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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Human Rights Watch donors' list: Will the Taliban be next?

It's been a while since we heard that Human Rights Watch went to Saudi Arabia to raise funds. What I had not heard - until this article by David Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal - was how they pitched themselves to the Saudis.
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 burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel "human rights" activists"? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)

Apparently, Ms. Whitson found no time to criticize Saudi Arabia's abysmal human rights record. But never fear, HRW "recently called on the Kingdom to do more to protect the human rights of domestic workers.

There is nothing wrong with a human rights organization worrying about maltreatment of domestic workers. But there is something wrong when a human rights organization goes to one of the worst countries in the world for human rights to raise money to wage lawfare against Israel, and says not a word during the trip about the status of human rights in that country. In fact, it's a virtual certainty that everyone in Whitson's audience employs domestic servants, giving her a perfect, untaken opportunity to boast about HRW's work in improving the servants' status. But Whitson wasn't raising money for human rights, she was raising money for HRW's propaganda campaign against Israel.

Someone who claims to have worked for HRW wrote to me, "I can tell you that the people on the research and policy side of the organization have little, if any, contacts with people on the donor side." If that's true, apparently this is yet another exception HRW makes for Israel: Ms. Whitson, who gave the presentation to potential Saudi donors, is director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister's office stood up and took notice:
"A human rights organization raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women's rights group asking the Taliban for a donation," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev [pictured. CiJ] said Monday.

"If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?" he said. "For an organization that claims to offer moral direction, it appears that Human Rights Watch has seriously lost its moral compass."

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, responded by telling The Jerusalem Post that there was a need to distinguish between a government and its people, and to conflate the two was "misguided at best."

"Certainly not everyone is tainted by the misconduct of their government," she said, stressing that her organization did not take money from any governments around the world, but did solicit funds from individuals and foundations worldwide.

"There are private individuals in Saudi Arabia who are not part of the ruling government," she said.
That's about as disingenuous as you can get. Does Ms. Whitson mean to claim that HRW did not seek to raise money from the several thousand members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia who control most of that country's wealth? If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Mind you Regev only mentions the fact that HRW was fund raising in Saudi Arabia and leaves out what I find to be more odious and telling: The fact that the appeal was so blatantly anti-Israel.

The government says that in the future it will more closely scrutinize reports issued by HRW and Amnesty International, both of which have exhibited blatant anti-Israel bias:
"We will make a greater effort in the future to go through their reports with a fine-tooth comb, expose the inconsistencies and their problematic use of questionable data," one senior official said.

"We discovered during the Gaza operation and the Second Lebanon War that these organizations come in with a very strong agenda, and because they claim to have some kind of halo around them, they receive a status that they don't deserve," he said.
We should have discovered it long before that. The question is whether whatever changes now in how the government deals with these organizations will remain in place if the foreign ministry goes back to the left side of the political spectrum.

Read the whole thing.


At 11:23 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

When you consider the venom directed at Israel from so-called human rights NGOs, you know their reports are biased, tendentious, inaccurate and ignore the fact its Israeli government policy to make sure soldiers behave ethically. Yes, there are lapses and human beings are not saints. Its needed to be said again there is nothing wrong with the way Operation Cast Lead was fought by Israel.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Mrs. Carl had a letter to the editor published in the Jerusalem Post not too long ago in which she cited a statistic (derived from a college alumni magazine - I don't remember if it was hers or mine) that said that something like 90% of the women in the US army are sexually abused.

According to a JPost story around the same time, in the Israeli army, sexual abuse of female soldiers is almost (but not entirely) unheard of.

Israel's soldiers almost always behave ethically.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

NGO Monitor's May 27 report revealing HRW's Saudi Arabian (mis)adventures is part of the ongoing and systematic analysis of this NGO superpower's confused mix of speculation, pseudo-research, ideology, and international legal rhetoric. See http://tinyurl.com/mp6yyz, http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/human_rights_watch_hrw_


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