Amnesty International’s charter is to campaign for a world where human rights – equality, justice, freedom and human dignity – can be enjoyed by all. Highly noble and commendable values which resonate strongly with my wife and I, who grew up as children of immigrants and Holocaust survivors. We have consequently been drawn to support the work of Amnesty.
The recent tragic events in the Middle East have however forced a reconsideration of our ongoing support for Amnesty International. Amnesty has revealed itself to be one-sided, myopic and unable to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with any real neutrality, objectivity or meaningful understanding. Amnesty claims that it does not take sides and that its role is an observer and monitor. It has nevertheless placed all the blame squarely at the feet of Israel in emphatically stating that the root cause of the conflict is Israel’s system of apartheid.
In a report released in 2022 entitled “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians”, Amnesty alleged that apartheid was inherent in the founding of the State of Israel and has subsequently persisted.
Amnesty treats Israel as if it was an occupying regime akin to those that existed in South Africa or Rhodesia, conveniently ignoring that the state of Israel arose from United Nations Resolution 181 (the partition resolution) in 1947. The world gave birth to modern Israel. The Arab world rejected this resolution and war soon erupted with a resultant population displacement. A state of intermittent war has persisted since.
Amnesty’s outrageous “apartheid” position has been refuted by many governments and also by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC believes that Amnesty is trying to change and appropriate the definition of apartheid so it can delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy. Of significance, Israeli Arabs can obtain Israeli citizenship, have voting rights, are members of parliament and can join the military. Is this a system of apartheid?
Amnesty has increasingly adopted an antisemitic posture. It does not consider antisemitism to be a human rights priority nor does it support the definition of antisemitism developed by the intergovernmental International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA), who’s membership includes Australia, the US, the UK and Canada. The Amnesty stance has now spread like a cancer into other institutions as witnessed by the testimonies of three American University presidents where all three refused to condemn the rise in antisemitic speech and associated anti-Jewish behaviours on their campuses including permitting speech that calls for the destruction of Israel.
Let’s for a moment think back to 1939 when Hitler was preparing to invade Poland and establish the machinery that led to the Holocaust and the murders of some six million Jews and many other peoples, Would Amnesty be content to proclaim that its role was to sit on sidelines and merely be a neutral observer? We may not be living in 1939 but the atrocities perpetrated on October 7 were eerily similar in their connotations.
Amnesty is seeking an immediate ceasefire which in principle seems reasonable. No rational person could support war. War is catastrophic and tragic. However when Amnesty demands a ceasefire now, what it is actually wanting is for Israel to lay down its arms and meekly wait for the next Hamas attack. A ceasefire now would allow Hamas time to regroup and inevitably strike at a future time. The next war would be even more deadly. Longer range, more powerful rockets built using the monies provided for the reconstruction of Gaza would ultimately target Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. Many, many more people would die. Any ceasefire now is tantamount to saying no more Jewish state. Israel is therefore effectively damned by Amnesty if it uses military force and equally damned if it doesn’t.
Amnesty fails to acknowledge that Hamas, like its predecessor the PLO is a terrorist organisation, not a peace partner. Yasser Arafat rejected peace in 2000 because it did not include the full Palestinian right of return, something that would have resulted in the end of Israel as a Jewish State. Likewise, Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction despite several moderate Arab states acknowledging that the path to peace can only be achieved via diplomacy and the normalisation of relations with Israel.
If Amnesty was truly committed to a long term solution it would advocate for a peace process that provided the Palestinian people with a leadership committed to long term peace, opportunity, prosperity and human rights. There are many issues and injustices to resolve. The Palestinian people in Gaza are suffering terribly. They have a right to live in peace. So do the Israelis.
There is something fundamentally wrong with Amnesty International. The problem is not its core vision but in its leadership.
Amnesty has become a confused, conflicted, morally blind and potentially non-viable organisation in its current structure. Its human rights agenda has been hijacked to suit other political objectives. As a consequence, it is no longer an organisation that we can continue to support. There are many other human rights and charitable organisations worthy of support.
Dr Nathan Pinskier is a recently retired Melbourne GP with previous involvement in healthcare system improvement, general practice leadership and hospital boards.