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July 28, 2009

Human Rights Watch Pleads Innocent. It's Not.


Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's senior official in the Middle East, suggests that critics of her organization offer no concrete criticism, but only baseless "griping and whining." In a discussion with the Jerusalem Post, she laid down the following challenge:

"Please, if there is something we got wrong, if one of the incidents or attacks we described is wrong, I would love to hear it. Because the Gerald Steinbergs of this world, and I guess now the Sharanskys of this world, love to give blanket denials, love to give blanket dismissals. But let's get down to the facts and let me know, did we get the fact wrong on any of these cases."

The truth is, organizations including CAMERA and NGO Monitor have frequently relayed specific examples of shoddy and misleading work by HRW, which are glibly dismissed or even ignored by the organization.

CAMERA told HRW, for example, that its claim to have "found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack" during the 2006 Lebanon war ignores numerous documented instances of this very practice. We told HRW that, according to the Associated Press, "Hezbollah fighters in civilian clothes entered the village [of Marwaheen] and set up launchers to fire rockets south into Israel. The guerrillas moved the launchers around, putting one on top of a house that was subsequently destroyed." AP also cited a local witness who "saw a Hezbollah fighter set up a rocket launcher with a timer on a nearby hillside, then run to the other side of the village near her home, taking refuge between civilian houses." HRW's response to this information? Silence.

We also let HRW know that its report on the Lebanon war wrongly claimed there was "no evidence that there had been Hezbollah military activity around the areas targeted by the IDF" in Srifa and other towns, including no dead or wounded fighters. But a town official told the New York Times that "a majority" of those buried in the Srifa's rubble "were fighters belonging to Hezbollah and the allied Amal Party." Again, HRW declined to correct its misinformation.

Whitson claimed in this newspaper that HRW "would love to hear" any example of "something we got wrong." So now, again, it has. The question is will the organization correct the record and redress the harm done by its false charges. That would mean, at the very least, publicizing the corrections as widely as it did the falsehoods. It would also mean desisting from the biased approach that has guided the group's work with regard to Israel.

See more here.

Posted by GI at July 28, 2009 10:56 AM


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