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Amnesty UK cancels event featuring supporters of Israeli settlements

JLC Chair Jonathan Goldstein meeting with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who heads anti-BDS efforts, in Israel, August 2017 [Facebook / Jewish Leadership Council]
JLC Chair Jonathan Goldstein meeting with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who heads anti-BDS efforts, in Israel, August 2017 [Facebook / Jewish Leadership Council]

Amnesty International UK has cancelled an event set to be hosted at their London premises this week, after concerns were raised over the involvement of apologists for illegal Israeli settlements.

The Jewish Leadership Council (JLC)-organised event, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, was a panel discussion on the United Nations Human Rights Council, titled: “The UNHRC and Israel: How it works, what’s not working, and how it might be repaired”.

The event’s headline speaker was Hillel Neuer, who heads notorious pro-Israel pressure group ‘UN Watch’.

However, after concerns were raised both externally and within the organisation, Amnesty UK has pulled the plug, saying it has “improved the way we review the hosting of events at Amnesty”.

“A wide range of organisations hold their events at our London office, but we reserve the right to withhold permission for our building to be used by organisations whose work runs directly counter to our own”, said Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s Director of Supporter Campaigning and Communications.

“We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. We do not think it’s appropriate for Amnesty to host an event by an organisation that actively supports Israel’s settlements”.

UN Watch, whose logo appeared on promotional material for the event shared by the JLC, has a track record of apologising for Israeli violations of international law.

In an article published just last month, UN Watch praised companies doing business in Israel’s internationally-condemned settlements, claiming they “promote peaceful co-existence by bringing Jews and Arabs closer together in a shared work environment”.

UN Watch also described Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 as merely an “acquisition” of the territory, after which, it added, “Jewish settlements were built on public land”.

All Israeli settlements established in the territories occupied in 1967 are illegal under international law, and many of them were built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

The piece was taken down in just the last few days, but is still viewable via Google’s cache.

In addition to its apologia for Israeli settlements, UN Watch has repeatedly attacked Palestinian and international humanitarian and rights workers, smearing UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk, refugee agency UNRWA, and even humanitarian workers arrested and tortured by Israel.

UN Watch head Hillel Neuer, meanwhile, who the JLC invited to speak at the event, has frequently singled out Amnesty for attack, mocking the human rights NGO as “pro Taliban-Hamas”. Neuer has also described the occupied and blockaded Gaza Strip as a “giant suicide bomb”.

The JLC, for its part, takes an active role in fighting the civil society, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, of which a boycott of settlement produce is a part.

Current chair Jonathan Goldstein met last summer with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister in charge of efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity activism and BDS in particular.

The JLC also backed, and its then-chair Simon Johnson spoke at, a rally in London in December 2016 to protest the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

In a statement released Monday morning, the JLC condemned the cancellation, and sought to link the decision to “antisemitism”.

“It is highly regrettable that on this occasion Amnesty International UK’s decision has targeted the Jewish community”, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein said.

There was no attempt by Goldstein or the JLC to address the specifics of Amnesty UK’s concerns.

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