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Head of Human Rights Watch Faces Storm of Criticism After ‘Blaming’ Israel for UK Antisemitism

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Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, speaks at the World Economic Forum, Jan, 23, 2015. Photo: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell.

The head of the NGO Human Rights Watch faced a storm of criticism on Monday for pinning a rise in antisemitic violence targeting British Jews on Israeli policy.

On Sunday, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW, tweeted, “Antisemitism is always wrong, and it long preceded the creation of Israel, but the surge in UK antisemitic incidents during the recent Gaza conflict gives the lie to those who pretend that the Israeli government’s conduct doesn’t affect antisemitism.”

He also shared a news article reporting record-high levels of antisemitic incidents recorded in the UK.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, responded, “There should be no justification for #antisemitism or those who perpetrate it.”

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“Blaming Israel for the recent rise in violent antisemitic incidents, instead of blaming the antisemitic actors themselves, is plainly false and offensive,” he asserted.

Watchdog group NGO Monitor, which has regularly reported on anti-Israel bias at international NGOs, stated, “We’ve long documented @KenRoth’s abhorrent antisemitism and obsession with Israel.”

“Attacks on Jews cannot be excused by blaming the Israeli government,” they said. “STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM.”

The group called for Roth’s “immediate resignation.”

Efrat Hochstetler, a diplomat at the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Division for the UN and International Organizations, related Roth’s post to the just passed holiday of Tisha B’Av, saying, “@KenRoth could use a lesson from the Jewish Sages and must stop spreading words of hate.”

Dave Rich, head of policy for the UK Jewish organization the Community Security Trust, commented, “Actually it’s the conduct of people who treat Israel like it’s the most uniquely evil country on earth that affects antisemitism, but I don’t think Ken Roth is interested in that.”

Hillel Neuer, head of the NGO UN Watch, asked, “Would Roth ever say ‘Persecuting Blacks, gays and women is wrong, but…’?”

Neuer called on Neil Rimer, the co-chair of HRW, “to fire Ken Roth for his vile and obscene justification of antisemitism.”

In a later tweet, Roth responded to the furor by accusing his critics of “pretending” that his tweet was justifying antisemitism, which “it doesn’t and I don’t under any circumstances.”

He claimed he had merely been noting the correlation between “recent Israeli government conduct in Gaza and the rise of UK antisemitic incidents.”

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