Calls for Amnesty charity probe over Israel ‘apartheid’ smear

New report is 'politically specious and historically, absolutely wrong' says leading South African campaigner


Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International (C) attends a press conference together with Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director Philip Luther (L) and activist Orly Noy (R) in Jerusalem, on February 1, 2022. - Amnesty International labelled Israel an "apartheid" state that treats Palestinians as "an inferior racial group," joining the assessment of other rights groups which the Jewish state vehemently rejects. (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP) (Photo by RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Amnesty International’s incendiary new report smearing Israel as an “apartheid state” has sparked accusations of antisemitism and calls for a Charity Commission probe, the JC can reveal.

The claim that the Jewish state is guilty of human rights breaches is made repeatedly in the 278-page document published this week. The report depicts Israel as guilty of “apartheid” crimes since its very foundation in 1948.

Critics say such claims are a clear breach of the widely recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The code adopted by the UK government and other authorities worldwide states that it is antisemitic to deny Jews their right to self-determination “by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

Legal figures and MPs have called for the Charity Commission to consider Amnesty’s status.

The JC can also reveal:

  • A leading Amnesty figure behind the report has posted photos of Palestinian terrorists on social media;

  • South African anti-apartheid campaigners objected to unjustified exploitation of their history to attack Israel;

  • The report is said to be peppered with distortions of the facts which have been exposed by experts;

  • Hamas applauded the report’s publication;

  • A leading Arab-Israeli has voiced his fury against Amnesty over its “lies”.

The report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians, says “since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony”.

It claims apartheid is enforced in a “highly institutionalised manner” in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and says the perpetrators should be probed by the International Criminal Court.

Amnesty is now calling on Britain to impose a “comprehensive import ban” on all products from Israeli settlements, as well as immediately suspending all military and policing cooperation with Israel.

Launching the report in Jerusalem, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s Secretary General, said it was based on “four years of meticulous research by the best legal scholars on apartheid”.

Amnesty have refused to reveal the identity of authors. But sharing the platform with Ms Callamard was the NGO’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, long-standing Palestinian activist Saleh Hijazi.

Before he joined Amnesty, he posted photos on his social media of Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled – notorious as an air hijacker in the 70s – and Khader Adnan, a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad who is in jail in Israel.

Mr Hijazi worked previously for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. In 2007, he was listed as a contact for campaign group Another Voice, whose slogan was: “Resist! Boycott! We are Intifada!”

Terror group Hamas said that it welcomed Amnesty’s publication “with much appreciation and respect”, saying it was “a new contribution to ending the last ugly racist occupation on the face of the Earth”.

Reacting to the report, veteran anti-apartheid South African lawyer and MP Tony Leon, a former leader of his country’s opposition, told the JC: “I’m highly critical of aspects of Israeli policy, but making out Israel to be a moral criminal on a par with the South African apartheid state is politically specious and historically, absolutely wrong.

“Amnesty International is not doing is cause or its reputation any good by what is at best an undergraduate-level analysis.”

Olga Meshoe Washington, a US-based lawyer and daughter of black South African MP Rev Kenneth Meshoe told the JC: “I was born and lived under apartheid, and this report erases our experience – the denial of an adequate education; the restrictions on where we could live, who we could be with.

“It attempts to redefine what we went through, and so trivialises and negates it. It does a disservice to those who suffered and died so that black people could be treated equally.”

Critics claim that the report shows bias by barely mentioning violence against Israeli civilians and twisting facts and quotes.

In one egregious example, a quotation from Binyamin Netanyahu, is used on the report’s first page: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and them alone.”

However, the report fails to add what he said next: “There’s no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel – they have the same rights as us all and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government.”

Writing in the JC, Arab-Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad said: “I disagree wholeheartedly with Amnesty,” adding: “I am proud to be an Arab and to be an Israeli.”

Amnesty raises money in Britain as a charitable trust, which means it receives tax benefits such as gift aid from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

But when it publishes reports – this one included – it does so via a limited company, Amnesty International Ltd, that the charity funds.

Charity Commission rules say that when charities do this, they must ensure that the company uses its funding for charitable purposes, and the “public benefit”.

UK campaign group Lawyers for Israel chief executive Jonathan Turner said: “This vitriolic propaganda does not appear to comply with the public benefit requirement that must be satisfied by charities under English law.

The Charity Commission and HMRC should consider whether the sponsorship of this report by Amnesty International’s UK Charities is compatible with their charitable status and tax benefits.”

Lord Carlile QC, the former government reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said he had “concerns” over Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories.

But he added: “As a lifelong Amnesty supporter, I am disappointed they have produced a report that is so overtly political and can only cause damage to the efforts being made by governments and individuals to secure conciliation between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

“This is on the very edge of their permissible role as a charity.”

Tory MP Michael Fabricant, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Israel, joined the calls for a Charity Commission inquiry saying: “Some of the statements made by Amnesty International are highly questionable, if not immoral, and this is something the Charity Commission needs urgently to look at.”

Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council, said: “The IHRA definition of antisemitism is clear: to claim that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour is antisemitic, and unfortunately, it appears Amnesty International is doing exactly that.

"You can debate the rights and wrongs of Israeli government policy, but it’s impossible to do that when it’s clear Israel’s very legitimacy is called into question. That’s what you call bad faith.”

Lord Mann, former Labour MP and antisemitism tsar told the JC: “It is time for Amnesty to receive some training in what antisemitism is. How could they possibly refuse this?”

Amnesty told the JC: “The report underwent a rigorous approvals process at the highest levels of the organisation to ensure the quality of the research and our commitment to maintaining independence and impartiality.

"Helping to dismantle apartheid is in the public good and exactly what a human rights organisation should be doing.”

What Amnesty claims - and what they forgot to mention

CLAIM: On p11, the report’s executive summary opens with an Instagram quote by former Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, printed in big, bold letters: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and them alone.”

WHAT AMNESTY’S CRITICS SAY: It leaves out the next line of Netanyahu’s post: “[But] there’s no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel – they have the same rights as us all and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government.”

CLAIM: On p42, the report says that in the second intifada, Israel “killed Palestinians unlawfully by shooting them during protests and at checkpoints although they were not posing imminent danger” “bombed residential areas” and “carried out extra-judicial executions”.

Copious alleged examples are given in the following pages, and other measures, such as the separation wall, are also condemned.

WHAT AMNESTY’S CRITICS SAY : The only mention of the attacks that killed 1,000 Israelis in this period – with bombs at restaurants, weddings, buses etc – is a single laconic sentence: “Palestinian armed groups and individuals deliberately killed Israeli civilians by placing bombs in crowded places and in drive-by shootings.”

Likewise, while Israeli operations in Gaza are repeatedly condemned, the many thousands of rockets fired from there against Israeli civilian targets merit just one sentence.

CLAIM: The report on p47 says Israel is in breach of the 1973 Apartheid Convention, which says “the crime of apartheid” shall include “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa”.

But on p13, it makes a significant admission “that systems of oppression and domination will never be identical”, adding it does not “assess” whether the “system of oppression” in Israel is “the same or analogous to” apartheid-era South Africa.

WHAT AMNESTY’S CRITICS SAY : It’s an awkward fact that Israeli Arab citizens have full civic rights.

Two are members of the government, and others serve as judges, occupy positions such as the head of Israel’s biggest bank, and marry Jews. Such freedoms were not available for black Africans in apartheid South Africa.

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