Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Watch Is Hard At Work

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.
David Bernstein, Volokh Conspiracy

And yes, Human Rights Watch is at it again.

Saudi Arabia's favorite NGO has come out with its 166-page report Separate and Unequal accusing Israel of discriminating against West Bank Arabs on the “basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin.”

So for instance, according to the HRW report:
In most cases where Israel has acknowledged differential treatment of Palestinians—such as barring them from accessing “settler-only” roads and subjecting them to 505 roadblocks and checkpoints within the West Bank (as of June 2010)—it has asserted that the measures are necessary to protect Jewish settlers and other Israelis who are subject to periodic attacks by Palestinian armed groups, particularly during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, from 2000 to around 2006.[4]
When we check out the documentation for this in footnote 4, we read:
Violent attacks by Palestinian armed groups killed 202 Israeli civilians in the West Bank between 2000 and August 31, 2010. During the same period, Israeli settlers killed 43 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Israeli security forces killed 1823 Palestinian civilians there, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
While it is nice that Human Rights Watch acknowledges that there were "violent attacks by Palestinian armed groups" that does not stop it from fudging the B'Tselem numbers--as NGO Monitor points out in its report HRW´s Destructive Criticism: Analysis Of False Claims Against Israel. HRW leaves out the part where B'Tselem notes the 479 "Palestinians who took part in the hostilities and were killed by Israeli security forces" and 411 "Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security forces and it is not known if they were taking part in the hostilities".

That is sloppy on Human Rights Watch's part.

HRW also makes assumptions about international law as if it were actual settled law--and binding, when in fact it is not:
HRW repeatedly asserts that statements made by various UN bodies place legal obligations on Israel. But, none of these sources are legally binding. Despite HRW's claims to the contrary, the applicability of various bodies of law to Area C remains a highly controversial and contentious debate among legal scholars and authorities.
Human Rights Watch is entitled to its opinions, but should label it as such.

Human Rights Watch also promotes the BDS agenda, writing recommending "offsetting the costs of Israeli expenditures on settlements by withholding U.S. funding from the Israeli government in an amount equivalent to its expenditures on settlements and related infrastructure in the West Bank"

But according to Omar Bargouti, the founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the goal of the BDS movement is “a unitary state, where, by definition, Jews will be a minority.”

Is that the goal of Human Rights Watch as well?

The HRW report is consistent with its continuing emphasis on Israel as opposed to other countries in the region, as NGO Monitor notes:
HRW devotes disproportionate resources to condemnations of Israel. “Separate and Unequal,” the longest report issued by MENA in the past two years (166 pages), is the third in-depth report on Israel in 2010. In contrast, in 2010, HRW released a five-year study on Saudi Arabia (“Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain,” September 27, 2010) totaling only 52 pages, and a ten-year survey documenting abuses in Syria (“A Wasted Decade,” July 16, 2010) was only 35 pages. As noted in NGO Monitor’s analysis of “Looser Rein,” HRW downplays the most egregious examples of Saudi Arabia’s systematic abuse of human rights, and does not issue the harsh recommendations it directs toward Israel. In particular, HRW does not call for an end to US military assistance to Saudi Arabia.
Reuters Middle East Watch makes a point as well, arguing that:
Israel is not responsible for providing "basic necessities" to Palestinians living in the "West Bank". Those Palestinians classified as "refugees" are supported by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) which is funded to the tune of over a billion dollars annually, coming mainly from US and European taxpayers. Indeed, the Palestinians receive more aid money than any other refugees in the world. Palestinians not classified as refugees are the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and work for their basic necessities, as do Israelis. The government of Israel is not "depriving" anyone.

With respect to infrastructure like electricity and water, Israel has spent billions of dollars since 1967 building and supplying electrical power and clean drinking water to both Jewish and Arab communities in the territory. That HRW cites a single Arab village with 150 denizens which cannot apparently get connected to the electrical grid (for security reasons) is hardly evidence of, "systematic discrimination merely because of (Palestinians') race, ethnicity and national origin", which after all, is the same as that of millions of other Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank who are connected to the power grid.
But no matter. Not doubt the next time Human Rights Watch travels to Saudi Arabia, it will no doubt be able to regale its hosts again of its anti-Israel work.

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