There is an important op-ed in today’s New York Times by Robert L. Bernstein, the founder and for 20 years the chairman of Human Rights Watch – an organization which should be one of the world’s leading human rights groups but in recent years has become a stooge for Third World dictatorships as it bashes democratic countries, and in particular Israel.
As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.
… Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
HRW’s influence in demonizing Israel goes beyond the NGO world. One of HRW’s directors is Judge Richard Goldstone who, according to the leading watchdog NGO Monitor, did “a cut and paste job,” using HRW’s tainted material to write a recently-released U.N. report falsely and selectively accusing Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
The advisory board of NGO Monitor (of which I am a member) wrote a letter to the New York Times earlier this month which the Times declined to publish. We are resubmitting it to them today with an additional introductory sentence. Based on past experience, they are highly unlikely to run it, so here it is:
We wholeheartedly share the concerns expressed by Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch (comment, New York Times, October 20, 2009) about the direction that HRW – which should have been one of the world’s leading human rights groups – has taken.
HRW was founded over 30 years ago with the admirable aim of protecting dissidents from oppressive regimes, but today its leaders have lost sight of its original ethos. Nowhere is this more so than in regard to the Middle East.
In a region dominated by regimes that violate human rights in horrendous ways, HRW has instead chosen to single out Israel for condemnation, often using highly unreliable witnesses to do so. Not only have they failed to allocate proper resources to monitoring the dictatorships that are rife throughout the region but senior HRW officials even recently went to Riyadh to raise funds from people associated with the Saudi regime, emphasizing HRW’s work demonizing Israel while doing so.
It has also been revealed that HRW’s Mideast Division Deputy Director Joe Stork made comments sympathetic to the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes, and HRW’s “Senior military analyst” for the Mideast and author of HRW’s most recent report defaming Israel, Marc Garlasco, is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia which he referred to as “so cool”.
In order that HRW can once again fulfill the role for which it was created, we call upon HRW’s board members to institute a full independent review of the organization for which they are responsible.
Signed by NGO Monitor International Advisory Board members:
Elie Wiesel – Nobel Peace Prize winner
Prof Alan Dershowitz – Harvard University
R. James Woolsey – Former Director, CIA
Elliott Abrams – Former US Deputy National Security Advisor
Tom Gross – International affairs commentator
Prof Judea Pearl – President, Daniel Pearl Foundation
Douglas Murray – Centre for Social Cohesion