Amnesty International has quite a track record when it comes to dubious judgement calls. Most readers will remember when they teamed up with Cage – and the disgraceful way they went on to treat Gita Sahgal when she raised fully legitimate concerns.
They’ve also hosted Middle East Monitor (MEMO) – Tim Llewellyn was a guest speaker. (More of that later).
Despite their apparent willingness to work with certain controversial groups and individuals, one organisation has recently been deemed beyond the pale – the Jewish Leadership Council.
A panel discussion organised by the Jewish Leadership Council was due to be held on Wednesday at Amnesty International’s UK headquarters. But the human rights organisation pulled the event on Friday, saying it was not appropriate for it to host supporters of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The JLC has no formal position on settlements but does oppose boycotts. To say that they are ‘actively supporting such settlements’ is inaccurate. (Are all those who oppose Prevent supporters of extremism?)
The involvement of UN Watch also apparently troubles Amnesty. Hillel Neuer of UN Watch has rightly drawn attention to the double standards at play here. By contrast with their new found fastidiousness, back in 2015 Amnesty co-sponsored an anti-Islamophobia event in Belgium where one of the four speakers held unambiguously extreme views:
Dyab Abou Jahjah is one of four individuals scheduled to speak at the rally. He has called the 9/11 attacks “sweet revenge,” said Europe made “the cult of the Holocaust and Jew-worshiping its alternative religion,” and labeled gays “AIDS-spreading faggots.” He has also questioned the existence of the Nazi gas chambers, and is a former fighter for the anti-Semitic group Hezbollah, an officially designated terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union. For his hateful activism, Abou Jahjah has been banned in the United Kingdom since 2009.
Amnesty has pushed back in the face of criticism.
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.
Things were quite different back in 2011 when the MEMO event ‘Complicity in oppression: Do the media aid Israel?’ was booked to take place in the same venue as the cancelled JLC debate – and went ahead on schedule.
Here’s a reminder of some of the people whose work does not apparently ‘run directly counter’ to Amnesty’s own.
Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan – investigated by police following a university lecture at which he referred to a “Jewish lobby” controlling America – is among those due to speak at the Complicity in oppression: Do the media aid Israel? event, in Amnesty’s central London headquarters on May 23.
LFI said it was “deeply worried” by Amnesty’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Given Hamas’ appalling human rights record, and the PSC and MEMO’s apologism for this, it is entirely inappropriate for Amnesty to support their work, especially since it has itself documented Hamas’ human rights abuses on a number of occasions.”
The event is jointly organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO) media and lobby group.
Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh, a regular contributor to MEMO, was this week forced to apologise after calling a Jewish pro-Israel blogger a “kike” in comments posted online.
It is now being suggested that Amnesty may have acted illegally in cancelling the event.