By Rolene Marks
Amnesty International, used to enjoy a pristine reputation as one of the foremost non-governmental organisations that was at the vanguard of ensuring the rights of the truly oppressed. They raised a proud voice to free icons like Mandela, release prisoners of war and brought human rights to the global consciousness in a noble and erudite manner. They were feted by celebrities who brought social justice to rock concerts, admired by many and set the benchmark for activism.
Lately it would appear that this once venerated organization has become a poor excuse of what it once was and has decidedly lost the plot by disproportionately focusing on the Jewish State.
The latest attempt at trying to de-legitimise the Jewish state is the launching of a campaign that targets major travel websites to boycott listing Jewish-owned homes and businesses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The NGO has released a report called “Destination Occupation” where they claim that Israel has built a significant “settlement tourism industry” which has helped “sustain and expand” communities beyond the 1967 lines.
Amnesty International have online giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor firmly in their sites and accuse them of “fueling human rights violations against Palestinians” in East Jerusalem and the West Bank by promoting Jewish-owned properties and activities there.
It does not stop there.
The report greatly diminishes both Jewish and Christian spiritual connections to historical sites in both areas. Amnesty International accuse Israel of using archaeology “to make the link between the modern State of Israel and its Jewish history explicit,” while “rewriting of history [which] has the effect of minimizing the Palestinian people’s own historic links to the region.” These claims come despite antiquity that supports ancient ties to the land.
Amnesty International would rather have you believe that instead of finding antiquity that is thousands of years old and supports Jewish claims and presence to the land of Israel, it is a ploy to build neighbourhoods in the West Bank. The report goes on to say, “Israel has constructed many of its settlements close to archeological sites…[as] part of an active campaign to normalize and legitimize Israel’s increasing control of [occupied] Palestinian territory.”
With all the other conflicts in the world, including the civil war in Syria that has resulted in genocide, it does beg the question, why is Amnesty International so fixated on Israel?
It could be said that there may be more nefarious intentions. Is Amnesty International giving a tailwind to the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement who by their own admission, advocate for a “Palestine that is free from the river to the sea,” in other words – no Israel? For a “movement” that purports to be human rights driven, this is more like hate-mongering drivel.
This latest Amnesty International report calls for travel websites to boycott only Israeli homes and businesses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is unacceptable and plays into the hands of BDS whose goals are anti-Semitic.
The ban applies a double standard exclusively to Jewish-owned properties there – twice:
First, it calls for travel companies to remove the properties from their services, while it has never promoted similar bans for every other disputed territory in the world – from Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara and Tibet to Kashmir, Crimea and Gibraltar.
Second, it treats listings offered by Jews differently than those from Palestinians – despite being in the same area. This violates Israeli law which states that there can be no discrimination based on location of homes of business according to where you live.
Human Rights Watch, another NGO who spearheaded the campaign to coerce Airbnb to delist properties, found out the hard way that when it comes to discriminating against Israel that there are those who are willing to play hardball. No sooner had the Airbnb ban been announced, four attorneys filed a class action suit against the company in the Jerusalem District Court to protest the US-based company’s decision to drop listings in West Bank settlements from its vacation rental website that hosts adverts from 191 countries. The case is based on a 2000 law against discrimination in products and services, which was amended in 2017 to include places of residence.
“The law in Israel forbids discrimination based on the place where you live, and what Airbnb has done is by all means discrimination based on the place where you live,” said attorney Aviel Flint, a partner in the law firm Yossi Levy & Co.
This could also likely apply to the other targeted companies who may not want to test the boycott waters. NGO Monitor, who monitors the activities of these types of organisations, exposed the flaws and anti-Semitic intentions of Human Rights Watch in this report.
Amnesty International may be on the same trajectory to being exposed for its anti-Semitic intentions by expanding to include other travel juggernauts, TripAdvisor, Bookings.com and Expedia.
Despite its earned reputation as a respected human rights organization, Amnesty International has a documented history of discrimination regarding Israel. Examples include its 2015 rejection of a “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK” – the only proposed resolution at its Annual General Meeting that was not adopted; comments by its current Secretary General that Israel is a “government that is rogue” and the head of its Finland branch that Israel is a “scum state”; and the fact that no other country in a conflict zone is the focus of similar Amnesty-led boycotts.
Boycott Over Bridges
Amnesty International’s call for a boycott against Jewish-owned homes and businesses in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is the antithesis of what the objectives of a human rights organisation should be. The report endorses boycott over bridges, conflict over discourse and instead of promoting peace and economic partnerships between Palestinians and Israelis, Amnesty chooses to scupper any attempts at normalisation.
But Amnesty International may be in for a rude shock. This plan also violates US based anti-boycott laws and this once venerable organization could find itself sanctioned and its funding cut. It would appear that when it comes to human rights and being a voice for the oppressed and persecuted, Amnesty International has chosen to take the path of conflict and discrimination.
Clearly Amnesty International has lost the plot. A sad trajectory for this once noble organization.