Amnesty International chief retracts ‘Israel murdered Arafat’ claim

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Amnesty International chief retracts ‘Israel murdered Arafat’ claim

The organisation's new secretary-general Agnès Callamard had claimed Israel's president 'admitted' the Palestinian leader's murder

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Agnès Callamard, the new secretary-general of Amnesty International
Agnès Callamard, the new secretary-general of Amnesty International

Amnesty International has sought to distance itself from a tweet by its new secretary-general that suggested Israel murdered the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Agnès Callamard, who became the organisation’s secretary-general last month, made the remarks when sharing a 2013 New York Times interview with Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres.

“NYT Interview of Shimon Perres [sic] where he admits that Yasser Arafat was murdered,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Israel.

But the lawyer and human rights activist Hillel Neuer said Callamard’s words were “a casual smear”.

The New York Times interview in fact quoted Peres as saying he did not believe Arafat should be assassinated because “I thought it was possible to do with business with him. Without him, it was much more complicated.”

“Who else could have closed the Oslo deal?” Peres is reported to have said.

Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader

Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organisation for 35 years, died in a French military hospital in November 2004, weeks after he was airlifted in ill health out of his compound in the West Bank.

Several Palestinian officials, including Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas, have suggested he was the victim of an assassination, but have never offered evidence.

Israel has always denied having a role in the PLO leader’s death.

Amnesty International said in a short statement: “The tweet was written in haste and is incorrect. It does not reflect the position of Amnesty International or Agnès Callamard.”

The tweet was still available on Callamard’s account on Thursday morning despite calls for her to delete it.

Hillel Neuer said Callamard’s tweet “exemplifies the modus operandi of Amnesty when it comes to Israel”.

He told Jewish News: “she instinctively accused Israel of murder without ever bothering to check the facts.

“The organisation that she now heads, and for which she worked over many years, famously rushed in 2019 to condemn Israel for bombing a Gaza human rights office, when in fact the rocket was fired by a Palestinian terrorist group.

“Callamard’s casual smear of Israel was not a one-off. Her twitter account is replete with dozens of baseless, hostile and one-sided attacks on Israel, while she has never mentioned Hamas even once.

“She should delete all of her false smears, and apologise.”

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