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Amnesty International’s Israel report “a modern-day libel”

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An Amnesty International (AI) report stating that Israel had practiced apartheid since its inception was heavily criticised upon its release in February this year. Now, Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor has released its own report in response, documenting in great detail how the Amnesty publication is fundamentally flawed.

NGO Monitor provides information and analysis, promotes accountability, and supports discussion of the reports and activities of nongovernment organisations (NGOs) claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.

The NGO Monitor report’s author, independent Israeli scholar Salo Aizenberg, says AI uses “lies, distortions, omissions, and egregious double standards to construct a fraudulent and libellous narrative of Israeli ‘cruelty’. A careful examination of the text shows that Amnesty conducted almost no primary research. Rather, it’s bloated with cut-and-paste phrases. Quotes and conclusions are taken from third-party sources – notably other political NGOs that are part of the same libellous campaign against Israel.

“The footnotes are glaringly thin on primary documents, such as official Israeli government statistics, Palestinian documents, court documents, Knesset transcripts, and interviews from leading officials. Much of the data is obsolete [often more than a decade old].”

The Netherlands government has also rejected AI’s report. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said, “The cabinet doesn’t agree with Amnesty’s conclusion that there’s apartheid in Israel or the territories occupied by Israel.” He was writing to a group of legislators on 29 April.

Hoekstra said that calling Israel an apartheid state didn’t help to resolve the conflict and reach a two-state solution. “The Israeli branch of Amnesty International – which has generally been critical of its own government – has also distanced itself from the report, as it wouldn’t improve the situation on the ground.”

Meanwhile, Aizenberg says, “Amnesty asserted that Israel is and always has been an apartheid state. Statements by Amnesty officials and the report’s recommendations highlight that Amnesty’s objective is the end of Israel as a Jewish state.”

In preparing its response, NGO Monitor “examined and critically assessed every line of the Amnesty publication and closely read the sources and citations. We uncovered five categories of faults: errors, misrepresentations, omissions, double standards, and dead citations. This systematic review conclusively shows that Amnesty’s allegations have no substance or merit.”

Aizenberg’s response to AI is titled, “Amnesty International’s Cruel Assault on Israel: Systematic Lies, Errors, Omissions & Double Standards in Amnesty’s Apartheid Report.”

“Amnesty’s report is a particularly vicious stream of invective against Israel,” he says. “In its narrative, Israel is a cruel state run by a long line of evil leaders since its inception who have done nothing but intentionally dominate and segregate another people.”

Aizenberg says one statement by Amnesty is telling, namely that Amnesty deliberately assesses Israel in a vacuum. The AI report says, “Amnesty International notes and clarifies that systems of oppression and domination will never be identical. Therefore, this report doesn’t seek to argue that, or assess whether, any system of oppression and domination as perpetrated in Israel and the OPT [occupied territories] is, for instance, the same or analogous to the system of segregation, oppression, and domination as perpetrated in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.”

But Aizenberg responds, “How is it reasonable to argue that there’s no need to compare the first and only nation in history to be called apartheid, South Africa, to only the second country in history to be called apartheid? Amnesty insists that it applies rigorous international law to label Israel as apartheid, but ignores one of the most basic rules of legal analysis: precedent. Amnesty admits that it won’t even bother to examine precedent. The reason is obvious – precedent would show that the notion of apartheid in Israel is preposterous.”

NGO Monitor concludes, “After uncovering and compiling nearly 300 examples of flaws in the report, Amnesty has written a modern-day libel. This isn’t exaggeration or hyperbole. Based on its deliberately falsified narrative, Amnesty has accused every Jewish leader since 1948 and the institutions that comprise the state of Israel of numerous ‘inhumane’ acts. Amnesty also liberally uses the term ‘Jewish domination’ to refer to Israel’s policies. [This is] a concept which directly evokes antisemitic tropes of Jews seeking to wield power over others. When these accusations are made by relying on hundreds of deliberate factual errors and misrepresentations, mixed in with gross application of double standards, it’s akin to historical libels of the Jewish people.”

South African Zionist Federation Chairperson Rowan Polovin says, “Millions of South Africans who suffered, fought, and died under real apartheid should be angered and insulted by Amnesty’s attempt to exploit their own history and make it a weapon against Israel. The AI report is a blatant fabrication that seeks to vilify Jews and undermine the legitimacy of self-determination for the Jewish people.

“Amnesty has invented its own definition of apartheid. This has no legal foundation or any actual historical relationship to the horrific South African experience. This is not new. Amnesty has a history of systematic discrimination towards Israel and Jews,” he says.

“Besides the many factual inaccuracies, this report uses antisemitic terminology like ‘Jewish domination’; calls Israel’s existence into question, accusing it of ‘state-owned segregation … since 1948’; whitewashes deadly terrorism; and justifies boycotts, sanctions, and other hostile actions against Israel. The AI report ignores Palestinian intransigence, and that Hamas routinely calls for genocide. Like every other country, Israel’s existence isn’t open to question. We continue to promote peace in the region.”

Local organisation, the Jewish Democratic Initiative (JDI), advocates peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “AI’s report on human rights in Israel highlights the stark injustice of Israel’s occupation and the illegality of the de facto annexation of the territories,” says JDI Co-Chairperson Basil Dubb.

“Blanket condemnations of the Amnesty report, including from NGO Monitor, are concerning for their lack of engagement with the findings. JDI doesn’t endorse the entirety of the Amnesty report, nor do we use the controversial claim of apartheid to describe the Israel occupation or de facto annexation,” he says. “However, the focus shouldn’t be on the contentious use of the word ‘apartheid’ but what underlies those claims.

“Instead of blatant denial of the ills of continued occupation, we suggest using this provocative report and its findings as a catalyst for examining honestly the legal issues involved and the perpetuation of injustice it describes,” says Dubb. “Loving the historical Jewish homeland and desiring a safe place for Jews, and condemnation of policies that aren’t in line with its Declaration of Independence aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Declaration of Independence promises ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex’,” says Dubb. “Furthermore, Jewish law teaches us, ‘When strangers reside with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens; you shall love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’”

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