Thursday, May 14, 2009
Charles Radin, former Bureau Chief for the Boston Globe in Jerusalem, recently arranged a debate between Joshua Rubenstein, Amnesty International's man in New England and Gerald Steinberg, Director of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem based watchdog organization that specifically critiques "Human Rights" groups that, according to their analysis, maintain a double standard and disproportional apparatus of criticism when it comes to Israel.
It is no secret that Mr. Rubenstein's AI, a powerful international force with over 2 million members and a budget of nearly 200 million dollars, has been highly critical of Israel, regardless of whether a left or right government is in power. According to Steinberg, groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, in their obsession with Israel, have "undermined the very human rights values that they claim to promote by demonizing Israel." Founded in 2001 by Steinberg in reaction to the hate fest against Israel and Jews that took place in Durban, South Africa, NGO Monitor was instrumental in exploding the 2003 Jenin "massacre" myth, propagated in large part by Amnesty. Predictably, he continued, Amnesty evinced virtually no concern over the fate of IDF soldier,Gilad Shalit, held incommunicado by Hamas for over three years and denied visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross. More recently, AI's treatment of the Gaza War, according to Steinberg, has gone from "illegitimate criticism to absurdity" in its disproportionate and inaccurate attacks on Israel.
Steinberg then went on to list 7 basic violations of the very tenets of human rights norms ranging from predefining victims (Palestinians) and perpetrators (Israelis) regardless of the facts on the ground to the failure of "independent investigation" (Amnesty relied on Hamas casualty figures, which claimed a virtual totality of "civilian" deaths).
In what seemed at times, a less than spirited defense of his employer, Rubenstein, fell back on AI's garnering of a Nobel Prize in 1977, its important work indicting the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and the oft-repeated claim that "Amnesty is tough on everybody."
During the Q & A, Louise Cohen asked him that, given his statement that Israel has a right to defend itself, what specifically are legitimate forms of self-defense that would be acceptable to him or Amnesty? She pointed out that contemporary war will never be as simple as a Gettysburg battle diorama, with each side lined up and color-coded, while the civilians look on from a hilltop. If self-defense is not to become an extinct animal in today's world, which actions would Amnesty approve?
What he or AI would do in the face of such asymmetrical warfare when fanatics use human shields to attack Israeli civilians, left Rubenstein pondering, "Frankly, I don't have an answer to that." Of course, that begs the question: "If you have no answer to that central question, then why is AI so quick to disproportionately condemn one party?"
A lot of questions went unanswered that day, including one from an Israeli IDF veteran who served in Jenin during the make-believe "massacre" and who had experienced the "human shield" phenomenon in action.
In light of the overwhelming evidence of bias and the agenda-driven record of Amnesty International presented by Steinberg, Rubenstein's defense would have been better served had he acknowledged even a modicum of legitimate criticism. Instead, the audience was left with generalities, resting on Nobel Prize laurels and the faith of a true believer: "My Amnesty -- Right or Wrong."
Here is video of Gerald Steinberg's excellent opening remarks. My apologies for the less than stellar quality of the video and audio. I was using a cell camera:
[Solomon: From what I've seen of the video, Hillel understates the case. Rubenstein exposes AI as an organization completely adrift, without real responses, and thus bleeding relevancy. What he lacks for answers he tries to make up with demeanor (swagger) and it doesn't work with an audience that sees through him -- something I bet he rarely, if ever, faces. I'll be posting up some more audio and video later. I only wish I had been there to get more video. Readers will enjoy this.]
Update: More video. We come in as Steinberg and Rubenstein question each other, then take audience comments:
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Slugfest -- Amnesia International KO'ed in Round One (Updated).
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