(JTA) – The main umbrella group of British Jews accused its local branch of Amnesty International of targeting the community following the abrupt cancellation of a joint event.
The accusation by the Jewish Leadership Council – a charity founded 15 years ago comprising 32 groups with different politics, including the Board of Governors of British Jews, the Jewish World Relief aid organization and several synagogues – came Monday following the cancellation of an event concerning Israel and the United Nations.
Amnesty had undertaken to host the event on Jan. 24 but withdrew the invite Friday.
“We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban the import of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements,” the human rights group said. “We do not, therefore, think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting such settlements.”
In its statement, the Council wrote: “We have long argued that the aggressive criticism of Israeli government policy creates an environment where anti-Semitism thrives and it is highly regrettable that on this occasion Amnesty International UK’s decision has targeted the Jewish community.”
Amnesty cancelled a panel session titled “The UNHRC and Israel: How it works, what’s not working, and how it might be repaired.” Danny Friedman, a prominent human rights lawyer, was to chair the event with speakers including Fred Carver of the United Nations Association-UK and Hillel Neuer of UN Watch.
Israel and its supporters have accused the UN Human Rights Council of disproportionately targeting the Jewish state with criticism while overlooking abuses by other countries. From the council’s creation in June 2006 through June 2016, over half of its resolutions condemned Israel, according to UN Watch, a watchdog that monitors criticism by the United Nations of the Jewish state.
Amnesty International UK initially committed to joining the panel debate but withdrew some months ago. It did agree, however, to maintain its offer of the event space, according to the Jewish Leadership Council. But four days before the event was scheduled to take place, Amnesty International UK withdrew the offer, according to the council’s statement.
It is “disgraceful that a Jewish charity is barred from the offices of Amnesty International UK,” Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said in the statement. “It is clear that Amnesty International UK’s claim ‘to protect Freedom of Expression’ is only on their terms.”
Israel and many of its supporters, including the American Jewish Congress, have criticized Amnesty International for what they call an anti-Israel bias and allegedly evenhanded treatment of it and terrorist groups, including Hamas.
In November 2012, Amnesty UK chastised staffer Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK campaigns manager, over his posting on Twitter of a remark deemed anti-Semitic regarding three Jewish members of parliament.
“Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar … each orders a round of B52s … #Gaza,” he wrote.