In an op-ed in Haaretz, Kenneth Roth--executive director of Human Rights Watch--disputes the claim that his group focuses disproportionately on Israel:
Critics of Human Rights Watch's work on Israel raise three main points. First, they say we disproportionately focus on Israel, and neglect other countries in the Middle East. Second, they claim our research methodology is flawed - relying on witnesses with an agenda. Third, as recently expressed by our founding chairman Robert Bernstein, they argue that we should focus on "closed" countries such as China rather than "open" societies like Israel.
I reject all three claims.
Human Rights Watch currently works on seventeen countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iran, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Israel accounts for about 15 percent of our published output on the region. The Middle East and North Africa division is one of 16 research programs at Human Rights Watch and receives 5 percent of our total budget. Israel is a small fraction of what we do. [emphasis added]
I'm not sure how 15% of anything is a 'tiny fraction', but Roth's problem with math goes deeper than that.
David Bernstein has noted the growing reputation of Human Rights Watch:
Got that? HRW works on seventeen Middle Eastern and North African countries. These include not only the most obvious offenders mentioned by Roth — Iran, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia — but also other far-from-skilled practitioners of human rights like Yemen, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Lebanon, Bahrain. (You can learn some more about those countries' records here.)
Let's do the math together:
• One divided by seventeen is .058, or roughly six percent.
• The 15 percent of HRW's published output from the region that Roth admits is devoted to Israel is toweringly greater than than the six percent that would go to Israel were all countries in proportion.
And there we have disproportion.
From now on, every HRW report on Israel is going to be greeted with "you mean the Saudi-funded HRW," or "you mean the report written by the woman [HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson] who is a great admirer of Norman Finkelstein and lobbied Kofi Annan against Israel in the middle of the Second Intifada" or "you mean the report written by the guy [Stork] who supports the anti-Israel boycott movement and has been venting his hostility to Israel for almost forty years" or "you mean HRW, the organization that fails to take down from its website anti-Israel reports even when it has admitted they are inaccurate," and so on.And now we have one more thing about Human Rights Watch that just doesn't add up.