Politico Plays Defense for Anti-Israel Groups

On Oct. 21, 2020 Politico magazine reported that “the Trump administration is considering declaring that several prominent international NGOs — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam — are anti-Semitic and that governments should not support them.” The ruling, Politico reporter Nahal Toosi wrote, would come from the U.S. State Department. Yet instead of providing readers with the troubling background of these organizations, Politico played defense for them.

The anti-Israel—indeed, often antisemitic—history of these groups is undeniable. Yet, Politico omits a very long list of disturbing behavior.

In 2010, it was revealed that Human Rights Watch (HRW) had an employee, Marc Garlasco, who had a fondness for collecting Nazi memorabilia (see “Explosive Claims Engulf Human Rights Watch,” The Times, March 25, 2010). The executive director of HRW, Ken Roth, claimed in a Sept. 15, 2014 tweet that antisemitism had “flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in the Gaza War.” Blaming Jews for the violence that is perpetrated against them is a staple of antisemitism. Roth’s remarks also meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by numerous governments and countries and was used by the U.S. State Department—beginning with the Obama administration. IHRA notes that “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” is antisemitic. As The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Golberg noted at the time, in an article titled “Does Human Rights Watch Understand the Nature of Prejudice:

“Roth’s framing of this issue is very odd and obtuse. Anti-Semitism in Europe did not flare ‘in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza,’ or anywhere else. Anti-Semitic violence and invective are not responses to events in the Middle East, just as anti-Semitism does not erupt ‘in response’ to the policies of banks owned by Jews, or in response to editorial positions taken by The New York Times. This is for the simple reason that Jews do not cause anti-Semitism.

During the 2014 War, NGO Monitor notes, Roth compared Israel’s defensive actions against the Gaza-based terror group Hamas to those of Nazi Germany, promoting an advertisement that equated “Nazi genocide” with the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. Drawing comparisons of Israeli policy to that of the Nazis also meets the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Oxfam has also been caught promoting antisemitism—as recently as this year. In March 2020 it was revealed that Oxfam’s online bookshop was selling copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has been described by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as “the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times.” The Tsarist-era forgery purports to show a secret Jewish cabal that controls the world. As the museum notes: “The individuals and groups who have used the Protocols are all linked by a common purpose: to spread hatred of Jews.”

Oxfam’s decision to sell the Protocols was covered by several media outlets, including large U.K. newspapers like The Times (“Oxfam Caught Selling Antisemitic Book,” March 14, 2020). Yet, a mere eight months later Politico’s Toosi didn’t deign it worth mentioning. Nor was this the only antisemitic tract to be found on Oxfam’s online bookstore.

As the blogger Elder of Zion documented in a March 23, 2020 post, Oxfam also sold a book that “tries to exonerate Nazi war criminal Albert Speer,” along with works that blame Jews for the Holocaust. Further, the books themselves were approved by Oxfam volunteers and were donated, as Oxfam’s own website acknowledged, “by supporters.” As Elder noted: “The problem is not that Oxfam accidentally is selling some antisemitic books. The problem is that these books are what Oxfam members are reading and recommending to others.”

Nor is this particularly surprising considering that Oxfam has funded the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WLAC). WLAC supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), which seeks to single out Israel for opprobrium. As NGO Monitor has documented, WLAC fieldworker Manal Tamimi has endorsed terrorism and anti-Jewish violence. In September 2015, on Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar), Tamimi tweeted: “Vampire zionist celebrating their Kebore day by drinking Palestinian bloods, yes our blood is pure & delicious but it will kill u at the end.”

Another Oxfam partner, Miftah, has published claims that Jews consume Christian blood and defended suicide bombers. In 2013, when Miftah’s promotion of the antisemitic blood libel prompted concern, Oxfam defended the group. Comparing Jews to bloodsucking creatures is a staple of antisemitism that goes back centuries.

As The Times revealed in 2015, Yasmin Hussein, Amnesty International’s Director of Faith and Human Rights, has links to the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly to Hamas, both of which are vociferously antisemitic groups. Other Amnesty employees have accused the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing and compared Israel to Nazi Germany and singled out the nation as a “scum state.” A top Amnesty UK employee, Kristyan Benedict, libeled three British members of Parliament—all of whom were Jewish—as “warmongers.”

In an April 19, 2015 vote, Amnesty UK rejected a resolution to campaign against antisemitism, claiming that “our membership decided not to pass this resolution calling for a campaign with a single focus.” Yet, as NGO Monitor pointed out, Amnesty UK has frequently engaged in single focus campaigns, including for the Sinti and Roma communities. But fighting Jew hatred—at a time of rising antisemitism throughout Europe and the UK—clearly wasn’t of interest. Amnesty’s decision was profiled by several news outlets, notably a Tablet Magazine entitled “Amnesty International Rejects Motion to Combat Record-High Antisemitism in the UK.” One doesn’t need to be a Woodward or a Bernstein to find and cite such an article—just a good-faith and competent reporter.

Equally importantly, Amnesty International, HRW and Oxfam all have links to, or actively support, groups involved in the BDS movement. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has openly called for the end of the Jewish nation of Israel. As The Jerusalem Post has reported, BDS activists have disrupted Holocaust commemorations, clearly illustrating the antisemitic nature of BDS, which targets one state and one state only—the Jewish one—for economic boycotts. And per Congressional testimony, the movement itself has links to several U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

These links and ties to BDS entities have been assiduously documented by NGO Monitor and others. Indeed, they can be found on that nonprofit’s website Yet, Toosi—who mentions NGO Monitor in her report—fails to detail them. Instead she dismisses NGO Monitor as “a pro-Israel site that tracks the activities of human rights and other organizations and often accuses them of being anti-Israel.” By contrast, Toosi is happy to take at face value the claims from Amnesty et al. that they “are deeply committed to fighting antisemitism” and do not support BDS.

The considerable evidence—omitted by Toosi—says otherwise. Politico’s report reveals nothing about how the organizations in question countenance and/or support antisemitism. But it does speak volumes about current standards for “reporting.”