NGO Monitor Analysis (Vol. 2 No. 1) 11 September 2003
Amnesty's Latest Report Grossly Unbalanced
A survey of the major human rights NGOs shows that most failed to react to the three recent devastating suicide bombings in Israel over the past three weeks. The attacks have killed almost forty and injured hundreds, including a large number of children and teenagers. These bombings against civilians have ended the efforts to end three years of violence, as the first step towards resumption of political negotiations through the Middle East "roadmap".
Many major human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and Oxfam - all of which have news sections on their website - failed to take note of any of the three bombing attacks at all, in sharp contrast to their standard practice of issuing press releases and other reports that criticize alleged Israeli human rights violations. The clear silence of these organizations and the absence of any condemnation, is striking. Miftah, an NGO that presents itself a human rights organizations and is headed by Palestinian political leader Hanan Ashrawi, focused exclusively on condemning Israel's response, as if there had been no attack on the Israeli civilian population. On September 10, the day after two suicide bombings, Miftah's website declared that "Israeli assassination operations ensured the rigor of violence" without mentioning the attacks against Israeli civilians.
Amnesty International was one of the only major human rights-focused NGO that did not remain entirely silent. Following the August 19 bus bombing, it issued a short condemnation;
Amnesty International condemns in the strongest terms the suicide bomb attack which killed 20 people, including children, and injured scores of others on a bus in Jerusalem last night.
"Palestinian armed groups must put an immediate end to such crimes and to their policy of deliberately targeting civilians," The repeated and deliberate killings of civilians by members of Palestinian armed groups perpetrated as part of a policy to target civilians constitute crimes against humanity.
However, Amnesty's 205 word statement did not provide any details regarding the sources of this terror attack, the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, and its leader, Yassir Arafat, for fostering, encouraging and tolerating suicide bombings aimed at killing Israeli civilians, or the organizational structure and fund-raising apparatus of the terror groups - Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad - that carried out these acts of murder. There was no press conference, executive summary, or other form of publicity, and the statement itself does not even mention of the incitement process or means by which Palestinians are recruited to become murderers and participate in terror attacks against Israelis. In stark contrast to Amnesty International's reputation for detailed research and active lobbying activities on behalf of groups whose human rights are violated, this report did not reflect the use of any resources to expose the terrorist infrastructure, the incitement process or the role of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli victims are nameless and faceless, and the suffering of the victims, their families, and the impact of this reign of terror on Israeli society receive absolutely no mention.
Furthermore, within a few days of issuing this brief condemnation, Amnesty International returned in full force to its traditional policy of one-sided and highly politicized condemnations of the very Israeli policies that are designed to defend against murderous terror attacks. In a 35,800 word report (almost 200 times the length of the report on the Hamas suicide bombing), with numerous photos to highlight Palestinian victimization, as well as a full-scale press conference and executive summary, Amnesty demonstrated the gross imbalance in its pro-Palestinian political agenda and research focus. The report and accompanying press releases and lobbying campaign accuses Israel of "collective punishment", and ignoring the August 20 bus-bombing in Jerusalem, begins with the absurd claim that "The ceasefire reached in the context of the Roadmap peace initiative has resulted in a marked reduction in violence and killings, and has brought a welcome respite to the Israeli and Palestinian civilian populations." In sharp contrast to the faceless and nameless Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism, in this report, the claims of suffering made by individual Palestinians are provided in great detail, in order to illustrate claims that Israel is responsible for depriving them of "freedom of movement", the "right to work", etc. The brief history of the conflict is illustrative of the ideologically distorted lens through which Amnesty presents all of its reports on Israel and the Palestinians. Instead of reporting the simple and undisputed fact that the Arab states and Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN Partition resolution, and resorted to terror and violence, Amnesty's whitewashed version reads "Protests against partition were followed by war between Arab and Israeli armies." Similarly, in the rest of this report, Amnesty fails to consider the fact that the Israeli policies it simplistically condemns, and the suffering of the Palestinian people which it documents in extensive and one-sided detail, are the direct result of the ultimate human rights violation - the continuing terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
As has been noted in previous NGO Monitor analysis of Amnesty International, this organization has consistently used the cover of human rights to participate and contribute to distorted and ideologically biased condemnations of Israeli policy. While Amnesty's very brief condemnation of the August 20 bus bombing in Jerusalem is far better than the studied silence of the rest of the NGO community, this does not excuse continuing distortions of Israeli security measures. Indeed, this reports provide another example of this gross political bias, and the absence of a professional approach to promoting human rights on a universal basis, including the right of Israelis to the basic right of life and freedom from such attacks.