Thursday, September 03, 2009

Baltimore Sun: Human Rights Watch Shills for Saudis

From Israel obsession leads HRW astray by Gerald Steinberg and Dan Kosky:
The likes of HRW benefit from a halo effect that persuades journalists to accept their every claim as gospel, without first checking the "evidence" provided.

Yet this façade is slipping under the weight of HRW's activities within Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most notorious human rights abusers. According to Arab News, HRW's senior Middle East professional Sarah Leah Whitson, along with board and Advisory Committee member Hassan Elmasry, attended a dinner where they asked "prominent members of Saudi society" to make up for the "shortage of funds" due to the global financial crisis "and the work on Israel and Gaza which depleted HRW's budget for the region." This tacit admission that HRW targeted Israel to the detriment of analyzing genuine human rights violations was accompanied by Ms. Whitson's odious invocation of "pro-Israel pressure groups."

HRW has failed to provide an alternative account of events, and its only defense has been an absurd attempt to cast a distinction between soliciting Saudi officials and prominent members of society who owe their very position to the regime.

Serious questions are rightly being asked of a human rights organization that sees fit to have its pockets lined with the gold of one of the world's most oppressive countries.
More from the Jerusalem Post:
HRW's Middle East division is run by Sarah Leah Whitson, who had organized protests against Israeli "brutality" at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee before she was hired by Roth. At HRW, Whitson continued to promote anti-Israel boycotts, and in May 2009, Whitson led HRW's fund-raising trip to Saudi Arabia, where she denounced "pro-Israel pressure groups," which "tried to discredit" HRW's "work on Israel and Gaza," including its role in creating the Goldstone inquiry.

Furthermore, Joe Stork, Whitson's deputy in HRW, spent over 20 years as a founder and editor of MERIP, an anti-Zionist and anti-American organization. Following the Munich attack, Stork and his colleagues published an editorial headlined "Who are the real terrorists?" which denounced "Israeli terrorists, equipped with US-supplied jets and tanks" and "their policy of murder and destruction against the Palestinians." (The authors added a disclaimer that such acts were not "justification" for the Munich attack.) In 1996, Stork joined HRW.

The biases displayed by Whitson and Stork violate the basic principle of political objectivity for human rights fact-finding, as codified in the International Bar Association's "London-Lund" guidelines. Similarly, the appointments of Goldstone and Prof. Christine Chinkin to the UN's Gaza investigation are inconsistent with these common-sense rules. (UN Watch's call to disqualify Chinkin quotes a letter she signed declaring Israel the aggressor and perpetrator of war crimes, and "categorically rejecting" Israel's right to self-defense against rocket barrages.)

HRW's reports, like the NGO submissions to Goldstone, consistently reflect this bias and lack of professional standards. Behind the façade of "factual research," the work of the Middle East Division consists of multiple pages of carefully picked Palestinian "eyewitness testimony." These reports mix speculative, plausible Palestinian claims that are unverifiable, bad fiction and pages of irrelevant technical "facts" and contorted legal verbiage.

In HRW's latest publication, co-authored by Stork, which accused the IDF of the odious moral crime of deliberately killing civilians waving white flags, the first incident is based entirely on the claims of the Abed Rabbo family. However, Western and Arabic versions show that as the Palestinian "fixers" brought journalists and NGO officials, including HRW "researchers," for interviews, the story evolved with each telling.

In parallel, the videos and other evidence clearly showing Palestinian abuses, including routine use of "human shields" to protect terrorists and weapons, are omitted because they do not fit the desired conclusions. No serious court would accept this testimony as evidence, or the publications as "research." .

There are dozens of similar examples repeating Palestinian claims in HRW publications. Every phase of this long war is also opportunity for promoting this agenda through reports, press conferences, letters and e-mails. These indictments (Roth was trained as a prosecutor) routinely repeat the odious charges of "indiscriminate attacks against civilians," "war crimes" and collective punishment. (HRW's "White Flags" publication uses the term "war crimes" 15 times.) This anti-Israel obsession is part of the broader transformation of HRW from its original goal of battling for the freedom of political prisoners in repressive regimes, to an ideological power directing its guns ($42 million in 2008) against embattled democracies such as Israel.