Amnesty USA Head Criticized for Saying Israel “Shouldn’t Exist As a Jewish State”

March 11, 2022
Paul O’Brien (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for Jo Cox memorial)

Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien is currently under fire for saying during a March 9 event that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

Jewish Insider (JI) reported that O’Brien was speaking at a lunch event hosted by the Women’s National Democratic Club when he made those remarks. O’Brien was arguing that he didn’t believe a 2020 poll finding that 80% of Jewish Americans consider themselves to be supporters of the Jewish State. “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 said, per JI. He added that Amnesty holds no opinion on political matters, which includes “the right of the State of Israel to survive.” “We are opposed to the idea…that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people,” O’Brien said.

Since the JI report was published, O’Brien and Amnesty have been met with a firestorm of criticism on social media. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt argued in a tweet that O’Brien “shamelessly and bizarrely tries to explain why most Jews don’t really feel attached to Israel and argues Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state.” “Thanks but no thanks, @dpaulobrien,” he added. “We don’t need you to [J]ew-splain what our community should think or feel, even as you dismiss thousands of years of history. You & @AmnestyUSA ignore clear evidence of overwhelming support among Jews for #Zionism & the democratic & Jewish state. Your obsessive, relentless focus on Israel, and the erasure of the Jewish right to self-determination illustrates a dangerous degree of bias. Both @amnesty and @dpaulobrien owe the Jewish community an apology.”

Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY), a progressive congressman who supports Israel, also joined in on the criticism of O’Brien, tweeting that O’Brien’s comments show that he is “a crusader against Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. Thank you for sparing us all the pretense that the Amnesty report is anything other than an ideological hit job.” In February, Amnesty International UK released a report accusing Israel of apartheid.

Lior Haiat, spokesperson of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also tweeted that O’Brien’s comments exposed “the true face of the organization, calling for the elimination of the nation state of the Jewish people. The truth’s out in the open along with Amnesty’s obsession & hate for the only country with a Jewish majority. There’s a name for this hate…”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called for Amnesty to “be listed as a hate group.” “At a time when one sovereign nation is being crushed, its US director wants to eliminate the one Jewish state, a democracy with over 9 million citizens, and a safe haven for endangered Jews,” Cooper said in a statement. “They are dedicated to the same goal as Hamas.”

Social Lite Creative CEO Emily Schrader, who also co-hosts the “Headlines with the Haddads” podcast, tweeted: “Who the f*** is Amnesty to tell us that ‘Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state?!’ Perhaps they missed the memo that Jews rejected the white European colonialist model a long time ago. We fought to have a free, Jewish AND democratic state of Israel.”

British journalist David Collier tweeted, “Finally Amnesty has admitted it is antisemitic. @amnesty actually want[s] to destroy the only Jewish state in the world. Not the many Islamic ones, nor the Christian ones. Just the one tiny Jewish state. Amnesty = antisemitic.”

NGO Monitor Founder Professor Gerald Steinberg noted in a tweet that the founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, “was a Zionist” and that “his mother Flora Solomon was a major force in the Zionist movement (Jewish self determination). Now the head of @amnestyusa @dpaulobriensells anti-Zionist #antisemitic hate, like many in this morally corrupt NGO.”

Human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, who heads the International Legal Forum, tweeted: “So @dpaulobrien of @amnestyusa now thinks he knows better? O’Brien: ‘American Jews do not want Israel to be a Jewish state.’ Do you even hear how patronizing and racist you are?”

Amnesty International USA did not immediately return the Journal’s request for comment.



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