Amnesty USA: Israel ‘shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state’

Amnesty official slammed for “shameless” claim that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

By The Algemeiner

Israeli and officials and Jewish leaders reacted with outrage on Friday to comments by the head of Amnesty USA arguing that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

The remarks by Paul O’Brien, delivered at an event Wednesday and first reported by Jewish Insider, rekindled criticism of Amnesty International, which in a recent report accused Israel of “apartheid” and practicing an “explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony” since its founding in 1948.

Dismissing a survey showing that most Jewish Americans identify as pro-Israel, O’Brien argued that rather, “I believe my gut tells me that what Jewish people in this country want is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home.”

“I think they can be convinced over time that the key to sustainability is to adhere to what I see as core Jewish values, which are to be principled and fair and just in creating that space,” he claimed, according to Jewish Insider.

Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state,” O’Brien said, even as he maintained that Amnesty “takes no political views on any question, including the right of the State of Israel to survive.”

“The right of the people to self-determination and to be protected is without a doubt something that we believe in, and I personally believe that,” he said, while adding, “we are opposed to the idea — and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate — that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people.”

O’Brien’s comments drew backlash from a broad range of officials and groups, with the head of the Anti-Defamation League saying it revealed a “dangerous degree of bias” on the part of the NGO.

“Weeks after Amnesty’s outrageous report attacking Israel’s legitimacy, [Amnesty USA’s] Paul O’Brien shamelessly and bizarrely tries to explain why most Jews don’t really feel attached to Israel and argues Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state,” Jonathan Greenblatt exclaimed.

“We don’t need you to jew-splain what our community should think or feel, even as you dismiss thousands of years of history. You & [Amnesty USA] ignore clear evidence of overwhelming support among Jews for Zionism & the democratic & Jewish state,” he said.

“Amnesty International should be listed as a hate group,“ commented Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “At a time when one sovereign nation is being crushed, its U.S .director wants to eliminate the one Jewish state, a democracy with over 9 million citizens, and a safe haven for endangered Jews.”

The controversial report by Amnesty International was seen by Israel, Jewish communities worldwide and foreign officials as going well beyond criticism of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians — delegitimizing the very concept of a Jewish state.

Amnesty argued in the report that since its founding in 1948, Israel has “pursued a policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while restricting the rights of Palestinians and preventing Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes.”

On Friday, Israeli and U.S. officials argued that O’Brien’s recent comments further undermined the NGO’s work concerning Israel.

“Amnesty USA’s director reveals the true face of the organization, calling for the elimination of the nation state of the Jewish people,” tweeted Lior Haiat, a foreign ministry spokesperson. “The truth’s out in the open along with Amnesty’s obsession & hate for the only country with a Jewish majority. There’s a name for this hate…”

“The Director of @amnestyusa comes out of the closet as a crusader against Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state,” said US Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-D) on Twitter. “Thank you for sparing us all the pretense that the Amnesty report is anything other than an ideological hit job.”

“An offensive, antisemitic attack on Israel,” commented Republican Senator Tom Cotton (AR). “Remember this when Amnesty publishes future ‘reports’ about Israel — it doesn’t believe Israel should have the right to exist.”

O’Brien’s remarks drew fire from across the political spectrum, including the liberal group J Street, itself a frequent critic of Israel.

“These comments are inappropriate and misguided. Polling shows the vast majority of American Jews, like J Street, support Israel’s future as a democratic state + homeland for the Jewish people,” the group said.

“Amnesty USA would be well-served to stick to its expertise in human rights + international law — and not try to assess Jewish public opinion.”