All 25 Jewish Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives on Monday issued a joint statement condemning Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien, who reportedly said that American Jews do not want Israel to be a Jewish state.
Jewish Insider last week reported that O'Brien had told the Women’s National Democratic Club that "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 reportedly added that he thinks US Jews "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."
O’Brien later said on Twitter that his remarks had been removed from context, although he did not contest the quotes themselves.
“Jewish Insider’s headline claims that I and Amnesty questioned the right of Israel to exist,” he wrote. “I did not and Amnesty takes no position on the legitimacy of any state.”
"On the heels of a recent Amnesty International report that a number of Members condemned as delegitimizing of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and undermining of the prospects for a two-state solution, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director Paul O’Brien has now taken a new, very disturbing step: purporting to speak for the entire Jewish community on Israel. He claimed his ‘gut’ tells him ‘what Jewish people in this country want’ is that Israel ‘shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state,’” Monday’s statement said.
"As Jewish Members of the House of Representatives, we represent diverse views on a number of issues relating to Israel. However, we are in full agreement that Mr. O’Brien’s patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community is alarming and deeply offensive. He has added his name to the list of those who, across centuries, have tried to deny and usurp the Jewish people’s independent agency. We stand united in condemning this and any antisemitic attempt to deny the Jewish people control of their own destiny," it added.
O'Brien's remarks came one month after Amnesty International released a report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.
The report was condemned by US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides who described it as “absurd”.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters, "I reject the view that Israel's actions constitute apartheid. The department's own reports have never used such terminology."
"I think that it is important, as the world's only Jewish state, that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination, and we must ensure there isn't a double standard being applied," he added.
In addition, a group of nine US lawmakers from the Democratic party issued a statement denouncing the Amnesty International report.