Israel criticizes Human Rights Watch for its fundraising from Saudi regime

August 17, 2009

* Saudi women’s campaigner: “We live in the world’s largest women’s prison”
* New York-based group Human Rights Watch forced to admit it solicited funds from members of the Saudi regime at a fundraising dinner in Riyadh in May during which it bashed Israel
* Human Rights Watch found that as it increasingly demonized Israel, its worldwide annual income “grew as fast as Bernie Madoff’s balance sheets”
* Arab terrorists and their supporters recruit “human rights” organizations to their side
* Saudi Arabia closes TV station after on-air sex talk; interviewee faces death

* The Wall Street Journal: “A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners? No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW’s demonization of Israel.”

* Ma’ariv: Supporter of Munich Olympics massacre employed by Human Rights Watch wrote last week’s outrageously biased HRW report on Israel

(This dispatch mainly concerns Saudi Arabia, and the so-called human rights organization Human Rights Watch.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Saudi Arabia: “The world’s largest women’s prison”
2. “From the day they are born until the day they die”
3. Israel criticizes Human Rights Watch for its fundraising from Saudi regime
4. Some of HRW’s founders distance themselves from the organization and its leader Ken Roth
5. Israel: we will fight back against the slander of so-called human rights organizations

6. Saudi Arabia closes TV station after on-air sex talk
7. Saudis crown “Miss Morality” – without showing her face or body
8. Saudi Arabia bans the opening of public cinemas
9. First few Saudi women become maids
10. Iran decries conduct of Saudi morality police

11. Iran bans Ramadan pilgrimage to Mecca over swine flu
12. Another $200 million pledged to Fatah by Saudis
13. Saudi military buys three more A330s from France
14. Saudi attitudes to Israel: then and now

15. “HRW: From Gulag liberators to Saudi retainers” (By Gerald Steinberg, National Review)
16. “Human Rights Watch goes to Saudi Arabia” (By David Bernstein, Wall Street Journal)
17. “Author of HRW report on Israel supported Munich Massacre” (By Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma’ariv)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

SAUDI ARABIA: “THE WORLD’S LARGEST WOMEN’S PRISON”

In a bold article on the liberal website Minbar Al-Hiwar Wal-Ibra (www.menber-alhewar1.info), reformist Saudi journalist and human rights campaigner Wajeha Al-Huweidar has described Saudi Arabia as “the world’s largest women’s prison.”

But she added that unlike real prisoners, Saudi women have no prospect of ever being released, since throughout their lives, they are under the control of a male guardian – their husband, father, grandfather, brother or son.

In an article titled “Prisoners can be released from prison, but Saudi women can’t,” she wrote: “As is customary in prisons throughout the world, inmates are stripped of all authority and sponsorship over their lives. All their movements are monitored and controlled by the jailor. The prison authorities decide their fate and see to their needs, until the day of their release. This is also the usual situation of the Saudi woman. She has no right to make decisions, and may not take a single step without the permission of her jailor, namely her guardian. But in her case the term of imprisonment is unlimited.”

“FROM THE DAY THEY ARE BORN UNTIL THE DAY THEY DIE”

She continues: “The Saudi Mahram Law turns women into prisoners from the day they are born until the day they die. They cannot leave their cells, namely their homes, or the larger prison, namely the state, without signed permission...

“Although Saudi women are deprived of freedom and dignity more than any other women in the world, they suffer all these forms of oppression and injustice in bitter silence, and with an air of suppressed anger and death-like dejection. Saudi women are peaceful in the full sense of the word, but so far the Saudi state has not appreciated their noble souls, their patience, and their quiet resistance...”

“The clerics… suffocate the women in all areas of life by means of oppressive laws enforced by the religious police, who follow them everywhere as if they were fugitives from justice. The laws pertaining to women have turned them into objects on which sick men can release their violent and sexual urges.”

(Translation courtesy of MEMRI, whose senior staff subscribe to this list.)

Huweidar and other women activists recently launched a campaign against the Saudi Mahram Law, which forbids women to leave their home without a male guardian.

She told the Kuwaiti daily Awan that the campaign, whose slogan is “treat us like adult citizens or we leave the country,” was officially launched at the King Fahd Bridge, connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which the women taking part threatened to cross in future without a male guardian.

 

ISRAEL CRITICIZES HRW FOR ITS FUNDRAISING FROM SAUDI REGIME

The once respected New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch has become notorious for its invective and bias against Israel, criticizing the Jewish state (and only the Jewish state) out of all proportion for any misdeeds it might have committed. Now it has been revealed that some of its funding comes from official Saudi circles.

HRW, whose campaigns against Israel have become as nasty as those of its London-based counterpart Amnesty International, acknowledged its representatives visited Saudi Arabia in May this year and attended two private receptions, whose 50 guests included people “with governmental affiliations.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said that what it characterized as HRW’s recent “fundraising activities” in Saudi Arabia “in tandem with the kingdom’s authoritarian government” raised questions as to the organization’s credibility.

Media organizations like the BBC regularly give great prominence in their news broadcasts to the attacks on Israel by groups like HRW, without (of course) including the Israeli side.

For example, last week the BBC highlighted the latest (completely unsubstantiated) HRW allegations about Israel murdering children in Gaza in January as the main story on the BBC website. The HRW report uses the term Israeli “war crimes” 15 times.

In an official response to the Israeli government on Friday, instead of attempting to offer any explanation as to why they went to Saudi Arabia to attack Israel, Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli government of waging “a propaganda war”.

HRW’s attempt to keep information about its Saudi fundraisers out of the American press was foiled when it was mentioned in the Saudi newspaper The Arab News. The National Review and The Wall Street Journal then reported on it last month, and then last week Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly asked HRW’s executive director Ken Roth in an e-mail exchange if this was indeed what the group did in Riyadh in May.

“Did your staff person attempt to raise funds in Saudi Arabia by advertising your organization’s opposition to the pro-Israel lobby?” Goldberg asked Roth, in the exchange that he posted on his blog last Wednesday. “That’s certainly part of the story,” Roth responded.

According to The Arab News, a delegation of senior members of HRW who traveled to Saudi Arabia were welcomed at a dinner attended by prominent members of the Saudi regime, for their work attacking Israel.

The Arab News added: “The group is facing a shortage of funds because of the global financial crisis and the work on Israel and Gaza, which depleted HRW's budget for the region”.

Roth admitted to Goldberg that various government officials and “someone from the Shura Council” were at the dinner.

The Shura Council is Saudi Arabia’s state-appointed religious leadership, which oversees, on behalf of the monarchy, the imposition in the kingdom of the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law. (See more on the Wahhabi interpretation further down this dispatch.)

 

SOME OF HRW’S FOUNDERS DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM THE ORGANIZATION AND ITS LEADER KEN ROTH

As Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of NGO Monitor, points out in an article below (“From Gulag Liberators to Saudi Retainers: Human Rights Watch has betrayed its original mission”), Human Rights Watch, which was originally founded in 1978 in New York (as Helsinki Watch) with the goal of using public demonstrations and other forms of “naming and shaming” to free prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, has now lost its moral compass and become an organization committed to bashing Israel and America while downplaying human rights abuses all around the world.

Those who helped establish HRW, including its founder, the veteran human rights campaigner American Robert Bernstein (who was also former editorial head at the publishers Random House), and former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky, have now voiced strong disagreement with HRW’s current direction.

One of the most depressing aspects of current world politics, in my opinion, is that Western human rights organizations have increasingly come to serve as a major propaganda tool for Arab terrorists and their supporters. Many ill-informed people who think of themselves as neutral (including news editors in New York, Paris and London) actually believe that groups like Amnesty International and HRW are reliable purveyors of news which present objective facts in a balanced way. As a result the mainstream media regularly cite them as a source of supposedly impartial data, as though what they said were self-evidently fair and true.

For much more on Human Rights Watch and other groups, please see NGO Monitor: www.ngo-monitor.org. (I am on NGO Monitor’s International Advisory Board.)

(UPDATE: In reaction to all the criticism, Human Rights Watch hurried out a report on August 11, accusing Saudi Arabia of holding thousands of people in prison with no proof of their guilt.)

 

ISRAEL: WE WILL FINALLY FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE SLANDER OF SO-CALLED HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

Last week, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Jerusalem would begin waging a more aggressive battle against NGOs it deems biased against Israel.

Israel also criticized a number of European governments for funding the extreme left-wing Israeli group “Breaking the Silence,” which Israel said has made totally unsubstantiated claims about alleged Israeli policies of using chemicals against civilians or deliberately killing them.

The Dutch government has now acknowledged that “Breaking the Silence” is not a reliable human rights group and says it will cease funding them.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said last week that he had not known that the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv was funding a radical group like Breaking the Silence; he instructed the Dutch Foreign Ministry to launch an internal investigation on how this came about. It revealed that the embassy in Israel gave Breaking the Silence 19,995 euros to help put together its 2009 report, which accuses Israel of various crimes and was released earlier this month. Had this figure been five euros higher, it would have required approval from The Hague.

But there has been no word yet about Breaking the Silence’s biggest funders – the British Embassy in Tel Aviv (which gave them the equivalent of about $60,000), the European Union (which donated Euro 43,514 towards its latest report), and the supremely naïve diaspora Jewish organization the New Israel Fund which gave them about $50,000. (The Israeli government has protested to the British ambassador to Tel Aviv and he justified his funding of such an organization.)

The Spanish Foreign Ministry has also given over 180,000 Euro to anti-Israeli NGOs.

How would Spain like it if Israel funded supporters of ETA? And what would Britain think if Israel funded an IRA support group?)

 

SAUDI ARABIA CLOSES TV STATION AFTER ON-AIR SEX TALK

The Saudi authorities have closed all the offices of an Arab TV station in the kingdom after it broadcast an interview with a Saudi man speaking frankly about sex.

Abdul-Rahman al-Hazza, the spokesman of the Ministry of Culture and Information, told The Associated Press that all Saudi offices of LBC, a Lebanese-based satellite TV station, were closed August 12 because of the program. LBC is part-owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire reformist tycoon.

The Saudi man, Mazen Abdul-Jawad, has been in detention since last Friday. Abdul-Jawad, 32, a Saudi Airlines employee, has begged forgiveness from Saudi society for appearing on LBC’s Bold Red Line program, in which he appeared to be talking about his sexual exploits.

His television appearance shocked many in Saudi Arabia, which enforces strict segregation of the sexes. For example, an unrelated couple can be detained for being in the same car or having a cup of coffee in public. Saudis observe such segregation even at home, where they have separate living rooms for male and female guests.

Sulaiman al-Jumeii, Abdul-Jawad’s lawyer, insists the interview was manipulated, and his client was not aware in many instances that he was being recorded.

If he is “lucky,” Abdul-Jawad faces many years in prison plus excruciatingly painful lashes with a whip. If he is unlucky, he will be charged with Hiraba, a class of crime known as hadd, “whose punishment is specifically prescribed in the Holy Koran as death,” according to Saudi media reports.

 

SAUDIS CROWN “MISS MORALITY” – WITHOUT SHOWING HER FACE OR BODY

A Saudi woman has won a beauty competition without showing her face or body.

Saudi Arabia’s “Queen of beautiful morals” competition has been won by Aya Ali Al-Mulla, 18. She beat 274 other competitors to win the crown by proving her moral virtues. Her face and body were completely covered during the competition. Among the tests she had to undergo was proving her dutifulness to her parents, family and society.

As reward for the title, she was given cash, jewelry and a trip to Muslim Malaysia. Beauty contests which focus on physical attributes, of the kind held in much of the rest of the world, are strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Women in the kingdom must be covered when in public and cannot socialize with men to whom they are not related.

 

SAUDI ARABIA BANS THE OPENING OF PUBLIC CINEMAS

The Saudi government has officially banned public cinemas from opening in the kingdom. This followed protests by Islamists after a debate was initiated by reformists over whether the government should issue licenses for the country’s first movie theaters. The proponents say the debate revealed that most Saudis want to listen to music and watch movies, like the rest of the world, despite opposition from Muslim clerics

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz made his decision following pressure from Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-Aziz Al-Sheikh. Several leading Wahhabi clerics said that films were “evil” and had the potential to debase the Islamic fabric of Saudi society.

The setback was a stark reminder of the difference between Saudi Arabia and most other countries in the Arab world, where movies and concerts for the most part take place freely – with travelling Saudis often in the audience.

Saudi Arabia’s most famous entertainer Mohammed Abdo plays the oud, sings, and recites classical poetry in sold-out concerts around the Arab world, but he cannot give a normal public performance in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the restrictions on showing films in Saudi Arabia, a number of films continue to be made by Saudi filmmakers, and they are screened elsewhere in the Middle East.

Last month the Jeddah Film Festival was canceled by the government at the last moment without explanation, even after all the tickets had been sold. (The festival started in 2006, but was always cautious about what kind of films it dared show.)

In May a French embassy-sponsored concert by operatic soprano Isabelle Poulenard, performing with a female accompanist to a women-only audience in Riyadh, was forbidden just two days before it was scheduled to take place, even though a permit had previously been granted.

 

FIRST FEW SAUDI WOMEN BECOME MAIDS

Saudis are infamous for the number of non-Arab servants they employ, many of whom are treated as virtual house slaves. The number of people working as maids and servants in Saudi Arabia, from countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Nepal, exceeds 1.2 million.

Now a trial project has been inaugurated in an attempt to train and employ some of Saudi Arabia’s woefully underemployed women as maids and as a result the first 30 Saudi women have started to work in the profession. According to Saudi media reports, native Saudis are in high demand due to the widespread fear that foreigners “practice magic.”

However, there are notable differences in salaries and working conditions for Saudi and foreign maids. The Saudi women are only permitted to work eight hours per day, whereas foreign women in Saudi Arabia work 18 hours per day. The Saudis are paid much more generously than the foreign servants and are forbidden to work while the male head of the family is at home.

 

IRAN DECRIES CONDUCT OF SAUDI MORALITY POLICE

The official Iranian Fars news agency has run the following report: (http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8805080578):

TEHRAN (FNA) - Iran objected to the government of Saudi Arabia over the mistreatment of Iranian pilgrims at the hands of the country’s “morality police”.

“The inappropriate behavior of Saudi morality forces towards Iranian pilgrims has increased,” said Hassan Saqaie, the head of Iran’s pilgrimage office in Saudi Arabia, in an official statement sent to relevant Saudi authorities.

“Not only do they limit the religious activities of clerics, but they make false accusations against pilgrims and ask them to sign papers stating that they would not repeat the so called offenses,” he said.

Saqaei said the behavior of the morality police undermines Saudi Arabia’s stance in the Muslim world and contradicts both countries’ desire to remain committed to a policy of avoiding tensions.

Reports of the Saudi morality force’s mistreatment of Shiite pilgrims, particularly Iranians, increased in 2007 when Saudi police started fingerprinting Iranian citizens who entered the country for the Hajj rituals.

According to international laws, authorities can only fingerprint travelers suspected of being criminals or terrorists.

 

IRAN BANS RAMADAN PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA OVER SWINE FLU

Iran has banned Iranians from performing the umra pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia during the “holy” month of Ramadan because of fears about the spread of swine flu. The umra can be performed at any time but is popular during Ramadan, which this year starts next Friday.

The ban was announced on Iranian state television. Around 3 million Muslim pilgrims from over 160 countries head for Mecca in western Saudi Arabia each year in one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings. The main hajj pilgrimage will take place this year in November.

Iran’s first official death as a result of H1N1 swine flu was announced by Iranian media on August 5. It took place in the southern Island of Qeshm. There have been several swine flu deaths elsewhere in the Middle East. Eight Israelis have died of the virus in the last two weeks.

 

ANOTHER $200 MILLION PLEDGED TO FATAH BY SAUDIS

Saudi Arabia will deliver $200 million to the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has announced at a press conference in Ramallah. The funds are to be transferred to the PA treasury over the coming days, he said.

For more on Fatah, please see last week’s dispatch titled The truth about Fatah – revealed by Fatah itself (& Fatah’s general secretary claims that Abbas helped “murder” Arafat).

 

SAUDI MILITARY BUYS THREE MORE A330S FROM FRANCE

Saudi Arabia has bought three more military Airbus A330 in-flight refueling aircraft for an undisclosed amount, boosting its planned air tanking fleet, the French defense ministry has announced.

“Defense minister Hervé Morin signed last week a government-to-government contract with his counterpart in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, crown prince and minister for defense and aviation,” the ministry said in a statement. “This contract negotiated by the French state concerns the acquisition by the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) for three additional A330 MRTT (MultiRole Tanker Transport),” the ministry said.

 

SAUDI ATTITUDES TO ISRAEL: THEN AND NOW

The Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom notes in an editorial that U.S. President Barack Obama was unable to persuade Saudi King Abdullah, at their recent meeting, to show even the slightest flexibility on recognizing Israel’s right to exist and reminds its readers that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was – in February 1945 – similarly unable to persuade King Abdullah’s father, King Ibn Saud, to show any flexibility towards Jewish national aspirations.

“Things have hardly changed,” the paper writes. “Then, American Jews were divided, the President’s admirers refused to see the naked truth, the State Department favored the Arabs and was against the Jews, oil was more important than anything and Congress was more attentive to the needs of Israel’s Jews than the administration. If you thought that there was anything new under the sun, you were wrong.”

***

I attach three important articles below, which I recommend you read in full.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

HRW’S SEE-NO-EVIL TREATMENT

From Gulag Liberators to Saudi Retainers
Human Rights Watch has betrayed its original mission
By Gerald M. Steinberg
National Review Online
July 21, 2009

Human Rights Watch was founded in 1978 in New York (as Helsinki Watch) with the mission of using public demonstrations and other forms of “naming and shaming” to free prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Many Gulag denizens, including Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky, later recognized HRW’s role in gaining their freedom. Shortly thereafter HRW began advocating on behalf of political prisoners and torture victims in other totalitarian regimes, including in Chile, Argentina, and Greece.

But since then, HRW has lost its moral compass, and the organization is using its substantial budget ($42 million in 2008) to repeatedly attack Israel by exploiting the language of human rights and international law. Tendentious reports and press conferences, using distorted legal rhetoric in place of credible evidence, target Israeli responses to terror attacks from Arafat, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

My organization, NGO Monitor, annually releases a systematic analysis of HRW’s agenda, and our reports clearly show that HRW singles out Israel in the Middle East. For years, this arbiter of international morality and human rights had very little to say about Libya, Saudi Arabia, or Palestinian terrorists. HRW’s recent cautious criticism of Saudi policy came only after a reorganization of the organization’s board – and then only after receiving unwelcome attention for its see-no-evil treatment of the Kingdom. In May 2009, Arab News reported that HRW officials went to Saudi Arabia to raise funds, advertising the numerous condemnations and pseudo-research reports against Israel in the Gaza war. Some of the founders, including Robert Bernstein, are in strong disagreement with the organization they built.

How and why did this human-rights superpower turn into a major Israel-basher, along with London-based Amnesty International (which began with a similar mission at about the same time)? And why do such groups appear to be credible and moral – if not as vocal – only when it comes to human-rights violations outside the Middle East, such as those in China?

Part of the answer is the addiction to the influence, power, and money that lies just below the moral façade. The collapse of the Soviet empire forced groups like HRW to create new objectives if they wanted to keep the donations coming (and they succeeded; HRW executive director Ken Roth has a $350,000 salary package). The struggle against South African apartheid was but a short-lived substitute.

HRW and Amnesty transformed from human rights groups to “research organizations,” claiming expertise in the complexities of international law and armed conflict. They added a few self-proclaimed experts in these fields, and began producing impressive-looking battlefield reports based on unverifiable “eyewitness testimony” and emotive graphics. The Arab-Israeli conflict was a prime target – and HRW’s agenda fit directly into the Palestinian political strategy of isolating and demonizing Israel through the vocabulary of human rights.

The campaign to label Zionism as racism, endorsed by the U.N. in the mid-1970s, returned in the late 1990s as the Oslo process exploded, giving the NGO network a powerful platform. For the Arabs and Iran, anti-Israel NGO activists who labeled Zionism as “neo-colonialism” and the “new apartheid” became convenient allies. Double standards promoting anti-Israel positions provided direct access to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (now Council), led by moral stalwarts such as Iran, Libya, Pakistan, and Cuba. In every round of violence, including the 2002 Jenin “massacre” myth, the 2006 Lebanon war, and numerous others, HRW officials called for international investigations of Israeli “war crimes” and “violations of international law.” Meanwhile, HRW’s annual income grew as fast as Bernie Madoff’s balance sheets.

Most recently, during the Gaza war, the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed HRW board member Richard Goldstone to head the inquisition. This highlighted the symbiotic relationship between powerful political NGOs and the anti-Western and anti-Israel regimes that control the relevant U.N. frameworks. And as a U.S.-based NGO with many Jewish donors, HRW was a welcome ally in Israel-bashing. (Goldstone resigned from HRW, and his name was quickly removed from the website, after NGO Monitor highlighted the conflict of interest.)

Because the U.N. amplifies the role of NGOs, these organizations receive enhanced media coverage and exercise “soft power.” Journalists usually accept and repeat the obsessions and automatic condemnations published by human-rights superpowers, without bothering to check the “evidence” presented. And this media attention, in turn, helps the top NGOs get more money from foundations promoting radical agendas (like George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and the Ford Foundation), naïve donors, and now, perhaps, the Saudis. (HRW has also established a relationship with Qaddafi in Libya, praising the “spirit of reform.”)

But power and money are only part of the explanation for the radical political agenda. HRW, like other once-liberal organizations, has been captured by activists with anti-democratic ideologies, strong egos, and major chips on their shoulders. Following Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Joseph Massad, and others, the NGO world is filled with anti-nationalists and anarchists who define military power as inherently evil and victimhood as moral, regardless of context or behavior. Thus, an Israel that can defend itself is on the bad side of the moral ledger, along with the United States; Palestinians – the world’s most successful victims – are patronizingly excused from all responsibility to act morally.

Another factor in HRW’s disproportionate emphasis on Israel is the number of anti-Israel Jews among its top officials, beginning with Executive Director Kenneth Roth. Roth has often held press conferences in Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel, home base for the pro-Palestinian media, in order to attack Israel. As suicide bombers were slaughtering hundreds of Israelis, Roth’s solution was to call for sending police into Gaza’s slums to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to trial. In 2006, Roth condemned Israel’s response to Hezbollah rocket attacks and kidnapping of soldiers as an “eye for an eye” approach resulting from “the morality of some more primitive moment.”

Reed Brody, another Jew, led the HRW delegation to the infamous 2001 NGO Forum of the U.N. Durban Conference, which labeled Israel “an apartheid state.” Brody was also active in the case brought against Prime Minister Sharon in a Belgium court while hundreds of Israelis were being killed in Arafat’s terror campaign.

For many years, HRW’s founders and board members paid little attention to these dimensions, relying instead on Roth’s cool assurances, stage presence from the NPR studios to the salons of Davos, and unprecedented fundraising success. Some minor obsessions over Israel could be overlooked when measured against HRW’s status as an NGO superpower and moral arbiter.

But now the façade is thinning, and HRW has become a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia, one of the top human-rights abusers in the world. According to Arab News, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division, and Hassan Elmasry, a member of both the HRW Board of Directors and the MENA advisory committee, attended a “welcoming dinner” and encouraged “prominent members of Saudi society” to make up 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.” Whitson has reportedly sought to reel in the Saudis by touting HRW’s (invented) “evidence of Israel using white phosphorus and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets,” and by invoking the “pro-Israel pressure groups” that “strongly resisted the report and tried to discredit it.”

In response to extensive ridicule, Whitson and Roth lashed out at their critics (they accused NGO Monitor of lying), but they have not offered any details to contradict this version of events or the systematic analysis exposing HRW’s targeting of Israel. They have also tried to sell a distinction between soliciting the Saudi regime for money, and wooing wealthy private individuals and Wahhabi religious officials in Saudi Arabia who, we are assured, are genuinely concerned about human rights. Right.

In terms of its budget and ideological agenda, HRW’s embrace of the Saudis makes sense, because it can compensate for the group’s loss of support from liberal Jews. In addition, this new partnership is based on a shared agenda of attacking Israel and the legitimacy of a Jewish nation-state – while more than 50 officially Islamic countries are universally accepted.

But as a result, HRW’s halo has been tarnished, perhaps beyond repair. The long history of cynical manipulation of moral rhetoric notwithstanding, the absurdity of a Saudi-supported human-rights organization that targets Israel may be a step too far. For the first time, Roth and Whitson find themselves being held accountable and answering charges, rather than playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. If this also becomes true of Amnesty International and the other human-rights superpowers that have gone bad, this will mark a major step in restoring the moral foundation of universal human rights.

(Prof. Gerald Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and chair of political science at Bar Ilan University.)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH GOES TO SAUDI ARABIA

Human Rights Watch goes to Saudi Arabia
Seeking Saudi Money to Counterbalance “Pro-Israel Pressure Groups”
By David Bernstein
The Wall Street Journal
July 15, 2009

A delegation from Human Rights Watch was recently in Saudi Arabia. To investigate the mistreatment of women under Saudi Law? To campaign for the rights of homosexuals, subject to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia? To protest the lack of religious freedom in the Saudi Kingdom? To issue a report on Saudi political prisoners?

No, no, no, and no. The delegation arrived to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting HRW’s demonization of Israel. An HRW spokesperson, Sarah Leah Whitson, highlighted HRW’s battles with “pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations.” (Was Ms. Whitson required to wear a burkha, or are exceptions made for visiting anti-Israel “human rights” activists”? Driving a car, no doubt, was out of the question.)

Apparently, Ms. Whitson found no time to criticize Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record. But never fear, HRW “recently called on the Kingdom to do more to protect the human rights of domestic workers.

There is nothing wrong with a human rights organization worrying about maltreatment of domestic workers. But there is something wrong when a human rights organization goes to one of the worst countries in the world for human rights to raise money to wage lawfare against Israel, and says not a word during the trip about the status of human rights in that country. In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that everyone in Whitson’s audience employs domestic servants, giving her a perfect, untaken opportunity to boast about HRW’s work in improving the servants’ status. But Whitson wasn’t raising money for human rights, she was raising money for HRW’s propaganda campaign against Israel.

Someone who claims to have worked for HRW wrote to me, “I can tell you that the people on the research and policy side of the organization have little, if any, contacts with people on the donor side.” If that’s true, apparently this is yet another exception HRW makes for Israel: Ms. Whitson, who gave the presentation to potential Saudi donors, is director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

Also, as a Nathan Wagner comments at Opinio Juris: “Surely there is a moral difference between raising funds in free nations through appeals to ideals of universal human rights and raising money in repressive nations through appeals highlighting pressure brought against their enemies. [Moreover], the former type of fundraising does not imperil the organization’s mission, but the fundraising Bernstein highlights does, since any significant reliance on such funds will necessarily mute criticism of the repressive government.”

Finally, some would defend HRW by pointing it that it has criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record rather severely in the past. The point of my post, though, is not that HRW is pro-Saudi, but that it is maniacally anti-Israel. The most recent manifestation is that its officers see nothing unseemly about raising funds among the elite of one of the most totalitarian nations on earth, with a pitch about how the money is needed to fight “pro-Israel forces,” without the felt need to discuss any of the Saudis’ manifold human rights violations, and without apparent concern that becoming dependent on funds emanating from a brutal dictatorship leaves you vulnerable to that brutal dictatorship later cutting off the flow of funds, if you don’t “behave.”

(Mr. Bernstein is a professor of law at George Mason University.)

 

AUTHOR OF HRW REPORT ON ISRAEL SUPPORTED MUNICH MASSACRE

Author of HRW report on Israel supported Munich Olympics Massacre
By Ben-Dror Yemini
Ma’ariv
August 16, 2009

Joe Stork, a senior official in Human Rights Watch, which accuses the IDF of killing Palestinians who waved white flags, is a fanatical supporter of the elimination of Israel. He was a friend of Saddam, ruled out negotiations and supported the Munich Massacre, which “provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians.”

Last Thursday, many world media outlets covered the press conference in which a senior Human Rights Watch official, Joe Stork, presented the report accusing Israel of killing twelve Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who waved white flags during Operation Cast Lead. Stork, the person identified with the report, has a unique history of Israel-hating: He supported the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich, was an avid supporter of Saddam Hussein and more.

Several times in the past, Stork has called for the destruction of Israel and is a veteran supporter of Palestinian terrorism. Already as a student, Stork was amongst the founders of a new radical leftist group, which was formed based on the claim that other leftist groups were not sufficiently critical of Israel and of the United States’ support of it. Already in 1976, Stork participated in a conference organized by Saddam Hussein which celebrated the first anniversary of the UN decision that equated Zionism with racism. Stork, needless to say, arrived at the conference as a prominent supporter of Palestinian terrorism and as an opponent to the existence of the State of Israel. He also labeled Palestinian violence against Israel as “revolutionary potential of the Palestinian masses” – language that was typical of fanatical Marxists.

In articles which he authored during the 1970’s, Stork stated that he was against the very existence of Israel as an “imperialistic entity” and, to this end, provided counsel to Arab regimes on how to eliminate the Zionist regime. He also was opposed to any negotiations since this meant recognizing its existence: “Zionism may be defeated only by fighting imperialism,” wrote Stork, “and not through deals with Kissingers.”

On other occasions, Stork expressed his position that the global Left must subordinate itself to the PLO in order to strengthen elements that opposed any accord with Israel. It would seem that he has not changed his ways since then. He is still conceptually subordinate to those who have maintained their opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. Once the world’s radical left supported the PLO. Today, part of the global Left supports Hamas.

Stork, of course, is not alone. The hate ships that arrive from time to time, or attempt to arrive, to the shores of Gaza, are full of radicals of his ilk. They do not identify with efforts towards compromise or peace. On the contrary, they identify with those who are continuing the old line that supports the elimination of Israel. And what would happen if the PLO should decide to enter the negotiations track? Stork already recommended years ago that the Palestinian left splinter in order to continue the resistance. Hamas obeyed. It is possible to guess where Stork’s heart lays.

Where does Stork stand regarding matters of objectivity and neutrality? He criticized Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, himself a PLO figure, because he edited an anthology which tried, at least seemingly, to produce a balanced presentation. “Academic neutrality is deceitful,” wrote Stork. And what about factual accuracy? Stork claimed that Menachem Begin said that, ‘The Palestinians are two-legged animals.” In fact, Begin said that those who come to kill children are “two-legged animals.” The difference is, of course, huge. Stork, time after time, justifies his high standing in the industry of hate and lies against Israel.

Stork reached his peak in a statement published by the Middle East Research and Information Project, which dealt with gathering information on the Middle East conflict, and in which Stork was a leading figure. This was a statement that included explicit support for the murder of the eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics: “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement,” the statement said, “But we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action…It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.” Murder and terrorism, if so, are a matter of morale.

This is the man. A radical Marxist whose positions have not changed over the years. On the contrary. Objectivity, neutrality or sticking to the facts are not Stork’s strong suit. He even proudly exclaims that there is no need for neutrality.

Is it possible to relate seriously to a report against Israel which this man stands behind? Both Camera and Professor Gerald Steinberg have revealed worrying data on the leaders of Human Rights Watch and on the two people who head its Middle East Department – Sarah Leah Whitson and Joe Stork – even before its latest report and unconnected to it. The organization, as part of its false presentation, issued polite condemnations of Hamas rocket fire. But it seems that such blatant anti-Israel bias leaves room for doubt. A Stork produced report on Israel is about as objective as a report by Baruch Marzel on Hebron.

Israel is called upon to provide explanations in the wake of Human Rights Watch reports. It is about time that Israel publicly exposed the ideological roots of several of this organization’s leaders and demands the dismissal of these supporters of terrorism and haters of Israel. Until then, Israel, justifiably, cannot seriously comment on criticism from such a body.

(More on Joe Stork here from NGO Monitor.)


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.