Amnesty International (AI) represents itself as a human rights watchdog
organization that likes to style itself "the world's largest private human
rights organization." Up to a point, it is. It has done
valuable work in many countries on behalf of human rights and has shown light
upon abuses of those rights in many a dark corner of the world.
But Amnesty International has never restricted itself to protection of civil
rights. It has long been a highly politicized organization that has
ties with and identifies with the political agenda of the left. In
particular, it has vehement anti-American and anti-Israel political biases.
This leftist orientation has resulted in AI acting less and less as a human
rights watchdog, and more and more as an anti-American and anti-Israel pit
AI earned a Nobel Prize for its campaigns on behalf of human rights in 1977.
To AI’s credit it has taken some politically incorrect positions.
It has denounced Iranian persecution of Jews and has issued reports about
the dismal state of human rights in Arab countries. It has spoken
out against anti-Jewish attacks in a variety of countries. It has repeatedly
criticized human rights abuse by the PLO directed against Arabs, including
attacking the PLO’s infringement of the rights of free speech and free
press, and has denounced PLO executions of “collaborators” and Palestinian
“prisoners of conscience." AI earned the badge of honor of being
publicly attacked by the spokesman for the PLO, Saeb Erekat, because Amnesty
criticized the Palestinian Authority's claim that it cannot prevent attacks
because its security forces have been severely damaged by repeated Israeli
air strikes and demolitions. AI responded to this nonsense by saying, "This
does not diminish its obligation to take concrete measures to prevent attacks,
to conduct thorough and impartial investigations and to bring those responsible
to justice." Last year for the first time Amnesty denounced Palestinian
atrocities committed against Jews as "crimes against humanity under international
law." It was better late than never.
Unfortunately, while recently discovering that Palestinian terrorism constitutes
the abuse of human rights of its victims, Amnesty has remained reticent about
the fact that it is the PLO itself and not simply the Hamas, Jihad and similar
Islamist groups, that are responsible for terrorist atrocities. In
recent years the bulk of Palestinian terror, including many suicide bombings,
were perpetrated by members of the Fat’h, Al-Aqsa ‘Martyrs,’ and the Tanzim,
all PLO factions under the direct personal command and control of Arafat
himself. Amnesty pretends that some amorphous unnamed organizations
are conducting Palestinian terror, not the PLO. While AI is willing
to denounce PLO violations of the rights of Arabs, it is all but silent about
PLO terrorism and atrocities committed against Jews. While acknowledging
that Palestinian terrorists (but not the PLO) have targeted Israeli children,
Amnesty maintains “balance” by insisting that Israel also intentionally targets
children, a bit like arguing in the same breath that Nazi German and the
Allies in 1944 both killed people. AI has never quite come out with a clear
defense of the right of Israel to protect the human right of its children
not to be blown to bits by the PLO.
While Amnesty International has done excellent work in some areas, its political
biases are often visible. Its credibility has been severely damaged
because of its inability to separate out its leftist political advocacy from
its determination to protect human rights.
Among the many problems of Amnesty International are:
 AI suffers from an acute case of the Moynihan Syndrome. According
to Moynihan’s law, the amount of violations of human rights in a country
is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human
rights violations heard from there. The greater the number of complaints
being aired, the better protected are human rights in that country.
The reason is obvious. Those countries in which human rights are the
most severely violated are also those where no freedom of speech nor press
is permitted. This explains the AI reticence and almost total absence
of denunciation of human rights abuses in places like North Korea and Cambodia.
It also explains why AI apparently had no knowledge of the killing fields
in southern Iraq until US and British troops uncovered them in the recent
 AI makes no distinction between the fighting of wars and the civil procedures
of judicial due process. If AI were setting the rules, the Allied
troops in World War II would never shoot a German nor a Japanese soldier
before first Mirandizing them and making sure they had the right to appeal
their being shot in a duly constituted courtroom with public defenders present.
This inability to understand that war is not a law school mock trial nor
a schoolyard game is evident in the jihad by AI against countries defending
themselves against terrorism. AI has repeated condemned both the US
and Israel for violating the “rights” of terrorists, and for use of force
against terrorism in which innocent bystanders get hurt. AI has generally
NOT condemned terrorists for causing these innocent bystanders getting hurt
by hiding amongst them and for opening fire from behind human shields.
 AI has an academic notion of ethical pureness, which it insists must
be applied in the dirty business of war and in the battle against terror.
While paying mere lip service to why terror is not nice, AI refuses to draw
the obvious conclusion that those battling against terror must use means
that sometimes have unpleasant side affects. If those fighting terror
never use violence, terror wins. If those fighting terror must
never use impure methods that may cause collateral damages, this is the same
as saying they give up any struggle against terrorism altogether.
AI refuses to countenance any tradeoffs at all in the war against terror.
If Western countries must choose between suffering endless mass atrocities
committed by terrorists or battling terrorism using means that produce some
civilian casualties, AI clearly prefers the former choice.
AI has gone so far as to denounce Israel for passing a law that denies Palestinians
injured while attacking Israeli troops and civilians the right to sue Israel
for compensation in Israeli courts (AI statement from 27 July 1997).
 AI routinely goes beyond issuing complaints about violations of human
rights to open endorsements of the political aims of anti-American, anti-Israel,
Far Left and Third World totalitarian political organizations.
In the name of “protecting human rights,” AI regularly and repeatedly endorses
the political goals of the PLO, including its “right” to its own state, and
has condemned Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Since when is taking one side in a territorial dispute a form of defending
human rights? Would AI have supported Hitler’s demands that the
Polish, Czechoslovakian and French “occupations” of what he regarded as “German
lands” - all in the name of human rights? AI has also discovered that
Palestinians have a “right,” not only to their own state in the West Bank
and Gaza but also to migrate to and reclaim any property inside Israel they
may wish to claim. Of the countless hundreds of millions of people
who became refugees after World War II, the only ones with such an AI-recognized
“right” are the Palestinians.
AI has never had anything to say about the rights of Jews who were evicted from Moslem countries to reclaim their property, and their
property was worth perhaps a hundred times more than anything left behind
by any emigrating “Palestinians”. It is only a question of time before
AI discovers that Tories evicted from the US by patriots in the 1770s also
have the right of return.
 AI’s own website links to a large number of pro-terrorist, anti-Jewish,
pro-violence, extremist organizations. The Anti-Defamation League
has repeatedly denounced AI
for its anti-Jewish bias, although it has praised AI efforts on behalf of
the imprisoned Iranian Jews who were “convicted” in an Iranian show trial.
AI has participated in anti-Israel political rallies and collaborated with
Arab and other anti-Jewish propagandists.
A letter from Amnesty International USA signed by its Executive Director,
William Schultz, explains Amnesty’s official sponsorship of a Palestinian
Right of Return rally: In it he says this “right”... is based
on the fact that our mandate opposes forcible exile. ... The right of refugees
to return is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article
13(2) which states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his country.” Amnesty staffer Marty Rosenbluth,
who has repeatedly signed extremist ads declaring that “the Zionist structure
of the state of Israel is at the heart of the racism and oppression against
the Palestinian people and should be dismantled,” was the Amnesty International
speaker at the rally.
Quite clearly such a “right to return” to their homeland does not evidently
apply to any Jews. AI has sponsored events in which the PLO’s
official spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, spoke, leaving little doubt about AI’s
political position regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. AI has
participated in many other Bash-Israel rallies and events.
 Yitzhak Rabin himself denounced AI for its anti-Israel bias. AI
repeated refers to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and murderers as "prisoners
of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience." When
Rabin released hundreds of these prisoners after the OSLO signing, he got
no pat on his back from AI, and when 25 of these released “prisoners of conscience”
were later arrested for participating in terrorist atrocities, AI never said
“Ooops.” AI regular denounces Israel for practicing “torture,”
evidently on the basis of assertions by Israel’s own Far Left anti-Israel
leftists (including the head of Israel’s own AI offices) and the PLO.
In reality, torture is prohibited both by Israeli law and in practice. Every
complaint regarding interrogation practices is thoroughly investigated at
the Israel Ministry of Justice.
Amnesty International’s website is crawling with Israel-bashing materials,
containing the telling heading: "Israel-Occupied Territories - Stop Destroying
Lives." AI has been sharply criticized by the “NGO Monitor” for this
sort of politicized bias and for selective reporting and outright lying.
Other forms of anti-Israel bias fill AI reports. In his recent publication, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem,
Justus Weiner documents how Amnesty chose to employ one Anthony Coon as their
expert on town planning to review Israeli actions in Jerusalem; Coon
had demonstrated a long-term commitment to defending illegal Palestinian
construction and had previously worked for two years as an employee of the
PLO front group Al-Haq. Weiner provides evidence of another instance of a
former Al-Haq employee writings its reports on the Middle East.
The Jerusalem Post discovered that AI reports had been retroactively
altered in order to make Israel look bad. Jewish newspapers have often
denounced the anti-Jewish bias of AI. AI also has a long history
of promoting moral equivalence between acts of violence by terrorists and
acts of violence by those defending themselves against terrorist atrocities.
In a typical case of AI neutrality and objectivity, the Economist
cites Amnesty International’s allegations in its June 29, 2002 issue that
PLO leader Marwan Barghouti (whom it describes as "an inspiring resistance
leader") is "being tortured" in an Israeli jail. What The Economist
and AI did not say is that the Amnesty claim was in turn based on one unverified
allegation from the PLO’s Palestine Media Center. Nor did they
mention that Barghouti was arrested by Israel in connection to his involvement
in the January 17 terror attack in Hadera that killed six, the January 22
attack in downtown Jerusalem that killed two, and the March 4 attack at the
Tel Aviv Seafood Market restaurant that killed three.
 AI has taken positions that are absurd, comical, and ludicrous regarding
what constitutes a “human right.” Not only is recognition of
gay marriage a human right. Not only are al-Qaida terrorists held by
the US in Guantanamo entitled to AAA treatment becoming prisoners of war
or ordinary incarcerated criminals in American suburbia.
AI recently discovered a NEW human right, the right not to have to listen
to the music of the Barney and Sesame Street TV shows. Newsweek reported
recently that AI had issued an official protest that the al-Qaida and Taliba
prisoners in Guantanamo were being forced to listen to background music from
the purple reptile. Bert and Ernie are apparently sadistic violators
of human rights far worse than Saddam Hussein ever was, in AI opinion.
Only slightly less wacky is the AI defense of the “right” to disobey the
law and to refuse to serve one’s country by far Leftists. It considers
the forced transfer of people involved in terrorism from one town to another
town in the “occupied territories” to be a human rights abuse (AI Index:
MDE 15/133/2002 (Public) News Service No: 154 3 September 2002), and I suspect
a teacher transferring a rowdy pupil from one row to the next might also
be at risk of arousing AI ire.
 AI has long shown a vile anti-American bias. Heather MacDonald recently did an expose of AI anti-Americanism.
AI has conducted a jihad against America’s attempt to defend itself from
Islamofascist terrorism. It refuses to acknowledge that such terrorism
even exists. It routinely refers to September 11 and other atrocities
as “terrorism,” WITH the quotation marks, and as the “so-called war against
terrorism." Throughout its report of the anti-terror campaign, Amnesty puts
“terrorist” in quotes to signal the organization’s ironic detachment from
the term. As MacDonald has said, “If you can’t bring yourself to use
the word ‘terrorist’ non-ironically, there is indeed much about recent government
actions that will look arbitrary or discriminatory.” AI insists that
the American anti-terror campaign has a hidden, nefarious, racist anti-Arab
AI denounced the US using its immigration laws against suspected terrorists
including those who are non-citizens and illegal residents in the country.
MacDonald writes: “The Amnesty report tries through innuendo and obfuscation
to make the 9/11 detentions seem scary and illegal; the fact is, however,
that the INS has the authority to detain an illegal alien deemed a flight
risk or a threat to public safety pending deportation. The detainees have
been able to challenge their imprisonment through habeas corpus petitions,
thus availing themselves of the most fundamental due process right: judicial
Pierre Sane, the Secretary General of Amnesty International said that the
USA was far from observing the rights for all people, although America calls
itself the defender of human rights.
“The violation of human rights in the USA is of stable character, the representatives
of the ethnic minorities are the victims of those violations,” AI’s Pierre
Sanehas has declared. He added that the “bad attitude” and the
“brutality” of the police could be found all over the country.
Homeless people who ask for a shelter go to jail as a rule, he insists.
The death penalty is in effect, “even used against disabled and underage
AI has repeatedly endorsed the attempt by Belgium and similar busybodies
to indict American and Israeli leaders for “human rights violations” for
such things as their campaigns against terrorism. AI has been
dramatically indifferent to violations of the rights of Jews by Palestinians.
AI has always regarded the PLO itself as a reliable source about “abuses”
committed by Israel. Addressing the media in Jerusalem in November
1989, Amnesty International spokesman Richard Reoch acknowledged that his
organization regarded the PLO, which works with the PHRIC, as an objective
information source. "Since the PLO is not a government body," he said, "we
feel comfortable with Amnesty using them as a source."
Israel has repeatedly denounced AI’s bias. Consider this citation from one such denunciation:
“The Palestinian terrorists are solely and unequivocally responsible for
the injuries caused to Palestinian children. Since the beginning of the conflict
two years ago, the Palestinian terrorist factions have cynically exploited
children in terrorist activity, in violation of international law. Children
are groomed and dispatched to carry out suicide attacks in the centers of
the Israeli civilian population; positioned at the front lines of demonstrations
to hide snipers behind them; and used to plant explosives and deliver weapons.
Moreover, the terrorist factions have transformed Palestinian civilian population
centers into terrorist activity headquarters.... Whoever uses children to
perpetrate terror attacks, anyone who uses houses were children reside to
coordinate and perpetrate attacks is responsible for injuring these children.
“Authors of the Amnesty report compare IDF operations in which Palestinian
children were killed to Palestinian terror attacks in which Israeli children
were killed. This comparison is unjustified and baseless. Palestinian terror
attacks, especially suicide bombings, are designated to cause the death of
Israeli civilians, including children: this is ruthless, unprecedented, inhuman
terror. On the other hand, IDF activity is conducted in accordance with the
laws of war and is not aimed at injuring civilians. Injuries are occasionally
sustained only because the Palestinian terrorists act from within centers
of Palestinian civilian population. Hence, any comparison between the two
is groundless, and indicates a fundamental lack of balance among authors
of the report.”
In other matters, AI gave credence to the now-thoroughly-debunked claims
that a “massacre” of Palestinians had taken place in Jenin when Israeli troops
entered the city following a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings of Israeli
civilians. AI intentionally lied about
the attacks on Israelis that led to the Israeli retaliations.
John Podhoretz has outted the AI bias in its “reporting” about that battle
in the New York Post, 4/24/02. He pointed out that Amnesty International
also accused the Israelis of unnecessary damage to property even though a
glance at an aerial picture shows
that majority of property in the Jenin camp was untouched. Since they
have a preconceived belief that Israelis would do unnecessary damage, evidence
to the contrary is ignored.
Even leftists have denounced AI’s distortions of what took place in Jenin.
While never quite denouncing the suicide bombers themselves in terms that
ring true, AI denounces Israel’s conduct of the reprisal raids against the
terrorists. The Boston Globe’s Charles Radin, Jerusalem bureau
chief, and Globe reporter Dan Ephron outted AI in their April 29, 2002 article
entitled "Claims of massacre go unsupported by Palestinian fighters," where
they show that that Amnesty International’s charges against Israel were contradicted
by Palestinian witnesses themselves. The group had falsely said that "Israel
failed to provide safe passage from the camp to noncombatants." Over and
over AI has accepted at face value and repeated unsubstantiated accusations
by Arabs against Israel for alleged mistreatment.
Amnesty’s anti-Israel bias is followed closely by its Number Two bias, its
dislike of America and Western countries. The Weekly Standard
has repeatedly reported about AI’s anti-American bias. Amnesty repeated
claimed the US was perpetrating “war crimes” and human rights atrocities
in its invasion of Iraq. Among these was the bombing of an Iraqi
TV station, which constituted a war crime according to Claudio Cordone, a
senior director for international law at Amnesty International, who insisted,
"The bombing of a television station simply because it is being used for
purposes of propaganda is unacceptable." On FrontPage Magazine,
Christopher Archangelli documented Amnesty’s sorry history of anti-Americanism,
while nearly turning a blind eye to atrocities by Saddam’s regime.
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg in an article entitled Hypocrophobia,
quotes Irene Khan, the head of Amnesty, as denouncing Western reports documenting
human rights abuses by Saddam’s Iraq because they might be used to justify
an Allied invasion of Iraq,
Heather MacDonald sums things up thus: “Such highly politicized and
error-filled criticism of American anti-terrorism efforts devalues the currency
of human rights advocacy. Though Amnesty International has done vital work
on behalf of prisoners of conscience, it undermines its own credibility when
it claims that allowing 9/11 detainees to exercise only in the early morning
is a human rights violation. While in the terrible aftermath of 9/11 individual
law enforcement officers may have committed some procedural irregularities,
Amnesty and its fellow advocates fail to demonstrate any constitutional or
international law violations. In their condemnation of the government for
taking lawful actions to protect its citizens from catastrophic attack, these
civil rights defenders appear to have lost all touch with reality.”
Steven Plaut teaches at the University of Haifa.
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