(JNS) Lawmakers and pro-Israel political groups from across the political spectrum are slamming what they consider a biased report released on Tuesday by the international human-rights organization Amnesty International UK.
It is Amnesty International’s 208th report on Israel since the 1970s, which goes as far as rejecting the establishment of modern-day Israel in 1948 while calling Israel an “apartheid state” and associating it with a long list of crimes.
In a joint letter sent on Tuesday, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) said the report is steeped in anti-Semitic tropes, and that it is part of a decades-long campaign to criminalize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state.
The members also pointed out that Amnesty International has only released 40 reports on North Korea and 61 on Venezuela.
“The ‘apartheid’ accusations against Israel misrepresent and diminish the actual tyranny, segregation and dehumanization perpetrated in apartheid South Africa. South Africa’s institutionalized racial segregation of the past bears no equivalence to Israel’s vibrant democracy where all citizens, regardless of religion or race, have rights and are represented at the highest levels of government, education, health care, business and the courts,” the members wrote.
In fact, they continue, “Israel currently has perhaps the most diverse governing coalition in the world, made up of parties across the political spectrum, including the United Arab List. The government ministers include Jews and Muslims, religious and secular, Arabs, Ethiopians and LGBTQ people. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs govern together.”
The Congress members, all Democrats, said the report has the potential to have “tragic consequences,” further fueling anti-Semitism by those seeking to delegitimize Israel and undermine the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“In a region where religious intolerance and authoritarianism is too often the norm, Israel stands out as a pluralistic exception. Israel is not perfect, nor is any nation, and Palestinians’ rights must be respected,” wrote the lawmakers. “Amnesty International could work to strengthen Israel’s democracy for all Israeli citizens, Jewish and Arab, while also promoting the national aspirations of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, they do the exact opposite.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also denounced the apartheid accusation, saying it “belies history, facts and common sense. Israel remains the only democracy in a region of autocrats and human-rights abusers; one that values human rights, individual liberty and where protest, dissent and civil society are vibrant.”
‘Fans the flames of anti-Semitism around the world’
Opposition to the report crossed party lines, with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) recalling Natan Sharansky’s test for when criticism of Israel turns into ant-Semitism, calling it the “3D” test: demonization, double standard and delegitimization.
“All three of these manifestations of anti-Semitic hate are on full display in the Amnesty International report,” Smith said in a statement to JNS.
“No other country in the region—nor the Gaza under Hamas—comes close to Israel’s commitment to fundamental human rights and freedoms,” said Smith, co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism. “Christians and Muslims can worship freely, and can enjoy Israeli citizenship and the benefits of equal protection of the law.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who is Jewish and co-chairs the House Republican Israel Caucus, not only condemned Amnesty International but called for recipients of campaign contributions linked to the organization to be returned. These recipients include U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Democratic National Committee and others.
“Amnesty International is a so-called ‘human-rights organization’ that routinely hurls false accusations of oppression against Israel, ignores violent attacks on Israel from its hostile neighbors and fans the flames of anti-Semitism around the world,” Zeldin said in a statement on Tuesday. “In this latest instance, Amnesty baselessly charges that Israel has denied ‘basic rights and freedoms’ against Palestinians. Israel is the only democracy in the region and has consistently suffered attacks on its right to exist since its founding in 1948. Amnesty’s sham report will only encourage more dangerous attacks on Israel and its citizens.”
Similarly, a number of Republican lawmakers slammed the report. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Amnesty International should focus on “actual human-rights violations from countries like China.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said “more attention should be given to the horrific human-rights abuses committed by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.”
Pro-Israel America executive director Jeff Mendelsohn called the allegations against Israel made in the report unconscionable libel and shameful smear. He also noted that it was released at the same time Israeli President Isaac Herzog was visiting the United Arab Emirates in a first-ever diplomatic stay.
“One only needs to look at what is actually happening on the ground to counter this false narrative,” said Mendelsohn.
“The report proposes that Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state and a homeland to the Jewish people is alone an act of ‘apartheid,’ ” he said. “This not only attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence but also minimizes and appropriates the struggles of victims who have witnessed true apartheid in South Africa and other regimes around the world.”
Democratic Majority for Israel said Amnesty International “has become a propaganda tool to spread vicious lies with the goal of delegitimizing and demonizing the State of Israel.”
The group added that the report is “baseless, delusional and completely at odds with the facts. What’s more, it diminishes the horrific experiences of those who suffered under the injustices of apartheid in South Africa. Unfortunately, this latest attempt to vilify Israel will only make peace between Israelis and Palestinians harder to achieve.”
Still, not everyone in Congress was outraged at the report. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wrote on Twitter simply that “U.S. foreign aid shouldn’t go to apartheid governments, period.”
In response to the report, the Jewish Federations of North America issued the following statement, which was posted on social media by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh:
“Jewish Federations strongly condemn Amnesty International UK’s report that promulgates false claims against the Jewish state, irresponsibly distorts international law, and advances hateful and disparaging rhetoric associated with age-old antisemitic tropes, while ignoring or whitewashing violence, terror and incitement committed by Palestinians.
“This report is the latest in a litany of anti-Israel propaganda that has contributed to a rise in hate crimes against Jewish communities around the world and continues to embolden extremist currents that threaten all minority groups.
“Jewish Federations call upon the human rights community to condemn this disparaging and falsely painted report and stand up for truth and justice.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick contributed to this report.