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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Amnesty's credibility problem (YNet) plus a new example of AI bias

An op-ed by Gidon Shaviv:
What do you get when you combine a radical activist who volunteers as a human shield for terrorists with a former Palestinian Authority spokesman? The Israel research department for Amnesty International.

“Impartiality” is a core value of Amnesty’s statute. Further, Amnesty’s editorial guidelines state, “Media content produced by Amnesty International should be fair and objective.”

These claims of “impartiality” and “objectivity” are the foundation of Amnesty’s reputation as one of the leading promoters of human rights. In Israel’s case, however, Amnesty ignores its own values and instead allows people with clearly biased agendas to produce its reports. This is apparent in Amnesty’s upcoming report on Israel’s use of administrative detention, to be released on June 6. Amnesty lists two workers with clear conflicts of interests - Deborah Hyams and Saleh Hijazi - as the report’s media contacts.

Hyams joined Amnesty in 2010, after a long record of pro-Palestinian activism. In 2001 she volunteered as a “human shield” in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, to deter Israeli military responses to recurrent gunfire and mortar attacks targeting Jewish civilians in Jerusalem. In a 2002 Washington Jewish Week article, “Hyams said that while she does not condone suicide bombings, she personally believes they ‘are in response to the occupation.’” In another instance she defended the use of violence, stating “occupation is violence… and the consequence of this action must result in violence.” This background precludes any reader of Amnesty’s report from accepting it at face value.

As with the case of Hyams, if Amnesty wants to maintain impartiality, it should disqualify Saleh Hijazi from working on Israeli issues. Hijazi, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, has a clear lack of objectivity in this regard. In 2005, he worked as a Public Relations officer for the Office of the Ministry of Planning in Ramallah and in 2007 he was listed as contact for the NGO “Another Voice” – under the group's signature “Resist! Boycott! We Are Intifada!”

Hijazi has a “special” conflict of interest with regards to administrative detention in particular. On March 9, 2011, while as a researcher for Human Rights Watch, he spoke at a UN conference where he described how his father was supposedly arrested by the Israeli authorities “when the Israeli military could not find an activist neighbor.” How can Hijazi be impartial when he is simultaneously claiming to be a victim of the very same country on which he is reporting?

...When human rights organizations are co-opted by people with a specific political agenda, they are incapable of fulfilling their mandates. Amnesty’s choice to staff its Israel section with clearly biased researchers has made it tragically irrelevant for the championing of human rights in the region as a whole. Those who value human rights should be the most outspoken against the political hijacking of one of the world’s most powerful NGOs.
I've documented Amnesty's anti-Israel bias many times. For starters:

Amnesty UK's duplicity, bias and false accusations against Israel
Sky News bias and Amnesty hypocrisy
Amnesty implies the ICC is a Zionist tool
Amnesty officially calls Turkel report a "whitewash" - with no proof  (More details here.)
Amnesty blames Israel for PalArab abuse of women
Amnesty International: When even-handedness is stupid
Amnesty supports a confessed Hezbollah spy
Amnesty's hateful bedfellows

JCPA just published a paper showing how HRW and Amnesty treat targeted killings (TKs) differently when done by Israel and when done by every other Western state. And once again, the bias of human rights groups against Israel is clear (although HRW's is, as usual, much worse):

In total, the author has identified 14 AI documents denouncing the Israeli TK policy.

AI has released precisely the same number of reports regarding Western TKs. In other words, AI has released the same number of reports criticizing a single country’s policy, as the number it has released concerning the same policy employed by several countries – the U.S. and its allies – in numerous theaters since 9/11 (including Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan). Although the Israeli TK policy and the Western TK policy have been implemented for approximately the same period of time, the Western TK policy is used far more frequently, in at least five countries, with a far greater incidence of collateral damage. In contrast, the Israeli TK policy is used only in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a very low rate of collateral damage. Therefore, the number of AI’s critical reports targeting Israel appears unbalanced, verging on biased – a clear violation of the principles to which AI is supposedly committed.

AI’s material is characterized, moreover, by inaccurate and disparate terminology. In every document released by AI which mentions Israeli TKs, Israeli TK policy was branded as categorically “unlawful” and Israeli TKs were consistently referred to as “assassinations” and/or “liquidations.” As discussed in detail in Part II, Section B, supra, killing militants during an armed conflict cannot, under the laws of war, be considered “assassination,” or “liquidation,” nor be “unlawful.” Moreover, at the time that AI made these statements there was no consensus that Israeli TKs – or Western TKs, for that matter – were unlawful. In fact quite the opposite is true....

Meanwhile, AI has never used this terminology, which in and of itself implies illegality and culpability, concerning Western TKs. AI has never clearly and irrevocably condemned Western TKs, choosing instead to neutrally refer to them as “air raids,”“air strikes,”220 and “missile strikes.”In fact, AI has rarely, if ever, expressed clear reservations regarding the Western TK policy – other than perhaps when referring to the TK in Yemen in 2002.