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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Human Rights Watch tries to duck

Human Rights Watch has issued a response to the discovery that Marc Garlasco, their chief military researcher for Israel, is a collector of Nazi memorabilia. The response tries to avoid the issue by claiming that Garlasco collects war memorabilia generally.
HRW emphatically denied that Garlasco was a Nazi sympathizer because he "collected German [as well as American] military memorabilia."

HRW said the "accusation is demonstrably false and fits into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch's rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government."

Garlasco, HRW said in a statement, "has never held or expressed Nazi or anti-Semitic views."

According to the statement Garlasco's grandfather was conscripted into the German army during the war and served as a radar operator on an anti-aircraft battery.

"He never joined the Nazi Party, and later became a dedicated pacifist," the statement said, adding that his Garlasco's great-uncle was an American B-17 crewman, who survived many attacks by German anti-aircraft gunners.

"Garlasco own family's experience on both sides of the Second World War has led him to collect military items related to both sides, including American 8th Air Force memorabilia and German Air Force medals and other objects [not from the Nazi Party or the SS]," the statement said.

HRW said Garlasco was the author of a monograph on the history of German Air Force and Army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to Web sites that promote serious historical research into WWII.

"To imply that Garlasco's collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime," the statement read. "These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians."
But as Martin Solomon points out, there's very little evidence to back up Human Rights Watch's claims.
And, contrary to the HRW spin, the fact is he's not a serious of collector of non-German items as far as I've seen. German stuff is his thing. Nor do I accept the spin (HRW spin no less) of this great separation between "Nazi" and non-Nazi items and admiration. I've heard that 1000 times and never bought it. They were all part of the same machine, if the Wehrmacht had won it would have been Hitler's triumph, and the Generals who turned against Hitler didn't do it until it looked like an impending disaster for the Reich. If either Garlasco or his gramps were such pacifists and so turned off by this militarism thing...then why on earth is he honoring gramp's memory by glorifying his army service? People do compartmentalize, and today we can separate the moral issues from the boyish interest in things military to a certain extent, but you can't seriously expect everyone else to do the same or to understand it.
And as Elder of Ziyon points out, there's a lot more evidence that shows that Garlasco is obsessed with Nazis.
HRW's poster boy for human rights research nurses a serious obsession with, and fascination for, the worst human rights abusers in history.

Saying that this is him doing "research" is an insult to everyone's intelligence. He is a collector of Nazi-era German objects like daggers, Iron Crosses, swastikas. He has written hundreds, maybe thousands, of posts on forums dedicated to the topic. He has written a 400 page book on the topic. Writing a monograph on German medals does not make one a "historian" in any real sense; it makes him a rabid collector. I am fairly sure that his purchase of many of these items would be illegal in many European countries. To deflect those disturbing facts by saying that he also owns a few American air force memorabilia is to dodge the real issue.

It is extraordinarily bad taste and truly offensive that the same person who habitually castigates the Jewish state to a worldwide audience has a creepy obsession with the symbols of those who tried to destroy all Jews.
Indeed. Over the last few days, bloggers have uncovered dozens if not hundreds of posts by Garlasco on Nazi memorabilia sites. The tone of those posts is not the tone of someone who finds the Nazis despicable. For example, this is the conversation that went with the picture at the top of this post (a picture I also posted on Wednesday night).
Skip: Love the sweatshirt Mark. Not one I could wear here in germany though (well I could but it would be a lot of hassle)

Garlasco: Everyone thinks it is a biker shirt!

Skip: Yeh, were you come from but imagine walking around in Berlin with "das Eisene Kreuz" written across your cheat. Either you get beaten to pulp by a group of rampaging Turks or the police arrest you on suspicion of being a Nazi.
Garlasco knows exactly what that shirt symbolizes and his wearing it has nothing to do with him being a collector - serious or otherwise.

Further, with all of the posts Garlasco has made to Nazi memorabilia forums, none of the bloggers who have outed him has found a single indication that he also collects American memorabilia ... except for that statement by Human Rights Watch.

David Bernstein adds:
But Garlasco is much more than a casual hobbyist [contrary to HRW's release, there is no indication that Garlasco is an avid collector, in general, of American and German military stuff, as opposed specifically to WWII era German military medals, on which he wrote a 430 page book, and other WWII German stuff], and I think it's a rather strange obsession for a human rights investigator who spends much of his time investigating Israel for HRW. Strange, first, because human rights activists aren't typically obsessed with collecting mementoes of Nazi war achievements. As one blogger wrote, it's like an animal rights activist avidly collecting vintage furs. There's nothing inherently wrong, by most lights, with collecting such furs, but it's not the kind of thing you'd expect an animal rights activist to find enjoyable. Not to mention that in Garlasco's case, you wind up hanging around with the type of people who casually refer to "rampaging Turks" and make not-so-oblique references to their frustration at having to obey laws banning them from wearing Nazi regalia; or, as I saw on one memorabilia forum defending Garlasco, with people who refer to Israel as the "Jew country."

And strange because one would think that HRW, under fire for years for its anti-Israel bias, would not want to hire someone with this rather strange avocation given the obvious p.r. implications--all HRW really has, after all, is its reputation. But then again, if HRW was concerned about its reputation for objectivity, it would start by not hiring pro-Palestinian activists (and no pro-Israel activists) to run and staff its Middle East division. [Put differently, I think HRW poobahs think that being hostile to Israel is an objective position, one that any reasonable person would share.] [Emphasis mine. CiJ]
And of course those last two sentences are why Human Rights Watch's critiques of Israel should be treated with skepticism, if not ignored.


At 12:58 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The controversy is less about Gerlasco's hobby or even his views than the fact HRW has ignored the conflict of interest between his interest in one of the most evil regimes in human history and the group's human rights work. It calls into question his objectivity when evaluating current events.

What could go wrong indeed

At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is total nonsense. It's malicious and defamatory and borderline libelous, to be honest. The mere fact that someone collects a certain kind of military artifact does not make them loyal to what those artifacts represent. Saying Garlasco is a Nazi b/c he owns Nazi medals is like saying someone interested in cave paintings is a neanderthal. It simply makes no sense! Instead of dragging this man's name through the mud, perhaps it would be better to consider his record, his position at a leading Human Rights NGO (which, despite claims to the contrary, is not anti-Israel since they criticize Israeli and Palestinian tactics alike when either cross the line of legality), and the fact that he COLLECTS stuff. That's as far as it goes. People study and write about and read about and are interested in every evil figure and vile empire that ever existed, Nero, Ghengis Khan, Sadam Hussein, Stalin, Hitler. This interest does not equal acceptance or agreement or support in any way and to argue otherwise is totally illogical!

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Code Handyman said...

I collect historical items in support of my world view, things that help ensure what is most important to me about history is preserved. If this guy collected pictures of the holocaust, film footage, documentation ensuring the memory of the terrible things that the nazi regime did, it would show what he felt was important to preserve. Instead he is collecting the things that glorify the regime. I think its pretty clear he has gotten a position of power and he has "slipped" mentally and gone to the opposite extreme, which is fairly common (IE Ted Haggard). Regardless of the "offront to historical collectors" BS, the optics of this are bad, and HRW needs to fire this turkey and hire someone who is worthy of the job, which is obviously fairly posh and probably has a line up of people willing to do it.


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