Amnesty International is under fire after rejecting a resolution that called on it to campaign against anti-Semitism in Britain. The motion, which failed by a vote of 468-461, was the only resolution rejected at the organization’s entire annual conference this past week.
“Our membership decided not to pass this resolution calling for a campaign with a single focus,” Amnesty UK press officer Neil Durkin told the Jewish Chronicle. But it quickly emerged that the organization had devoted an extensive report exclusively to anti-Muslim discrimination in Britain as recently as 2012, raising the question of why the same could not be done for Jews.
Amnesty’s move has drawn criticism from progressives to conservatives, including the resolution’s originator, Andrew Thorpe-Apps, who submitted the motion out of concern over anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K., which have reached a record high. Thorpe-Apps called for Amnesty to back the recommendations of the British government’s own All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, which in February released a report documenting an alarming rise in anti-Jewish incidents, and outlined steps to combat them.
“I’m not Jewish myself,” he told the Jewish Chronicle, “but I’ve been appalled by what I’ve seen in the press facing the Jewish community, and an organization like Amnesty should really add their voice to that as they do with other human rights issues.”
This is not the first time Amnesty has courted controversy when it comes to Jews, suggesting, perhaps, an ambivalence towards the issue. Last November, Amnesty declined to penalize a top employee—UK campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict—who likened Israel to ISIS on Twitter, employing the hashtag #JSIL (“Jewish State in the Levant”), a favorite of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. At the time, Amnesty told the media that the incident was being “investigated internally,” yet there have been no consequences of that investigation to date.
Amnesty was founded in 1961 by a Jew, Peter Benenson. As a youth, one of his earliest human rights campaigns—touted by Amnesty’s own branches—was collecting £4,000 from friends and family to bring two young Jews to Britain from Nazi Germany in 1939.
One wonders what he would think of his organization’s actions today.