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House Democrats condemn Amnesty director's comments about Israel

All 25 Jewish Democratic House members say Paul O'Brien's remarks were a 'patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community'
Demonstrators denounce the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, on 25 February 2022 (AFP)

All 25 Jewish Democratic House members have put out a joint statement condemning recent remarks made about Israel by Amnesty International's USA executive director.

While addressing the Woman's National Democratic Club last week, Paul O'Brien said the majority of American Jews don't want Israel to be a Jewish state, rather they want it to be "a safe Jewish space".

"I believe 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," he said.

"I think they can be convinced over time that the key to sustainability is to adhere to what I see as core Jewish values, which are to be principled and fair and just in creating that space."

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In a joint statement, all 25 Jewish Democratic members said O'Brien's attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community was "alarming and deeply offensive".

Other members of Congress also weighed in on the issue, including Congressman Ritchie Torres, who recently returned from a trip to Israel.

"The Director of Amnesty International comes out of the closet as 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," Torres tweeted.

A 2021 poll from the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 25 percent of US Jewish voters agreed that "Israel is an apartheid state", with a larger plurality, 28 percent, saying they did not find the statement to be antisemitic.

Last month, Amnesty International labelled Israel an apartheid state, becoming the latest organisation to join a cadre of human rights groups that have used the term to describe Israel's discriminatory treatment of Palestinians.

The 280-page-report, based upon research conducted from 2017 to 2021, said that since 1948 Israel pursued policies that "benefit Jewish Israelis while restricting the rights of Palestinians".

"Israel's system of institutionalised segregation and discrimination against Palestinians, as a racial group, in all areas under its control amounts to a system of apartheid, and a serious violation of Israel’s human rights obligations," Amnesty said.