Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Human Rights Watch’s Lost Credibility

February 26, 2012 2:39 pm 0 comments

Director, Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth. Photo: Kai Mork.

It is always painful to discover that an organization proclaiming liberal and moral values is not what it claims to be, but this is precisely what has happened to Human Rights Watch (HRW). For many years, in the absence of any systematic analysis of HRW’s activities and impacts, few questioned the claims made by the leaders of this organization. But recently, as a number of detailed examinations have been published, the difference between HRW’s public relations claims and the reality have become inescapable.

Our organization, NGO Monitor’s systematic analysis of HRW’s activities in the Middle East demonstrate a consistent credibility gap between HRW’s universal moral objectives, and the reality of its Middle East political agenda – including obsessive focus on Israel, and unseemly cooperation with brutal dictatorships. And despite the extensive use of genocidal threats by the Iranian regime, HRW has not found the time or resources to condemn this and other forms of hate speech.

In 2011, according to NGO Monitor’s annual report on HRW‘s output of materials, “Israel and the Occupied Territories” (as termed by HRW) still received more attention than Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. In 2010, as in previous years, HRW published more documents on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” than on any other country in the region. Clearly, HRW’s disproportionate attacks on Israel came at the expense of focusing on the worst human rights abuses in the region.

An examination of HRW’s op-eds, press conferences, and other activities shows sustained campaigns attacking Israeli responses to terror as war crimes, as compared to a few one-off statements condemning the Palestinian terror attacks themselves. HRW issued its first report on suicide bombing in November 2002, almost a year and a half after the Dolphinarian atrocity. Prior to this report, HRW head Ken Roth used the excuse that universal standards of human rights applied only to states and not to terror groups. (When they finally did the report on Palestinian attacks, HRW ignored documents clearly showing that Arafat had authorized terror attacks.)

This token report was quickly forgotten by HRW, which failed to organize a campaign or press for sanctions against Palestinian terrorists. Instead, their campaigns returned to attacks and allegations against Israel, including accusations of “war crimes” in the IDF operation against the suicide bombing center in Jenin.

This agenda has closely reflected the final declaration of the notorious NGO Forum at the 2001 Durban conference, in which HRW officials played a central role. This document called for a program of action to promote the “complete international isolation of Israel” through the façade of human rights. After their Jenin campaign, HRW launched campaigns based on false claims during the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah (such as the Qana incident), and the 2008/9 Gaza war, as reflected in the discredited Goldstone Report. Such attacks continue – on January 30, 2012, HRW released a statement attacking the Israeli High Court as undermining human rights – and is a central part of the Durban strategy. The few largely invisible condemnations of Palestinian violations – and every one of the rockets fired from Gaza towards Sderot is a war crime – are lost in the noise.

This dismal record led founder Robert Bernstein to publish an op-ed in the New York Times denouncing his own organization as morally bankrupt. Similarly, in a 2010 Human Rights Day speech, Bernstein emphasized that citizens of repressive Arab regimes “would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide,” but which is instead “ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.”

HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth, Sarah Leah Whitson (director of the Middle East and North Africa Division), and Joe Stork (deputy director) have long records of bias. Roth referred to Jewish religious texts as “primitive,” and Whitson’s “credentials” include praise for Seif Islam Qadaffi as a “reformer.” In 2010, HRW issued 19 largely minor documents on Libya, compared with 51 on “Israel and the Occupied Territories”.  Whitson also held a fundraising dinner in Saudi Arabia, exploiting the specter of “pro-Israel pressure groups” to solicit funds from “prominent members of Saudi society.” In 2011, MENA co-chair Kathleen Peratis met with members of the Hamas terror organization.

HRW’s warped agenda is not unique to Israel. Iranian-born journalist Maryam Namazie took HRW executive director Ken Roth to task for stating “Islamist parties are genuinely popular in much of the Arab world, in part because many Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule.” As Namazie noted, “A majority don’t support Islamism unless you believe that people like to have their rights and freedoms limited and are different human beings from those sitting in the plush Human Rights Watch offices. It isn’t rocket science to understand that after autocratic rule and the suppression of dissent and banning of political parties, it is impossible for secular forces and those representing the true spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’ to organize and win ‘elections’.”

The tragedy here is not only due to the demise of HRW as a moral and significant framework for promoting human rights and other universal principles. Rather, when groups like HRW exploit these moral values as political and ideological weapons, the wider respect for human rights in any society, including Israel’s, is replaced by cynical dismissal. Anyone who is truly concerned about these values should be demanding that groups such as HRW immediately end their double standards and false claims of “war crimes”, and return to the universal principles of human rights.

Gerald Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and to encouraging civil discussion on the reports and activities of nongovernmental organizations, particularly in the Middle East.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →