US Democratic Jewish lawmakers unanimously condemn Amnesty chief for ‘alarming’ antisemitic comments

The letter denounced O’Brien for saying his “gut feeling” is that American Jews don’t support Israel as a Jewish state.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

All 25 Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Democratic party signed an open letter on Tuesday, blasting Amnesty International’s American director, Paul O’Brien.

Speaking to Jewish Insider last week, O’Brien challenged the results of a Ruderman Family Foundation survey which stated that eight of ten American Jews identify as being pro-Israel, and that two out of three say they are emotionally attached to the Jewish State.

“I actually don’t believe that to be true,” O’Brien told JI. He said he believes that American Jews want a “sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home,” but not necessarily a Jewish State.

He added that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

O’Brien’s comments, which he said stemmed from his intuition and could not be qualified by research, surveys, or other evidence, immediately sparked backlash from Jewish groups.

“On the heels of a recent Amnesty International report that a number of Members condemned as delegitimizing of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and undermining of the prospects for a two-state solution, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director Paul O’Brien has now taken a new, very disturbing step: purporting to speak for the entire Jewish community on Israel,” the letter by the Democratic lawmakers read.

“He claimed his ‘gut’ tells him ‘what Jewish people in this country want’ is that Israel ‘shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.’ As Jewish Members of the House of Representatives, we represent diverse views on a number of issues relating to Israel,” the letter continued.

In the letter, the Democratic lawmakers acknowledged that they have previously clashed on matters such as anti-Israel statements from Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) and a potential two-state solution.

“However, we are in full agreement that Mr. O’Brien’s patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community is alarming and deeply offensive. He has added his name to the list of those who, across centuries, have tried to deny and usurp the Jewish people’s independent agency.

“We stand united in condemning this and any antisemitic attempt to deny the Jewish people control of their own destiny.”

The only two Jewish members of the House who did not sign, David Kustoff of Tennessee and Lee Zeldin of New York, are Republicans. Their spokespeople told JTA that their Democratic counterparts had not offered them a chance to endorse the letter.