Amnesty UK official in hot water over Jewish MPs tweet

Kristyan Benedict tweets joke suggesting three Jewish MPs support bombardment of Gaza; Amnesty UK launches ‘confidential’ disciplinary process; official’s private Twitter feed includes strong anti-Israel views

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Kristyan Benedict speaking to the BBC earlier this year. (Screenshot via YouTube)
Kristyan Benedict speaking to the BBC earlier this year. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Amnesty UK campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict is in hot water Wednesday after a tweet suggesting Jewish MPs support the bombing of Gaza.

On Tuesday, during a parliamentary discussion on violence in Syria and in Gaza, Benedict tweeted, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar… each orders a round of B52s… #Gaza.”

The tweet drew criticism on the microblogging site Twitter, leading Benedict to post a second tweet: “I thought this was light hearted … some didn’t – so apols [apologies] to those who booed.”

Critics wondered why he chose three MPs who were Jewish, when many MPs expressed support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas on Tuesday.

“They all just happen to be Jewish? Not a single non-Jewish MP holds these views you dislike?” asked blogger Yitzhak Santis.

In a tweet responding to critics Tuesday, he suggested supporters of Israel’s actions were “justifying the killing of civilians.” He tweeted: “Those justifying the killing of civilians need to spare me the sanctimony – you know who you are #Gaza #Israel (and #Syria for that matter).”

Benedict did not immediately return a request for comment from The Times of Israel, but insisted in online arguments with his critics that the Jewishness of the MPs he named “is coincidental.” His criticism stemmed from their “views,” not their “religion.”

He may rue his flippant attempt at humor after earlier Tuesday noting in a conversation with an Israeli journalist that “the atmosphere is tense” on the issue of Gaza.

On Wednesday, Amnesty UK reportedly launched a disciplinary process, telling one Twitter critic that “the matter has been referred to our internal and confidential processes.”

Both Benedict and Amnesty UK noted his Twitter account was a personal one.

Amnesty’s campaigns director Tim Hancock told the London-based Jewish Chronicle, “We do not believe that humor is appropriate in the current circumstances, particularly from our own members of staff.

“Amnesty International UK, like the rest of the Amnesty movement, is concerned about the loss of life in Israel and Gaza and the potential for escalation. We urge restraint and the utmost respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by all concerned,” he added.

It was unclear what steps the disciplinary process might take, but the offending tweet was deleted from Benedict’s account on Wednesday.

Benedict’s Twitter feed is a litany of criticism of Israel that reflects what many, including the UK’s Zionist Federation, have called his one-sided view of the conflict.

On Tuesday, he quoted a Haaretz article criticizing Interior Minister Eli Yishai for “incitement to war crimes” for his call to damage Gaza’s infrastructure, but did not appear to post any comments since the latest round of violence with Hamas began last week about Hamas’s repeated promises to kill Israeli civilians, including calls for a return to suicide bombings.

Also Tuesday, he posted a photo from a February rally in Trafalgar Square commemorating the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak alongside the words “In Solidarity, In Defiance,” and the tag “#Gaza.” Earlier in the day, he retweeted a “smart infographic,” a chart posted to Twitter by anti-Israel activist Ben White, suggesting that Israel’s larger military arsenal implied Hamas was not the aggressor in the conflict.

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