Israeli embassy pressured Amnesty to cancel launch of ‘apartheid’ book By Phil Weiss and Alex Kane

22 March 2014 — Mondoweiss

Ben White recently published a new edition of the book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The title was launched in the UK last night. But the Israeli embassy tried to scuttle the event.

Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via

Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via

White writes in The National, “Israel fears the apartheid label as it reveals its gruesome tactics.”

I marked the publication of my book with a well-attended launch event last night at Amnesty International UK, chaired by David Hearst, former chief foreign leader writer for The Guardian.

In the weeks before the event, the Israeli embassy itself directly contacted Amnesty UK to ask them to cancel the launch, and also pressured Mr Hearst to withdraw his participation.

In targeting my book launch, Israeli diplomats in London resorted to crude smear tactics, the sort that are familiar fare for lobby groups, but rather more extraordinary coming from senior embassy officials. Thankfully, neither Amnesty UK nor Mr Hearst gave them the time of day, but the clumsy efforts by Israel’s official representatives to make certain topics “off limits” only drew attention to the issues my book is intended to address.

White also writes about the attempted cancellation at Middle East Monitor:

Israel’s diplomatic staff in London directly contacted the human rights organisation to demand the cancellation of the event. Amnesty UK naturally refused, pointing out that their building is a space where a diverse range of activists can meet, engage and debate issues relating to social justice and the promotion of human rights.

But it wasn’t just Amnesty who the Israeli Embassy pressured – they also contacted David Hearst, who has kindly agreed to chair the event. Hearst, now Editor of Middle East Eye, told me about the “dramatic” change in tone in the embassy’s communications with him:

“One minute [embassy official] Yiftah Curiel was professing that he would love to get some coffee or lunch with me to talk about the new website, and plying me with exclusive invitations to the Ambassador’s House for a discussion with the author Ari Shavit. The next he was shocked and horrified to learn that I had agreed to chair the launch of the second edition of your book.”

And when Hearst didn’t fold? “Pathetically, Curiel withdrew the invitation to the Ambassador’s house.”