Amnesty International’s Pseudo-Scholarship

More lethal ammunition for the campus cognitive war against Israel

In May, while Hamas was firing more than 3,000 deadly rockets from Gaza with the express purpose of murdering Jewish Israelis, members of academic communities around the world were falling over themselves to express their solidarity, not with the beleaguered citizens of the Jewish state again under attack, but with the genocidal psychopaths of Hamas and the Palestinian people they are said to represent.

The ideological enemies of Israel could not have been more pleased. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the odious organization which put out the original call for efforts to slander the Jewish state, noted gleefully that “300 academic departments, program centers, unions and societies worldwide [had] endorsed statements supporting Palestinian rights, and statements from individual scholars, staff, students and alumni have garnered more than 15,000 signatures in what the campaign describes as ‘an unprecedented wave of solidarity.’”

Using almost identical language, laced with descriptions of “colonialism,” “oppression,” “occupation,” “ethnic cleansing,” “human rights,” and “violations of international law,” these academic statements—oozing out of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley, and CUNY, among many other universities—revealed a profound ignorance of history and fact, and attempted, unsurprisingly, to paint Israel as the sole party to blame for the condition in which the Palestinian Arabs now find themselves.

The other recurring theme was that Israel is essentially a racist enterprise and that it practices a new form of apartheid in its subjugation and oppression of the Palestinians, both in Israel proper and in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. Almost without fail, the statements flung the counter-factual apartheid slur and referred to two repulsive 2021 reports published by a pair of notorious anti-Israel organizations, B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

On May 25th, for example, Georgetown University faculty, students, and staff issued their solidarity statement, proudly announcing that “[w]e stand with Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem in calling the Israeli state’s systemic discrimination and violence by its proper name: Apartheid . . . ”

The Department of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, one of over 100 gender studies departments to issue statements of solidarity, parroted the same fallacious conclusion as others by referring in their own May 24th statement to the two reports, contending that “[b]oth Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid . . . ”

Given the widespread use of these two mendacious reports, it was with considerable displeasure that pro-Israel forces were met on February 1st with the release of another deceptive report, this one by the high-visibility but notoriously anti-Israel organization Amnesty International (AI).

The turgid 280-page report, “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity,” attempts to catalog what AI defines as “Israel’s institutionalized and systematic discrimination against Palestinians within the framework of the definition of apartheid under international law.” The ostensible purpose of this report is “to determine whether discriminatory and exclusionary Israeli laws, policies and practices against Palestinians amount to apartheid as a violation of public international law, a serious human rights violation and a crime against humanity.”

The answer to AI’s phony inquiry, of course, is yes: Israel practices and enforces a system of apartheid. The AI report, in fact, employs the same deceitful rhetoric as the HRW and B’Tselem reports, which promote the lie that Israel maintains a rigid and illegal system of oppression against the Palestinians in the form of apartheid, and that by doing so it violates international law. “Amnesty International has also concluded,” the report reads, “ . . . that the inhuman or inhumane acts committed within the context of this attack have been committed with the intention to maintain this system and amount to the crime against humanity of apartheid under both the Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statute.”

[Related: “Jews Don’t Count”]

One serious matter that the AI report addresses is the so-called “right of return” that supporters of the Palestinian cause believe legally entitles all Palestinian Arab refugees (and their descendants) who left what became Israel in 1948 to return to their homes and villages. This would potentially derail the Jewish character of Israel through a demographic flood of Palestinians, many of whom have been raised to be hostile toward Israel and to despise Jews.

So, when an organization like Amnesty International calls for the right of return of Palestinian Arabs back into Israel proper, and not into a new Palestinian state in Gaza and sections of Judea and Samaria (carelessly referred to as the West Bank), it is not calling for a reasonable, just, legal, or even rational solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is either willfully or unconsciously calling for Israel’s destruction—clearly, something the Jewish state’s ideological enemies have sought for some time.

Of course, AI contends that systemic racism, via this system of apartheid, is for the very purpose of subjugating Palestinians and preventing them from returning to their homes. “This oppression and domination have been cemented by a legal regime that controls (by negating) the rights of Palestinian refugees residing outside Israel and the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] to return to their homes.”

Clearly, when a report such as this refers to disputed territories—areas of Judea, Samaria, and sections of Jerusalem which have had a Jewish presence and identity since biblical times—as “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” it has already revealed its political bias.

In addition to a return, the AI report calls for full reparations for any Palestinian losses of wealth and property, something they have never considered, of course, for the more than 800,000 Jews whose businesses, wealth, and property were seized when they were expelled from Arab countries upon Israel’s birth. The fate of the Jews is never of concern to human rights activists on or off campus, who instead call for an intifada to “free Palestine” from the current grip of Israel.

“Israel must grant equal and full human rights to all Palestinians in Israel and the OPT in line with principles of international human rights law . . . ,” the report demands. “It must also recognize the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to homes where they or their families once lived in Israel or the OPT. In addition, Israel must provide . . . full reparations. These should include restitution of and compensation for all properties acquired on a racial basis”—meaning what, any properties acquired by “white” Jews from “brown” Arabs during the War of Independence and in 1967?

AI should know that the demand for a right of return, a notion referred to by Palestinians and their supporters as a “sacred” and “enshrined” universal human right granted by UN resolutions and international law, in fact, has no legal standing at all. Indeed, it is part of the propaganda campaign based on the thinking that if Israel cannot be eradicated by the Arabs though war, it can effectively be destroyed by forcing it to commit demographic suicide. AI, as an international organization that professes to be an authority on human rights and international law, should know this truth. Apparently, it does not.

In the first place, the right of return claim presupposes the lie that the Palestinians were “victimized” by the creation of Israel and were expelled from a fictive land of “Palestine” where they were the indigenous people “from time immemorial,” as historian Joan Peters put it in her book of the same name.

[Related: “The University of Toronto’s Jewish Problem”]

But as Professor Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London and author of Fabricating Israeli History: The New Historianspoints out,

this claim of premeditated dispossession is itself not only baseless, but the inverse of the truth. Far from being the hapless victims of a predatory Zionist assault, the Palestinians were themselves the aggressors in the 1948-49 war, and it was they who attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to ‘cleanse’ a neighbouring [sic] ethnic community. Had the Palestinians and the Arab world accepted the United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947, calling for the establishment of two states in Palestine, and not sought to subvert it by force of arms, there would have been no refugee problem in the first place.

There is some irony in the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly violated both the spirit and intent of 194, that particular UN resolution which references the concept of “return” to one’s country, although two key points are characteristically ignored by those pointing to this source as justification for their legal claim.

First, Resolution 194 was the product of the UN General Assembly and “is an expression of sentiment and carries no binding force whatsoever,” meaning that it is meant to make recommendations but not law. What it did suggest, however, was that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which . . . should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

According to the evaluation of law professor Ruth Lapidoth of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this language precludes an interpretation of the UN resolution that supports a Palestinian claim for an unqualified right of return. “Though the Arab states originally rejected the resolution,” she wrote (specifically because it would mean implicitly recognizing the existence of Israel), “they later relied on it heavily and have considered it as recognition of a wholesale right of repatriation.”

But according to Professor Lapidoth, “this interpretation . . . does not seem warranted: the paragraph does not recognize any ‘right,’ but recommends that the refugees ‘should’ be ‘permitted’ to return. Moreover, that permission is subject to two conditions—that the refugee wishes to return, and that he wishes to live at peace with his neighbors,” something the Arab world, even now, has never seen fit to do.

So, for observers like Professor Karsh, the recommendations of Resolution 194 “could as readily apply to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were then being driven from Arab states in revenge for the situation in Palestine,” and in fact were meant to, since the refugees mentioned in the resolution are purposely not defined as being either Arab or Jew. In fact, many diplomats and officials had anticipated an exchange of refugees, as has happened successfully in other similar social upheavals, where Palestinian refugees would have been absorbed in Arab states and Jewish refugees would have settled in Israel—exactly what happened to some 600,000 Jews.

Legal scholars also point out that international law grants the right to leave or return to one’s country only to individuals, not to a collective, as the Palestinians claim. More importantly, no population of refugees has ever presumed that the right of return—if such a right even exists—could be claimed not only by the original refugees but also by all of their descendants, something that AI outrageously demands in its report.

Amnesty International clearly despises the Jewish state and wishes it would go away, either voluntarily by making itself defenseless against its genocidal foes or by a one-state, right of return solution in which Israel would cease—tragically and most likely violently—being a Jewish sovereign nation. Its report, along with the respective reports from HRW and B’Tselem, provide ideological ammunition and spurious justification for attacks on Israel’s existence by academia. Sadly, the next time the IDF is called on to repress homicidal aggression from Gaza, these toxic and biased reports will be used to demonize and slander the Jewish state once again.

Image: Christian Lue, Public Domain


  • Richard L. Cravatts

    Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of "Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews."

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3 thoughts on “Amnesty International’s Pseudo-Scholarship

  1. Thanks to Mr. Cravatts for his work with SPME, which I recommend, and to which I am a contributor.

    Fortunately, I have the sense that Israel’s standing in the world has improved greatly in recent years, with its technology, diplomacy, and most recently the Abraham Accords. The Amnesty and academic anti-Israel (anti-Semitic?) types are losing. In fact, political parties and groups that harbor these ideas, whether of left or right, are losing. Cheers!

  2. Isn’t it strange how Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem and Desmond Tutu, all “express their solidarity, not with the beleaguered citizens of the Jewish state again under attack, but with the genocidal psychopaths of Hamas and the Palestinian people they are said to represent”?

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