Be honest, Amnesty: you want to destroy Israel

Those who push for a ‘One State Solution’ are either frighteningly naive or malign in intent

February 03, 2022 10:28

This week Amnesty International UK released a report preposterously branding Israel an apartheid state and calling for a “major re-assessment” of the UK’s foreign policy position on it.

At a time when many in the region are forging peace with Israel and Israel’s government is more diverse than ever with an Arab Muslim nationalist party in Israel’s governing coalition, this feels like a desperate attempt to reignite efforts to demonise Israel.

Israel is a vibrant and robust democracy and a state for all its citizens, be they Arab or Jewish, religious or secular, rich or poor. Of course, there is inequality, discrimination, and fragility and that should not be overlooked. We see corruption but a free and fair press; we see inequality but a robust civil society — all the things you would expect to see across the democratic world. An imperfect nation state does not make it an illegitimate one, but you would not draw that conclusion from reading Amnesty’s report which derides the very principle of Israel’s establishment.

Those who have followed Amnesty’s work on Israel have come to expect ideologically driven one-sidedness. Their policy recommendations, which rather than seek to alleviate Palestinian suffering — or attribute any blame whatsoever to the Palestinian Authority or terrorist organisation Hamas — effectively calls for the annihilation of Israel.

While the report does the perfunctory throat clearing of recognising that “Jews, like Palestinians, claim a right to self-determination”, it makes clear — even though it is couched in terms of a just solution — that it doesn’t actually support or champion that right.

The report criminalises the Law of Return, a law which allows diaspora Jews to gain Israeli citizenship and which any reading of Jewish history should make understandable. The law is enshrined under international law and far from unique to Israel.

In order for Israel to “dismantle apartheid”, Amnesty demands it “recognise the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to homes where they or their families once lived, while providing victims of human rights violations and crimes against humanity with full reparations”.

The appalling double standards at play beggars belief. The 20th and 21st century have seen wars, conflicts and partitions which have created millions of refugees. The list is vast. In no particular order, here are just ten examples: Rwandans, Pakistanis, Afghans, Bosnians, Armenians, Haitians, Iraqis, Syrians, Somalis and of course, Jews from across Europe and the Middle East. In each of these examples, the stories are mixed — some were forced to leave and some chose to leave.

It is impossible not to sympathise with the plight of Palestinian refugees. I struggle however to think of another case where it is expected or demanded that millions of refugees and their descendants return to the country from which they were exiled. The many millions of refugees from elsewhere will have also lost homes, businesses and family members and yet have not been afforded a “right of return”. As Fred Halliday, the international relations scholar made clear — “there exists a standard solution” to irresolvable national conflicts — “namely partition” but it is clear that Amnesty admonishes Israel for the Original Sin, that of its very creation in 1948.

The right of return or the One State “Solution” is couched as a progressive demand but if this was applied to any other state, it would be seen for what it is. Those who posit a secular, democratic Palestine or a binational state are really calling for the elimination of Israel and the creation of another Arab state. 

In the conclusion of Susie Linfield’s brilliant book, The Lions’ Den, Zionism and the Left, she accurately decries the concept of One State. “Magically and mysteriously, the forced merger of two peoples — with a century of killing each other’s children between them — will be peacefully accomplished and, moreover, lead to the establishment of a stable democratic polity”. 

As she goes on to conclude, this shows a frightening naiveite, and naiveite has never been a friend to either Jews or Palestinians. Indeed, Jews have learnt not to rely on the supposed good intentions of others when it comes to their protection.

Discrimination within society does not invalidate a nation’s right to sovereignty. Groups like Amnesty should be working with civil society groups on the ground to strengthen their work, not resort to intellectually dishonest arguments and sham solutions.

Claudia Mendoza is Co-Chief Executive of the JLC

February 03, 2022 10:28

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