Monday, 9 January 2012

Amnesty International admits seeking to "strengthen U.S. influence on the promotion of human rights globally"

In a recent announcement Amnesty International USA admits that the organization seeks to "strengthen U.S. influence on the promotion of human rights globally".

"U.S. influence on the promotion of human rights globally"?????
Like the US promotion of human rights in former Yougoslavia?
Like the US promotion of human rights in Afghanistan?
Like the US promotion of human rights in Iraq?
Like the US promotion of human rights in Libya?

Do they mean that US should "export" its human rights culture globally?
Like exporting the idea of Guantanamo for example?
Like exporting the idea of CIA flights?
Like exporting the idea of death penalty? (remember Troy Davis?)

Why on earth an "impartial" human rights organization wants to strengthen a particular country's influence globally?
Isn't this an example of one country's supremacy?
And how come that this country is, all by coincidence, the most powerful country in the world, in terms of political, economical and military power?

Isn't this an example of how Amnesty International functions as a tool of US foreign policy?

Amnesty International, Withdraw Your Endorsement of Arch Enemy


On the 24th of January, the Swedish Metal band, Arch Enemy, is scheduled to perform in Israel. This performance is part of an international tour, endorsed by Amnesty International as part of their “End Repression-Protect Freedom of Expression” campaign. After many private and public correspondences with the band and petitions to Amnesty International, we’ve come to see that public pressure must be applied on the organization. 
There are several ways you can help!
1. Write a letter to Amnesty International. You can use the suggestion letter below. Letters are to be emailed to:,,,,,,,,
2. Let everybody know you’re taking action and invite them to join you on Facebook and Twitter. You can use these suggestion posts:

Facebook: I’m writing to Amnesty International, to demand they pull their endorsement from the Arch Enemy concert in apartheid Israel!
(you can tag: @Amnesty International @Amnesty International USA @Amnesty International Sverige @Amnesty International Danmark @Amnesty @International Nederland @Íslandsdeild Amnesty International @Amnesty)
Twitter: @AmnestyOnline @Art4Amnesty don’t endorse Arch Enemy’s concert in apartheid Israel!
(Other tagging options: @Amnesty_IN @Amnesty_Israel @NewsFromAmnesty @amnestypress @AIUKMEG @SalilShetty @jpmlynch @robwinder @neilsai @demanddignity @Amnesty_Int_Dbn)
Dear Amnesty International,
I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to endorse Arch Enemy’s world wide tour, as part of its “End Repression-Protect Freedom of Expression” campaign, which includes a performance in Israel.  It is doubly troubling, as Amnesty International has been faced with this choice before. I applauded you then, when you chose to heed the call of your members and the international community in general, to disassociate yourself from Leonard Cohen’s tour, because of his performance in Israel. And it is for that reason exactly that I can’t understand why you would endorse a similar tour and choose to ignore all public or private petitions for you not to do so. 
I call on you to be true to Amnesty International’s values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Arch Enemy’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.
By supporting Arch Enemy’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. By this endorsement, Amnesty International consciously goes beyond “staying neutral”,  aiding and abetting Israel in keeping a semblance of a democratic state, in which expressing one’s opinion is allowed, when in fact Amnesty International itself has documented and expressed its concern, many times over, about the violation of the basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly, of both the Palestinian population under Israel’s military regime in the occupied territories, and the citizens of Israel who express their disapproval of the state’s policies.
I quote the  letter-writing campaign that was addressed to you, regarding Leonard Cohen, and stress that this is in fact the same situation:
Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.
In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer Raymond Deane wrote:
“By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.”
Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its endorsement of the Arch Enemy concert in Israel.

[Your Name]

*Click to read BOYCOTT!'s letter to Amnesty.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Document: when Amnesty decided to be able to support military interventions

This is one of the most important and controversial decisions taken by Amnesty International throughout its history. In 2005 the International Council Meeting of AI took a decision that gives the right to the organization to support military interventions in order to "prevent or end imminent or on-going widespread and grave abuses of international human rights or humanitarian law". Considering the international bodies deciding and executing military interventions (UN Security Council, NATO, etc.) this AI decision seems to be in favor of the great political and military powers of the world. It´s hard to imagine an international military intervention without grave human rights violations (think of Yougoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc.). After all it´s not the job of a human rights organization to support military interventions but to monitor and condemn human rights violations.

You can read the whole internal document of AI guidelines on this issue here.

Here is the first part of the introduction, with the main position of AI on military interventions:

"The 2005 International Council Meeting (ICM) adopted a wide-ranging resolution on the
protection of human rights through conflict prevention, intervention and condemnation of
the use of force. In the resolution, AI recognises that peaceful resolution of conflicts is a
prerequisite for the realization of human rights, and that armed conflicts inevitably produce
human rights violations. The resolution outlines a wide range of steps that AI can take to
strengthen its work on conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution. The resolution then states
a new AI policy on the use of military force as follows[1]:

General position

Amnesty International is an independent and impartial human rights organization that
generally takes no position on the desirability or otherwise of particular military
interventions or other forms of armed conflict, other than to demand that all participants
must respect international human rights and humanitarian law;

Exceptional position

In exceptional circumstances, taking full account of its country strategies, commitment to
women’s human rights, and other relevant considerations, Amnesty International may:
• oppose the use or threat of use of military intervention that is particularly likely to
lead to an increase in human rights abuses;
• call for or endorse ceasefires or urge the parties to a conflict to negotiate;
• call for the use of armed force (including military or law-enforcement forces) to
alleviate, prevent or end imminent or on-going widespread and grave abuses of
international human rights or humanitarian law (such as genocide, crimes against
humanity, and war crimes), or the actual threat of such a situation, provided that:
(a) the force is in conformity with international law;
(b) the force is given a mandate to use proportionate force, as necessary, to protect
human rights;
(c) such calls will be limited to the deployment or strengthening of UN peacekeeping
or similar operations.

[1] See Decision 2 of the 2005 ICM."

Amnesty International, One Struggle for Freedom Must Not Undermine Another


To Amnesty International,

We are a group of citizens of Israel who support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Some of us are members of Amnesty International and we're deeply troubled by your endorsement of the Swedish Metal band, Arch Enemy, which is scheduled to give a gig in Israel, despite its record of violating international law and human rights.

We applaud your tireless documentation of abuses of human rights world-wide and the actions you take to bring them to an end. As you very well know, freedom of expression has never been granted to Palestinians by the Israeli military regime. This is evident from the most recent example of the brutal repression of demonstrations against the apartheid wall and settlements in the West Bank, where Mustafa Tamimi was shot to death in the head with a high velocity gas projectile from zero range (
So many Palestinian activists, many of whom are still in Israeli prisons, are held under "administrative" arrest for weeks and months, in violation of international law and their human rights. We would like to remind you in particular of two arrests that occurred in late 2009:

1. Abdallah Abu Rahma, whom the army tried to convict for “possession of arms”, when in fact an art exhibition was held in his home: A peace-sign constructed from used gas canisters that the army uses every week against the villagers of Bil’in

2. Mohammad Othman, who was arrested for the crime of talking. At the time, this is what Amnesty International had to say:
“Amnesty International said it is concerned that Abdallah Abu Rahma and Mohammed Othman have been detained solely on account of legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression in opposing the Israeli fence/wall.”

Amnesty international has also been very supportive of our own group, as we are gradually being targeted by the policies of the Israeli government as well. There is no need to explain to you that we knowingly commit a civil offense in writing this letter. Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa stated this very clearly:
“Despite proponents’ claims to the contrary, [the boycott] law is a blatant attempt to stifle peaceful dissent and campaigning by attacking the right to freedom of expression, which all governments must uphold.”

We have absolutely no doubt that the Palestinian people were also on your mind, when you launched your  “End Repression-Protect Freedom of Expression” campaign. We have absolutely no doubt of the importance of raising awareness about the political prisoners of Yodok in North Korea or the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. However, we must stress that one struggle for freedom must not undermine another.

Your sponsorship of Arch Enemy, who are scheduled to perform in Israel in March, will directly violate the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Hundreds of Palestinian unions, associations, NGOs, institutes, political parties, and groups are asking international artists not to perform in Israel (certainly not in commercial venues), until Israel ends its violations of human rights. Therefore, your sponsorship undermines the Palestinian civil society struggle for equality. liberation and self determination.

In view of this, we ask that you either
1. Withdraw your endorsement of Arch Enemy's concert in Israel (as you have done before with Leonard Cohen - and publicly distance Amnesty International from Arch Enemy’s decision to perform in Israel and express serious reservation about their undermining of Palestinian struggle.


2. Assist the band to convey their important message in a way that will not violate the Palestinian civil society BDS call, and will not serve to whitewash Israel's  violations of human rights through a false image of “cultural diversity” and “freedom of expression”.

We would be interested in your comments.

BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within

Document: when Amnesty International refused to support Nelson Mandela

There is already a post about Amnesty's hypocrisy to award Nelson Mandela in 2006 as an "ambassador of conscience", while AI never recognised him as "prisoner of conscience" and never asked for his release.
Here is an important document from the archives of Amnesty International, back in 1965, explaining why the NGO refused to support him.


The core of AMNESTY workers are developing a common and united approach to the many problems of great delicacy which face the movement. 1961 brought to a head the issue of whether or not support should be given to men like Nelson Mandela who, through pressure of events, found themselves constrained to recommend a degree of force in opposition to the South African Nationalist Government. This case was a particularly poignant one since Mandela, like his chief, Albert Luthuli, had previously been committed to the principles of non-violence. The opinion of the entire movement was canvassed on this issue during the summer of 1964; a synthesis of all the written views received was presented to the International Assembly at Canterbury in September. The degree of unanimity both of the letters and of the speeches was remarkable. While the greatest sympathy was expressed for those who find themselves deprived of every form of public protest, the movement recorded that it could not give the name of 'Prisoner of Conscience' to anyone associated with violence, even though as in 'convential warfare' a degree of restraint may be exercised. This was not to preclude espousing the cause of those who felt obliged to indulge in symbolic physical acts such as pulling down flags or even defacing posters, nor to exclude those who had tried to protect themselves when threatened by the indiscriminate use of firearms.

Amnesty International "whitewashes" Israeli Navy's crimes


Finally, after 3 years of efforts from international activists (ISM, Free Gaza Movement, CPSGaza), Amnesty International decided to pay some attention on the issue of Gaza fishermen. In the episode 7 of Amnesty TV, by Amnesty UK, there is a 3:51 part concering Gaza fishermen. (Go to 1:47).

But all we see on this video is an Israeli gunboat aproaching and just... calling 2 fishermen in a small boat, accompanied by foreign hebrew speaking journalists, to go closer to the beach.

Is it just this what is really happening to the Gaza fishermen?

Where are the images of Gaza fishermen killed by the Israeli Navy?

Mohammed Nadi Saleh al-'Attar (picture from In Gaza blog)

Where do we hear the voice of the families of killed fishermen?

Where do we see in Amnesty´s video, the injured fishermen?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video the Gaza fishermen mutilated by Israeli gunfire?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video the fishing boats with dozens of bullet holes?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the fishing boats incinerated after Israeli shelling?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the fishing boats rammed by Israeli gunboats?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the Israeli gunboats shooting at the nets of the fishing boats? And bullets found inside the fishing boat...

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the Israli gunboats throwing explosives near the fishing boats and spraying the fishermen and the catch of fishes with unknown biological or chemical liquid?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the Israeli gunboats firing shells, machinegun fire, tracer bullets and water from watercannon?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, international activists injured by shattered glass during watercannon attacks?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the international accompaniment boat Oliva, attacked with watercannon by Israeli gunboats?

Where do we see in Amnesty's video, the Gaza fishermen who have been abducted, detained and abused, in order to become spies?

If small organizations with few activists like ISM, Free Gaza Movement or CPSGaza and a few Palestinian or foreign journalists, have managed to show the real life of Gaza fishermen, why can't the biggest human rights organization in the world, with 3 million members and a huge budget, do the same? And why Amnesty International didn't use some of this footage for the report on Gaza fishermen?
After seeing all these images, you can understand why Amnesty's report (of Israeli Navy just... shouting to the Palestinian fishermen), can be considered rather a "whitewash" of Israeli Navy's crimes, than a decent human rights report...


(The opinions expressed in this post are of  kaxlan2009, the administrator of Fishing Under Fire, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other international activists who have worked or still working with Gaza fishermen)

Reply to Malcolm Smart about AI's double standards

This is Paul de Rooij´s reply to Amnesty International Malcolm Smart´s explanations on the accusations of double standards in Prisoners of Conscience list


Malcolm Smart
Amnesty International – International Secretariat
Peter Benenson House
1 Easton Street
London WC1X ODW

[Address deleted]
11 August 2010
Dear Mr. Malcolm Smart;
Many thanks for your kind and detailed explanation about Prisoner of Conscience lists and the double standard that you claim isn't one. Instead of "putting my mind at rest" your letter actually raises several questions. Allow me to follow-up.
  1. You write:
    Some of those held under such orders are prisoners of conscience and we can be sure of that, but it is uncertain in many other cases whether individual detainees are to be considered prisoners of conscience, according to the common criteria used by Amnesty International, or not. By its nature, the Israeli administrative detention system is a secretive process, in that the grounds for detention are not specified in detail to the detainee or his/her legal representative; inevitably, this makes it especially difficult for the detainee to challenge the order for, by example, contesting the grounds on which the detention was made. In the same way, it makes it difficult or impossible for Amnesty International to make a conclusive determination in many cases whether a particular administrative detainees can be considered a prisoner of conscience or not.
    This is laughable. So, Israel throws people in jail with (1) no charges; (2) for an indeterminate time span; (3) under an illegitimate legal framework; and (4) often without adequate legal representation or opportunity to appeal. The targets of the so-called "administrative detention" are activists and other people who seek to organize their communities. Now you state, given that Israel doesn't spell out the charges against a prisoner, AI is thus unable to issue its famous POC designation. In other words, there will be no letter writing campaign for many such individuals. All Israel has to do is to keep its "evidence secret" and not to make any charges, and presto, AI will keep quiet about such persons.
  2. You also don't make the list available because the list may be "incomplete"... Well, at present we don't know if there are any Palestinian POCs, and Palestinian prisoners know that Amnesty isn't doing anything for them. A few months ago Amir Makhoul was imprisoned and all Philip Luther could state was that "...If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience". It is not the case that he is now being considered POC, but AI could consider him so – maybe at a future date. Isn't this rather pathetic?
  3. Many Palestinians are protesting the construction of the wall on their land and they have used non-violence as a key aspect of their campaign. Even so, the Israelis brutally repress the demonstrations and conduct regular night-time harassment. Could you please explain why aren't some of the imprisoned leaders of this movement even mentioned by AI? One of the leaders of the Bil'in demonstrations is in jail at present; what are you doing for him?
  4. You write that other Palestinian prisoners "serving sentences for politically-related crime." Under international law an occupied or colonized population has a right to resist. Most Palestinian prisoners are in prison for acts of resistance or for membership in groups which advocate resistance. It is only in the eyes of their oppressor that this constitutes "a crime". I would hope that AI would refrain from such labelling. And what does AI do for the other prisoners, those who have resisted?
  5. And why make the Cuban list public? Couldn't you apply the same argument about incomplete lists to withhold the Cuban list? And why consider some of the Cuban prisoners as POC at all? A large number of them received funding from the United States – a hostile state – and Cubans would rightly view recipients of tainted funds as traitors.
  6. Could you kindly clarify this: if a Palestinian were ever to throw a stone at soldiers, would this disqualify him from ever obtaining a "POC" designation when he is imprisoned? Where can one read about the conditions necessary to be considered a POC?
I am sorry, but your letter simply confirmed that Amnesty International pursues a double standard when covering Palestinian human rights. The paucity of reportage, the unwillingness to utter condemnations against Israel, impotence of some of its actions, an unwillingness to publish lists of POCs, and the rare designation of the POC status indicate that Palestinians can't expect much from Amnesty International. The brutal treatment and dispossession of Palestinians has been going on for decades; the situation is chronic and it has been systematic. But check for yourself in Amnesty's reports or press releases: when was the last time that AI unambiguously indicated that Israeli actions amounted to crimes against humanity? Hint: you can count such instances with less than half the fingers on your hand.
Paul de Rooij

Letter Malcolm Smart (AI) to Paul de Rooij re: double standards on POC lists


To: Paul de Rooij
[address deleted]
09 August 2010
Peter Benenson House. 1 Easton Street,
London WC1X OOW, United Kingdom
T: +44 (0)20 7413 5500 F: +44 (0)20 7956 1157
E: W:
Dear Paul
Thank you for your letter dated 11 July addressed to Salil Shetty, who took up office as Secretary General of Amnesty International at the beginning of July.
Salil has asked me to respond on his behalf and to thank you for your kind expression of congratulations to him. You ask whether Amnesty International is applying a double standard because we regularly list the cases of prisoners of conscience in Cuba on our website but do not simultaneously publish a list of Palestinian prisoners of conscience held by the Israeli authorities.
We are not applying a double standard and nor, as your assertion of that seems to imply, are we giving relatively less priority or attention to the cases of Palestinians detained by Israel. The two country situations - Cuba and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories - are very different and with regard to each we pursue strategies that are developed with a view to ensuring that our work for prisoners of conscience and other victims of human rights violations is as effective as possible. In other words, with regard to Cuba, we consider it strategically useful and effective to maintain and make public an up to date list of prisoners of conscience.
The same is not true for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, There, as you rightly say, many Palestinians opposed to the Israeli occupation are imprisoned under administrative detention orders (with an even greater number, of course, serving sentences for politically-related crimes). These orders are of fixed duration but may be reimposed to permit continuous detention, in some cases for a year or more. Some of those held under such orders are prisoners of conscience and we can be sure of that, but it is uncertain in many other cases whether individual detainees are to be considered prisoners of conscience, according to the common criteria used by Amnesty International, or not. By its nature, the Israeli administrative detention system is a secretive process, in that the grounds for detention are not specified in detail to the detainee or his/her legal representative; inevitably, this makes it especially difficult for the detainee to challenge the order for, by example, contesting the grounds on which the detention was made. In the same way, it makes it difficult or impossible for Amnesty International to make a conclusive determination in many cases whether a particular administrative detainees can be considered a prisoner of conscience or not.
Clearly, if we were to publish a list of prisoners of conscience held in administrative detention in Israel it would almost certainly be inaccurate or incomplete. It would not be in the best interests of administrative detainees held by Israel if we were to do this - some who are or believe themselves to be prisoners of conscience might be missed off because we had obtained insufficient information about their cases and this could understandably cause unnecessary distress to them, their families and others.
In other words, the situation as regards Cuba is different and we do not consider bound to follow the same practice as regards detainees and prisoners held by Israel simply because of the Cuba example, particularly when we consider that this would not be in the best interests of the Palestinian prisoners of concern to Amnesty International who are being held by Israel.
That said, I can assure you that we take up a number of cases of administrative detainees and our membership campaigns on those both in their own right and as exemplars, and against the very abusive system of administrative detention that Israel maintains.
However, you may see from our website that we also undertake many other initiatives on behalf of victims of human rights violations and breaches if international humanitarian law in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where general conditions, I would suggest to you, are quite different than those in Cuba and marked by a much greater degree of both political volatility and violence. The work that we have done on the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel last year, in particular in support of the Goldstone Report and its call for full accountability and justice, and in opposition to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which we have roundly condemned as a form of collective punishment, are two of the major themes to which I would draw your attention. These, of course, have no parallel in Cuba, fortunately, but they serve to illustrate that the country situations are quite different, posing very different human rights challenges and, therefore, I strongly contend, different strategies for addressing those challenges.
I hope this clarifies and goes at least some way towards putting your mind at rest. Thanks again for raising this.
Malcolm Smart
Director Middle East and North Africa Programme

And here you can read Paul de Rooij´s reply

Phooey on Amnesty Intl and Its Mandela Hypocrisy

Another piece from Francis Boyle, former Board member of AI USA, about Amnesty's hypocrisy in the case of Nelson Mandela


Phooey on Amnesty Intl and Its Mandela Hypocrisy

Amnesty International press release, 19 September 2006 9:58 AM; prefaced by a comment by Francis A. Boyle

This is a pathetic joke and a fraud by Amnesty International. They never adopted Mandela as a Prisoner of Conscience and never worked for his release while he was imprisoned that I am aware of. Indeed, while he was imprisoned I am not aware that AI did diddlysquat for Mandela or any imprisoned ANC guerillas, except perhaps token efforts when they were about to be executed and it was already too late.
To the contrary, Amnesty International obstinately refused to condemn apartheid in South Africa. And this despite the fact that when Winston Nagan and I were on the Board of AIUSA, we strove mightily against enormous opposition to get AI to condemn apartheid—and failed.
To the best of my knowledge, Amnesty International was the only human rights organization in the entire world that refused and failed to condemn apartheid in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Southwest Africa (now Namibia). AI is simply trying to rehabilitate itself and its lack of credibility in Black southern Africa. just a bunch of middle class white people now trying to trade off of Mandela's good name. Where were AI when Mandela and the ANC needed them? Nowhere to be found!
Francis A. Boyle
Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA (1988-92)


Nelson Mandela to become Amnesty International “Ambassador of Conscience”

(Dublin)—Amnesty International today announced that Nelson Mandela will be awarded its most prestigious honour—the “Ambassador of Conscience” Award for 2006.
Nobel Literature Laureate Seamus Heaney, whose poem From the Republic of Conscience first inspired the “Ambassador of Conscience” Award, was the first to congratulate Mr. Mandela.
“To have written a line about ‘hope and history’ rhyming for Mr. Mandela in 1990 is one thing,” said Seamus Heaney. “To have the man who made them rhyme accept the Award inspired by my poem is something else again.”
Vaclav Havel, who received the inaugural Award in 2003, joined in the congratulations.
“I am convinced that the wise decision of the Amnesty International jury will enhance the attention dedicated to its human-rights activities all over the world.”
The Award will be presented to Mr. Mandela by the distinguished South African writer and Nobel Literature Laureate Ms. Nadine Gordimer in Nelson Mandela House in Johannesburg, South Africa on 1 November 2006.
“More than any living person, Nelson Mandela has come to symbolise all that is hopeful and idealistic in public life,” said Bill Shipsey, founder of Art for Amnesty, the organization's global artist support network that organises the annual Award.
“His poignant example and personal and political leadership since emerging from prison in February 1990 have been a source of inspiration for millions around the world. He has become the symbol of what it means to be a truly good global citizen.”
Recently, Nelson Mandela's outspoken advocacy on behalf of millions of HIV/AIDS sufferers—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa—and his insistence that HIV/AIDS is a human rights issue has ensured that the plight of those with HIV/AIDS remains an urgent global concern.
“Today, we honour and pay tribute to the life and work of Nelson Mandela in the cause of freedom and justice in South Africa and around the world,” said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General. “But we fully recognize that it is he in fact who has bestowed a great honour on Amnesty International by accepting this Award.”


Amnesty International's “Ambassador of Conscience” Award recognises exceptional individual leadership and witness in the fight to protect and promote human rights.
The Award—inspired by a poem written for Amnesty International by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney—aims to promote the work of the organization by association with the life, work and example of its ‘Ambassadors', who have done much to inspire the world through their work and personal example.
Nelson Mandela joins past winners of the distinguished human rights award — including U2, Vaclav Havel and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson—as global “Ambassadors of Conscience””

Amnesty International Withdraws from Leonard Cohen’s Israel Concert Fund


New York, NY, August 18 – Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.
Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”
A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website. 
After reports in late July that Amnesty International would manage a fund from the proceeds of Leonard Cohen’s concert in Israel, groups in occupied Palestine and around the world mobilized to pressure Amnesty International not to participate in such a fund. The Palestinian Non-governmental Organizations’ Network (PNGO) called in an August 11th letter on Amnesty International to reject management of a fund that is to be created from the proceeds of Leonard  Cohen’s planned September concert in Israel.  The West Bank village of Bil’in had made a similar appeal to Amnesty International. An international campaign of about one thousand letters to Amnesty International called for Amnesty’s withdrawal from the Cohen concert initiative. The only Palestinian organization that was claimed to be a recipient of the fund had previously announced that it was not involved in the project. Additionally, a representative of the joint Palestinian Israeli group Combatants for Peace, another previously announced beneficiary of the Cohen concert fund, had informed the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel in writing that the group had decided not to participate in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and not to accept any funds from its proceeds. 
PNGO explained in their letter to Amnesty International that Israel Discount Bank, a major sponsor of Cohen’s concert in Israel, “is involved in the construction and the continuation of the Israeli settlement project in the oPT [occupied Palestinian Territories]… These settlements built on Palestinian lands are illegal under international law and are considered as war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention.” PNGO added that Cohen’s “concert in Israel contributes in normalizing Israeli occupation and colonization policies.” In an August 9th letter to Amnesty International, the West Bank village of Bil’in, a leader in the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement, said that, “Israel Discount Bank’s trading room and other computer services are run by an Israeli company called Matrix IT. Matrix IT’s trading room is located on our villages land stolen by the illegal settlement of Modiin Illit.”
Additionally, nineteen groups and organizations worldwide explained in an open  letter to Amnesty International that, “Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel‘s violations of international law and human rights principles.” The groups asserted that, “Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.” They also commented that the Peres Center for Peace, Amnesty International’s announced partner in managing the concert fund, “has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that enhance ‘Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians.’”
On August 5th, eleven groups launched a letter writing campaign to Amnesty International which has resulted in hundreds of emails sent. Among those urging Amnesty International to reject involvement with the Cohen concert are former Amnesty International USA board member Prof. Naseer Aruri, Amnesty International USA’s former Midwest Regional Director Doris Strieter, peace activist Kathy Kelly, and a number of Amnesty International members.   
The announcement of Cohen’s planned concert in Israel was swiftly met by letters from British, Israeli and Palestinian organizations and protests at his concerts in New YorkBoston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities, calling on Cohen to respect the international call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In response to the protests, Cohen had tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert, insisting that Cohen should first cancel his Tel Aviv gig to be welcomed in Ramallah.
With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an institutional academic and cultural boycott. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Palestinian boycott calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI)
Posted on 18-08-2009

Leonard Cohen and Amnesty International - An Unholy Alliance


By Tali Shapiro at Aug 01, 2009

I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I'd like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen's breach of the boycott of Israel.

The Leonard Cohen Myth

Personally, it's hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:

"I don't want to speak of wars or sides ... Personal process is one thing, it's blood, it's the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. ... I don't wish to speak about war." 
In case I'm misconstruing my information, I'll repeat the quote I've embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
~ Desmund Tutu
In Cohen's most recent history, he is consistent. He refuses to take a side, thus siding with the oppressor. Cohen has received a letter from many organizations (originated with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel), asking him not to preform in Israel. As response, typically trying to balance out a situation in which balance is not there to be found, Cohen decided to preform for the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society. The Society declined to entertain Cohen's notions of equality:

"We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah.  A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners.  Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel."

The Problem with the International Centrist

As if all this wasn't enough, Cohen was dead-set on clearing his conscious:

"All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen's September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation..."
The above quote is taken from non-other than the very-Zionist Jerusalem Post. Here's another quote from the same article:
"Attempting to maneuver through the barbed wire of both Israeli and US tax laws to enable the organizations to benefit from the concert, Kory realized that an intermediary neutral vehicle would be required to facilitate the financial funneling. He approached Amnesty International for advice, and the concept of a special fund was raised."
In other words, trooper Cohen maneuvered through the barbed wire with the assistance of the Amnesty International brigade. How poetic. How utterly embarrassing for Amnesty International to be portrayed favorably by the Jerusalem Post.

I understand big groups like Amnesty International have to be diplomatic and must exercise impartiality, and quite frankly I respect the ability to do so. However, being diplomatic doesn't mean endorsing pseudo-diplomatic initiatives, especially when they are completely avoidable, as in the case of Leonard Cohen.

To refrain from repeating myself, here's my own attempt at diplomacy, that I sent to Amnesty International (at the event of a response, I will update):
"Hello Amnesty International,

I'm a big supporter of Amnesty International and a regular donation contributor. As an Israeli citizen- who opposes the occupation and violence wreaked by my government, army and countrymen on the Palestinian people, and supports the international movement to boycott Israel- I am appalled that Amnesty USA might break the boycott efforts. The international community has set the terms for the Palestinian struggle and rightfully made it clear that no violence will be tolerated. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has done a wonderful job in stating the terms of the BDS campaign- I don't have to tell you what a huge commitment to a long-term strategy of non-violence that is. Terms which seem very fair and have been accepted around the world as the guidelines for this world-wide initiative.

When Leonard Cohen decided to come to Israel, PACBI made themselves clear, once again, that it is unacceptable, under the guidelines of a cultural boycott. As I'm sure you know, Cohen tried to appease PACBI by scheduling a show in Ramallah, which PACBI rejected. There is no need to be balanced in a situation that balance doesn't occur. Had Cohen canceled in Israel he would have been making a meaningful statement and propelled the boycott movement by sheer power of his fame. Performing in both Israel and the Occupied Territories is a wishy-washy peace-faking statement, the kind that Israeli "peace" groups have been making, in order to stroke their own sensibilities, meanwhile marginalizing the other organizations (Palestinian, Israeli and International), who believe in the importance of keeping one's stand, when it comes to the BDS initiative. "Peace" is a word that has lost all meaning in Israel, we demand human rights instead.

To find that Amnesty International might support this damaging endeavor is shocking, for me, but I take it you decided upon it with the best of intentions. Since I don't expect you to understand the inner workings of the Israeli Center-Left and its psychological motives, I urge you to consider simple facts: Leonard Cohen preforming in Israel breaches the cultural boycott and normalizes the occupation. This is not something that should be supported by Amnesty International. It is morally wrong and diplomatically wrong. The boycott movement must stick to a standard of "no business as usual", in order to be effective. I urge you to reconsider.

Awaiting your reply,
Tali Shapiro

What's Wrong with Balance?
If some of you are wondering how donating the proceeds of the concert to both Israeli and Palestinian organizations is a "damaging endeavor", here's PACBI's words:
"PACBI has always rejected any attempt to "balance" concerts or other artistic events in Israel--conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights--with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such attempts at "parity" not only immorally equate the oppressor with the oppressed, taking a neutral position on the oppression (thereby siding with the oppressor, as Desmond Tutu famously said); they also are an insult to the Palestinian people, as they assume that we are naive enough to accept such token shows of "solidarity" that are solely intended to cover up grave acts of collusion in whitewashing Israel‘s crimes. Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for."
And some wonderful words from Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane:
"What could any reasonable person have against "programs for peace"?... By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury."
In my words: I've long covered the problematic programs and people that dare call themselves "peacemakers". I'm thought of as the extreme of the extreme, in Israel, but if asking for unconditional human rights is extreme, then I am a proud extremists. Many on the self-proclaimed Left are easy to spot, their key phrase is:
"They deserve human rights/freedom/their own country, but..."
This "but" is a fearful one, rooted in a deeply ingrained and denied racism. The people who say this are well aware of Israel's crimes- past and present, and yet still afraid of what may happen, once we let the "two legged beasts" out of their cage, whether they call Palestinians that, or not. In my journey of discovering the truth behind Israel, I've realized some things are not negotiable. That is human rights and as a result, this boycott.

Learning from the Cohen/Amnesty Debacle

As the Zionist propaganda machine goes into overdrive, we may find new claims, resulting in the Cohen/Amnesty debacle. For now, Israelis are generally unaware of the international boycott against their state, already underway. Last time I observed any mention of this in the mainstream media was during Cast Lead, when Channel 10 aired the typically condescending and ignorant Before you boycott Israel! video. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find this article in their archives.) Nothing more responsible than your main stream media instilling blind confidence in you, when an international boycott of your country is rapidly developing.

I can't predict the creativity of the Zionist mind, but I'm expecting that when the boycott is finally made clear to Israelis, the first rebuttals will be that nothing is enough for those "demanding" Palestinians, and even when the "reasonable" and "unbiassed" offer to give a little to both sides is made, they still "demand the whole arm". These kinds of underhanded remarks are exactly why I decided to document the Cohen/Amnesty incident.

There should be no questions as to what the boycott's goals or guidelines are. Some areas are unclear to many, and these cases should be studied. But to those who are unclear, I direct you again to PACBI, who are the Palestinian voice on the issue of the boycott, and have articulated their terms thoroughly. When in doubt, contrast and compare your specific case to their statements. Implementing a boycott on Israel isn't as hard as Zionist propaganda would like you to think. The best way to deal with the occupation army is to arm yourself with knowledge.

Update 08.08.09:
Bil'in is always a personal issue for me. Here's their letter to Amnesty, in light of the Cohen debacle:

Dear Amnesty International,

We, members of the Bil'in popular committee against the wall and settlements, have always appreciated Amnesty International's role in the defense of human rights around the world and have recognized you as partners in our own struggle to defend our rights. We remember with great pleasure and pride your December, 2006 visit to our village to witness one of our protests.  For these reasons we were surprised and deeply disturbed to learn that Amnesty International is sponsoring Leonard Cohen's upcoming concert in Israel.

We were disturbed not only because supporting Cohen's concert works against the wide grassroots Palestinian nonviolent initiative calling for the cultural boycott of Israel until it adheres to its obligations under international law, but because Amnesty's support for the concert  hurts us in Bil'in personally and directly.

Leonard Cohen's concert, that Amnesty is sponsoring, is being handled by Israel Discount Bank. Israel Discount Bank's trading room and other computer services are run by an Israeli company called Matrix IT. Matrix IT's trading room is located on our villages land stolen by the illegal settlement of Modiin Illit ( Israel Discount Bank has also financed the similar construction of some of the building projects in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar Illit and Ma'ale Adumim. Additionally, the Discount Bank is the second major shareholder of Mul-T-Lock, whose factory is located in industrial zone of Barkan, another illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank (

We are sure that you and Amnesty International were not aware of these facts. Otherwise we are confident that Amnesty would not be involved in supporting an endeavor that profits directly from the abuse of our rights. We are confident that now that this was brought to your attention you will withdraw Amnesty's support. Furthermore, we encourage Amnesty to examine more closely any project that you plan to support in Israel in the future because, unfortunately, the Israeli economy as a whole is currently benefiting from the abuse of Palestinian rights..

In Bil'in we are currently facing a new wave of oppression against our popular campaign against the Wall and settlement built on our land. The Israeli occupation forces are frequently raiding our village at night and abducting people, mostly children, from their homes. The members of our committee are being targeted. Currently two leading non violent activists and organizers Mohammed Khatib and Adib Abu Rahme, along with seventeen other Bil'in residents, are  imprisoned by the Israeli military. We are counting on your continued support for our struggle and  are certain that you will not allow Amnesty International to lend its support to the violations of our rights.

In solidarity,

The Bil'in Popular Committee

Resigning from Cohen and Amnesty


July 30th, 2009 

Activists leafletting a Leonard Cohen concert in Liverpool
Activists leafletting a Leonard Cohen concert in Liverpool

Renowned Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane on the reasons why he has chosen to resign from Amnesty International. We encourage readers to follow Deane’s example. 

When I first – and belatedly – began fretting about human rights and political injustice in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, I joined Amnesty International and started writing letters and cards to political prisoners and to a variety of Embassies.
Although I was subsequently drawn deeply into activism of a more explicitly political nature – particularly on the Israel/Palestine issue – I retained my Amnesty membership out of residual respect for the organisation, but also because I wished to be in a position to say “as an Amnesty member myself, I completely disagree with the organisation’s stance on…” (fill in the dots as appropriate).
On 30th July I read the “Open Letter to Amnesty International” from 10 admirable organisations involved in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, ranging from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) through the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. This letter was prompted by Amnesty’s decision to sponsor “a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at [Leonard] Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for ‘peace.’”
What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”? Well, one answer is that these include the Peres Center for Peace, described by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz as a “patronizing and colonial” organization that trains “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and… to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews”, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has branches in three illegal Jewish settlements and hence functions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Another answer is even simpler: Leonard Cohen should heed the call from the oppressed Palestinian people not to perform in Israel until that state dismantles its apartheid structures and complies with international law and international humanitarian law, ends the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories, and concedes the inalienable Palestinian right of return. By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.
I was one of the organizers of the protests held outside Leonard Cohen’s four recent Dublin concerts (19th, 20th, 22nd, 23d July) in which we called upon the singer not to perform in Tel Aviv, using the text of his 1960s classic “Please don’t pass me by” to deliver a demand for solidarity and engagement with the Palestinian people and against their oppressor, the Zionist Israeli state.
I used to be a Cohen fan. Should Cohen continue with his plan to perform in Israel on 24th September next, I shall consign my Cohen albums to the charity shop, although I’ll do so with considerable grief and disillusionment. It is with similar feelings that today I have sent the following message to the Irish branch of Amnesty International:
To whom it conferns: I am terminating my membership of Amnesty. The last straw has been Amnesty’s decision to support a cynical scheme dreamt up by Leonard Cohen’s PR department to whitewash the fact that he is ignoring the call from Palestinian civil society to respect the cultural boycott of Israel. While I respect Amnesty’s policy of not supporting particular political positions and not itself participating in boycott campaigns, on this occasion it is actively supporting actions that undermine a boycott campaign supported by the Palestinians themselves, and doing so by lending support to Israeli organisations the raison d’etre of which is to seek “conciliation” without an end to oppression.
Sincerely – Raymond Deane.

Amnesty International and Israel

Although we do not totally agree with this old piece of Mr. Paul De Rooij criticism, we are reproducing it because it has some interesting parts.

source: Counterpunch

Amnesty International & Israel: Say it isn't so!
Any organization fighting torture and other human rights abuses deserves our support. A recognized leader in this fight is Amnesty International (AI), helping people escape with their lives or avoid torture for decades. Given AI’s track record and its role as a human rights monitor, one must be careful leveling criticism against it. But one can no longer be silent about AI’s stance regarding Israel and Palestine. This article analyzes Amnesty’s entire public record and stance during the current intifada (Sep. 2000 thru Sep. 2002). It is an analysis of a meager record of 83 press releases and six reports . It reveals the following shortcomings and questions about its stance.

1. Trivializing Israeli violence

One immediate conclusion is that AI’s public record greatly diminishes Israeli violence against Palestinians. The reports only refer to a small fraction of the massive scale of oppression and dispossession perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Occupation is a series of measures meant to make life unbearable for millions, a reality barely mentioned in AI’s reports . For example, there are tens of thousands of Palestinians severely wounded or maimed by the IOF, yet the scale of this catastrophe or its deliberate nature aren’t part of its reports . AI refers to "closures" of most Palestinian cities, but its reports don’t convey the scale of these policies–hundreds of thousands under curfew, the siege of cities, and the increase in acute and chronic malnutrition amongst Palestinian children . There is only one press release describing the prison-like conditions of the Gaza strip–hundreds of thousands of Palestinians corralled in the most densely populated area in the world.

Some examples

Item: The July 23, 2002 F16 bombing of Gaza where a one-ton bomb killed 17 people elicited a bland statement . The extent of its admonishment was: "This attack was disproportionate and is utterly unacceptable," and one is left wondering what AI would consider a proportionate response. The remainder of the statement calls on the Palestinians to stop their resistance and calls on the international community to " step up its efforts to assist the Palestinian Authority in improving the effectiveness of its criminal justice system and its compliance with international human rights standards." Perhaps AI can explain the relevance of this statement when commenting on the Gaza bombing.

Not even in the darkest days of Apartheid South Africa did the air force bomb the townships, thus it is surprising to find that this was the first AI press release about an aerial bombardment, although there were 42 preceding ones with varying numbers of casualties.

Item: AI recently issued a press release condemning the ‘deportation’ of the family members of alleged suicide bombers to Gaza, and it went so far as to call this a war crime. On the face of it, this seems clear, but the press release reveals some serious flaws. The seriousness of the crime is reduced because it doesn’t refer to the house demolitions accompanying the expulsion legal proceedings. There was no legal appeal procedure to prevent the house demolitions, and in one instance, the explosion of one home wrecked ten adjacent houses. Furthermore, there is scant reference to the arbitrary nature of the punishment and collective aspects of the expulsions. Finally, it passes the proceedings of as merely a legal maneuver that has been abused. The result is that the extent and seriousness of the Israeli crimes have been reduced .

Item: On October 7, 2002, after Israeli tanks had pulled out of Khan Yunis, Israeli helicopters bombed the crowded streets; they also fired a missile at a hospital. The initial casualty toll amounted to at least 14 Palestinians dead and 80 wounded. Given that Sharon termed this operation a "great success," one would have expected some response, but AI will not issue a statement. AI’s main problem is omission–failing to mention the great majority of the events on the ground.

Item: On October 21, 2002, a suicide bomb in Hadera killed 14 Israelis, most of them military, and wounded about 50, again, most of them military. AI issued a press release the next day condemning the attack. Note the difference in the response between this incident, and the Khan Yunis bombing.

2. Why is there violence at all?

Reading AI’s reports doesn’t reveal why there is a conflict in the area in the first place. The portrayal of violence is stripped of its context, and historical references are minimal. The fact that Palestinians have endured occupation, expulsion, and dispossession for many decades, the explanation of why the conflict persists, is nowhere highlighted in its reports. This posture eliminates the possibility of taking sides, and AI doesn’t automatically side with the oppressed victims; instead, it assumes a warped sense of balance. It qualitatively equates the violence perpetrated by the IOF with Palestinian resistance. In attempting to be impartial, AI is oblivious to the history of ethnic cleansing that is the root cause. Israeli violence is qualitatively different than Palestinian violence; it is different than that found in other conflicts because it aims to expel the native population.

AI refers often to the ‘cycle of violence’. As John Pilger has said: "It suggests, at best, two equal sides, never that the Palestinians are resisting violent oppression with violence." The ‘cycle of violence’ portrays the conflict as something we can’t explain, and let alone, do much about. Furthermore, the pernicious element of this term is that AI doesn’t accept Palestinian justifications for violence, and the Israelis are always portrayed as responding.

3. The human rights mantra–apolitical fence sitting

AI’s exclusive focus on human rights may be acceptable when dealing with a single individual languishing in jail for no apparent reason; in this case, its "apolitical" stance also may be suitable. However, this approach is inappropriate when dealing with a situation where abuses are perpetrated on an unprecedented scale. Mass human rights violations are central to the Israeli policy in Palestine, a key point that AI ignores. Even in this case, AI utters increasingly tiresome calls to respect human rights on "both sides" and calls to make human rights "central to any negotiations." This is almost comical.

The problems with AI’s reports start with the mantra it recites obsessively without regard to the people in question. On the surface, this simple and neutral premise seems sound enough, but it introduces serious problems if AI is to function as an effective human rights advocate. One cannot equate the violations of the rights of Palestinians, the oppressed people, with the violations against Israelis, the oppressor. It also is hard to imagine how criticizing the violent aspects of state power can ever be non-political.

One thing is to have an "apolitical stance," which may be acceptable, but the other is to use this as an excuse to neuter criticism of any regime. It is clear that AI hasn’t carefully analyzed this aspect of its stance, and hence, in the case of Israel/Palestine, the stated non-political stance amounts to an avoidance of critical language or the leveling of severe accusations. In the process, it also has lost its critical edge, and its reports are trite recitation of some abuses. Sharon hardly cowers over AI’s reports.

4. Transfer.

Israeli government officials openly discuss the notion of "transfer"–mass expulsion of the Palestinian population. This discussion also takes place within Israeli society to the extent that it is now a centrist political position. Given the seriousness of the situation and the political acceptability of this impending mass crime, it would seem to dictate immediate action to impede it and to make clear to the Israeli government that this would unambiguously constitute a plethora of serious crimes. However, no such call or warning has been issued by AI. A possible explanation is that AI specializes in retail human rights abuses, and it is up to the UN and the international community to mobilize against wholesale crimes. AI and other human rights organizations appear to deal only with abuses that have taken place, and do not work to prevent mass abuses.

5. An astonishing report.

Even more disturbing is a recent Amnesty report , Without Distinction July 2002, which de-legitimizes in one fell swoop Palestinian violence against Israelis. AI accomplishes this in three steps. First, it projects that Palestinians are subject to some international statutes as other states — which is remarkable since Palestine isn’t a state, but a people under occupation. Israel has violated all but one of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention , as well as numerous other international legal conventions including those on torture. It is remarkable then that AI holds Palestinians accountable to international laws that have lent them no protection whatsoever. Second, it removes the legitimacy conferred by the UN to people fighting occupation or oppression. It therefore equates Palestinian violence to that of the Israeli occupier. Third, it prohibits resistance against settlers. This is an odd statement given that a significant fraction of the settlers are armed, violently dispossess the native population, act with impunity, and with acquiescence and protection of the Israeli army . It states without any qualification that settlers are civilians, and thus should not be targeted. Finally, it also prohibits any violence against civilians within Israel proper. Possibly the only legitimate violence accorded to the Palestinian struggle is to confront one of the most powerful armies in the world–but even this right is not clarified in its report. Finally, it levels the clearest accusation of various serious crimes, including war crimes, against Palestinians themselves. This is a shameful report.

6. Evident bias

Even the language used in AI’s reports exhibits a bias. Since the beginning of the second intifada AI has seldom outright condemned Israeli violence, the word "condemn" was used primarily when referring to Palestinian violence . Furthermore, emotive adjectives used to describe violent acts, like "horrific" or "shocking", were only used when describing Palestinian violence; in the case of the Israeli acts, the terms used were almost inert — in this case AI has a proclivity to use the "alleged" adjective. The very first paragraph of a report on Palestinian violence uses words like "deliberately killed" –although this is not entirely clear; reports referring to Israeli violence rarely attribute intention. It is mostly Palestinian violence that has elicited forthright accusations, e.g., war crimes. Despite the preponderance of violence on the Israeli side, AI seldom has leveled such clear accusations against Israeli actions during the same period; Israeli actions are mostly reported to breach certain legal provisions, to breach standards, to be disproportionate, or elicit calls to respect human rights, but the accusation of "war crimes" has been made only thrice . An important word to describe the conflict is ‘occupation’. Now, leaving aside the name ‘occupied territories’, there has been scant reference to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. In no report was the meaning or the implications occupation made clear. Again, this sanitizing of language is troubling.

7. Adopting Israeli-centric language

AI uncritically uses Israeli terms to describe the conflict. The Israeli army likes to refer to itself as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)–so does AI; a more neutral name like the "Israeli army" would be more appropriate. It is curious that AI refers to some occupation forces’ actions by their operation name, e.g., "Defensive Wall". Names of military operations are part of the PR campaign; AI’s adoption of such terms serves Israeli propaganda. It is also disconcerting to find that AI accepts the rationale given by the IOF for its campaigns–invariably it is ‘retaliation’ or ‘response’. For example, the very first page of its extensive report, Broken Lives, uses the Israeli ‘response’ justification for its violence. In general, AI uses terms coined by the occupation forces, e.g., "administrative detention" which conveys the impression of a legal process; in reality it refers to arbitrary imprisonment without charges, trial, appeal, often without legal representation, for undefined terms, and frequently at the notorious Ansar concentration camp.

Without exception, AI uses quotation marks around the word ‘collaborators.’ The IOF regularly uses collaborators to inform on other Palestinians–it is evident in most towns, and the men who were severely beaten because they refused attest to its pervasiveness. Do the quotation marks refer to the alleged accusation, or to AI’s unwillingness to accept collaboration with the IOF as a crime? The use of "alleged" instead of the quotation marks would make its meaning clear.

In contrast, AI refers to the persons killed in Israeli extra judicial assassinations as wanted men, or as men validly accused for violent acts. AI is taking the Israeli statements about these men at face value–no quotes needed around ‘wanted’ or ‘accused’. A different standard is applied to either justification for assassination.
AI uses the term ‘deportation’ for the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories. Deportation implies a legal procedure that Israelis would have a right to implement . However, given the fact that the victims of this procedure are Palestinian natives this should be termed an expulsion, but preferably an exile. Sending a resident of the West Bank to Gaza should perhaps be termed imprisonment–given that Gaza resembles today a giant prison. The term deportation also hides the arbitrary nature of the action, e.g., expelling family members of an alleged attacker, and the collective punishment of the act accompanied by demolishing their houses.

8. The harmful

David Holley, an AI military adviser, uttered statements diminishing the events in Jenin . Given that the statements were made before a UN fact-finding team was instituted, such statements were detrimental in the attempt to establish the UN investigation — an investigation that ultimately never occurred. Because of that, we may never know what happened at Jenin. Given that no detailed investigation ever took place, his statements were sheer speculation. His statements helped whitewash whatever occurred on the ground. Finally, Mr. Holley concurred with an Israeli demand to include military experts, erstwhile seen as a ploy to mollify the investigation team, further delay, and undermine the UN team. AI has not sought to clarify Mr. Holley’s remarks. AI should also explain why it empme. On the face of it, this sey justifications for destruction or killings should not play a role in human rights abuse investigations.

9. The Absurd

AI has called on several Israeli governments to set up tribunals to prosecute and punish Israeli perpetrators of crimes against Palestinians. AI is requesting a government, led by someone who essentially is a war criminal, to prosecute Israeli soldiers. One can only imagine Sharon’s hoots of laughter upon hearing this recommendation. Had AI called its colleagues at B’tselem in Jerusalem it would have found that the Israeli soldiers act with impunity against Palestinians. The few cases investigated for abuses were dismissed or have been shelved forever. Should anyone be actually convicted one can only expect suspended sentences or minor sentences in open prisons.

10. The questions

AI has admitted in a press release that its officers " have had meetings with Israeli officials or members of Israeli diplomatic missions in many countries." It would be nice to know who instigated those meetings. If it is the Israeli side, then their interests must be no doubt to change the language in the reports or to engage in damage control. If AI was the instigator of the meetings, then one would like to know what was the result of these meetings. A singular lack of improvement in Israeli observance of human rights should have dictated cessation of its dealings with such "embassy" officials long ago. Furthermore, one can understand meetings with Israeli officials in London, AI’s headquarters, or in Israel proper, but they occurred "in many countries"–why? Second, AI insists that those involved in report writing not be connected to the area to sustain impartiality and objectivity. In the case of Israel/Palestine AI enforces an exclusion of Palestinian and Israeli rapporteurs. However, it doesn’t implement exclusion based on ethnic-origin. In the name of objectivity, there is a case to be made to exclude Jewish and Muslim rapporteurs.
Finally, the AI university campus chapters in the US have become suspect. That is, many of the students attend meetings mostly to deal with questions pertaining Israel. If so, it behooves AI to enforce ethical conduct rules in these chapters.

11. The semi-useful

AI is primarily effective by using moral suasion with the governments involved in human rights abuses, and it exerts pressure by directing letter-writing campaigns–or its modern online equivalent. Its reports used to shame and embarrass the odd dictator. Today’s petition drives take the human rights activist to website where one can pick from a menu of victims. Some description of the condition of the hapless victim is given, and one can then press a button to register one’s concern.

Presto! Liberals will feel much better, their guilty conscience assuaged. No matter what AI does with the petition lists, this amounts to a means to dissipate anger and not to redirect it into productive action. Could AI please describe the reception of the petition list by Israeli embassy staff? AI repeatedly calls for the introduction of ‘unarmed’ observers. The experience of the unarmed Norwegian observers in Hebron proves that this measure is grossly inadequate. Settler violence and threats forced the evacuation of the observers, and they weren’t able to provide any protection to the Palestinian population. AI’s call for human rights observers assumes that it is helping two parties desiring a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, given the history of human rights violations by the Israelis, any further calls for the introduction of unarmed observers is at best disingenuous. Furthermore, AI’s stance on this issue ignores the repeated calls by Palestinians for armed protection. It is essential that armed military enforcers be brought in to protect the Palestinians, as only this measure will likely create conditions to resume meaningful negotiations.

If AI is serious about motivating human rights campaigners around the world, then a deeper understanding is needed of why there are conflicts. At present, its reports are seriously flawed, and of limited use to educate human rights activists. An informed activist with a firm grasp of the issues will be more effective than one who is only expected to press a few buttons on the website.

12. Sharon

Ariel Sharon has blood on his hands — dating back many decades. Thousands of people have been his victims and vast swathes of cities have been demolished by him. The Sabra and Shatila massacre is among the bloody chapters, one for which even an Israeli commission attributed blame.

Up to now, AI has only piggybacked on the attempts to indict Sharon in Brussels–an action instigated by others. And that case deals only with the Sabra & Shatila massacre.
Given what is happening now in the Occupied Territories, e.g., Jenin, the repeated bombing "successes", gross violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, etc., it would seem that calling unambiguously for a war crimes tribunal would be a constructive step. One thing is certain: Sharon, Peres, Elieser are afraid of war crimes indictments. A credible threat thereof would stop them from further escalation. What stops AI from issuing a call for a war crimes tribunal now?

13. Israeli propaganda compliant

The website of The National Interest, a pro-Israeli rightwing foreign affairs journal , reveals in the "Other Links Page" a list of the usual rightwing organizations, e.g., Heritage Foundation, CATO, Milken Institute and among them is AI . It strikes one that AI is amongst odd company. Perhaps it is a case that AI’s reports are so sanitized and without any critical edge that they don’t offend such dubious journals. Israel and its propagandists may not like it when AI accuses it of war crimes, but in general, they will be pleased with the lame nature of Amnesty’s stance and its reports. Here is why:
(1) It diminishes the nature and extent of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, partly whitewashing Israeli actions.
(2) It equates the nature of violence of the oppressor and oppressed. AI refuses to hold Israel up to a different standard. Although it accuses Israel of war crimes, it also levels the same accusation against Palestinians.
(3) AI remarkably accepts Israeli justifications for its violence, e.g., ‘response,’ but accepts no justification for Palestinian violence.
(4) AI doesn’t issue strong condemnations against Israeli actions. There have only been three clear war crime accusations, and all the other accusations are lame breaches of policing standards, etc.
(5) AI doesn’t call for any measures that would curtail Israeli actions. Calling for unarmed observers is a woefully inadequate measure given the need to protect the population.
AI’s approach will please the Israeli government and its supporters. AI’s current stance not only doesn’t offend pro-Israeli organizations, it doesn’t call for effective action putting it on a collision course.

Human rights organizations have taken on a responsibility to stand up against the injustices perpetrated by state power. In the case of Amnesty International, its public record indicates that its stance is ineffective and dubious when it comes to defending Palestinian human rights. It is not a question of desiring more, but demanding the very minimum.

PAUL de ROOIJ is an economist living in London, and is an ex-supporter of Amnesty. He would like to thank Donatella Rovera, AI’s researcher on Israel/Palestine, for the long discussion held with her–unfortunately, many questions remain. He would like to thank the 20+ academics, human rights professionals, and lawyers who reviewed this article. It is odd to put one name as an author to a document towards which so many people contributed.