The director of Amnesty International USA on Wednesday said Israel "shouldn't exist as a Jewish state" in the wake of his organization's release of a controversial report on Israel that drew backlash from U.S. officials.
American Jews want a "safe Jewish space," Executive Director Paul O'Brien said, rather than an explicitly Jewish state. O'Brien, who is not Jewish, called on the Jewish community to "collectively change the conversation" and bring about a secular state by adhering to "core Jewish values, which are to be principled and fair and just."
"Amnesty takes no political views on any question, including the right of the State of Israel to survive," O'Brien said.
O'Brien made the remarks, which were reported by Jewish Insider, at an event hosted by the Woman's National Democratic Club. The director of the human-rights group defended a report released last month by his parent organization that accused Israel of carrying out an apartheid against Palestinians and called for Israeli officials to face prosecution in international courts.
That report was rebuked by State Department officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) called it a "gross mischaracterization" that perpetuated "longstanding tropes" regarding the Jewish state.
O'Brien attributed Democrats' hostility toward the report to meetings representatives held with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to Jewish Insider.
The director was unequivocal in opposing the existence of Israel as a state for the Jewish people.
"The right of the people to self-determination and to be protected is without a doubt something that we believe in, and I personally believe that," O'Brien said. "We are opposed to the idea—and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate—that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people."