnesty's Kristyan Benedict: threatened to 'smack' pro-Israel blogger

Amnesty's Kristyan Benedict: threatened to 'smack' pro-Israel blogger

Amnesty International this week defended a senior officer accused by the Zionist Federation of co-ordinating campaigns against Israel.

The ZF said Kristyan Benedict had “regularly shown a partisan approach” when dealing with the country.

Mr Benedict, Amnesty UK’s campaigns manager, has claimed Israel should be listed alongside North Korea and Iran as a “stupid dictatorial regime” and threatened to assault an Israel supporter at an Amnesty event.

A recording of the incident in April last year reveals Mr Benedict telling blogger Richard Millett: “I will smack you in your little bald head. You’ve got that on record? I could do if I wanted to, couldn’t I? Put it on your website.”

It is understood Amnesty took disciplinary action against Mr Benedict and he later apologised to Mr Millett, saying his actions had been “regrettable”.

The charity responded to the ZF claims, saying all its staff members adhered “to principles of independence and impartiality” in their work.

The ZF requested a meeting with Amnesty after disputing director Kate Allen’s claims in May that she had not received any letters of complaint from the Jewish community or Israel supporters over the charity’s work with Israelis and Palestinians.

In response, Amnesty offered a meeting with Mr Benedict, which the ZF rejected, claiming it would be “completely pointless and of no benefit” due to his “actions and attitude”.

The ZF highlighted a number of events that it said Mr Benedict had organised for Amnesty, including a joint screening with Adalah, an Israeli Arab charity, at the London-Palestine Film Festival last April, and the launch of a book by anti-Israel campaigner Ben White last January.

Amnesty had been encouraged to cancel the event with Mr White, with the ZF claiming the session would “propagate his abhorrent and mendacious views”. (In 2002 Mr White wrote: “I do not consider myself an antisemite, yet I can also understand why some are”).

During an interview with Labour Friends of Palestine in February last year, Mr Benedict said Israel was “now included in the list of stupid dictatorial regimes who abuse peoples’ basic universal rights — along with Burma, North Korea, Iran and Sudan, its government has the same wanton attitude to human beings”.

In the same interview he suggested Israel “pushes the buttons to make all the surrounding Arabic states such as Syria, Lebanon feel insecure” in order to then profit from the arms trade.

A ZF spokesman said it was “clear to us that Mr Benedict is not an impartial player in this field and that there would be nothing to gain from meeting him.”

Last updated: 10:31am, July 20 2012