Monday, July 20, 2009

Anti-Israel bias in human rights groups

This is basically unparodiable.

Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia
by David Bernstein
Wall Street Journal
JULY 15, 2009

Seeking Saudi Money to Counterbalance "Pro-Israel Pressure Groups

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 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."


JP said...

To any of those who think that "Human Rights organisations" (the Amnesty Internationals and the like) are not politicised...

Oslo: Signing OFF on Human Rights
June 2010

There are not many occasions in life when you feel honoured to be in the same room as someone. However, it happened to me several times during the three days of the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF). The first was when Mukhtar Mai arrived. She is the Pakistani woman whose gang rape was ordered by a local council in the Punjab after her brother allegedly dishonoured a neighbouring tribe. Rather than committing suicide afterwards as is customary, she defied threats and won in court. With her compensation she launched a women's welfare organisation.


Guadalupe Llori … feared returning to Ecuador even though she is the elected governor of a large province and was a member of the same left-wing alliance as the country's President, Rafael Correa, a staunch ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Llori had made the mistake of supporting striking oil workers in her province who were protesting against the government's failure to build promised roads. Correa responded by accusing her of terrorism, sabotage and corruption and sent commandos backed by tanks and helicopters to arrest her. Llori then spent nine months in prison where she was subjected to forced labour and beatings. The country's human rights sector, much of which has long links to Correa and his party, did nothing to help her. Because Correa is seen as a progressive hero by the Western Left, international organisations largely ignored her.

It is that kind of failure by the older, larger human rights establishment that led to the founding of the OFF two years ago. Essentially, it is an alternative human rights conference, in that it genuinely embodies what such organisations used to be about: it celebrates the fight for freedom of speech, belief and association and unlike some of the more politicised human rights groups, it highlights persecution regardless of the identity or ideology of the perpetrator.

None of this may sound particularly "alternative". But in recent years some in the "human rights community" have become so exercised about alleged or genuine victims of America, Britain and their allies in the "War on Terror" that they find it hard to become equally excited about Vietnamese Buddhist monks, North Korean concentration camps or Mauritanian slaves. Others have become less focused on supporting dissidents in distant dungeons, and more interested in wider "progressive" issues such as globalisation, economic inequality and environmental degradation.

When Irene Khan, the former secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in 2005 that Guantánamo Bay was "the gulag of our time", it revealed a sad ignorance of the vast degradation machine that killed many millions of people. It also sent a signal to those in the real gulags of our time — the Laogai system in China and its equivalent in North Korea — that their plight might not be a priority for Amnesty.


Even the representative of Amnesty Norway looked twitchy when Valladares reminded listeners that all dictatorships are bad, whether in Chile or Cuba, and noted that he had been in prison for 18 years before Amnesty even recognised that there were political prisoners in Cuba and adopted his case.

At the first forum last year, a Norwegian author shocked me by asking if it was true that the forum was organised by "American Jews". …. As a local journalist explained to me, in Norway talk of human rights violations begins and ends with Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.

OFF seems to be overcoming the initial suspicion of Norway's left-oriented government and human rights establishment. This year there were fewer newspaper articles wondering if the presence of Venezuelan opposition figures was proof of CIA sponsorship of the forum.


JP said...

Human Rights Watch continue to excel.

Even as the parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan passes legislation against Female Genital Mutilation, you have "the prominent NGO, Human Rights Watch [describing] FGM as an expression of Kurdish identity and a religious requirement, although it is not universal among Kurds and is not supported by a consensus of Islamic legal thought."


Iraqi Kurdistan Passes Law Against FGM
Hudson NY
by Irfan Al-Alawi
June 27, 2011