Wednesday, December 25, 2019

David Collier has written a walloping 200-page report (available for download as pdf) exposing the anti-Israel bias and obsession of international human rights group Amnesty International. In its sheer breadth of coverage, the report is an astonishing body of work, but then we’ve come to expect nothing less from Collier. We watched on, not so long ago, as he issued a similar bombshell, his multipart exposé of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. That report appeared to necessitate Collier infiltrating a secret Labour Facebook group.
David Collier
This is like the kind of spy stuff you read about in novels. It would take guts to do that and not a little caution, sustained over a lengthy period of time, in order to avoid detection. But Collier’s unconventional methods of research have borne fruit, witness the fact that Boris Johnson is in and Corbyn is most definitely out.

Collier is using new and different tacks in the fight for Israel and against antisemitism. The way he uses social media, for instance, is something we haven’t seen before, at least not with this level of commitment. What has Collier uncovered about Amnesty and what can we, as regular people, do to emulate his work going forward? I spoke with Collier to learn more:
Varda Epstein: Tell us about Jewish Human Rights Watch. How did this body come to commission you to investigate Amnesty International? Tell us about your background and credentials. What sort of manpower and hours were devoted to this project?
David Collier: Jewish Human Rights Watch is a UK-based NGO. They fight anti-Israel bias the clever way, either by challenging it in the courts or exposing the toxic nature of those that stand against us. For example, they have been fighting the legality of local town councils passing BDS motions and this effort and the publicity they caused, may have played a part in the UK Government’s recent announcement that it is going to ban councils from pursuing such motions altogether.
I have done work for them before, when they commissioned a report on antisemitism in the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The report successfully clipped the SPSC’s wings. We both saw bias in Amnesty as a major issue, so it was natural they would turn to me for this project.
I have been fighting anti-Israel bias for two decades. My own strategy is different from most. I don’t push pro-Israeli material so much. Our problem is not whether or not Israel is perfect – it doesn’t have to be – Israel has every right to be a state that makes mistakes like all states do. Our issue is that our enemies are full of toxicity and hate. This is their biggest weakness and we should spend more time exposing them for what they are. If you engage in a “did/didn’t” argument with an anti-Israel activist, the bystander becomes confused. Far better just to show the person you are arguing with is a terrorist-sympathizing antisemite. Bystanders understand this much more clearly. We will never convince an anti-Israel activist he is a hatemonger, so don’t both trying, just expose his hate to others.
The Amnesty research took months and well over 1000 man hours. There were hundreds of thousands of social media posts to cover. During the summer of 2019, I didn’t sleep much.
 Varda Epstein: Why do we care about Amnesty International’s bias? What is the impact of this organization?
David Collier: We cannot overstate the impact of NGOs like Amnesty. They are the bridge between actions on the ground and International forums such as the UN, UNHRC and even the ICC. The NGOs are seen as legitimate and impartial “judges” and their findings carry real weight. None more so than Amnesty. If Amnesty is simply pushing raw anti-Israel propaganda as evidence during a UN hearing, they legitimise the UN’s own bias against Israel. In effect Amnesty acts as the glue which reinforces a global anti-Israel bias – if they played fair, things would look very different. 
Ashira Prem Rachana is a "human rights researcher" for Amnesty International
Varda Epstein: Was Amnesty International always so political? Did it ever do good work? Was there a turning point?
David Collier: Yes, of course. Amnesty’s sterling reputation was legitimately earned and this is, in part, why the situation is both tragic and difficult to address. Amnesty relies on the reputation from the good work it used to do to shield it from criticism today.
Originally, and in the much simpler days of the Cold War, Amnesty dealt solely with political prisoners. As the NGO arena became more overcrowded and competitive, Amnesty sought growth – both in the areas it monitored and in the type of work it undertook. They became more political. They felt it necessary to let go of crucial rules they imposed on themselves to stay clear of conflict of interest issues. In truth there were logical reasons for them to do so – but they put nothing in its place and were slowly devoured by activists using Amnesty resources for their own narrow interests. The decline has been gradual and going on for decades.
Nadine Moawad, MENA communications manager for Amnesty International
Varda Epstein: Your report states that a consultant for Amnesty, Hind Khoudary, tweeted support for a terror organization, referring to known Islamic Jihad terrorists as “heroes.” Tell us about that. Was the tweet issued as a private citizen? Does it matter?
David Collier: It doesn’t matter at all. I think one of the things Amnesty will do to deflect the criticism of the report is to suggest some of these people weren’t associated with Amnesty when they made the unacceptable comments. This is irrelevant. Imagine a judge going home and tweeting as a private citizen that terrorists are heroes – would any sane person consider him fit to be a judge? With Khoudary, there were numerous tweets. At roughly the same time she called the two terrorists heroes, she also retweeted advice to people in Gaza not to publicly say anything that would ‘hurt the resistance’. This person is a hard-core Palestinian activist and a supporter of terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad. At no point can she be considered impartial, not before or after the time she made those tweets. As it happens in this case, I think she was listed as an Amnesty consultant at the time – but in any event, it is absurd to believe she would ever tell the truth about what is taking place on the ground.
Varda Epstein: How does it feel when you see that Amnesty staffer Laith Abu Zeyad regularly retweets WaadGh who tweeted a smiley face in relation to the terrorist murder of Rina Shnerb? Do you ever need a mental health day in your work?
David Collier: That’s a good question, my wife certainly thinks so. Sadly, I have been doing this for so long I am used to it. This is what I do, I swim in the sewers with these people. I have to get into their heads and understand them. If I was sickened by what I saw, I would never be able to do the research properly. I am even forgiving. Had Zeyad only retweeted her once, I’d have written it off. We all make mistakes. But she was a common source for him, they interacted. He must know the type of politics she pushes. This is the problem - these people don’t even have to hide these associations because nobody cares.
Varda Epstein: What did you find to be the most shocking fact to come out of your investigation?
David Collier: There is the big picture and the little picture. The most shocking single fact I found was a person listed as the regional Media Manager for Amnesty writing a Facebook post in Arabic that instructed terrorist factions not to “claim their martyrs” but rather to let the West think they were innocent civilians – not terrorists. The most shocking part of it all, though, is the big picture. We all know Amnesty is biased, but the report exposes the level of that bias – it shows that Amnesty operates with a subconscious (I don’t believe it is a conspiracy) political world vision. One that hates Israel most of all, but is biased against India, ignores the persecution of Christians and is strategically anti-West. I call it subconscious because it is merely the sum of the parts. Most of the parts carry a similar bias and this translates into Amnesty policy. Amnesty is a danger to any Western nation that allows them to operate freely and more fool the nation that pays attention to their findings.
Varda Epstein: This website, Elder of Ziyon, plays a role in your report. Can you describe the context? What is the importance of bloggers and tips from regular people in your investigative work?
David Collier: Elder of Ziyon plays a role in all my reports. It is probably one of, if not the best, archive of relevant information stretching back to the Second Intifada. If you are writing about almost any issue relevant to the conflict, a search of the Elder site is always advisable. In this report for example, I wouldn’t have known that Saleh Hijazi, the Amnesty Deputy Director MENA had used images of terrorists for his Facebook profile, if not for Elder’s website. It both saves me time and acts as a great source for additional knowledge.
Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International MENA deputy director used this image of PFLP terrorist and airline hijacker Leila Khaled for his profile photo.
Varda Epstein: What hope do you have that your report will instigate positive change? Do you think there is hope that Amnesty International can be reformed? Where might Amnesty International turn its sights instead of Israel, to make the world a better place?
David Collier: Amnesty won’t change from within. They can’t, this is what they are now. What needs to happen is that we need to expose to others the toxicity within. We need to reach its membership; the political alliances and every forum in which Amnesty has influence. Show those people the report. Only real external pressure will ever work and even then, I do not know if it is possible to salvage without a complete rebuild.
What should they be doing? Every Human Rights NGO on the planet should currently have one single goal: The abolition of the UN Human Rights Council and the construction of a new UN human rights body that has strict, points-based criteria about membership. The UNHRC should be leading the way on global human rights issues and such a body could be such a force for good. Instead it is infested with and controlled by despots. Nothing would improve global human rights more than a properly run UNHRC, so if you see an NGO currently working with them – rather than calling for their abolition, you can automatically say that NGO is not a true human rights NGO. 
Sahar Mandour, Amnesty International researcher, Lebanon
Varda Epstein: Can you tell us about your roots and also about the person you are, today? What makes you a fighter, a person dedicated to digging deeply to fight against antisemitism?
David Collier: I was born in the UK and lived in Israel for 19 years. I was part of the Oslo generation, land for peace, two states, and all that. I worked intensively with Palestinians during the 1990s. I published a monthly newspaper and used the Al Ayam publishing house in Ramallah. I worked for peace. Then came the second Intifada. Israel’s problem isn’t so much the Palestinians, as the global movement that has turned them into a cause. This conflict should have ended in 1949. The reasons it didn’t have nothing to do with Israel, nor – and I can hear people shout at me – with the Palestinians. They weren’t even a thing in 1949. The war against Israel is an international one. The Palestinian identity as we know it today was created from the outside. I recognise this and this is where I fight my battles.
There is no single thing that led me to be a fighter. I lost close friends, but then so have most Israelis. I think I fight because I have to. I do not see it as a choice. People often ask “what would you have done” when referring to the rise of the Nazis, the creation of Israel, and other important milestones in history. Well, we are at war now - it is a global battle and the stakes are higher than most people imagine. If you are not doing anything today, there is your answer.
Varda Epstein: What’s next for David Collier?
David Collier: I was writing a book in 2015 when Corbyn was elected to lead the Labour Party. The last four years have been an enormous time consuming and emotional rollercoaster. Corbyn was merely a symptom of a growing problem and I see him simply as the first wave. Boris has now been elected and we have 5 years of opportunity to continue fighting. I am scared people will think the job is done – it would be a huge mistake to think that. On the immediate horizon I can go back and hopefully finish the book. It addresses the rise of the Palestinian identity as a weapon with which to fight against Israel. I am going back to the British archives in London to help me as much of the evidence is there. So fingers crossed, the next major thing for me would be to have my book published. 

Read more Judean Rose interviews:

Israel's Jewish Indigenous Land Rights: A Conversation with Nan Greer, Part 2

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