Even in a month when war raged in Georgia, Amnesty International continued to focus on the Gaza Strip, persistently blaming Israel for ongoing Palestinian hardship.
Amnesty, in fact, issued harsher condemnations of Israel than of any party to the Georgian conflict. With a ceasefire holding between Israel and Hamas, resulting in a period of calm, Amnesty stubbornly continued to spew hollow publications repeating outdated allegations.
Moreover, Amnesty took pride in its relentless criticism of Israel, while the rest of the world rightly concerned itself with the unfolding crisis in Georgia. In a press release, the organization boasted: "With the ceasefire holding, the suffering in Gaza has fallen off the international news agenda. However, Amnesty International members continue to campaign." This "explanation" merely highlights Amnesty's obsession with Israel, regardless of the reality on the ground.
Regular readers of Amnesty's material are not fooled by their non-stop publications condemning Israel and can easily discern that they seldom reveal anything new. Many of its press releases are identical, except for minor alterations. Amnesty's ulterior motive appears to be to maintain a constant production rate of material denouncing Israel, regardless of actual developments.
For example, Amnesty's distasteful decision to continue issuing condemnations of Israel during a period of intense intra-Palestinian fighting clearly illustrates the point. Unsurprisingly, Amnesty failed to mention, let alone praise, Israel's commendable acceptance of Fatah members fleeing from Hamas.
While devoting so many of its resources to Gaza, at a time of acute suffering and human rights abuses in Georgia, Amnesty International failed to provide effective coverage of the Georgian conflict. Although one would reasonably expect Amnesty to immediately respond with urgency to such a crisis, raising awareness for its victims, Amnesty preferred to focus on its usual target: Israel.
For instance, on August 12, 2008, the organization released a statement headlined "Trapped – collective punishment in Gaza." An expanded version was re-issued on August 27, 2008. As NGO Monitor analysis has demonstrated, the report lacks evidence and credibility, largely ignores the context of terrorism, exploits international legal terminology, and presents data in a highly selective and distorted manner.
Concurrently, Amnesty released a series of vague and neutral statements calling on all sides of the conflict in the Caucuses to avoid harming civilians, without assuming a clear stance, nor providing comprehensive reporting on the events.
Lame response to Georgian conflict
Amnesty's scarce coverage of the war in Georgia is not the result of inaccessibility. Human Rights Watch managed to provide ongoing and insightful coverage, based on its delegation's observations. Such limp statements on Amnesty's part betray its commitment to the defense of every individual's human rights.
Disappointingly, Amnesty expressed less concern regarding the events in Georgia, despite the fact that a greater number of civilians were killed during that conflict than over the course of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. On that occasion, Amnesty rushed to condemn Israel in almost-daily publications. It did not hesitate to portray Israel as an aggressor and largely ignored the fact that civilians in northern Israel suffered a constant barrage of rockets launched by the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
Amnesty's lame response to the recent Georgian conflict, overshadowed by its focus on Israel, indicates that the Second Lebanon War simply served as an incentive for Amnesty to pursue its shameless Israel-bashing. Had its aversion to war been genuine, Amnesty would have responded as forcefully or even more vocally to the Georgian conflict.
Were it truly concerned with the universality of human rights, Amnesty would apply the same standards to all countries. Hence, Amnesty's aim appears clear: to persistently condemn Israel, even if it means neglecting those suffering in other, more pressing conflicts across the world.
The authors are researchers at NGO Monitor, www.ngo-monitor.org
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