Watching the anti-human-rights of the so-called “Human Rights Watch” when it comes to the Middle East
It is long overdue that this (and others like it) come under scrutiny for being systematically blindly anti-Israel biased, distortion of facts and simply obsessive in singling it out, while covering for Arab-Islamic crimes against humanity. [You know when an orgainaztion is in real trouble, when, even, its founding chairman criticizes it for utter and complete failure].
“Human rights” organizations’ conspiracy-collective war on Israelis’ Human Rights.
It doesn’t matter if its (like the UN) influenced by Arab oil / Lobby, Islamic lobby, Arab “street anger,” or impacted by the powerful mythology of “strong Israel vs. poor weak Arab” – (deriving from a distorted image, naively based on looking at a raw-but-shallow picture of balance-of-armament VS reality, underestimating the Goliath power of “Palestinians” and Hezbollah use of their civilians against cautious and Humane Israel) is the source of it, or if it’s by an individual bigot in charge at HRW.
HRW Founder Bernstein Starts Advancing Human Rights (AHR)
March 03, 2011
Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch who publicly renounced his ties with the organization due to distorted and disproportionate focus on free and open Israel at the expense of the rest of the Middle East — mostly unfree — has just launched a new human rights organization, Advancing Human Rights.
Why the need for a new organization? Bernstein, 88, explains:
Some human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, do not condemn incitement to genocide, Arab hate speech being spewed daily in Gaza, particularly, and Saudi textbooks being taught to young children calling Jews “monkeys and pigs.” Hate speech is the precursor to genocide.
“Human Rights Watch Coverup”
April 13, 2004
By Anne Bayefsky
When it comes to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, Human Rights Watch still has a lot of explaining to do notwithstanding Executive Director Ken Roth’s umbrage at criticism.
Roth, however, volunteers a test of his organization’s reliability when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely Human Rights Watch’s behavior at the UN’s infamous “anti-racism” conference held in Durban, shortly before 9/11. If the organization’s actions were assailable there, he says, it would make “it easy to reject the objectivity of Human Rights Watch reports on Israeli conduct.”
It is a test that Human Rights Watch fails hands down. I know because I was there as the representative of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ). Roth himself did not attend.
Just prior to the conference Roth telegraphed his convictions in an interview on US National Public Radio, August 14, 2001, when he said about the pending controversy and the effort to focus attention on Israel: “Clearly Israeli racist practices are an appropriate topic.”
So in the lead-up to Durban, Human Rights Watch fanned the flames of racial intolerance notwithstanding that ‘s citizens are one-quarter Arab and enjoy democratic rights they have nowhere else in the Arab world, while neighboring Arab states are Judenrein.
At Durban one role of Human Rights Watch was to exclude the representative of Jewish lawyers and jurists from over 40 countries. Here’s what happened:
As a representative of the IAJLJ, I was a member of the caucus of international human rights nongovernmental organizations. Human Rights Watch, along with others such as Amnesty International and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (renamed Human Rights First), was also a member of this caucus. Together we had a right to vote on the final NGO document, and hours before the last session gathered together to discuss our position.
The draft included egregious statements equating Zionism with racism, and alleging that is an “apartheid” state guilty of “genocide and ethnic cleansing designed to ensure a Jewish state.”
As we arrived at our meeting the chief Durban representative of Human Rights Watch, advocacy director Reed Brody, publicly announced that as a representative of a Jewish group I was unwelcome and could not attend. The views of a Jewish organization, he explained, would not be objective and the decision on how to vote had to be taken in our absence. Not a single one of the other international NGOs objected.
THE HUMAN Rights Watch role at Durban? To inhibit Jewish lawyers and jurists from being fairly represented or defended.
Later that afternoon, my colleague Daniel Lack and I insisted on entering the meeting, but their minds were made up. In the face of the flagrant anti-Semitism all around them the group, including HRW had decided neither to approve nor disapprove of the final declaration, and not to vote.
Instead the international NGOs, including HRW planned to introduce an introductory paragraph that would cast the document as a legitimate collection of the “voices of the victims.”
In the evening, as the declaration was considered, a motion was made to delete draft language that had come from the Jewish NGO caucus. The Jewish caucus had proposed including a statement that the demonization of and the targeting of Jews for destruction because of their support for was a form of anti-Semitism.
The vote to delete the Jewish caucus’s proposal succeeded and all Jewish organizations from around the world walked out.
What did Human Rights Watch do? The organization said nothing. It made no move to vote. It stayed. Notwithstanding that the Jewish voices had been silenced, two days later at a press conference, HRW (along with Amnesty International, and the Lawyers Committee/Human Rights First) repeated the claim that the “voices of the victims” had legitimately prevailed at the NGO conference. HRW spokesperson Smita Narula said: “The document gives expression to all voices.”
What else did Human Rights Watch do in Durban? It misrepresented the final outcome to the world press.
AFTER THE fact, Human Rights Watch got nervous about the possible reaction of its many Jewish funders. So the cover-up began.
On September 6, 2001 Human Rights Watch spokespersons Reed Brody and Joel Motley wrote in the Conference News Daily that the NGO declaration “marks a major success… and recognizes the scourge of anti-Semitism.”
They neglected to mention that the declaration had redefined anti-Semitism, changing its meaning from the hatred of Jews to something which included “anti-Arab racism.”
Six months later, in February 2002, Human Rights Watch published an update stating: “What really happened at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban? The conference we participated in was completely different from the one covered in American newspapers.”
What else did Human Rights Watch do after Durban? It denied what happened there.
As for Roth’s claim of the organization’s objectivity in reporting on governments throughout the region, one need look no further than its inability despite an annual budget of $22 million to produce a specific report on human rights abuses in a country like Libya, or the relative paucity of attention over the years given to states with appalling human rights records like Saudi Arabia and Syria, as compared to Israel.
So there should be no surprise when HRW wrongly describes as violating international legal norms, for example, by labeling the killing of someone like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin or Ismail Abu Shanab an “assassination” or “liquidation.”
International law does not protect all combatants from being targeted before judicial process, or grant them immunity from military operations when they use civilians as human shields.
Having the courage to speak out against the tide of hate directed at and the Jewish people is not one of the strengths of Human Rights Watch.
When will this leading international human rights NGO stop believing it has to earn its stripes by demonizing Israel, or that to stay in business it must avoid criticizing Israel’s enemies?
The writer, a professor at York University in , is an international lawyer and a member of the Governing Board of UN Watch, based in Geneva.
Op-Ed Contributor – Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast – NYTimes …
By ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN. Published: October 19, 2009. AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman …The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.
Pollak: Human Rights Watch is Biased Against Israel – WSJ.com
Jul 30, 2009 Double Standards and Human Rights Watch
The organization displays a strong bias against Israel
By NOAH POLLAK
Over the past two weeks, Human Rights Watch has been embroiled in a controversy over a fund raiser it held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At that gathering, Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson pledged the group would use donations to “battle . . . pro-Israel pressure groups.”
As criticism of her remark poured in, Ms. Whitson responded by saying that the complaint against her was “fundamentally a racist one.” And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, declared that “We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception.”
The facts tell a different story. From 2006 to the present, Human Rights Watchs reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict have been almost entirely devoted to condemning Israel, accusing it of human rights and international law violations, and demanding international investigations into its conduct. It has published some 87 criticisms of Israeli conduct against the Palestinians and Hezbollah, versus eight criticisms of Palestinian groups and four of Hezbollah for attacks on Israel. (It also published a small number of critiques of both Israel and Arab groups, and of intra-Palestinian fighting.)
It was during this period that more than 8,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. Human Rights Watchs response? In November 2006 it said that the Palestinian Authority “should stop giving a wink and a nod to rocket attacks.” Two years later it urged the Hamas leadership “to speak out forcefully against such [rocket] attacks . . . and bring to justice those who are found to have participated in them.”
In response to the rocket war and Hamass violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007, Israel imposed a partial blockade of Gaza. Human Rights Watch then published some 28 statements and reports on the blockade, accusing Israel in highly charged language of an array of war crimes and human rights violations. One report headline declared that Israel was “choking Gaza.” Human Rights Watch has never recognized the difference between Hamass campaign of murder against Israeli civilians and Israels attempt to defend those civilians. The unwillingness to distinguish between aggression and self-defense blots out a fundamental moral factthat Hamass refusal to stop its attacks makes it culpable for both Israeli and Palestinian casualties.
Meanwhile, Egypt has also maintained a blockade on Gaza, although it is not even under attack from Hamas. Human Rights Watch has never singled out Egypt for criticism over its participation in the blockade.
The organization regularly calls for arms embargoes against Israel and claims it commits war crimes for using drones, artillery and cluster bombs. Yet on Israels northern border sits Hezbollah, which is building an arsenal of rockets to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, and has placed that arsenal in towns and villages in hopes that Lebanese civilians will be killed if Israel attempts to defend itself. The U.N. Security Council has passed resolutions demanding Hezbollahs disarmament and the cessation of its arms smuggling. Yet while Human Rights Watch has criticized Israels weapons 15 times, it has criticized Hezbollahs twice.
In the Middle East, Human Rights Watch does not actually function as a human-rights organization. If it did, it would draw attention to the plight of Palestinians in Arab countries. In Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are warehoused in impoverished refugee camps and denied citizenship, civil rights, and even the right to work. This has received zero coverage from the organization.
In 2007, the Lebanese Army laid siege to the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp for over three months, killing hundreds. Human Rights Watch produced two anemic press releases. At this very moment, Jordan is stripping its Palestinians of citizenship without the slightest protest from the organization. Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch seems only to care about Palestinians when they can be used to convince the world that the Jewish state is actually a criminal state.
TNR publishes “Minority Report: Human Rights Watch fights a civil war over Israel”
April 28, 2010 Richard Landes
The New Republic has just published a major piece on Human Rights Watch and their deeply disturbed relationship to Israel. Its a case study of demopaths and dupes, human rights complex, masochistic omnipotence syndrome, and the left-jihadi alliance. Below, a few choice passages.
Human Rights Watch fights a civil war over Israel.
Benjamin Birnbaum April 27, 2010 | 12:00 am
With Palestinian suicide bombings reaching a crescendo in early 2002, precipitating a full-scale Israeli counterterrorist campaign across the West Bank, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division (MENA) issued two reports (and myriad press releases) on Israeli misconduct—including one on the Israel Defense Forces’ assault on terrorist safe havens in the Jenin refugee camp. That report—which, to HRW’s credit, debunked the widespread myth that Israel had carried out a massacre—nevertheless said there was “strong prima facie evidence” that Israel had “committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,” irking the country’s supporters, who argued that the IDF had in fact gone to great lengths to spare Palestinian civilians. (The decision not to launch an aerial bombardment of the densely populated area, and to dispatch ground troops into labyrinthine warrens instead, cost 23 Israeli soldiers their lives—crucial context that HRW ignored.) It would take another five months for HRW to release a report on Palestinian suicide bombings—and another five years for it to publish a report addressing the firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza, despite the fact that, by 2003, hundreds had been launched from the territory into Israel. (HRW did issue earlier press releases on both subjects.)
In the years to come, critics would accuse HRW of giving disproportionate attention to Israeli misdeeds. According to HRW’s own count, since 2000, MENA has devoted more reports to abuses by Israel than to abuses by all but two other countries, Iraq and Egypt. That’s more reports than those on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Algeria, and other regional dictatorships. (When HRW includes press releases in its count, Israel ranks fourth on the list.) And, if you count only full reports—as opposed to “briefing papers,” “backgrounders,” and other documents that tend to be shorter, less authoritative, and therefore less influential—the focus on the Jewish state only increases, with Israel either leading or close to leading the tally. There are roughly as many reports on Israel as on Iran, Syria, and Libya combined.
HRW officials acknowledge that a number of factors beyond the enormity of human rights abuses go into deciding how to divide up the organization’s attentions: access to a given country, possibility for redress, and general interest in the topic. “I think we tend to go where there’s action and where we’re going to get reaction,” rues one board member. “We seek the limelight—that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.”
[Bernstien and] Edith Everett, a member of both the MENA advisory committee and the HRW board, a former stockbroker, and a philanthropist who has donated millions to aid Druze Arabs in Israel, eventually came to believe that their concerns were falling on deaf ears. For Everett, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war was a turning point. “Participating on the board became most difficult since [that war],” she recalls. While Everett agreed with some of HRW’s critiques—on Israel’s use of cluster munitions, for example—she took issue with many of the organization’s conclusions, including its reporting on human shield use in Lebanon. (In a 2007 report, HRW insisted that Hezbollah fighters did not shield themselves and their weapons among the local civilian population on a widespread basis.) For a long time, Everett had felt there was a healthy exchange about these issues inside HRW, but that had begun to change. “I felt in recent times there was less of a dialogue,” she says. “It seemed to me that there was a commitment to a point of view—that Israel’s the bad guy here.”
Robert James—a businessman, World War II veteran, and member of the MENA advisory committee who has been involved with HRW almost since its inception—calls the group “the greatest NGO since the Red Cross,” but argues that it is chronically incapable of introspection. “Bob is bringing this issue up on Israel,” he says. “But Human Rights Watch has a more basic problem. … They cannot take criticism.”
Critics have pointed out that a number of Whitson’s colleagues in MENA—such as Joe Stork, who came to HRW after decades as a leader of the left-wing Middle East Research and Information Project, where he was part of an editorial collective that ran an extremely anti-Israel journal—arrived at the organization with backgrounds in the pro-Palestinian movement. Sid Sheinberg argues that the mere appearance of a biased jury at MENA ill-serves HRW. “Is it smart to have a number of people about which questions can be asked—in either direction?” he says. But, when I asked Whitson about this critique—and, specifically, about a former researcher on Israel who, before starting at HRW, wrote pro-Palestinian dispatches from the West Bank and Gaza describing Israeli soldiers as “protected by arrogance and hatred and a state and an army and the world’s superpower”—she said she didn’t see a problem with this situation. “For people who apply for jobs to be the researcher in Israel-Palestine, it’s probably going to be someone who’s done work on Israel-Palestine with a human rights background,” she explained. “And guess what? People who do work with a human rights background on Israel-Palestine tend to find that there are a lot of Israeli abuses. And they tend to become human rights activists on the issue.” For his part, HRW program director Iain Levine, who oversees the organization’s 16 divisions, acknowledges that people from many divisions—and not just MENA—arrive from “solidarity backgrounds,” but insists that, “when they come to the door of this organization, they park those things behind.”
Whether or not Whitson has done so, she clearly favors a tough approach toward the Jewish state. She has argued that, far from being too harsh toward Israel, HRW is actually too lenient. “[B]elieve me,” she wrote in an e-mail to a MENA advisory committee member, “on israel in particular, we are overly cautious and extremely kid-gloved because of the harassment we endure.” Less definitive—but still arguably revealing—evidence about Whitson’s politics can be found in her opinion of Norman Finkelstein, the activist and avowed Hezbollah supporter who has likened Israel to Nazi Germany. The two became acquainted years ago, and she brought him to HRW to discuss his 2005 book Beyond Chutzpah. (“He had a very mixed reception,” she remembers. “I think people did not find his style particularly persuasive.”) In late 2006, when Finkelstein launched a letter-writing campaign demanding that HRW officials apologize for a press release critical of Palestinian officials (which they eventually did), one HRW observer e-mailed Whitson to share thoughts on Finkelstein’s over-the-top rhetoric. Whitson replied: “I agree w/ u that norm undermines himself and his cause w/ the language he uses, and his anger sometimes gets the better of him and his brilliant mind and generous spirit. I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for him, because as you probably know, making Israeli abuses the focus of one’s life work is a thankless but courageous task that may well end up leaving all of us quite bitter.”
Bernstein also raised some of his concerns with then-HRW board member Richard Goldstone, who would go on to write the U.N.’s much-maligned report on the Gaza war. There are few more reviled figures in Israel right now than Goldstone, but even he sympathized with Bernstein on certain points, such as the politicized nature of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, after being created in 2006, had directed its first nine condemnations at Israel. In March 2008, barely a year before he accepted UNHRC’s mandate to investigate the Gaza war, he told Bernstein that he thought the body’s performance had been hopeless and expressed ambivalence as to whether HRW should continue appearing before it.
He also agreed with Bernstein that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s increasingly aggressive anti-Israel rhetoric, in combination with his threatening policies, was an issue worthy of HRW’s attention. Goldstone pushed Roth to address it, but to no avail. (When I asked Roth in a February interview at his office about HRW’s refusal to take a position on Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel, including his famous call for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” Roth quibbled about the way the statement had been translated in the West—“there was a real question as to whether he actually said that”—then told me that it was not HRW’s place to render judgments on such rhetoric: “Let’s assume it is a military threat. We don’t take on governments’ military threats just as we don’t take on aggression, per se. We look at how they behave. So, we wouldn’t condemn a military threat just as we wouldn’t condemn an invasion—we would look at how the government wages the war.” Whitson, who sat in on the interview, offered her two cents: “You know, that statement was also matched by Hillary Clinton saying that the Iranian regime should be destroyed or wiped off the map. Again, so, very similar statements, side by side, close in time.” For his part, Goldstone told TNR that he eventually came around to the view this was not an issue HRW should take up.)
THE SOROS EFFECT
Obama-Sponsor Gives $100M to Anti-Israeli ‘Human Rights Watch’
– Sep 13, 2010 – Anti-Israeli secular-Jewish billionaire George Soros has pledged $100 million to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW),
Human Rights Watch sells out to Soros–Gerald Steinberg – NYPOST.com
Sep 13, 2010 – Selling Out to Soros
Rights group’s dubious recordBy GERALD STEINBERG
Last Updated: 6:20 PM, September 13, 2010
Posted: 11:44 PM, September 12, 2010
In accepting a huge grant from George Soros, Human Rights Watch has spurned the public advice (and warning) offered nearly a year ago by its founder Robert Bernstein. Rather than grapple with the serious problems of credibility and bias, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth has cemented relations with Soros — a partisan ideologue who also supports Moveon.org, a controversial advocacy group.
Bernstein severely criticized HRW in a New York Times oped. To “resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world,” he warned, the organization must return “to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it.” In its earlier days, he noted, “to create clarity in human rights,” HRW aimed to “draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds.”
Soros: His $100 million donation to Human Rights Watch will make up for grants lost because of recent scandals. Over the years, HRW lost its moral compass and substituted ideology and an Israel-obsessed agenda. Bernstein was trying to awaken the group’s leaders to the decayed state of what was once a human-rights superpower.
Instead, Roth has opted to accept Soros’ $100 million grant — which should offset nicely the income lost from core donors who’ve walked away in the wake of a host of scandals. It won’t, however, address the root problems.
In May 2009, HRW launched a fund-raising drive in Saudi Arabia, using its anti-Israel record to solicit funds from “prominent members of Saudi society.” That September, HRW “senior military analyst” Marc Garlasco was “outed” as an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia — a troubling hobby for the main author of a number of HRW reports that accused Israel of “war crimes” and other violations.
Add to this the recent work by NGO Monitor, the watchdog group that I lead, and others on the severe ideological biases at HRW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division. The systematic research in NGO Monitor’s report and articles in The New Republic and the Sunday Times detail the severe ideological biases of MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson and deputy director Joe Stork.
Both Whitson and Stork came to HRW with backgrounds in pro-Palestinian political activities, and continue to promote their anti-Israel political agendas through their “human rights” work.
Whitson was and remains an advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In July 2009, she referred to Israel’s “system of apartheid.” Stork’s publications in the Middle East Research and Information Project from the 1980s and 1990s focus on attacking Zionism, Israel and American “imperialism” in the Middle East, while promoting the Palestinian narrative.
This is further evidence of Bernstein’s conclusion that HRW is “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”
The group has relentlessly promoted the UN-commissioned report by one of its former board members, Richard Goldstone — a report that reflects the same biases and dubious research practices as so many recent HRW papers. In 2009, HRW’s 34 pro-Goldstone publications outnumbered its documents on all the countries in the Middle East except Israel and Iran.
The bias is indisputable: HRW’s publications on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” made up 28 percent of its total Mideast output in 2009.
Which makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well-established. In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.
In extending his control over HRW, Soros seeks to increase its staff by 40 percent, reposition it as a major international player and restore its influence as an arbiter on universal human rights. But while his grant will alleviate the crisis caused by HRW’s declining income, it only deepens the moral crisis.
Only by changing the organization’s hiring practices, research priorities, methodologies and biases — especially at MENA — can Human Rights Watch recover its image as the “gold standard” of human-rights groups.
Gerald Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution, and a professor of political science at Bar Ilan Uni versity
EXPLODING CRITICISM IN THE WAKE OF CRITICIZING ISRAEL, WHILE ISLAMIC-HEZBOLLAH DELIBERATELY CAUSES CIVILIAN DEATHS IN LEBANON (2006)
First Word: What is ‘Human Rights Watch’ watching – Jerusalem Post
– ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
Many former supporters of the organization have become alienated by its obsessive focus on Israel.
When it comes to Israel and its enemies, Human Rights Watch cooks the books about facts, cheats on interviews, and puts out predetermined conclusions that are driven more by their ideology than by evidence. These are serious accusations, and they are demonstrably true. Consider the following highly publicized “conclusion” reached by Human Rights Watch about the recent war in Lebanon between Hizbullah and Israel: “Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hizbullah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.” No cases! Anyone who watched even a smattering of TV during the war saw with their own eyes direct evidence of rockets being launched from civilian areas. But not Human Rights Watch.
How could an organization, which claims to be objective, have been so demonstrably wrong about so central a point in so important a war? Could it have been an honest mistake? I don’t think so. Despite its boast that “Human Rights Watch has interviewed victims and witnesses of attacks in one-on-one settings, conducted on-site inspections and collected information from hospitals, humanitarian groups, and government agencies,” it didn’t find one instance in which Hizbullah failed to segregate its fighters from civilians. Nor apparently did HRW even ask the Israelis for proof of its claim that Hizbullah rockets were being fired from behind civilians, and that Hizbullah fighters were hiding among civilians. Its investigators interviewed Arab “eyewitnesses” and monitored “information from public sources including the Israeli government statements.” Human Rights Watch ignored credible news sources, such as The New York Times and The New Yorker. “Hizbullah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. “They are shooting from between our houses.”
Mr. Amar said Hizbullah fighters in groups of two and three had come into Ain Ebel, less than a mile from Bint Jbail, where most of the fighting has occurred. They were using it as a base to shoot rockets, he said, and the Israelis fired back. – Sabrina Tavernise, “Christians Fleeing Lebanon Denounce Hizbullah,” The New York Times, July 28, 2006. Near the hospital, a mosque lay in ruins. A man approached and told me that he was a teacher at the Hariri school. I asked him why he thought the Israelis had hit a mosque, and he said, simply, “It was a Hizbullah mosque.” A younger man came up to me and, when we were out of earshot of others, said that Hizbullah had kept bombs in the basement of the mosque, but that two days earlier a truck had taken the cache away. – Jon Lee Anderson, “The Battle for Lebanon,” The New Yorker, August 8, 2006. Even if the location of UN posts were known to Israeli commanders, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Hizbullah fighters used one as a shield from which to unleash fire. They’ve done so in the past, says Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie (ret’d.), who witnessed the technique while on peacekeeping assignments in the area. “It’s the same as if you set up your weapons systems beside a mosque or a church or a hospital.” – Carlie Gillis, “Diplomacy Under Fire,” MacLean’s, August 7, 2006.
The surgeon led a group of journalists over what remained: mangled debris, shredded walls and a roof punched through by an Israeli shell. “Look what they did to this place,” Dr. Fatah said, shaking his head. “Why in the world would the Israelis target a hospital?” The probable answer was found a few hours later in a field nearby. Hidden in the tall grass were the burned remnants of a rocket-launcher.
Confronted with the evidence, Dr. Fatah admitted his hospital could have been used as a site from which to fire rockets into Israel. – Sonia Verma, “Hizbullah’s Deadly Hold on Heartland,” National Post, August 5, 2006. [Samira] Abbas said, she heard from relatives that her house in Bint Jbeil had been destroyed. She said Hizbullah fighters had gathered in citrus groves about 500 yards from her home. – Mohamad Bazzi, “Mideast Crisis – Farewell to a Soldier; Reporting from Lebanon; Running Out of Places to Run,” Newsday, July 28, 2006 “What that means is, in plain English, ‘We’ve got Hizbullah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defense Forces),'” said [Lewis] MacKenzie, who led Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia. – Steven Edwards, “UN contradicts itself over Israeli attack,” CanWest News Service, July 27, 2006. It was also reported that Hizbullah fired from the vicinity of five UN positions at Alma Ash Shab, At Tiri, Bayt Yahoun, Brashit, and Tibnin. – United Nations interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Naqoura, July 28, 2006 (Press Release).
While these pictures have escaped the ravaged country, other images and footage taken by local newspaper and television teams are routinely seized by armed Hizbullah fighters at road blocks. In one image a group of fighters, including youths, are preparing to fire an anti-aircraft gun just metres from an apartment block with laundry sheets drying on a balcony.
Others show a Hizbullah fighter armed with a nickel-plated AK47 rifle guarding no-go zones after Israeli blitzes. Another depicts the remnants of a Hizbullah Katyusha rocket in the middle of a residential block, blown up in an Israeli air attack. The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut told yesterday how he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated. “Hizbullah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets,” he said. “Until the Hizbullah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was devastated. “After the attacks they didn’t even allow the ambulances or the Lebanese Army to come in until they had cleaned the area, removing their rockets and hiding other evidence The fighters used trucks, driven into residential areas, as launch pads for the rockets, he said. Another image shows a line of decimated trucks sitting behind a 5m crater.
The tourist who smuggled the images back to Melbourne said the trucks had been carrying rockets. The release of the images comes as Hizbullah fighters face increasing censure for using innocent civilians as “human shields.” – Chris Tinkler, “Revealed: How Hizbullah puts the innocent at risk; They don’t care,” Sunday Mail (Australia), July 30, 2006.
HOW COULD Human Rights Watch have ignored – or more likely suppressed – this evidence from so many different sources? The only reasonable explanation is that they wanted there to be no evidence of Hizbullah’s tactic of hiding behind civilians. So they cooked the books to make it come out that way.
Even after the fighting ended and all the reports of Hizbullah hiding among civilians were published, HRW chief Kenneth Roth essentially repeated the demonstrably false conclusions that “in none of those cases was Hizbullah anywhere around at the time of the attack.” So committed is Human Rights Watch to its predetermined conclusions that it refused to let the facts, as reported by objective sources, get in its way. Many former supporters of Human Rights Watch have become alienated from the organization, because of, in the words of one early supporter, “their obsessive focus on Israel.” Within the last month, virtually every component of the organized Jewish community, from secular to religious, liberal to conservative, has condemned Human Rights Watch for its bias. Roth and his organization’s willful blindness when it comes to Israel and its enemies have completely undermined the credibility of a once important human rights organization.
Human Rights Watch no longer deserves the support of real human rights advocates. Nor should its so-called reporting be credited by objective news organizations.
Human Rights Watch: Irrelevant, Immoral on Mideast Conflict
By Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
This article originally appeared in The New York Sun on August 2, 2006
Human Rights Watch has come out with a stinging attack on Israel for its actions in the conflict against Hezbollah, calling the tragedy in Qana a “war crime.”
Since Human Rights Watch is not an organization that has ignored human rights issues in the Arab world — it has done studies on such issues as human rights violations in Egypt and suicide bombings — what the organization says is given much weight and credibility in certain circles.
The truth is, however, that the overwhelming thrust of Human Rights Watch work regarding Israel and the Arab world falls on Israel. Included was a rush to judgment in its accusation that Israel in Jenin had committed war crimes in seeking out suicide bombers, as well as the fact that in one year (2004), according to NGO Monitor, of 33 HRW documents dealing with Israel, 25 were critical of the Jewish State.
More significantly, there are questions about HRW’s broader perspective in its work in the Middle East. Kenneth Roth falls back on technical interpretations to justify what his organization criticizes and what it doesn’t. He says that it doesn’t go into the cause of war. He doesn’t want to talk about the intentions of various parties. He doesn’t want to look at the larger picture because, he claims, all of this would undermine the neutral posture that gives his organization credibility.
More than any specific criticism, it is this explanation of what HRW is about that is so problematic. First, he inappropriately compares his organization in this respect to the Red Cross, but that body has a very different purpose. HRW, by its reports and statements, has a major impact on political judgments.
Far more important is that his explanation of HRW’s perspective — at least as it applies to the conflict of Israel and the Arab world — leads inevitably to the conclusion that HRW is either irrelevant or immoral, or maybe both. On one level, his explanations of all the factors that don’t come into play when doing analyses and passing judgment should lead to the conclusion that they truly aren’t relevant to the fundamental issues of peace, war, and justice that are embodied in a conflict such as this. If the intentions of Syria and Iran are not to be examined, if the takeover of part of a country by a terrorist group committed to the destruction of Israel is not something important, if the continuous flow of rockets, launchers and other weapons from Iran and Syria to an illegitimate group is not worthy of consideration, then ultimately why should anyone take seriously what Human Rights Watch has to say?
On a deeper level, one can conclude that despite painting itself as a great moral arbiter, in fact Human Rights Watch’s approach to these problems is immorality at the highest level. Let’s remember that Israel has been able to survive and prosper in a region where it has been surrounded by neighbors, close and far, who have been committed to Israel’s destruction for five decades, because of one reason: its strength and power of deterrence.
The State of Israel, which emerged out of the ashes of the Holocaust, understood early on that it must be able to convince its enemies that attacking the tiny Jewish State would be a big mistake. Israel had to make clear to the Arabs that they would be hurt far, far more than the pain they could inflict. In other words, without Israel hitting back (not in an “eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth” fashion which Mr. Roth cited and is a classic anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews) but in a much stronger way, Israel would have been destroyed long ago.
The moral issue, the human rights issue that overrides everything else in this conflict is that if Hezbollah, Syria and Iran don’t understand that they will pay an overwhelming price for these rocket attacks on Israel, then eventually the rockets will be armed with chemical weapons and the warheads with nuclear weapons. In other words, a second Holocaust would be in the works.
So yes, Israel is striking very hard at Hezbollah and the infrastructure that allows it to operate and to receive weapons from Iran and Syria. And yes, there are tragically civilian casualties. Israel must do everything in its power to limit these casualties. But it is Hezbollah that has cynically created a dilemma for Israel by embedding their missiles not only in civilian areas, but literally in civilian households. The dilemma for Israel was: should it be so careful to avoid civilian casualties — for its own sake, for the sake of the Lebanese people and their attitudes toward Israel, and for world opinion — that Israel would not effectively destroy the missile threat that was turning northern Israel into a hell for its residents? Or, should Israel strike at Hezbollah with significant force, inevitably producing civilian casualties because of the placement of missiles, which would turn the people of Lebanon and the world against Israel? Israel has sought its way through this minefield. It has tried both to protect its people and to limit civilian casualties.
It is no accident that Human Rights Watch gets it wrong or has a habit of rushing to judgment as it did in Jenin and as it did in Qana. If one sees military activity by Israel in a vacuum, ignoring the threats to its security and existence, ignoring the intentions and growing capabilities of its enemies, ignoring the cynical actions of its foes which seek either to hurt Israel and its citizens on the ground or to make Israel look bad in the eyes of the world, then, of course, Israel will look like the neighborhood bully and will be accused of all kinds of things.
I would therefore recommend that Human Rights Watch be viewed for what it is, at least when it comes to the great struggle in the Middle East that may determine not only the future of the State of Israel but of mankind itself: as irrelevant or immoral.
Roth’s False God
Editorial of The New York Sun | August 8, 2006
After The New York Sun ran an editorial and two op-ed pieces taking Human Rights Watch to task for anti-Israel bias, the organization’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, has finally found it in himself to denounce Hezbollah for placing troops and weapons near Lebanese civilians. And to acknowledge, for the first time, that the use of ambulances by Palestinian groups to transport weapons or suicide bombers is “a clear humanitarian violation.” We’re tempted to congratulate Mr. Roth. Too bad it had to be wrung out of him.
Call us optimists, but we still hold out hope that Mr. Roth will abandon his view, expressed in a letter to the editor printed in the adjacent column, that the Israeli government defending itself from Islamist terrorist aggression is engaged in “extremist interpretations of religious doctrine” like the terrorists themselves. Maybe in his next letter to us he’ll finally concede, too, that, as widely reported, the Iranian military is in Lebanon. Maybe he’ll concede that the fact that Hezbollah was not “in sight” is no evidence they were not there. Until then, Mr. Roth and his donors, staff, and board of directors should be aware that the American Jewish community recognizes with full clarity what Mr. Roth and Human Rights Watch are up to. It is unmistakable.
The three main religious movements of American Jewry — Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform — agree, for once. A spokesman for the Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, Rabbi Avi Shafran, called Mr. Roth’s statements “loathsome” and likened him to Mel Gibson, the actor who, unlike Mr. Roth, at least had the decency to apologize for his outburst. The executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Jerome Epstein, said the position of Mr. Roth and Human Rights Watch is “so biased and outrageous it is hard to take it seriously.” The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said Mr. Roth deployed “a classic anti-Semitic stereotype,” and said Human Rights Watch is “irrelevant or immoral.” A spokesman for the Union for Reform Judaism, Emily Grotta, said, “Abe Foxman has been speaking out about this recently and we agree with what he has been saying.”
The executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, told us of Human Rights Watch that he was “disturbed by its apparent bias.” The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, said Mr. Roth of Human Rights Watch “is not only naïve, but shows his hatred toward Jews and Israel is greater than his hatred of Islamist terror.” The general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern, called Human Rights Watch’s position “a problem,” and said, “to elevate a mistake to the level of war crime is outrageous.” A spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, Kenneth Bandler, said the statements by Human Rights Watch and Mr. Roth “display a real lack of understanding.”
American Jewry stands with the Israeli government on the point. Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry, a few months back told us of Human Rights Watch, after the organization wrote to President Bush calling for an end to all American aid to Israel, “They’ve lost their credibility.” Even Human Rights Watch’s founding chairman, Robert Bernstein, who led the organization from 1979 to 1997, is dismayed and pained at the stance the group he founded has been taking against the Jewish state, according to several individuals to whom Mr. Bernstein confided his discomfort with the organization he helped found. Mr. Bernstein declined to comment.
Mr. Roth sneers at “religious doctrine” and “Biblical injunctions” from the Torah. In an earlier letter to this page, he referred to them as the “morality of some more primitive moment.” He belittles any distinction between a terrorist group whose goal is to kill Jews, eradicate Israel, and impose Islamist law worldwide, and a pluralist sovereign state, like Israel, that apologizes and investigates when it kills civilians in the course of trying to protect its civilians and borders from the terrorist group. Human Rights Watch recently called on America to cease immediately arms transfers to Israel. If Mr. Roth’s Yale Law School degree and international law dictate cutting off Israel’s arms as it is under assault by a terrorist group out to destroy it and deliberately kill its civilians, we’ll take the Bible any day. One doesn’t need a Yale Law School degree or expertise in international law to know Israel is different from the terrorists, just a basic moral compass.
Mr. Roth’s own moral compass seems to go haywire whenever Israel is involved. More reputable scholars of international law, like Orde Kittrie writing in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, disagree with Human Rights Watch’s conclusions. So do President Bush and a consensus in Congress and among the American public, which have supported Israel’s right to defend itself. Siding with Human Rights Watch in criticizing Israel have been the governments of Iran and Communist China, two of the worst human rights abusers of them all.
Mr. Roth may send us another letter, conceding another point or two along the way. Or not. But this is about more than Mr. Roth and his organization. The moral equivalence that has infected him and his organization has, sadly, spread far on much of the left, from the United Nations to the International Red Cross and Amnesty International and the editorialists of the New York Times, who yesterday, stunningly, said any ceasefire they would favor must allow Hezbollah “to claim some sort of victory.” That such confusion has not gained traction among American Jews or, for that matter, on the Christian right in this country is testament to the bond of shared values between America and Israel. Those values have a base in something higher than the false god of international law before whom Kenneth Roth has brought a once-idealistic institution so low.
Human Rights Hypocrites
– Aug 29, 2006 – Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which … Human Rights Watch investigated some two dozen bombing incidents in Lebanon involving a third of the civilians who by then had been killed.
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