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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why is Amnesty hosting a Hamas apologist? (Michael Weiss)

An op-ed in The Telegraph by Michael Weiss of Just Journalism:
When Amnesty International sacked the brilliant feminist Gita Sahgal for pointing out the obvious human rights bloomer in her organisation’s partnership with Moazzem Begg – a man who, the Telegraph reveals today, was once claimed by the US authorities to be “a confirmed member of al-Qaeda” – the official Amnesty explanation was that Begg was a swell guy. The unofficial rationale, I suspect, was that, as a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, he hated the Bush administration even more than Amnesty did.
But now Amnesty has taken the next step in its easy-breezy attitude towards religious fundamentalism. The celebrated NGO has cosied up to a Hamas-friendly magazine based in London known as Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO). On May 23, Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre will co-host what promises to be a ripping debate on “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?” The other co-hosts are MEMO and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
In case you aren’t familiar with the vagaries of British Islamism, let me provide a short course.
MEMO is run by one Dr Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain and a signatory of the Istanbul Declaration. This gothic document states that it is the obligation of the “Islamic Nation” to “carry on jihad and Resistance” against Israel and to fight “by all means and ways” any “foreign warship” attempting to block arms smuggling to Hamas, which, last time I checked, was still a terrorist organisation according to EU and UK law.
Though it’s true that “all means and ways” could refer to a strongly worded Facebook campaign, try running those semantics by the Royal Navy, which blocks arms smuggling to Hamas.
MEMO has published some sterling contributions to the discourse of social justice in the Middle East. Take Khalid Amayreh, who in a MEMO essay entitled “Netanyahu’s Lebensraum” described all Israelis as “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breath oxygen”, an accusation which at the very least is unfair to the Sephardim.
Just last week, the MEMO website presented Sheikh Raed Salah’scontemplation on “The ‘Jewish state’ and us”. By “us”, Salah means a very select group, since his cod-history of Zionism argues that “Israel has never negotiated with the Palestinians”.  (MEMO thinks the Palestinian Authority, as led by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, is illegitimate because of its negotiations with Israel.)
More interesting than Salah’s history is his CV. He’s the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel and an ex-con who did two years in the clink in Israel for raising money for Hamas. Salah thinks Jerusalem is the designated capital of the new Islamic caliphate and in 2007 he was charged with incitement to violence and racism for suggesting that Jews use the blood of gentile children to bake bread.
So who is coming to this wondrous festival on media tendentiousness? A cohort including former Guardian associate foreign editor Victoria Brittain and former BBC Middle East Correspondent Tim Llewellyn.
Here’s Llewellyn on the subject of veteran White House Arab-Israeli peace negotiator Denis Ross: “What a lovely Anglo-Saxon name! But Denis Ross is not just a Jew, he is a Zionist, a long-time Zionist… and now directs an Israeli-funded think tank in Washington. He is a Zionist propagandist.”
Can this really be the natural constituency of Amnesty International? Why not ring them up and ask: +44 (0) 20 7033 1500.
Amnesty would no doubt argue that the Human Rights Action Center is public space available for rent.

However, they state that "The rooms are open to the public and are available for hire by organisations working in the field of human rights and social justice."

Exactly how does the extremist MEMO, which is explicitly dedicated to disseminating pro-Islamic, pro-Palestinian Arab propaganda, get defined as such an organization?

I would love to see Hadassah or a similar Zionist organization try to book space at the HRAC, say for a conference on medical care for Ethiopian Jews in Israel, just to see what Amnesty would do.