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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Amnesty’s moral compass is broken

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When a terror squad crossed the Israeli border from Sinai in June, with enough weapons and explosives for a mass attack, and then dozens of rockets were launched from Gaza against Israeli civilian targets, Amnesty International’s moral compass was disconnected. These self-proclaimed guardians of human rights published no reports with condemnations, held no press conferences, and issued no “urgent actions” to almost three million members around the world calling for the perpetrators of these war crimes to be brought to justice.

In contrast, during the same month, the officials who run this powerful organization found the time and resources to publish a lengthy “report” repeating unverified Palestinian “testimony” alleging Israeli infractions through administrative detention of terrorist suspects. The publication was an integral part of a political campaign focusing on a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, including those tried, convicted and serving sentences for involvement in mass terror attacks. The recommendations repeat many of those found in Amnesty’s previous publications, including ones that fed the notorious UN Goldstone mission in 2009, which seek to justify international action to restrict and then remove Israeli independence and sovereignty.

Amnesty does not publish the names of the authors of its report (in violation of human rights reporting guidelines), but the latest attacks on Israel include contact information for Deborah Hyams and Saleh Hijazi, who are described as “researchers,” whatever that may mean. Both have backgrounds that reflect flagrant anti-Israel bias. In 2001, Hyams went to Beit Jala (near Bethlehem) as a “human shield,” to deter Israeli responses to Palestinian assaults against the residents of the Gilo neighbourhood of Jerusalem. In 2008, Hyams signed a public letter referring to Israel as “a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land.” In 2002, Hyams said “that while she does not condone suicide bombings, she personally believes they ‘are in response to the occupation.’”

The other Amnesty “researcher” for Israel, Saleh Hijazi, is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, and has worked as a public relations officer for the Palestinian Authority. In 2007, he was listed as contact for the NGO “Another Voice” – under the group’s signature “Resist! Boycott! We Are Intifada!” This organization used threats to force the cancellation of a peace concert and then proudly crowed about its dubious achievement.

Amnesty’s assignment of biased individuals such as Hyams and Hijazi to work on Israel-related issues is yet another demonstration of the depths to which this organization has sunk in exploiting the facade of human rights. And this is not their only example of moral failure. In December 2009, longtime secretary general Irene Kahn and her deputy, Kate Gilmore, suddenly left Amnesty and received what were later found to be “excessive” payments, “above what was legally and contractually necessary.” In an independent inquiry, these were shown to be due to “systemic failures in management and governance” that “had accumulated in previous years.”

Prior to this scandal, Kahn had presided over the effort to silence Gita Sahgal, the head of their gender equality section, who criticized Amnesty’s co-operation with Moazzam Begg, whom she termed “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.” And for years, while obsessively attacking Israel’s open society, officials all but ignored the brutal regimes in Syria, Libya, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. As a result, they have no credibility or impact in the countries where human rights continue to be trampled.

Thus, Amnesty’s contribution, along with groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), to the frontal assault on the right of the Jewish People to national independence and sovereign equality is another dimension of extensive ethical collapse. For more than a decade, Amnesty and HRW have been pushing the Durban strategy through false claims of “war crimes” and “violations of international law.”

The members and funders of these organizations, including Canadians, have the responsibility, as well as the power, to act strongly and consistently to repair this broken moral compass. Instead of receiving “urgent actions,” the membership should be sending all Amnesty officials a message demanding their resignation and the restoration of the core principles of human rights to include Israelis and Jews.

This column appears in the July 5 print issue of The CJN

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