Human Rights Watch’s reports are routinely cited by enemies and critics of Israel who are out to paint the nation’s efforts to defend itself against terrorism as inhumane. HRW, of course, portrays itself as a neutral player that is willing to call out all sides when it judges that they have committed human rights violations. Yet in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, David Bernstein reported that a delegation from the organization recently visited Saudi Arabia to raise money, and as part of the fundraising pitch “highlighted HRW’s battles with ‘pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations.'”
The idea that a group that bills itself as impartial judge of human rights atrocities would exploit Arab sterotypes about Jews controling the world in order to raise money in a kingdom known for the brutal oppression of its people, is obviously a serious charge, and one that the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg did not want to take at face value. As Goldberg notes, “The term pro-Israel lobby, of course, means something very different on the Arabian peninsula than it does here. Here, even to critics of AIPAC, it means a well-funded, well-oiled political machine designed to protect Israel’s interests in Congress. In much of the Arab world, ‘pro-Israel pressure group’ suggests a global conspiracy by Jews to dominate the world politically, culturally and economically.”
Goldberg emailed Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, to ask him if the charges were true. The whole exchange is well worth a read, because Roth is initially evasive, but but Goldberg is persistent, and then Roth confirms:
That’s certainly part of the story. We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception. It wasn’t a pitch against the Israel lobby per se. Our standard spiel is to describe our work in the region. Telling the Israel story–part of that pitch–is in part telling about the lies and obfuscation that are inevitably thrown our way.
Not only that, Roth also revealed that a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council was present at the meeting.
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. It appears as if Human Rights Watch, in the pursuit of dollars, has compromised its integrity.
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