President Barack Obama's decision to award Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom Award justifiably caused controversy. Robinson was the High Commissioner for Human Rights who helped organize the UN's infamous 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban. NGOs like Amnesty International helped spearhead the Conference and hijacked the agenda to depict Israel as the world's most racist state and egregious human rights abuser. Their final declaration accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and "violations of international law" for anti-terror policies and also labeled Zionism a form of racism. Robinson's legacy will not be her Medal of Freedom, but the Durban Strategy, which lives on strong through various collaborators -- NGOs, UN committees, and international organizations.
Earlier this year, the UN hosted another Conference Against Racism, which resembled the original. And in July, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met in Geneva -- it has been referred to as a "mini-Durban" -- to address the "Responsibility of the international community to uphold international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the wake of the war in Gaza."
Today, Amnesty and others NGOs work with UN committees, including the Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in the effort to de-legitimize Israel. In January of this year, the UNHRC convened its Ninth Special Session to address "the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip." Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, among others, stoked the flames by accusing Israel of "human rights abuses," and the UNHRC condemned Operation Cast Lead, saying it resulted "in massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people."
Amnesty also released a report in July disclosing the results of its "investigation" into the Israeli/Hamas conflict from last December and January. The report, titled "'Operation Cast Lead': Israel/Gaza: 22 Days of Death and Destruction," continues a predictable pattern of largely ignoring terrorism and human rights abusers, while accusing Israeli officials and soldiers of committing war crimes.
Amnesty seeks to portray itself as an independent, objective organization -- its website boasts that it is "Independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion." But reality tells a different story. Its latest 100-plus page report (pdf) -- a grotesquely misleading account of Operation Cast Lead -- reveals the organization's blatant bias. It is filled with blanket statements and unqualified military and legal conclusions, often without any attribution of sources, and relies primarily upon one-sided Palestinian "eyewitness" accounts after-the-fact.
The report repeatedly accuses Israeli of deliberately targeting civilians, while at the same time acknowledging Israel's attempted to warn citizens in Gaza of impending military activity. Rather than praising Israel for its extraordinary efforts to save civilians lives, the report criticizes Israel for issuing too many warnings, saying, they "were too general and reached residents all over Gaza."
Amnesty frequently refers to its "delegates" who investigated Operation Cast Lead. However, it does not reveal who the delegates were, how many there were, or whether they had other affiliations. According to Bar Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg, who is also the executive director of the NGO watchdog, NGO Monitor, "After every battle, the 'researchers' come for a few days, collect unverifiable testimony from pre-defined victims (Palestinians, Lebanese, etc.), add some pseudo-technical analysis of weapons by a self-proclaimed 'military expert,' and embed the concoction in a bath of quotes from irrelevant legal documents."
Unfortunately, NGOs like Amnesty are treated seriously by international organizations and by much of the media. As the Amnesty report makes clear, their objective is to see Israeli officials prosecuted for war crimes either by an international forum or a country willing to exercise universal jurisdiction, and Amnesty is part of the cadre of organizations pressuring the International Criminal Court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to investigate Operation Cast Lead and prosecute Israeli officials.
Amnesty International long ago betrayed its stated mission of protecting human rights by enabling and apologizing for terrorist organizations while demonizing the Middle East's freest democracy. As Amnesty ingratiates itself to international bodies that lend it credence and detest Israel, the rest of us should at least recognize the motives. Otherwise, we may watch a future President honor Amnesty for its work in promoting freedom and think it was well deserved.