An Amnesty International official said his organization is opposed to Israel continuing to exist as a Jewish state, prompting a rare condemnation from all 25 Jewish House Democrats.
“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,” Paul O’Brien, the human rights watchdog’s U.S. director, was cited by the Jewish Insider as saying at a luncheon with the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington.
O’Brien was slammed for taking a position on how an established state should self-define.
He also claimed U.S. polls showing overwhelming U.S. Jewish support for Israel are inaccurate and defended his organization’s recent report accusing Israel of “apartheid.”
In a rare move, all 25 Jewish House Democrats on Monday signed onto a statement denouncing O’Brien’s comments.
“As Jewish Members of the House of Representatives, we represent diverse views on a number of issues relating to Israel. However, we are in full agreement that Mr. [Paul] O’Brien’s patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community is alarming and deeply offensive,” the statement said.
According to The Times of Israel, this kind of unanimity is extremely rare among Jewish Democrats, especially on Jewish issues or issues relating to Israel.
Amnesty International Boycotts UK Jewish Group, Silences Debate on Israel https://t.co/rZ2entDjpr
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 23, 2018
In one example cited, Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Dean Phillips of Minnesota have condemned comments by fellow Democrat Ilhan Omar as antisemitic, while Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois has joined with Omar to combat antisemitism. Jewish Democrats are also split in their stances towards the Iran nuclear deal, with some in favor of President Joe Biden’s efforts to reenter the deal, while others are vehemently opposed.
O’Brien’s comments sparked outrage from a wide spectrum of Jewish groups.
“If there was any doubt about Amnesty’s credibility as a legitimate voice of authority, it is now abundantly clear that they are firmly entrenched in the cadre of extremist anti-Israel provocateurs,” William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said.
“It is clear that their true vision is a Middle East without Israel as a Jewish state.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called on O’Brien to apologize.
“Your obsessive, relentless focus on Israel, and the erasure of the Jewish right to self-determination illustrates a dangerous degree of bias,” he tweeted.
The report pointed out even far-left Jewish groups that often criticize Israel were outraged.
“Polling shows the vast majority of American Jews, like J Street, support Israel’s future as a democratic state and homeland for the Jewish people,” the dovish J Street said on Twitter. “Amnesty USA would be well-served to stick to its expertise in human rights + international law — and not try to assess Jewish public opinion.”
The radical Americans for Peace Now praised Amnesty’s human rights advocacy, but said the group should not overstep boundaries.
“Amnesty International plays an important role in documenting human rights violations worldwide, not in interpreting public opinion or in prescribing the collective conversation within America’s Jewish community,” Ori Nir, the group’s spokesman, said in an email.
Amnesty International accused Israel of being an apartheid state in a scathing and error-filled report released earlier this year. Last month, Amnesty‘s own Israel director came out in staunch opposition of the accusation, saying it was a “punch in the gut” that was making things worse.