Just another anti-Zionist at Amnesty? [Updated]

As the Jerusalem Post reported last week, an employee of Amnesty International in London has attracted much criticism for a tweet that, disguised as a joke, suggested that three Jewish members of the British parliament supported a massive bombing campaign of Gaza.

The offensive tweet was soon deleted, and as of this writing, the Amnesty employee in question, Kristyan Benedict, has refrained from posting new tweets; Amnesty also has reportedly “distanced itself from the tweet and said the matter has been referred to its internal, and confidential, processes.”

While it is certainly welcome that Amnesty seems to be taking this incident serious, it is also clear that Benedict has a long record of rhetoric and conduct that reflects a deep hostility to Israel. Indeed, media reports on this incident note that “Benedict’s Twitter feed is a litany of [one-sided] criticism of Israel” and that there have been previous incidents that caused controversy and resulted in disciplinary action.

Benedict’s recent tweets offer a large choice of examples that illustrate his hostility to Israel, and his re-tweet of the view of an American-Syrian activist who claimed that “Assad and the IDF fear nonviolent resistance more than anything” on November 20 provides just one indication of this deep-seated resentment.

Unsurprisingly, Benedict also has a long record of organizing Amnesty events that provide a platform for anti-Israel activists like Ben White.  One should imagine that it was inconceivable that Amnesty would repeatedly promote an activist who started his “career” by declaring that he could understand why some people are antisemitic and who has single-mindedly devoted all his adult life to delegitimizing Israel – an activity that most antisemites will enthusiastically applaud – but unfortunately, one would be wrong.

Inevitably, Amnesty has often been criticized for the “ideological bias and double standards” that are all too often revealed in the organization’s work on Israel. Kristyan Benedict seems to have been doing his share to maintain Amnesty’s well-deserved reputation of a bias against Israel, and apparently, Amnesty sees no problem with employing a person who seems to believe that the world would be a better place if there was one Jewish state less.

A study conducted a few years ago indicated that “anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.” Needless to say, there is a heated debate about related questions and, in particular, the overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Unwittingly, Benedict’s “joke” about three British-Jewish MPs supposedly rooting for a massive bombing campaign on Gaza provides yet another example supporting the argument that anti-Zionists face a slippery slope. As somebody working for a human rights organization on Israel, Benedict could be expected to know that a person can be a Jew without being religious. Yet, responding to criticism of his tweeted “joke,” Benedict pretended that it was just “coincidental” that he had named three Jewish MPs since he focused on “views not religion.”

In other words, for Amnesty International staff member Kristyan Benedict, it’s OK when Jews identify as a religious group, but when they identify as a people – as Jews have since antiquity – and claim a right to self-determination and a right to self-defense, malicious ridicule and libel is in order.

I think it’s fair to assume that Amnesty wouldn’t tolerate comparable views about the Palestinians whose sense of peoplehood is barely 100 years old.

As Hillel Halkin noted in a review of Shlomo Sand’s bizarre ruminations on the “Invention of the Jewish People:”

“Once upon a time, antisemitism consisted of the belief that the Jews were an incorrigible and pernicious people who could never be absorbed by other peoples. Today, it is trendy to hold that they are a non-people masquerading as a people in order to justify stealing another people’s homeland.”

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Yesterday, it was widely reported that a Dutch television program had broadcast a “satirical” clip – which was made very skillfully and looked entirely authentic – showing Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcoming Hilary Clinton in Jerusalem and announcing, while she is politely listening,

“One of the things we are trying to do [in Gaza] is maximize the number of civilians casualties […] We prefer that. I know that you understand this, but if not: this is something I don’t have to explain to Americans, President Obama, you, and the international community.”

Jewish leaders and organizations have expressed concern about the clip and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted that “those who are misinformed, or those who already hostile to Israel, will believe that this video is real.”

Foxman has a point – and Ben White, the activist repeatedly promoted by Amnesty, demonstrated one more time that he is among those “who are misinformed” and “already hostile to Israel.”

So far, 14 people have re-tweeted this tweet which, after all, fits nicely with the kind of anti-Israel propaganda White is relentlessly churning out — sometimes supported and promoted by Amnesty International.

UPDATE 2:

Shortly after I posted the update above, Ben White claimed in a tweet to me that he “really didn’t think it [i.e. the Dutch clip] was real.”

In response, I noted that he had not only failed to indicate in any way that he realized it was meant as a parody, but that the clip could actually be understood as a parody of himself and his supporters: after all, White has by now spent almost a decade frantically promoting Palestinian propaganda about supposed Israeli atrocities and the idea that Israel is evil incarnate. There is precious little difference between the image of Israel promoted by White and the tasteless “parody” broadcast on Dutch TV.

Unsurprisingly, the only response White could think of was to block me from following his Twitter account – which I hadn’t followed anyway.

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