What is it about Amnesty International UK which makes it repeatedly engage in self-destructive behavior? After the very public and widespread criticism which the organisation brought upon itself by partnering with ‘Cageprisoners’, one would have hoped that lessons would have been learned. Apparently that is not the case for, as shown above, Amnesty International UK is permitting some of Britain’s more off-the-wall Israel haters to congregate on its premises next month for an otiose exercise in self-gratifying rhetoric.
We do not need to dust off our crystal balls in order to predict what will be the answer to the’ question’ “Does the Media aid Israel?”. The very nature of the organising bodies and invited speakers guarantees only one possible outcome to the so-called debate.
Chairing the event is the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor, Victoria Brittain; she of “I didn’t notice that thousands of pounds had been deposited in my bank account” fame. Ms Brittain does a nice line in Israel defamation herself, of course, when not advocating BDS in her role as patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) or ghost-writing the biography of the head of ‘Cageprisoners’, of which she is also a patron (what a coincidence!).
Next on the panel we have Tim Llewellyn, the former BBC Middle East correspondent who has sat on the executive board of the lobbying group CAABU – Council for Arab-British Understanding – which is financed by assorted Arab governments and is involved with the Arab British Centre. For many years now Llewellyn has been attempting to advance the idea, not least in the Guardian, that the BBC is tainted by pro-Israel bias. He is also a keen advocate for Hamas and Hizbollah, believing that Zionism is a “calamity”, and occasional writer of Guardian obituaries for terrorists.
How does Llewellyn account for this supposed BBC bias? Well it appears to have something to do with Tony Blair’s choice of (affluent, of course) friends:
“The Blair vision of the Middle East – that the Americans have all the answers, but need a little gentle coaxing from Whitehall, that the Israelis are victims of terror, and “terror” is our main universal enemy, that the Palestinians are their own worst enemies and must do what they are told – will have been sensed at the BBC and passed on down the line.
It is no secret that Blair is very close to Israel. His old crony and party financier, Lord Levy, has been rewarded with the post of special adviser on Middle East matters. Lord Levy is a peer who has close contacts with Israel and a multi-million pound villa near Tel Aviv – his son Daniel Levy worked in the office of Israel’s former Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin. The first stress in any New Labour comment on the Palestine-Israel crisis is always on Israeli security or on “terror”, that easy bête noir of the modern politician (the BBC has uncritically accepted “The War on Terror” as a phrase with meaning).”
Llewellyn has worked closely with another panel member, Greg Philo – a Professor at the University of Glasgow who has co-written two books on the subject of supposed pro-Israel media bias as well in the Guardian.
The fourth panel member is editor in chief of the Al Quds al Arabi newspaper – set up by Palestinian ex-pats – Abdel Bari Atwan, who also writes an occasional column for CiF. Atwan is well-known for his egregious remarks on various Israel-related subjects, not least his statement that he would “dance in Trafalgar Square” if Israel were ever hit by Iranian nuclear weapons.
If Amnesty International officials think that they will be advancing human rights by hosting Atwan on their premises, they may care to consider his behaviour at a public meeting at the London School of Economics a few months ago, after which the police began an investigation following complaints of antisemitism.
“Raheem Kassam, the Muslim director of Student Rights, said: “These are truly cowardly, bullying tactics which have no place in an academic environment. He (Atwan) must be held to account for creating the conditions on campus whereby audience members see fit to call Jewish students ‘Nazis’.”
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with MEMO – aka Middle East Monitor – the co-organiser of this event along with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Ten minutes on Google should have been enough to persuade Amnesty International that these are not human rights activists, but seasoned political campaigners, some of whom have associations with terror organisations and political and religious fanatics.
Daoud Abdullah, who is the director of MEMO as well as deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and a senior researcher for the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Palestinian Return Centre, has two major claims to fame. The first is his lead of the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. The second is his signing of the Istanbul Declaration which potentially endorsed terrorism against British service personnel.
Senior editor of MEMO is Ibrahim Hewitt, who also heads ‘Interpal’ – the charity which has been the subject of three investigations by the Charity Commission and named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial in the United States, as well as having been banned in Israel because of its Hamas connections.
MEMO’s press officer, Hanan Chehata, took part in a ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy to Gaza, its staff writer Renee Boyer was spokesperson for ‘Free Gaza’ – organiser of pointless flotillas to Gaza- in 2008/9 and its analyst Samira Quraishy is also a researcher for the Khomenist pretend human rights organisation known as the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
MEMO’s honorary advisors include Dr. Salman Abu Sitta – a leading figure in the ‘Al Awda‘ movement which advocates ‘return’ to Israel for millions of descendents of Palestinian refugees with the aim of eradicating the Jewish state.
Two of MEMO’s advisors sit in the House of Lords: Lord Nazir Ahmed , who opposed the presentation of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie and hosted a book-launch for the renowned antisemite ‘Israel Shamir’, and Baroness Jenny Tonge, who is also a patron of the PSC and the Muslim Brotherhood-linked ‘ European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’, as well as someone who ‘understands’ suicide bombers and promoted libels regarding fictional Israeli organ-stealing operations in Haiti.
Other honorary advisors are Dr. Maria Holt of Westminster University – who has no qualms about appearing on Hizbollah’s Al Manar television channel, former Catholic priest Oliver McTernan, founder of Forward Thinking which seems to advocate engagement with terrorists, and last but not least, Muslim Brotherhood linked Oxford academic Tariq Ramadan.
For now, Amnesty International appears to have been intent upon squandering its good reputation for the sake of political designs and its self-harm only seems to get worse as time goes on. With its credibility already in tatters, the time is long overdue for Amnesty to decide whether it aspires to be part of the solution on the subject of human rights crises and abuses around the world or not.
If it does, it must begin by immediately cancelling its hosting of this MEMO/PSC event which is engineered by people with obvious practical connections to – and ideological sympathies with – some of the world’s worst human-rights abusing regimes and some particularly prominent racists.
Otherwise, Amnesty International will rapidly confirm the growing suspicions of many that it is in fact part of the problem.