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November 10, 2014 12:40 pm

Dershowitz: Amnesty International Has Become an Apologist for Terrorism and Enemy of Democracy

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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Cover of Amnesty International's report about the IDF. Photo: Screenshot / Haim Schwarczenberg.

"Trigger-Happy:" a recent Amnesty International report attacking the IDF. Photo: Screenshot / Haim Schwarczenberg

Last month the Columbia chapter of Amnesty International invited me to deliver a talk on human rights in the Middle East. I accepted the invitation, anxious to present a balanced view on human rights, focusing on the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian issue. As a supporter of the two state solution and an opponent of many of Israel’s settlement decisions, I regard myself as a moderate on these issues. That was apparently too much for the national office of Amnesty International to tolerate. They demanded that the Columbia chapter of Amnesty International disinvite me.  They did not want their members to hear my perspective on human rights.

The excuse they provided were two old and out of context quotes suggesting that I favored torture and collective punishment. The truth is that I am adamantly opposed to both. I have written nuanced academic articles on the subject of torture warrants as a way of minimizing the evils of torture, and I have written vehemently against the use of collective punishment of innocent people—whether it be by means of the boycott movement against all Israelis or the use of collective punishment against Palestinians. I do favor holding those who facilitate terrorism responsible for their own actions.

The real reasons Amnesty International tried to censor my speech to its members is that I am a Zionist who supports Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. As such, I have been somewhat critical of Amnesty International’s one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, I wrote an article criticizing Amnesty International’s report on honor killings in the West Bank. An honor killing occurs when a woman has been raped and her family then kills her because of the shame her victimization has brought. Despite massive evidence to the contrary, Amnesty International mendaciously claimed that honor killings had increased in the West Bank since the Israeli occupation and that the fault for this increase in Arab men killing Arab women, lies with Israel. The reality is that there are far fewer honor killings in the West Bank than there are in adjoining Jordan, which is not under Israeli occupation, and that the number of honor killings in the West Bank has been reduced dramatically during the Israeli occupation. But facts mean little to Amnesty International when Israel is involved.

The national office of Amnesty International did not want their members to hear my criticisms of their organization, despite the fact that I was a strong supporter in its early days, before it became so one sided and anti-Israel. They were afraid to have their members hear the truth. They feared an open marketplace of ideas, so they tried to shut me down.

Fortunately another Columbia student group immediately invited me to give my talk, and some members of Columbia Amnesty, to their credit, came to listen. They asked me hard questions, which I tried to answer with fact and logic. Some agreed with me, while others disagreed. That is the nature of open dialogue that Amnesty International claims to champion—except when it comes to their own organization, in which case it tries to censor speech critical of its policies.

In general, Amnesty International —especially its European branch located in London—has abandoned its commitment to human rights in preference for an overtly political and ideological agenda. Its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become particularly troubling. In addition to providing an abuse excuse to Palestinian honor killers in the West Bank, it has demonized Israel for its attempts to protect its citizens from Hamas war crimes. In a recent report it condemns Israel for its military actions in Gaza without even mentioning the Hamas terror tunnels that provoked Israel’s defensive actions. These tunnels—I was in one of them just before the war—were built for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens. The tunnel I was in exited right near an Israeli kindergarten with more than 50 children.  The sole purpose of the tunnel was to send Hamas death squads into Israel to kill and kidnap as many of these children as possible.

No country in the world would tolerate the existence of such tunnels, and international law permits defensive actions to shut them down. Yet Amnesty International never mentions the tunnels and makes it seem that Israel sent troops into Gaza simply to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Amnesty International has become an apologist for terrorism and an enemy of democracy. Its failed effort to stifle my free speech and the rights of Columbia students to listen to me is symbolic of what a once great organization has become: a cheerleader for human wrongs rather than human rights.

A shorter version of this article was published in The Daily News. Alan Dershowitz’s latest e-book is Terror Tunnels:  The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas (Rosetta Books 2014).

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  • Islam el gebaly

    Amnesty International is a terrorist rights organization, I mean the terrorist MB and opposed executing terrorists and they opposed egypt’s attack on isis calling it disporportionate, what kind of an air strike that killed 50 terrorist to be disporportionate!!!
    imagine if organizations like that ruled the world, what do you think will happen???

  • Sue Rees

    Wonderfully put Julian! Bring on legitimate peace talks and stop the killing and displacement of thousands of innocent civilians.

  • mdg

    The blame falls squarely on those who voted for Obama. He said during the 2007 primaries that “No one was suffering more than the Palestinians.”

    I was paying attention but obviously others either weren’t or they didn’t care at the time.

    Are you paying attention now?

  • Dershowitz doesn’t help with his anti-settlement stance!

  • LouA

    Alan, I appreciate your move towards the middle and appreciate your words to support and protect Israel. It’s a shame you were such a big supporter of Obama and his crew of Israel haters.
    Perhaps you can work with the ADL to get them out of Obama’s back office and do their job of protecting Jews instead of the Obama administration.

  • Stuart Kaufman

    Mr. Dershowitz is a proponent of the fallacious “two-state solution,” which contains the elements of its own failure. The only correct response is to reply with a resounding “NO” to any notion of a “palestinian” state. There is no such nation as “palestine,” and there is no “palestine” people. The entire “palestine” concept was invented out of whole cloth during the first intifada by the murderous gangster Arafat. Amnesty International’s error was in ostracizing Dershowitz. They are not clever enough to recognize that they can use Dershowitz as a useful idiot in arguing for a “palestinian” state which they ultimate expect will eliminate Israel.
    My solution: get rid of the “palestinians” by dispersing them among the various arab nations of which they are an indistinguishable component.

  • Margarete Healy

    I’ve known for a long time the perniciousness and prejudice of Amnesty International. There ought to be a more publicized campaign mounted to discredit them.

  • Ron

    Wasn’t it Che Guevara who once said, “You are my friend only as long as you agree with me politically”?

    Many people and groups in the West, including Amnesty International, believe they automatically have the moral high ground, and do not believe in real debate, where both sides produce their arguments and actually look at facts impartially.

    The norm now is to silence any free speech and try to ensure that only their own world view and dogma are allowed to be heard.

    That is one of the four conditions that allow Stockholm Syndrome to develop in abusive relationships, and A. I. are probably suffering from it themselves in relation to Islam, which wants to wipe out Israel simply because it is inhabited by Jews, and hatred for Jews and Christians is taught in the Qur’an: e.g. Chapter 98.6 “The unbelievers among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] and pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.”

    The four conditions that can be found in hostage, severe abuse and abusive relationships are:-

    1. The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.

    2. The presence of a believed small kindness from the abuser to the victim.

    3. Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser (hence the attempts in this case to shut down debate and free speech).

    4. The perceived inability to escape the situation.

    Stockholm Syndrome is a survival technique, and in any abusive/controlling relationship the sufferer feels that he is walking on eggshells, and becomes afraid to say or do anything that might provoke a violent or intimidating outburst. Dr Joseph Carter,a clinical psychiatrist has said, “Taking the abuser’s perspective as a survival technique can become so intense that the victim actually develops anger towards those trying to help them.”

    Islam threatens violence and death against anything it doesn’t like or approve of, so A.I are possibly just one more bunch of sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome who are desperate to show their abuser that they are “on his side”.

    But history shows that appeasement never works!

    • Steve B

      Right on!

  • pierre mamou

    Amnesty International? Columbia? What do they have in common with democracy? Anyhow, congratulation for having being able to give your speech.

  • Mickey Oberman

    I am 82 so I guess I am too young to remember when Amnesty International was a force for good.

    Mickey Oberman

    • Steve B


  • Helena

    Unfortunately and incredibly, all these groups who are in the world to combat evil are very leftist. Being a leftist does something to your brain apparently. Your sense of logic has gone and you live in a fantasy world. Therefore the result is: The victim is seen as the criminal and the criminal is seen as a victim.

  • Sue Rees

    Amnesty Intrnational has specific standards and until Israel and its whole being is brought to justice for its incessant war crimes, you have no right to participate. Get over yourself and accept that until you abide by international laws and stop your aparteit. Only then will anyone representing Israel will earn its rightful place to address Amnesty International and any other law abiding legitimate organisation.

    • Lynne T

      “incessant war crimes” — are you mistaking Israel for Hamas ruled Gaza there, sweetie?

    • Zucker

      Dear Sue, Apartheid you say APARTHEID. Look at how many jews (for that matter Christians, Budhists, Zoroastrians etc.) enjoy full citizens rights in Muslims countries …. not
      many if you are an optimist none if you look closely at jews that have been expelled or have left because of unbearable conditions from Lybia , Syria, Irak, Yemen.
      Now look at how many arabs live in Israel, how many hold offices in the judiciary, parlement
      They also shop at the same stores, go to the same hospitals, enjoy the same social benefits etc.
      The equivalent of “Voor Blanken” from the days of South African Apartheid does not exist in Israel.

    • BH in Iowa

      another armchair jihadist

    • Michael Modes

      Why respond to a parrot?

    • M. Edward E Triefler

      Please see “Stockholm Syndrome.” You and your worthless lot should go to visit your friends in the Turkish border Town of Kobani.

  • David Matar

    Professor Dershowitz –
    Israeli Jews all owe you a deep debt of gratitude for your devoted efforts to hold back the worldwide leftist tide of demonization and delegitimization that seeks to sweep us away.Ultimately, as I’m sure you find out every day, there’s no possibility of dialogue with groups like Amnesty – one can only use their hate as talking points to appeal to the general public over their heads (as you are doing). The same is true for the Palestinians – Fatah as well as Hamas are dedicated fundamentally and ideologically to Israel’s destruction, and there is no possibility, now or ever, of a two state solution. Israel’s title and claim to Judea and Samaria are as valid as its claim to Tel Aviv or Haifa (viz. Eugene Rostow) and I’m sure you would agree that Jews have the right to purchase property and form communities anywhere in the world, especially in their ancient homeland.It’s time to make the case for a one-state -_Israel – solution, with Arabs remaining in place,but exercising municipal and civil rights locally, and national-political rights as expatriates of an adjacent Jordanian-Palestinian State. We need to advocate unabashedly for full Israeli sovereignty west of the Jordan river. We will thus rally our friends, without losing ground in the propaganda war vis-a-vis our implacable enemies.

  • Fred Chalfin

    I am not sure that AmnAsty International was EVER a great organization.

  • ben schneider

    when was amnesty ever fair to israel… just a bunch of malcontents disguised as liberals.

  • Don Harmon

    Hooray for Alan Dershowitz! He finally announced a reasoned opinion, loyal to his fellow Jews, instead of mindless, unthinking, liberal propaganda!

  • Eric R.

    Amnesty is a terrorist organization, and Israel should treat is as such.

  • Uriel

    All power to your elbow!

  • Irving D. Cohen

    We can always count on the honorable Prof. Dershowitz to reveal the double talk employed by the so-called Amnesty group in blaming Israel for all of the world’s problems. He does so clearly and in a straightforward manner, so that even the vicious liars of that group have a great deal of difficulty trying to refute his statements.

  • Dita Gould

    You are my hero.Keep on fighting the good fight,

    • Lucille Kaplan

      I concur, Dita. In today’s toxic academic climate, it is a near miracle that Dershowitz finds the strength not only to persist, but even to reach new heights of truthful expression. Only if we emulate him by fearlessly declaring the lawfulness and immutability of a Jewish state can we hope to cast into the refuse heap of history plans like the one Ayatollah Khamenei has just announced for “eliminating” Israel.

  • Julian Clovelley

    There is a presumption in this article that I find hard to swallow, which being that Zionism per se, however defined, can ever be compatabile with the demands of those seeking universal application of human rights.

    In the writer’s own wording, I see the words “I am a Zionist who supports Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people”

    There are a set of presumptions here that I find troubling. The first is the transition from the concept of the Balfour Declaration – from “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in which “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious’ rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” to the evolution of a de facto MONO-cultural “Jewish State” that can only exist as a mono-cultural state, in the eyes of many, by repression of any multicultural alternative, or alternative culture per se. That is Apartheid – whether the writer likes it or not.

    The Zionist world view evolved out of a nineteenth century, and earlier, nationalist and imperialist concept, that by comparative evaluation of social structures found itself able to dismiss societies that did not conform to the European nationalist model as “pre-civilisation”. By negating their social structures – many of which were in fact highly developed – Zionism was able to join other nationalisms in claiming that there were areas of the world that could be regarded as “Terra Nullius”, that is “empty land available for settlement”. In reality there was no such place anywhere on earth, with the exception perhaps of Antartica

    The “Terra Nullius” concept allowed invading forces “in good conscience” to invade native land, repress their native social structures, enclose their land as settlers “property”, on the basis that the natives were presumed to have no concept of “property” (common or tribal ownership somehow not counting). Zionism in fact went one step further – and is continuing so to do – by introducing the concept of “legitimate” invasion by purchase – a concept that deliberately confuses land ownership with land title – They are not the same. “Ownership” is an imperialist concept – “Title” is a social administrative concept. Zionism sought to over-ride social administrations emanating from other cultural mores, by the concept of “buying them out” – thereby ignoring the fact that the overall use of any territory is the right of all of its inhabitants to decide, through their social and administrative structures – and not the right of a particular Title owner – and most especially a foreign one – or one utilising overseas funding.

    As such Zionism is a monocultural imperialist concept that is indeed incompatabile with what many supporters of Amnesty see as a fundamental principle of human rights – that imperialist domination of one culture by another is wrong – and that on this there is no room there for “negotiation”

    In terms of the nineteenth century we live in a post colonial epoch. Imperialism, whilst it continues, is a disapproved relic of our ancient feudalist past. The attempts of one nation to bully another in this manner are now matters for approval and disquiet. Any “occupation” is only acceptable as an extremely temporary defense expedient, following an actual armed conflict in which the occupier is a clearly innocent party. A fifty year “occupation” does not meet such a model by some forty five years. Zionism however presses for the occupation most relative to its percieved interests to continue.

    But there is another concept in the writer’s words that I find troubling. It is the very words “Jewish people” when extended – as it is by the writer, by implication, from a religious concept to a racial concept. I am confronted by the reality that there is no Jewish DNA – no select discreet united Genealogy that takes those who label themselves “Jewish” back to Middle Eastern roots, any more than anyone else. Five thousand years of intermarriage and conversion have long eradicated the discreet seed of Abraham. It is dispersed through us all. Jews are for the most part a religious culture that contains members who do not follow the paths of multitudes of past and present Jews into assimilation. There is no “return” to an ancient homeland – it is myth. The claim that a genealogy, that in fact does not exist, entitles a “returning” “people” to “reclaim” their land, is just another false claim of superiority in defiance of those whose personal ideals are based in the concept of human equality.

    There is no real common ground in the modern world for any existing definition of Zionism to be compatabile with “human rights”. I can forgive is as being the desperate refuge af appallingly mistreated people, but that does not make it any less wrong. Modern Zionism has clouded the issue of Middle East peace, removing Israel – under Zionist dominated Conservatism – from a position as the “moral high ground” – and the “beacon of democracy” – the people that would “make the desert bloom for all of the people of the Palestinian region”

    Amnesty International supporters, for the most part, I have found to be deeply concerned about the human rights, and the rights to live in peace of all people of the region – the right of people to speak openly and without fear. When one finds oneself off-side to such an organisation, the first place to look to see what has gone wrong is – with the greatest respect – the mirror.

    Amnesty International, “the Left”, the “American Administration, the “Red Cross”, “Oxfam” – the principles of the “Geneva Conventions” – especially relating to “occupied territories”, “International Law” – the “United Nations” the “Democrat Party” – and the personal cries of leaders well acquainted with structures like Apartheid, people such as Desmond Tutu – all manifestations of “antisemitism” are they? It is perhaps worth quoting Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, who said in July 2014 “The relentless bombardment of Shuja’iyyeh and other civilian areas in the Gaza Strip, as well as the continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, demand urgent international action to prevent further violations. The UN should impose an arms embargo on all sides, and all states should immediately suspend transfers of military equipment to Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip,”

    in the same Amnesty comments article reporting Mr Luther appear the words “Hamas has also continued to fire hundreds of indiscriminate rockets into Israel in violation of international law, killing two Israeli civilians and injuring others.” – Where is the “bias” in the publication of such comments, Mr Derrshowitz?

    All “Antisemitism” is it? I think you are straining credibility just a little too far… that is why for Israel too it is vital to get back to the negotiating table and stay there – simultaneously researching and creating an and post Zionist inclusive Israeli identity. It will be a difficult task but it has to be done. The old identity has run its course. Israel is not some penininsula of a Jewish continent, it is a Middle Eastern nation. Jewish history when separated from world history is a fabrication. Basing it on ancient religious tracts does not somehow give it validity or make it ever anything other than an obstruction on the path to peace

    Start there.

    • The civil and religious rights of the Arabs living in Israel have not been prejudiced!
      Israel is not a MONO-cultural state – the Muslims, Christians, Bahais and others are free to worship as they please!
      Jews never claimed that the Land of Israel was empty, but we do strive to live alongside our neighbours in peace, something which our neigbours don’t want to do.
      The Arabs living in the Mandated territory of Palestine, claimed to be part of the Greater Arab nation. Only when the Jews claimed the Land of Israel as a homeland did the Arabs become nationalists.
      Jerusalem ans Palestine had no importance to the Muslims or Arabs – it was a neglected backwater of the Ottoman Empire – until the Jews reclaimed their historic homeland.
      Jews only improved the standard of living of those who wanted to live with us in peace – we did not take anything from them, we only contributed to their well-being.

    • David Hoffman

      This is way too long for a comment. Why didn’t you just write, “The Palestinian narrative is 100% right, and the Jewish narrative is 100% wrong,” instead? It would take at least as long an article-pretending-to-be-a-comment to refute this, but I will mention one point: Any well-educated person who spends 10 minutes on Google Scholar researching the topic will find that your comments on “Jewish DNA” are not scientifically accurate.

    • Zucker

      Julian, Well, you do not lack clarity. One can dispute a few facts but it will not serve any purposes. You simply do not accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.
      Certainly your high standards and intellectual honesty will help denounce other “historical fabrications”. Look forward to read about these.

  • Speck In The Universe

    Maybe it as something to do with the number of Palestinian representatives and supporters your ‘Anti-Defamation League has prevented from speaking at public functions. Maybe it also has a bit to do with your campaigns in U.S. universities to have any staff members who voice support for the Palestinian cause removed from their positions.

    • BH in Iowa

      Every reader here went to college. A lie has to be at least somewhat believable.

      Like no one here has ever heard of SJP? Israel “Apartheid” Week? Walls? Phony eviction notices?

      Lazy, lazy effort.