Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Human Rights Watch Can Never Be Trusted Again (Updated)

It all started in May when the Arab News reported on a delegation from Human Rights Watch visiting Saudi Arabia where they were given a 'welcoming dinner' in Riyadh:

HRW presented a documentary and spoke on the report they compiled on Israel violating human rights and international law during its war on Gaza earlier this year.

"Human Rights Watch provided the international community with evidence of Israel using white phosphorus and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets. Pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations have strongly resisted the report and tried to discredit it," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division.

Whitson pointed out that the group managed to testify about Israeli abuses to the US Congress on three occasions. "US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel and the Hamas authorities in Gaza to cooperate with the United Nations fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations of serious Israeli violations during the war on Gaza. The mission will be headed by the reputable Justice Richard Goldstone."

At the dinner, Hassan Elmasry, a member of HRW's International Board of Directors, requested funding for the group.

In June, David Bernstein wrote about what Human Rights Watch was doing recently in Saudi Arabia:

A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners?

No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW's demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations."[emphasis added]

Jeffrey Goldberg picked up on the story in the Atlantic and notes that Whitson wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal rebutting Berstein's claim that while in Saudi Arabia, HRW said "not a word during the trip about the status of human rights in that country." What Whitson does not address, however, is the accusation that she tried "to extract money from potential Saudi donors by bragging about the group's 'battles' with the 'pro-Israel pressure groups'?"

Goldberg wrote to Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch to find out if that particular claim was true. After exchanging numerous messages with Roth in search of a straight answer, Roth finally responded:

That's certainly part of the story. We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception. It wasn't a pitch against the Israel lobby per se. Our standard spiel is to describe our work in the region. Telling the Israel story--part of that pitch--is in part telling about the lies and obfuscation that are inevitably thrown our way.

Goldberg, who also writes that "I'm not one of the people who believes that Human Rights Watch is reflexively anti-Israel," concludes:

In other words, yes, the director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division is attempting to raise funds from Saudis, including a member of the Shura Council (which oversees, on behalf of the Saudi monarchy, the imposition in the Kingdom of the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law) in part by highlighting her organization's investigations of Israel, and its war with Israel's "supporters," who are liars and deceivers. It appears as if Human Rights Watch, in the pursuit of dollars, has compromised its integrity. [emphasis added]

Back at The Volokh Conspiracy, where David Bernstein has blogged about reaction to his Wall Street Journal article--which started out as a post on the blog--Bernstein takes a slightly softer approach:

I'd put it differently then Goldberg. There's no evidence that HRW's pursuit of dollars has compromised its integrity, at least not yet. Rather, HRW's pursuit of dollars has starkly revealed the underlying biases that it previously has denied having. But really, anyone who has been paying attention shouldn't be surprised that HRW's credibility on Israel-related issues approaches zero. [emphasis added]

One thing seems certain, HRW seems incapable of rational discourse on the topic of Israel when they should be doing their utmost to present an image of neutrality.

The same could also be said of Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at HRW. Amira Hass writes about her interview with Garlasco:

Garlasco is not prepared to accept without question the Israeli claim that Hamas hides behind civilians and makes use of civilians. "Israelis are very quick to say they are doing it, but very short on proof. By keeping the independent people out, they leave doubt in people's minds." Furthermore, he believes, Israel has a record of not telling the truth: "They said in Lebanon they did not use cluster bombs. We found 4 million. They evade answering that they use phosphorus, and we stand there every day watching. They claim to have bombed a truck full of Grad missiles, and according to witnesses who spoke with Haaretz, it turned out to be a truck with oxygen tanks. Not everything that is long is a missile. How can anyone trust the Israeli military?'"

Garlasco's inability to maintain a modicum of neutrality and integrity, replaced by bitter cynicism is understandable--after all, it's not as if Hamas goes around bragging about using human shields!

Oh, wait:

Which leaves of course the obvious question: How can anyone trust Human Rights Watch?

UPDATE: On the topic of Garlasco and HRW, Ed Lasky wrote back in 2006 in connection with the Gaza Beach blast:

Lately he [Garlasco] has been peddling the Haditha massacre myth... which has been seriously questioned. He has said, " "What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder. The Haditha massacre will go down as "Iraq's My Lai" in his view.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH is a notoriously anti—Israel advocacy group funded by George Soros—who, he proudly admits, is anti—Israel. According to NGO Monitor and well—respected Professor Anna Bayefsky, Human Rights Watch "has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to anti—Semitism and anti—Israel bias."

He has participated in panels with anti—Semitic conspiracy—monger Karen Kwiatkowski.

In other words, how independent is this expert and how wrong was it for the Independent to rely on him?

The answer to that question is getting clearer all the time.

More at Memeorandum

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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