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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Human Right Watch founder slams bias against Israel

In an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times, Robert Bernstein, the founder and Chairman emeritus of Human Rights Watch slams the organization for its bias against Israel (Hat Tip: David Hazony via Twitter).
At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag — and the millions in China’s laogai, or labor camps.

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
He also takes a backhanded slap at the Goldstone Commission.
But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
As you will recall, the Goldstone Commission decided testimony from Kemp was irrelevant and Kemp was finally given about three minutes to speak before the UN 'Human Rights Council' on Friday.

By the way, Goldstone himself was a member of Human Rights Watch's Board of Directors, until Professor Gerald Steinberg's NGO Monitor pointed out the obvious conflict between Goldstone's position as the head of his commission, his position as a member of HRW's board, and the Goldstone Commission's reliance on Human Rights Watch and Amnesty for much of its material. Goldstone then resigned from HRW's board.

What's missing here is what has changed since Bernstein resigned. What's changed is that HRW's Middle East division is now run by the likes of Sarah Leah Whitson, Joe Stork and the recently suspended Marc Garlasco.

It's too bad that integrity apparently left Human Rights Watch along with Bernstein.

Read the whole thing.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The human rights organizations did great work to help bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union and totalitarian evil empire it controlled in the twentieth century. Today, they seem more concerned with undermining and enlisting in the drive to destroy the Middle East's only truly free society while ignoring very real human rights abuses in the region and the rest of the world. Things have changed a great deal in the past 30 years. How that change in the human rights field's worldview helps human rights is beyond me.

At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fall of Human Rights Watch to the Israel-bashers is another sign of the media war waged against the Jewish state. While Israel was correctly maintaining its military edge, it was incorrectly ignoring the media battlefield, and has gotten into that battle late. Not too late, perhaps, but now the battle is uphill.


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