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Amnesty accused of 'disgraceful' cancellation of JLC event

Jewish Leadership Council chairman says Amnesty has cancelled debate on Israel and UN over alleged support for settlements

    Amnesty International UK has been accused of cancelling an event by the Jewish Leadership Council due to be held later this week because it allegedly includes supporters of settlements.

    In a statement this morning, Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the JLC, branded the actions of the human rights organisation as “disgraceful”.

    The panel debate on Israel and the United Nations Human Rights Council was due to take place at Amnesty’s offices on Thursday.

    According to the JLC, Amnesty withdrew from participation in the panel some months ago but on Friday night informed the JLC that it was on longer prepared to host the event.

    The JLC said it has been told by Amnesty that it was “currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements. We do not, therefore, think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.”

    The scheduled speakers, which will be moved to another venue, include Fred Carver of the UN Association and Hillel Neuer of UN Watch and is being chaired by Daniel Friedman QC, a human rights specialist who is on the board of Yachad.

    Mr Goldstein commented it was “disgraceful that a Jewish charity is barred from the offices of Amnesty International UK”.

    For a long time, the community had been “deeply disappointed” by the organisation’s approach to Israel Jewish community” but had sought positive engagement with Amnesty, he said.

    “By withdrawing their offer to host an event on the role of the UN Human Rights Council, it is clear that Amnesty International UK’s claim ‘to protect Freedom of Expression,’ is only on their terms,” he said.  

    “We have long argued that the aggressive criticism of Israeli government policy creates an environment where antisemitism thrives and it is highly regrettable that on this occasion Amnesty International UK's decision has targeted the Jewish community.”

    Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s director of supporter campaigning and communications, said a wide range of organisations held events at its offices "but we reserve the right to withhold permission for our building to be used by organisations whose work runs directly counter to our own.

    “We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. We do not think it’s appropriate for Amnesty to host an event by an organisation that actively supports Israel’s settlements.

    “We apologise for any inconvenience that this cancellation may have caused.”

    The JLC has urged supporters to sign an open letter on its website calling for an apology from Amnesty.

    It reads: "We are writing to express our extreme disappointment at your cancellation of the Jewish Leadership Council’s panel debate on Israel due to be held at the Amnesty International UK (AI UK) headquarters. The reasons stated for the cancellation of this event are problematic and unacceptable.

    "The belief that it is not appropriate for AI UK to “host an event by an organisation that actively supports Israel’s settlements” vindicates those who argue that there is a slippery slope from endorsing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to discrimination of Jews.

    "The Jewish Leadership Council takes no set position on settlements. AI UK has maligned the Jewish community by making sweeping accusations and assumptions about its policies on Israel.

    "There have been a number of events previously held at the AI UK premises with speakers that hold problematic views. These speakers are seemingly not held to the same level of scrutiny as the Jewish community has been on this occasion.

    "We therefore ask that you issue a public apology to the Jewish community for your discrimination and openly share the criteria under which you made this decision."

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