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Amnesty-led statement of solidarity with Gaza ignores Hamas atrocities

Michael Visontay
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Amnesty-led statement of solidarity with Gaza ignores Hamas atrocities

Published: 27 October 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The Australian human rights group has led a statement signed by 100 groups that omits Hamas’ massacres; Yuval Harari ‘devastated’ at global left-wing indifference.

Amnesty International Australia is the lead signatory to a Civil Society Statement of Solidarity with Gaza, signed by almost 100 Australian groups, which fails to mention Hamas’s massacres or the hostages it has taken. The statement also accuses Israel of targeting Gaza civilians.

The statement, dated October 19, was signed by organisations including the Human Rights Law Centre, the Australian Centre for International Justice, the NSW Teachers Federation, The Sydney Peace Foundation, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Australian Council for International Development, Anglican Overseas Aid, Mary MacKillop Today, Rail, Tram & Bus Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Jews Against the Occupation, Jews against Fascism and more than 40 Australian pro-Palestinian and Muslim organisations.

The statement starts as follows: "We express our concern about all violations of international law. We mourn the killing of civilians, Palestinian and Israeli.”

This generalised introduction is the only reference to Israelis who have died. There is no mention of Hamas, the massacres it committed that provoked Israel’s retaliation, nor of the 200-plus hostages taken by Hamas.

The statement continues: "Under international humanitarian law (the laws of war) parties to a conflict have a clear obligation to protect the lives of civilians. Israel's attacks on Gaza as well as their complete blockade of Gaza are clearly in breach of international law.

"It is civilians who are paying the heaviest price in this war. It is civilians who always pay the heaviest price in war. Already, thousands of civilians have died.

"The Israeli Government’s cutting off of water, food, fuel, and electricity to Gaza amounts to collective punishment, and is a war crime. It is cruel and inhumane.

“As the crisis unfolds and civilians continue to pay the price, Australia, and the whole international community, must immediately call for a ceasefire and for an end to the targeting of civilians.” 

Asked to comment on why no mention was made in the statement of Hamas' massacres, or the taking of hostages, Amnesty Associate Campaigner, Nikita White replied: "Amnesty International's research has highlighted how Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have committed grave violations of international law, such as summary killings of civilians and hostage taking, which amount to war crimes, since 7 October. We have also highlighted the unlawful use of rockets that are inherently indiscriminate by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in our research. 

"We have repeatedly called for Hamas and all other armed groups to release unconditionally and immediately all civilian hostages and to treat all those being held captive humanely. We have also called for these crimes to be investigated as part of the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation into crimes committed by all parties in the current conflict."

The Human Rights Law Centre was also approached for comment. It referred The Jewish Independent to Amnesty as the lead signatory.

The statement reflects a global indifference by human rights groups and left-wing advocates regarding the horror of Hamas’s massacre, which has prompted the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari to accuse them of “extreme moral insensitivity”. Harari this week joined 90 signatories of a statement expressing dismay with “elements within the global left … until now, our political partners” who had, on occasion, “justified Hamas’s actions”.

Harari said he spoke with peace activists in Israel who were “completely devastated” and “feeling abandoned and betrayed by supposed allies” in peace efforts, after academics, artists and intellectuals signed letters which failed to condemn Hamas.

Harari’s dismay has been echoed by the former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth, who last year criticised Israeli “apartheid”, but has now rounded on the Left for making excuses for Hamas. In an interview with The Forward, Roth said that while Israel’s actions in Gaza raise serious humanitarian concerns, “the left discredits itself if it becomes an apologist for Hamas slaughtering civilians”.

A notable absence from the Amnesty-led list of Australian signatories is Human Rights Watch Australia (HRWA). An analysis of its website, statements and policies, reveals several differences with the words voiced in the Amnesty-led statement. Most significantly, HRWA statements have not accused Israel of "targeting" civilians in Gaza, other than to say that the siege and bombardment amounts to a collective punishment.

In addition, HRWA has only put its name to claims when it has verified them itself. HRWA has claimed that Israel has breached International Humanitarian Law (IHL), just not in reference to specific attacks, but in reference to the collective punishment of the siege, and the use of white phosphorus.

The Australian Council for International Development

The Australian Council for International Development also released an appeal for Israel and Palestine that failed to mention Hamas atrocities and the taking of hostages in the context of civilian casualties.

The appeal text says: On Saturday 7th October 2023, there was a catastrophic increase in violence between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli forces in Israel and Gaza. Civilians and civilian infrastructure including hospitals have tragically, and unlawfully, been the target of many of these attacks, causing unprecedented suffering. As of the 23rd of October 2023, the human toll has been devastating with over 6,000 deaths across Gaza and Israel.

In response to questions from The Jewish Independent, a spokesperson for ACFID said: ACFID has separately issued three media releases which call for diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages. We have also unequivocally condemned the attacks by Hamas and referred to this in all subsequent media releases and media interviews. As set out in the media releases, our position is:

“ACFID unequivocally condemns Hamas’ killing and kidnapping of civilians. The actions of Hamas in carrying out assaults that led to the deaths of 1,200 Israelis and the taking of numerous hostages are abhorrent acts.

“We unequivocally condemn Hamas for their horrific attacks, killings of 1,200 people and kidnappings.

“Australia as an important middle power should pull out all stops with regional actors to intercede to seek protection and the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

"Regarding our humanitarian appeals page: we always work deliberately to craft separate humanitarian appeals pages that focus directly on our members' attempts to respond to humanitarian need based on humanitarian principles."

Editor's note: The article was updated on October 28 to include the comments by Nikita White from Amnesty.

Yuval Noah Harari backs critique of leftist ‘indifference’ to Hamas atrocities (Guardian)
Sapiens author among 90 signatories to statement of dismay at ‘extreme moral insensitivity’

The ‘godfather of human rights’ criticized Israeli ‘apartheid’ — now he’s calling out the left for making excuses for Hamas (Forward)
An interview with Kenneth Roth, the former Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch and a fierce critic of Israel

'The football world disappointed me': Israeli coach laments apathy to Hamas atrocities (Ynet)
Red Star Belgrade head coach Barak Bachar expresses dismay with major European clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool for tepid response to massacre; 'My country is bleeding, but no one will break the Israeli spirit, Am Yisrael Chai!'

About the author

Michael Visontay

Michael Visontay is the Commissioning Editor of TJI. He has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 30 years. Michael is the author of several books, including Who Gave You Permission?, co-authored with child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks, and Welcome to Wanderland: Western Sydney Wanderers and the Pride of the West.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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