You might remember that this group was caught doing fundraising in Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago, saying the money would go to “battle . . . pro-Israel pressure groups.” And a lot of people raised hell about it.
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 Watch’s 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.)
In response to the rocket war and Hamas’s 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 Hamas’s campaign of murder against Israeli civilians and Israel’s attempt to defend those civilians. The unwillingness to distinguish between aggression and self-defense blots out a fundamental moral fact—that Hamas’s 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.
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.