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June 22, 2022 11:37 am

Where Was the Media When an Independent Investigation Found Amnesty Int’l to Be ‘Institutionally Racist’?

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld


Illustration with the logo of Amnesty International on the vest of an observer of a demonstration in Paris, France, Paris, on Dec. 11, 2021. Photo: Xose Bouzas / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

When Amnesty International issued its libelous anti-Israel report in February — falsely charging the Jewish state with maintaining a “cruel system of apartheid” since its creation in 1948 — media outlets were all too eager to parrot the NGO’s assertions.

In the months following the publication of “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians. Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity,” major English-language news outlets produced over 30 articles giving credence to Amnesty International, an organization that has peddled terms like “Jewish domination” and accused the only Jewish state of being “racist.”

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, claiming that Israel’s existence is a racist endeavor can constitute antisemitism.

However, despite criticism by many Jewish organizations, CNNthe Associated PressAgence France-Presse (AFP), and other outlets continue to provide Amnesty with ample room to claim that its crusade against Israel is not motivated at least in part by Judeophobia.

Earlier this month, the group’s secretary-general, Agnès Callamard, went so far as to accuse Jews and Israelis of “weaponizing antisemitism.” Yet, such gaslighting did not generate headlines in any of the widely-read new publications.

And now these same outlets have effectively buried an independent inquiry concluding that Amnesty’s UK branch, at least in part responsible for the contents of the “apartheid” report, has an “institutional racism” problem within its ranks.

Why are journalists reluctant to subject Amnesty’s human rights credentials to scrutiny?

The 106-page investigation on Amnesty, carried out by management consultancy firm Global HPO and released last week, found that Amnesty UK “exhibits institutional/systemic racism,” and has a “bullying culture.”

Among other instances of discrimination, Global HPO discovered that job applicants of African origin were “screened out of the process at both the shortlisting and interview stage.” In their testimony, Amnesty personnel characterized the organizational culture as “white savior and colonialist.”

The inquiry was launched after whistleblowers last year complained that Amnesty UK’s leadership “actively harmed staff from ethnic minority backgrounds.” The employees had chosen to come forward after an external review of Amnesty’s International Secretariat, a separate arm of the organization likewise based in London, uncovered evidence of “incidents of overt racism including senior staff using the N-word and micro-aggressive behavior such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair.”

Reacting to Global HPO’s conclusions, the UK branch stated it “accepted all the recommendations,” patting itself on the back for its “openness” about the institutional racism at Amnesty. “I don’t underestimate for a second the effort that’s going to be required for the transformation that we are talking about,” said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty UK’s Chief Executive, in a taped response.

Yet the bombshell revelations have barely made a ripple in the news cycle, with The Independent being the only mainstream outlet to report on the issue, in addition to British Jewish media.

The press’ insistence on describing Amnesty as a “leading human rights group” is furthermore problematic given the anti-Jewish racism that the NGO has displayed for years.

Amnesty’s antisemitism problem first became apparent during the United Nations’ 2001 World Conference Against Racism.

The highly controversial gathering, also known as the Durban Conference, or Durban I, featured some of the vilest Judeophobia since World War II. Chilling first-hand reports describe how Jewish and Israeli participants were harassed around the clock.

The three-day forum ended with a declaration that accused Israel of being a racist, apartheid state, committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “genocide” against Palestinians. The document also called for a policy of “complete and total isolation of Israel” and the “reinstitution of the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.”

Anne Bayefsky, who attended the event on behalf of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, highlighted Amnesty’s nefarious role in the affair in her 2002 essay, “The UN World Conference Against Racism: A Racist Anti-racism Conference“:

The leading international human rights NGOs — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights — were specifically asked by members of the Jewish caucus to speak out. They were asked to vote against the anti-Semitic language being proposed in the final NGO document. They refused.

“They said nothing,” the American law professor continued. “On the contrary, they proposed an opening paragraph that described the outcome as a genuine collection of the voices of the victims [of racism]. Before the vote on their proposal, the Jewish caucus asked them to indicate expressly that these voices did not represent a consensus, but spokesperson Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty, refused.”

Similarly, in 2015, Amnesty UK explicitly declined to lobby against antisemitism, claiming that they “unfortunately … can’t campaign on everything.” Never mind that Amnesty had just issued a 100-page report on anti-Muslim hatred.

More recently, investigative agency Digfind exposed that Saleh Hijazi — who still leads Amnesty’s Jerusalem office and is suspected to have co-authored the “apartheid” report — shared an antisemitic cartoon depicting the “Zionist war machine” on Facebook. Hijazi moreover expressed approval of anti-Jewish terror groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In February of this year, Amnesty UK dismissed concerns by Jewish groups about an employee who labeled Jews as “shady people.” Ilyas Nagdee, who is currently serving as the NGO’s “Racial Justice Lead,” made the remark after offering his thoughts on Orthodox Jews during an online conversation with a friend.

Soon after, a senior political officer at Amnesty’s Dutch section came out in support of a controversial freedom of information request submitted to educational institutions in The Netherlands. The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian group with possible terrorism links, had ordered that the universities reveal the details of interactions, including those of their faculty members, with a long list of Jewish and Israel-related organizations.

Even as Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs slammed the “transparently antisemitic request,” Amnesty’s Jonathan Huseman defended The Rights Forum’s appalling demand as a “democratic right.” Huseman also endorses clear antisemites, praising the tweets of Jan Tervoort, who once used his Twitter account to call for Jews to be removed from left-wing political parties.

Amnesty International, invariably described as a “leading human rights group,” is simultaneously peddling racism against Jews and other minorities.

When will journalists finally acknowledge the elephant in the room?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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