Column: No Safe Haven From Amnesty International

Amnesty International America’s Paul O’Brien asserts a Catch-22 form of logic to undermine Israeli Jews if the Jewish state ceases to function as a Jewish state.

Addressing the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington last week, O’Brien suggested that Israel should no longer operate as a Jewish state while providing a sanctuary for Jews as part of a one-state solution, presumably under the joint administration of Jews and Palestinians; O’Brien is executive director of Amnesty International America.

O’Brien’s way of thinking is paradoxical and delusional. Many of us expect that Arabs will subjugate Jews in Israel if their numbers dominate the population. It is incredible that anyone, even those like O’Brien who are not Jewish, can believe that American Jews will be satisfied with anything less than a Jewish state.

“We are opposed to the idea – and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate – that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people,” said O’Brien, as quoted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I believe my gut tells me that what Jewish people in this country want is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home.”

O’Brien denied the findings of a survey conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation that found that eight in 10 American Jews identify as “pro-Israel,” and two-thirds feel emotionally “attached” or “very attached” to the Jewish state, according to Jewish Insider.

By Monday, all 25 Jewish Democrats in the House of Representatives released a statement condemning O’Brien’s sentiments, saying, “We are in full agreement that Mr. (Paul) O’Brien’s patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community is alarming and deeply offensive.”

O’Brien’s “sanctuary” proposal is so odd that it mocks conventional wisdom. The most likely outcome of a one-state solution will be an autocratic government in which Jews will be treated, at best, as second-class citizens. If they are not murdered outright.

That’s the CATCH-22 feature: If Jews cannot control the government, the probability is that the Arabs in power will never permit Israel to provide Jews with a sanctuary.

I hope this projection is wrong, but judging by their record I am skeptical that an Arab majority will administer an enlightened system or anything close to it.

Prior to Israel’s creation, Israeli Jews and Arabs agreed upon one reality: No way could they work together to administer a governmental system for the land that is now Israel. Jews did assent to split the land with Arabs as part of the United Nations partition plan, but Arabs rejected the proposal and invaded Israel, ending up with 22 percent of the land composed of Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

Maybe we should be charitable with O’Brien’s judgment. He is not Jewish, so perhaps he lacks the instincts that we have developed from observing the situation in Israel over the years. Even someone who attended Harvard Law School, like O’Brien, would not be so paranoid as to believe that Arab rulers will run Israel with such an iron grip.

O’Brien can only be sleazy or mad to urge that Israel be put at such risk. No reasonable person – Jewish or not – will believe that Jews could depend upon an Arab-run Israel (especially if its name is changed to Palestine) to provide a safe haven for Jews. He should teach a class in head games.

Israel as a refuge is hardly all that Israel is about. At the most personal level, 6 million of our brethren live there and we do not want them harmed. What will happen to them if the Arabs take control? Most of us have friends and relatives living in Israel, and lest we forget Israeli expats in America have family back there to think about.

The existence of Israel has offered the Jewish people a sense of legitimacy. It can be no accident that antisemitism has ebbed in America after the state of Israel was established, particularly in metropolitan areas. The current onslaught of antisemitism, as intense as it is, is manufactured by the pro-Arab crowd on the left and fueled by nationalists on the right.

Israel is also a democracy, an innovative and productive country, a strategic ally of the West, and the homeland of the Jewish people.

It is not the only sanctuary for Jews. Many Jews have opted to move from eastern Europe to England, Canada and America, among other countries. Mass immigration to America began around the time that Theodore Herzl proposed the creation of a Jewish state in Israel during the late 19th century. Despite current conditions, I strongly doubt that American Jews are in such danger that they need to move to IsraeI.

Most amazing is O’Brien’s ability to read the pulse of American Jews. We must wonder how he can possibly determine that American Jews see merely a need for “a sanctuary…the Jewish people can call home.” He is not even Jewish, and Jews cannot even be so certain of how most of us feel. He does not understand all that Israel means to us.

O’Brien’s remarks call into question Amnesty International’s neutrality as a monitor of human rights abuses, especially due to Amnesty’s recent report labeling Israel an “apartheid state.”

This concern is ably expressed in a second letter signed by 11 of those Jewish Democrats to Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard, which reads in part, “Mr. O’Brien’s comments, coupled with Amnesty International’s report released last month, appear to be part of Amnesty International’s continued dangerous degree of bias and denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

“Amnesty International cannot credibly advance human rights around the globe while simultaneously denying the only Jewish state their right to self-determination…It (the report) is a tacit attempt to delegitimize and ultimately destroy Israel as the only Jewish state in the world.”

As of this writing, Jewish Insider reported that Amnesty International has not responded.

Thanks to O’Brien, we can list yet another reason to maintain Israel as a Jewish state.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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One comment

  1. The very definition of irony: an anti-Zionist (O’Brien) educating Jews about “core Jewish values”.