Israel blasts Amnesty UK for ‘antisemitic’ report accusing it of apartheid

FM Lapid calls document set for release on Tuesday ‘delusional,’ says it ‘echoes the lies of terrorist organizations’; pro-Israel group says it is ‘tantamount to a blood libel’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Rights group Amnesty stages a demonstration outside the UK headquarters of US travel company TripAdvisor in London on January 30, 2019. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)
Rights group Amnesty stages a demonstration outside the UK headquarters of US travel company TripAdvisor in London on January 30, 2019. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

A day before Amnesty International UK was set to release a report accusing Israel of apartheid, Israel called it “false, biased, and antisemitic” and accused the organization of endangering the safety of Jews around the world.

“Amnesty’s report effectively serves as a green light… to harm not only Israel, but Jews around the world,” read a statement Monday from the Foreign Ministry spokesman’s office.

The ministry called on Amnesty UK not to release the report.

The statement said that the organization “uses double standards and demonization in order to delegitimize Israel. These are the exact components from which modern antisemitism is made.

“Its extremist language and distortion of historical context were designed to demonize Israel and pour fuel onto the fire of antisemitism,” it said.

The ministry said that Amnesty UK was “notorious for being corrupted by racism and xenophobia, and the organization’s secretary-general has previously accused Israel – with no basis or evidence – of murdering Arafat. It is not surprising that it took Amnesty eight years to back down from this serious and baseless accusation.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that the rights group was no longer “a respected organization,”

“Today, it is precisely the opposite,” Lapid said in a video statement. “It isn’t a human rights organization, but just another radical organization which echoes propaganda without seriously checking the facts. Instead of seeking the truth, Amnesty echoes the same lies shared by terrorist organizations.”

He said the report’s claims are “delusional and disconnected from reality.”

“Israel isn’t perfect, but we are a democracy committed to international law, open to criticism, with a free press and a strong and independent judicial system,” he said. “Amnesty doesn’t call Syria — where the regime has murdered over half a million of its own citizens — an apartheid state. Nor Iran, or other murderous regimes around the world. Only Israel.”

Palestinian men walk by Israel’s security barrier separating Abu Dis (background) and East Jerusalem (foreground), on February 16, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Lapid said there was “simply no other explanation” for the organization’s inconsistency other than the fact that Israel is a Jewish state — apparently arguing the bias was of an antisemitic nature.

The Amnesty report, titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity,” is slated for release at 11 a.m. Tuesday local time, at a press conference at St. George’s Hotel in Jerusalem.

Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard will present the report, which “documents how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a discriminatory system which amounts to a crime against humanity under international law.”

Israel “absolutely rejects all the false allegations that appear in the report that Amnesty is expected to publish tomorrow,” said the Foreign Ministry.

“The report consolidates and recycles lies, inconsistencies, and unfounded assertions that originate from well-known anti-Israeli hate organizations, all with the aim of reselling damaged goods in new packaging. Repeating the same lies of hate organizations over and over does not make the lies reality, but rather makes Amnesty illegitimate.”

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, speaks to reporters at the UN human rights office in Geneva, after releasing her report into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, June 19, 2019. (Jamey Keaten/AP)

Other Jewish and Israeli organizations also blasted the coming report.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder called it a “one-sided and blatantly politicized report which totally ignores both Palestinian acts of terrorism and Israel’s obligation to defend its citizens against such terrorism.”

The International Legal Forum, a pro-Israel group, said the report is “tantamount to a ‘blood libel’ against the Jewish state and deserves to be placed in the dustbin of antisemitic history.”

“A lie told a thousand times is still a lie,” the ILF statement continued. “Perhaps Amnesty International, which has been beleaguered by charges of institutionalized racism, would be better served getting its own house in order first, before lecturing Israel.”

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder speaks at the Rumbach Synagogue reopening in Budapest, Hungary, June 10, 2021. (Photo by Akos Szentgyorgyi)

Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said that Amnesty International has for 20 years “been a leader in NGO campaigns to demonize Israel, based on twisting and exploiting the evils of the South African apartheid regime in order to promote hatred.”

“This campaign is also a betrayal of everything that Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty, stood for,” he charged.

Earlier this month, Lapid warned that Israel will face intense pressure in 2022 over accusations that it is an “apartheid state.”

“We think that in the coming year, there will be debate that is unprecedented in its venom, or in its radioactivity, around the words, ‘Israel as an apartheid state,’” he said.

Lapid pointed to Palestinian campaigns against Israel in the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in the Hague; the UN Human Rights Council’s permanent “Commission of Inquiry” — the most potent tool at the council’s disposal — into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021; and the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Amnesty’s declaration of Israel as an apartheid state will join that of Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which began doing so last year, to intense condemnation by Israeli leaders.

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