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Thursday, November 08, 2012

HRW's anti-Israel position illustrated by a single tweet

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch head Ken Roth tweeted:

The people who reflexively condemn every time we criticize  are finding it hard to dismiss our  work.

The link is to an article in the Jewish Daily Forward, praising HRW's work in Syria.

I will accept that HRW is doing good work in Syria. The problem is that, as this tweet indicates, HRW cannot distinguish between the morality of a brutal regime murdering tens of thousands of its citizens and Jews building houses in their historic capital.

In fact, the Forward article indicates that even HRW is afraid that its very recent work in Syria is overshadowing its anti-Israel work:
Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, says that the focus on Syria has meant an accompanying relative shift away from Israel and Palestinian territories.

“Since Israel was involved in a war in Lebanon and a war in Gaza, of course it got a lot of attention,” Whitson said. As the group’s area manager, Whitson says, she now struggles to keep the work that the organization continues to do outside Syria from getting buried. Before the uprising, Syria “was such a moribund place, we couldn’t generate news…. The reality is, for us to report we needed to be documenting active measures of repression or active measures of abuse.”
A hundred killed every single day in Syria, and Sarah Leah Whitson is complaining that she cannot gain traction on her usual anti-Israel focus! (And HRW managed to focus on Israel plenty of times besides the wars in Lebanon and Gaza.)

In other words, for them to report on Syria before rebels managed to start making territorial gains was really hard, but for them to report on Arabs claiming Israeli abuse was really, really easy. So they decided that Israel was the major human rights abuser in the Middle East, and Syria  - while bad - is problematic because mass murders there are overshadowing their specialty.

The article also somewhat contradicts Whitson's claim that it was nearly impossible to report abuses from Syria before the current round of mass murders:
We’ve been working on Syria for so long; I’d been doing it for six years when the uprising started,” said Nadim Houry, HRW’s Beirut-based deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division. “We already had contacts with quite a few activists and had been able to establish trust and assess accountability over a few years.
So there you have it. A single tweet shows that HRW is not only equating Israeli actions with Syrian human rights abuses, not only that it feels it should be congratulated for doing what it is supposed to be doing, but that it feels guilty that it is emphasizing Syria so much recently.

I never saw a quote from an HRW officlal complaining that Israel is taking up so many of HRW's resources that they cannot focus properly on Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Which means that even today, HRW's  main focus is Israel, and Syria's murderous regime is a distraction that must be solved so it can get back to its major agenda of demonizing the Jewish state.