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Congressional Candidate Vows to Support Israel, but Ignores Ties to Human Rights Watch

avatar by Robert Goldberg


The US Capitol building. Wikimedia Commons via Martin Falbisoner.

Tom Malinowski, a candidate for the House of Representatives in New Jersey’s Seventh District, claims that he is a “lifelong friend of the Jewish community [and] supporter of Israel.” But such statements are at odds with Malinowski’s long  association with Human Rights Watch (HRW), a group that has, in Noah Pollak’s words, helped convince the world that the Jewish state is actually a criminal state.

Malinowski was director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington, DC lobbying office when it was pressing the United Nations, the US Congress, and the White House to endorse the Goldstone report, which concluded that Israel committed war crimes during the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead — the Israeli military campaign in response to Hamas’ rocket attacks and terrorist activities.

Human Rights Watch also supported the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution that called for a UN-appointed team “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression.”

HRW also played a critical role in the Goldstone report’s condemnation of Israel’s military activities. As NGO Monitor observed, “Goldstone’s report includes over 30 quotes and citations from HRW publications. These largely repeat, without question or independent investigation, allegations made by HRW in its Gaza war publications.” Many of these claims were authored by Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military expert.”

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HRW also invested a substantial amount of time and money into lobbying other governments and political elites to support the Goldstone report. Human Rights Watch publications on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” comprised 28% of its total Mideast output in 2009, and Israel received more attention than Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, and other chronic human rights abusers.

The organization issued a steady stream of press releases and statements claiming that Israeli military operations conducted in self-defense were no different than the systematic slaughter of innocent civilians by terrorist groups. Indeed, on September 27, 2009, the HRW Washington office, which Malinowski worked for, called on the Obama administration to sponsor a resolution requiring the UN Security Council to investigate Israel’s review of the IDF’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead. The release claimed that Israel couldn’t be trusted to impartially carry out such an inquiry.

On October 1, 2009, HRW issued another release that sarcastically implied that Israel was getting away with murder (literally) in Gaza because of the power of the Israel lobby. That day, the Obama administration blocked consideration of the Goldstone report at the Human Rights Council.

On October 2, HRW stated: “The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free.” The statement implied that Israel’s military acts of self-defense were no different than genocide.

And on October 3, Malinowski echoed this view, claiming, “The larger danger is that [the Obama move] legitimizes the Netanyahu argument that democratic states can’t be constrained in the way they fight terrorism — that enforcing respect for the rules is an inherent challenge to the right of self-defense.” Not exactly the kind of thing that a lifelong supporter of Israel might say.

Finally, in 2010, while Malinowski was still at HRW, the group called for slapping tariffs on products made in the “occupied territories.” Since then, HRW has continued its one-sided attacks on Israel.

Malinowski, who left HRW in 2014, has yet to discuss his statement or the group’s aggressive support of the Goldstone report. In large part, local Jewish media outlets have avoided asking Malinowski these questions.  Someone should. Malinowski took an excessive amount of money from the HRW political action fund for his campaign. If he is a lifelong friend of the Jewish community and supporter of Israel, how does he explain working for HRW for more than a decade, and taking campaign contributions from the group now?

Robert Goldberg, Ph.D. is Vice President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

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