Saturday, May 28, 2011

Amnesty International: Complicity in Propaganda

Last Monday, the UK branch of Amnesty International (AI) hosted a London event called “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?Aid Israel? Considering the predominant bias of the world media against Israel, one could be forgiven for suspecting that an event with a title this absurd must have been an evening of standup comedy.

Alas, the agenda behind this event is no laughing matter. The discussion was co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO), one of whose key propaganda strategies is to equate Israel’s necessary counterterrorism measures on the West Bank and in Gaza with the reviled policies of apartheid South Africa. The “Complicity in Oppression” conference gave voice to another strategy: promoting the twisted fiction that Palestinians are being bullied and silenced by pro-Zionist lobbies that have a stranglehold on media outlets. (To get a taste of actual media complicity and bias, please revisit the extraordinary al Dura hoax.)

Regarding Monday’s event, Michael Weiss of the UK’s Telegraph wondered specifically about MEMO, “Why is Amnesty hosting a Hamas-friendly publisher of racists?”

MEMO is run by one Dr Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain and a signatory of the Istanbul Declaration. This gothic document states that it is the obligation of the “Islamic Nation” to “carry on jihad and Resistance” against Israel and to fight “by all means and ways” any “foreign warship” attempting to block arms smuggling to Hamas, which, last time I checked, was still a terrorist organisation according to EU and UK law.

Weiss cited this tacit support of Hamas and Amnesty’s connection to MEMO as further evidence of AI’s ongoing, “easy-breezy attitude towards religious fundamentalism.” And indeed, among MEMO’s Honorary Advisors are a pair of notable Islamists: Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Muslim philosophy professor whose media-slick sophistication sends a thrill up the collective leg of the multi-culti Western intelligentsia, but who exposes his totalitarian side to non-Western audiences; and British Lord Nazir Ahmed, who threatened to mobilize thousands of Muslims to protest an appearance before the House of Lords by anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Weiss’ biting blog clearly touched a nerve – PSC responded to it on the event registration page itself, claiming that Weiss “sinks to a new level with an attempt to sabotage a meeting discussing media bias.” Of course, by “sabotage” what they mean is that Weiss merely reported revelations about the participants’ own bias, which PSC did not refute, and raised the larger question of why the supposedly neutral Amnesty would offer a forum to such organizations.

This July marks the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, which touts itself as being apolitical and insists on the primacy of international law and adherence to “international human rights standards.” All well and good in theory, except that the reality is that submission to international law often results in Kafkaesque assaults on truth like the trial of Geert Wilders, and any concept of an “international standard” of human rights quickly loses validity when one considers the rogue’s gallery of human rights abusers, like Iran, dominating such transnational bodies as the United Nations Human Rights Council.

As for its fairness, in recent years AI has been increasingly exposed for reserving a disproportionate share of its charges of human rights violations for – surprise! – the United States and Israel, the world’s standard-bearers of democracy, freedom, and human rights, even accusing the two countries of war crimes. The NGO Monitor identified AI’s “not-so-hidden agenda” as boycotting Israel and seeking to deny it its right to self-defense against terrorist attacks. Alan Dershowitz even included AI among “terror’s faithful allies,” and noted that for Amnesty, the phrase “Israeli war crimes” is synonymous with "any military action whatsoever."

For example: CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, called out Amnesty for its biased rhetoric and moral equivalence in AI’s demand for an investigation into Israel’s self-defense in the face of the recent Nakba Day border infiltration. CAMERA pointed out that, by contrast, “One will look in vain for any mention by Amnesty International of the actions of the Syrian government and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in transporting the participants and fomenting the riots.”

In another instance, the UK Telegraph reported that Amnesty backed Moazzam Begg of Cageprisoners, a group that lobbies on behalf of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. Andrew C. McCarthy, writing for the National Review a year ago, called out AI Secretary-General Claudio Cordone for the organization’s support of Begg and his advocacy of “defensive jihad,” which Cordone claimed is not antithetical to human rights. “That Islamists reserve unto themselves the right to determine when Islam is, as they put it, ‘under siege,’ and when, therefore, forcible jihad is justified, is plainly of no concern” to Amnesty, McCarthy wrote. “Only actions in America’s self-defense are worthy of condemnation.” And likewise, Israel’s.

This is consistent with MEMO’s position that Israel is the region’s oppressor and aggressor. Their Senior Editor Ibrahim Hewitt expressed disappointment in a letter to the UK’s Guardian Monday that President Obama, in his recent speech on the Middle East, did not throw Israel far enough under the bus, if that can be imagined. Hewitt worried that a “’non-militarised’ Palestinian state… would be at the mercy of the Israel Defence Forces.” This is a laughable, but typical, perversion of the truth about who is the real aggressor in this arena; as the saying goes, if the Arabs were to lay down their arms today, there would be no more violence; if the Jews laid down their arms today, there would be no more Israel – which apparently would be a red-letter day for commentator Abdel Bari Atwan, featured on the “Complicity in Oppression” panel itself. Atwan is notorious for his giddiness at the thought of the nuclear annihilation of Israel: If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to
Trafalgar Square
and dance with delight.”

Amnesty’s support of the “Complicity in Oppression” event and of the participants’ anti-Israeli propaganda campaign is sadly typical of AI’s wrong-headed moral equivalence of Israel and its genocidal enemies. As its 50th anniversary approaches, Amnesty needs to reassess and reaffirm its commitment to those who really strive to represent and uphold human rights.
(This originally appeared at FrontPageMag here, 5/27/11)