Amnesty International US director said that the organisation is opposed to the idea of Israel as a state for the Jewish people.
Amnesty’s US director, Paul O’Brian claimed in early March that the organisation is “opposed to the idea that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people”, adding that he did not believe that most American Jews support Israel. “…what Jewish people in this country is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home,” referring to a theory advanced by a small cadre of intellectuals that imagines a binational Jewish-Palestinian state that would act as a safe haven for Jews.
Jewish groups, including groups that are often critical of Israel, were especially offended by O’Brien’s assumptions about what Jews think.
“Polling shows the vast majority of American Jews, like J Street, support Israel’s future as a democratic state and homeland for the Jewish people,” tweeted J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. “Amnesty USA would be well-served to stick to its expertise in human rights + international law — and not try to assess Jewish public opinion.”
It is fairly unusual to a human rights monitoring organisation to express an opinion about the future existence of an already established state, and O’Brien’s comments immediately drew a torrent of condemnation from Jewish groups, reports The Jerusalem Post.
“If there was any doubt about Amnesty’s credibility as a legitimate voice of authority, it is now abundantly clear that they are firmly entrenched in the cadre of extremist anti-Israel provocateurs,” said William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Earlier he had tweeted that O’Brien’s remarks were outrageous. “It is clear that their true vision is a Middle East without Israel as a Jewish state.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called on O’Brien to apologize to Jews. “Your obsessive, relentless focus on Israel, and the erasure of the Jewish right to self-determination illustrates a dangerous degree of bias,” he tweeted.
Americans for Peace Now praised Amnesty’s human rights advocacy, but also advised the group to stay within the normative bounds of a human rights watchdog. “Amnesty International plays an important role in documenting human rights violations worldwide, not in interpreting public opinion or in prescribing the collective conversation within America’s Jewish community.”
Nevertheless, O’Brien’s remarks appear to signal a shift. In a controversial report in January accusing Israel of practicing apartheid in the West Bank, Amnesty was careful to remove passages before publication that would have suggested that Israel itself was an apartheid state.