Perhaps it’s time for Amnesty to rebrand

Amnesty International logo (Via Jewish News)
Amnesty International logo (Via Jewish News)

Following a couple of recent Facebook posts that turned out to be a sad indictment of what Amnesty International has become, I thought I’d offer an opinion on its activities vis-à-vis the Middle East and why it should no longer bear the brand.

One of the posts raising a red-flag about Amnesty’s partiality on this topic related to a press release that the organisation put out which fuelled and perpetuated the “vaccine libel.” This libel, of course, relates to Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, and infers or states that Israel neglected its responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians. The truth is that responsibility for healthcare, including vaccination programmes, was devolved to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords, meaning Israel has no responsibility in this regard. But that clearly didn’t prevent Amnesty doing its best to perpetuate the libel that it does.

The other instance in which Amnesty demonstrated its willingness to be, in my view, a tool of Palestinian propaganda, is through its connection to a piece of pure propaganda masquerading as “journalism” that was published by a UK children’s newspaper. Allegedly written by a 14-year-old girl named Janna Jihad, it comprised lies, libels and innuendo designed to demonise Israel. It also contained the following: “I wanted the whole world to know what is happening in our daily lives and how we are always living in fear and uncertainty.”

According to the publisher, the source of this piece of so-called “journalism”  was Amnesty.  Amnesty might be deemed naïve or stupid, rather than biased except Ms Jihad has a website on which she has claimed, among other things, that “If an Israeli soldier saw us playing soccer they would start shooting gas canisters at us,” that “the IDF shot her cousin for no reason when he was standing next to the petrol station” and that “the IDF told her that if she called an ambulance they would shoot her.” So my question is this: if Amnesty was genuinely impartial how could it put out such obvious propaganda? If the organisation was – as it claims, impartial – why did they not check the bona fides of this piece of so-called  “journalism.” If they had done so, it would have taken no more than 30-seconds (to look here or here) to unveil the author as a known Palestinian propagandist rather than a “child reporter.”

Amnesty was founded in the early 60s by Jewish lawyer Peter Benenson to help obtain amnesty for “prisoners of conscience” at a time when activists around the world were being flung in prison for their ideas and ideals. Because of its noble work and lofty ideals, it grew in repute and stature (and spread internationally) until the name Amnesty became synonymous with justice and fairness.

Its founder is probably spinning in his grave to see how Amnesty has been subverted 

But “justice and fairness” no longer apply to it and I doubt I’d be the first to observe that Mr Benenson – the son of fervent Zionist Flora Solomon, née Benenson, who set up the welfare infrastructure at Marks & Spencer – is probably spinning in his grave to see how Amnesty has been subverted in the past 25 or 30 years to display blatant bias against Israel and in its willingness to disseminates Palestinian propaganda.

It may still loudly proclaim its impartiality, but its activities and the evidence– at least as far as Israel is concerned – point another way.

What I find most perfidious is that by using the name Amnesty International to peddle propaganda its biased ideas and reports are not only given the veneer of impartiality but are endowed with extra respect; given extra credibility by media and public.

In my view, while continuing to peddle propaganda on behalf of Arab regimes it should no longer be allowed to bear a name which so clearly imputes impartiality. The brand has changed and the name should change, too, to one that more accurately reflects its activities, such as “Palestine Amnesty International.”

By using the name Amnesty International to peddle propaganda its biased ideas and reports are endowed with extra respect and credibility 

Its website may insist it is “politically and financially independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion,” but that is not how its work appears to any genuinely impartial observer. Even if it does not have a group of funders who direct it to be actively biased against Israel or to disseminate Palestinian propaganda, it clearly chooses to do so. Presumably this is because, Amnesty has swallowed whole the fake Arab narrative alleging that Jews/Israelis stole the Palestinians’ land. And once they’d swallowed that, it would take only a gentle nudge to get them to ingest the rest of the libel. And after that, well, as we know, the Palestinian propaganda machine consistently burnishes and embellishes the “oppressive, occupier” narrative.  But sorry, I digress.

If further proof is needed that the organisation is less than neutral on the Middle East, one has only to look at its website. It may claim its “programmes and policies are non-partisan” but on a page headed “Campaigns & Issues” there are six boxes. When I looked, four of them were generic with headings such as “People On The Move” and “Dissenting Voices.” One box, however, is headed “Illegal Occupation.” Unsurprisingly, it relates to the Palestinians which, given the number of conflicts around the globe, seems a disproportionate focus.

Perhaps another clue to its bias is buried on a page of the website headed “Our Finances.” After claiming that “to ensure” its independence, Amnesty does not “seek or accept money” for “work in documenting and campaigning against human rights abuses” it goes on to state: “… only for our human rights education work….” In less opaque language, Amnesty accepts money for its “human rights education work.”

So my question is this: who funds Amnesty’s human rights education work, and how much do they pay? In the immortal words of Private Eye magazine, “I think we should be told.”

About the Author
Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewish Chronicle for three decades. and previously served as deputy editor of the Jewish Observer. She is an author and freelance writer and wrote regularly for the Huffington Post until 2018. In 2012 she took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur.
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