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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Mask Slips (Again) At "Human Rights Watch"
Maimon Schwarzschild

David Bernstein reported in the Wall Street Journal on Monday about Human Rights Watch's latest effort in Saudi Arabia:

A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners?

No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW's demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations." (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burka, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel "human rights" activists"? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)...

The point of [this report] is not that HRW is pro-Saudi, but that it is maniacally anti-Israel. The most recent manifestation is that its officers see nothing unseemly about raising funds among the elite of one of the most totalitarian nations on earth, with a pitch about how the money is needed to fight "pro-Israel forces," without the felt need to discuss any of the Saudis' manifold human rights violations, and without apparent concern that becoming dependent on funds emanating from a brutal dictatorship leaves you vulnerable to that brutal dictatorship later cutting off the flow of funds, if you don't "behave."

Yesterday there was more.  Bernstein writes at the Volokh Conspiracy:

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic follows up on the controversy surrounding my piece on HRW's fundraiser in Saudi Arabia. Goldberg reprints some rather remarkable email correspondence with Kenneth Roth, director of HRW, which is worth reading in full. But here's the conclusion:

In other words, yes, the director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division is attempting to raise funds from Saudis, including a member of the Shura Council (which oversees, on behalf of the Saudi monarchy, the imposition in the Kingdom of the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law) in part by highlighting her organization's investigations of Israel, and its war with Israel's "supporters," who are liars and deceivers. [Roth: "We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception."] It appears as if Human Rights Watch, in the pursuit of dollars, has compromised its integrity.

UPDATE [by Bernstein]: I'd put it differently then Goldberg. There's no evidence that HRW's pursuit of dollars has compromised its integrity... Rather, HRW's pursuit of dollars has starkly revealed the underlying biases that it previously has denied having. But really, anyone who has been paying attention shouldn't be surprised that HRW's credibility on Israel-related issues approaches zero.

Human Rights Watch's hatred for Israel is not new.  I had an encounter with a senior Human Rights Watch officer in 2003 which left me shaken.  I posted at the time:

I've met one senior Human Rights Watch officer at several symposia in New York over the past few months, and I was genuinely taken aback at her visceral hatred not only for George Bush (that's to be taken for granted in these circles) but for the US more generally. Over the course of several hours of discussions, touching on a variety of events over many decades, she made it extremely clear that a "human rights problem" (past or present) exists for her only if America can be blamed for it. Quite simply, she has no interest in it if she can't blame America for it - whether plausibly or, in many cases, utterly implausibly. She blames America first, last, and always.

Not exclusively though. She also loathes the state of Israel, and expressed disgust at the existence of a Jewish state - in any borders.

One knows in the abstract that many "NGOs", especially "human rights organizations", have now been mentally absorbed into the hard and enraged left. It's a worrying thing, given the influence many of these organizations have at the UN and elsewhere. Their influence, in many cases, draws on their past reputations - deserved or otherwise - for fairness or at least for being somewhat serious and sane. But many of these groups, Human Rights Watch unfortunately included, are increasingly far from being fair, or serious, or even sane.

I would like to think that the grim, almost unhinged zealotry of my Human Rights Watch acquaintance is not the norm in these circles. Then again, I would like to think all sorts of things that, unfortunately, aren't so.

It is surely worrying that visceral hatred for Israel seems to be so widespread in these circles.  How many Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who do not wish for the extinction of the Jewish state nonetheless dutifully send cash to these organisations, "Human Rights Watch" in particular?

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Maimon Schwarzschild
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Comments

Not without cause had our Founders thought of first the American colonies, and later, the United States, as the "new Jerusalem."

What we share with Israel--our settler nation origins and heritage--hurls us into mortal enmity with the wretched of the earth. We have a spirit of exceptionalism and inevitability which literally infuriates them, in a fully etymological sense of the word.

When the Boxer-Leninists of the world shreik out against Israel as a settler nation, we would do well to recall that we ourselves are the premier settler nation.

To explain: this hatred springs from a consciousness of inferiority and failure, from raw envy and from self-contempt. Historically, it has been planted and cultivated by the failed conspiracy of Communism. From Communism's origins, it became obvious to its RICO masters that all that economic mumbo-jumbo just wouldn't fly. Indutrialize countries were drawing on the moral strengths of Western civilization to tame the excesses of theoretical capitalism. The result was that the former proletarians in places like England, Germany and, of course, the United States, were becoming "nations of bourgiousie."

To keep the RICO in business, Communism shifted from a would-be movement of the "workers of the world," into an organ for the racial ressentment of "natives" mired in failed cultures. Without doubt, this was a potent formula, and produced occasional temporary victories, as in China, Algeria, and Vietnam.

Hesperophobia will still raise spasms of hate from Gaza to Axtlan against the peoples of the wagon-train, against we who have trekked-forth. Let there be no surprise, then, that hatred of Israel goes hand in hand with hatred of the United States.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Jul 16, 2009 6:28:15 AM

I admit I don't pay much specific attention to these issues on a day to day basis. But at some point in the past I know I was under the impression that Human Rights Watch was actually an organization that would take a principled stand on issues in a much more admirable way than the ACLU, which seemed to use its positions more as a cover for its ideology. I'm disappointed to read that HRW has now apparently gone, or is in the process of going, south itself and is checking its principles at the door. Perhaps I was wrong about it all along or perhaps it has changed and is going down the path of too many other "liberal" institutions where people of a certain mindset move in, take over, and begin to use the organization to project their personal prejudices, and thus ruin the reputation of an organization they had nothing to do with building. The Lancet also comes to mind (among many others).

Posted by: kcom | Jul 17, 2009 7:09:39 AM

<>i>When the Boxer-Leninists of the world shreik out against Israel as a settler nation, we would do well to recall that we ourselves are the premier settler nation.

Indeed. And we both acted appallingly toward those whose country it was before we arrived. (While we're talking about settler nations, we could add South Africa, Ulster, and French Algeria, none of which acquitted themselves well with regard to their treatment of the people they found there. It's rather in the nature of being a settler nation, which is why we ought to think twice before we establish any more of them.)

Posted by: Seamus | Jul 17, 2009 7:59:07 AM

The USA might be a "settler nation", but Israel is not. Check out the Arch of Titus in Rome. For slightly more than 1,500 of the last 3,000 years, the Jews were the majority in the land of Israel/Palestine/Caanan.

Posted by: YM | Jul 17, 2009 9:47:01 AM

I've been to Rome, I've also read the OT, and the New, if that should matter.

But it doesn't matter. All sorts of theological and historical disputations can be made around who has the "right" to settle and occupy Israel. The most generous argument, from the Israeli pdint of view, comes down to rights of conquest following failed Arab attacks on comparatively small pre-existing Israeli holdings. It so happens that I agree with both Israel's right to exist, and its right to secure borders. Furthermore, wars, even more than elections, have consequeces. Again and again, the Arabs submitted the questuon to the last argument of realms, and again and again, they lost the debate. I shall grant that the Israeli settler holds his land as I hold mine.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Jul 17, 2009 12:05:33 PM