Trump could label Oxfam and Amnesty antisemitic over criticism of Israel

Peter Beaumont
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

The Trump administration is reportedly considering labelling a number of leading international humanitarian organisations as antisemitic after they documented Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians, including settlement building in the occupied territories.

The groups include the UK-based Amnesty International and Oxfam as well as the US organisation Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International accused the Trump administration, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, of attempting “to silence and intimidate international human rights organisations”.

The plans were detailed in reports in Politico and the Washington Post and based on briefings from unnamed officials and a congressional aide who said that a declaration labelling the groups antisemitic could come as early as this week.

The move would appear to be a gift to the Israeli right in the run-up to the US elections as it is reportedly being driven by Pompeo.

Rightwing Israeli political figures, not least the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have long complained that any scrutiny of Israel’s human rights record regarding Palestinians, including by UN bodies, is biased and disproportionate.

The mooted declaration follows recent statements by senior Israeli political figures making similar charges.

Last year, Gilad Erdan, then strategic affairs minister, threatened to ban Amnesty International from Israel over a report that called on websites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor to boycott listings in Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories – regarded as illegal under international law – accusing the sites of profiting from “war crimes”.

“Amnesty International, that hypocritical organisation that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of antisemitic delegitimisation,” Erdan said at the time.

According to Politico, the declaration is expected to take the form of a report from the office of Elan Carr, the US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and would urge the US government to withdraw support for named groups and encourage other countries to follow suit, despite opposition from state department lawyers.

The report would cite such organisations’ perceived support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which has targeted Israel over its construction of settlements on land Palestinians claim for a future state.

The state department declined to comment on a pending declaration, which was first reported by Politico.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of antisemitism.

In a statement, Bob Goodfellow, of Amnesty International USA, said: “Secretary Pompeo’s baseless accusations are yet another attempt to silence and intimidate international human rights organisations.

“The administration is spreading misinformation and working to undermine those who are working to protect human rights. Amnesty International USA is deeply committed to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate worldwide, and will continue to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We vigorously contest any allegation of antisemitism.

“We know that the governments of many countries, including the United States, would rather not have their human rights violations exposed. It is concerning to see secretary Pompeo join the list of people and governments that use accusations of antisemitism to try to sweep human rights abuses under the rug.”

Noah Gottschalk, of Oxfam America, said: “Any insinuation that Oxfam supports antisemitism is false, baseless, and offensive.

“Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Human Rights Watch’s official, Eric Goldstein, also condemned the move.

“We fight discrimination in all forms, including antisemitism,” he said in a statement. “Criticising government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people. For example, our critiques of US government policy do not make us anti-American.”