Amnesty International Once Defended Soviet Dissidents. Now It’s Reviving Soviet Talking Points about Israel

February 4, 2022 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

When it was founded in 1961, notes Elliott Abrams, Amnesty International sought to call attention to the plight of people living under tyrannical regimes—like the Soviet Union—lying “in foul prison cells for the ‘crime’ of peacefully protesting oppression.” But its most recent report, accusing the Jewish state of “apartheid” and a “crime against humanity,” reads much like the anti-Zionists screeds that used to appear in the Soviet mouthpiece Pravda. In an interview, the two Amnesty officials responsible for the report show their inability to define the terms of their claims about Israel, outside their belief that there are certain territories in which Jews ought not to be allowed to live. Abrams comments:

Amnesty, as I wrote in National Review, truly has joined the jackals. Its complaints relate repeatedly to 1948, not 1967 when Israel conquered eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Amnesty’s argument is that the state of Israel is from its founding illegitimate, not that settlements are a bad thing. For those who thought Amnesty was an organization conscientiously working to free political prisoners, this report shows the falsehood of that view. Amnesty now leads fundamental attacks on the very existence of the state of Israel; . . . the term apartheid has never been applied by Amnesty to the condition of Kurds in Turkey or Uighurs in China; only Israel gets this treatment.

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