Friday, February 27, 2009

On a serious note.

I’m a big advocate for seeing all sides of an issue. I firmly believe that if you can’t see your opponent’s point of view, you will not resolve your conflict. Having said that, I have long admired Amnesty International for their work. However, recently I have become aware of some practices that greatly disappointed me. I felt I could no longer stay silent on the issue, and so have written AI a letter. Here’s what it said:

To whom it may concern:

I have long admired Amnesty International for all the good work you do. There are so many people in the world who are being horribly mistreated, and no one would be aware of their plight if not for your efforts. However, since my membership - and therefore my periodic receipt of your e-newsletters - I have discovered something that I find very disconcerting.

While your coverage of many conflicts seems quite well-rounded, in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict you seem to have fallen into the trap many of the world’s journalists have fallen into: that of making Israel into the de facto “bad guy.” I’m not saying I agree with everything Israel is doing. Far from it. But there are many elements I am quite surprised you have not mentioned, and as advocates speaking out against humanitarian crimes everywhere I believe you owe your members coverage of these, as well.

For example, I have seen no mention of the fact that the Palestinian government - as instituted by the Oslo Accord - has been corrupt and mismanaged since day one. Yasir Arafat, for example, spent millions of dollars on construction. Not of schools and hospitals, as was promised and as he should, but on casinos. To add insult to injury, he built a casino across the street from a refugee camp.

There is also no freedom of speech in the Palestinian territories today. Journalists feel that in order to truly practice their craft they must rely on the foreign press. Anyone who speaks out against the government is beaten, jailed or shot. Academics with ideas on how to improve the lives of Palestinians are either punished or simply ignored, considered to have no “street cred” if they have not been jailed by the Israelis or killed jews.

Why have you not raised an uproar about Palestinian children being used as human shields, by Palestinians? Why have you not mentioned that UN facilities, schools and hospitals are used as Hamas weapons storage facilities in Gaza? Where is your indignation at Hamas declaring victory when thousands of their people have died? Where is your outrage at the fact that in Lebanon there is a law prohibiting Palestinians from working in 62 occupations? Where is your anger at the fact that in some other countries Palestinians must abide by a 6 p.m. curfew? And no, none of these countries is Israel.

in fact, to this day Israel is the ONLY country that admits Palestinian cancer patients into its hospitals for treatment. And they do so on a daily basis. Israel is the only country that has provided Palestinian with consistent humanitarian aid over the past 3+ decades.

To reiterate, I am not saying I agree with everything Israel is doing. There are many people on both sides of the conflict that should be held to account for wrongs they’ve committed. But I am truly appalled that Amnesty International, as an organization purportedly focused only on fighting crimes against humanity, fails to cover the crimes committed by Arabs against Palestinians, and by the Palestinians themselves against other Palestinians. For more information on this matter, I would suggest you look into Khaled Abu Toameh (Wiki here: If President Obama saw fit to have a two-hour conversation with him to hear his point of view on the conflict, maybe it will be worth your while to hear him out, as well.

I sincerely hope my letter is read and not immediately dismissed. I hope that my faith in Amnesty International as an organization of real integrity and vision will be restored.

Thank you for your time,

The sad truth of the matter - as Mr. Abu Tomeh said in his address to UCLA Anderson students yesterday - is that the Western media just isn’t interested in a more balanced view of the conflict. It’s easiest - and most lucrative - for them to make Israel out to be the big baddie of the situation. He mentioned actually approaching journalists in cities such as Los Angeles and being told that they are simply not interested in covering a more balanced, comprehensive view of where the blame for the current Palestinian situation really lay. It’s a very unfortunate situation, and I hope that I, in some small way, can help remedy it.

Thanks for your support.