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Amnesty US director apologizes for purporting to speak on behalf of Jews

Amnesty International USA director Paul O'Brien. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Amnesty International USA director Paul O'Brien. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Amnesty International’s US director Paul O’Brien has penned a letter to all 25 Jewish House Democrats, apologizing for purporting to speak on behalf of Jewish Americans when he said they are more interested in having a “Jewish safe space” rather than a Jewish state.

“I regret representing the views of the Jewish people. What I should have said is that my understanding from having visited Israel often and listened to many Jewish American and Israeli human rights activists is that I share a commitment to human rights and social justice for all with Jewish Americans and Israelis,” writes O’Brien, who was roundly criticized by Jewish groups and lawmakers for the comments earlier this month.

The same group of lawmakers had signed onto a statement calling O’Brien’s remarks “alarming and deeply offensive.”

In an address first reported by Jewish Insider, Paul O’Brien defended Amnesty’s recent report designating Israel as an “apartheid” state. Someone at the event, at the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington DC, asked him about a 2020 Ruderman Family Foundation poll that showed eight in 10 American Jews identify as “pro-Israel.” The poll is commensurate with the findings of multiple polls over the years.

“I believe my gut tells me that what Jewish people in this country want is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home,” he said, a status short of a Jewish state, which O’Brien had said in the same address Amnesty rejected.

“We are opposed to the idea — and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate — that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people,” O’Brien had said earlier in his comments.

In his letter responding to the Jewish Democrats also uncovered by Jewish Insider, O’Brien says “We have been engaging with the government of Israel for decades to uphold its human rights obligations and will continue to do so. In my remarks to the journalist after the event, I was explaining our concerns about Israel’s 2018 Nation State Law, which explicitly denies the right of self-determination to a part of Israel’s citizenry.”

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