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March 03, 2011

HRW Founder Bernstein Starts Advancing Human Rights (AHR)

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Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch who publicly renounced his ties with the organization due to distorted and disproportionate focus on free and open Israel at the expense of the rest of the Middle East -- mostly unfree -- has just launched a new human rights organization, Advancing Human Rights.

Why the need for a new organization? Bernstein, 88, explains:

Some human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, do not condemn incitement to genocide, Arab hate speech being spewed daily in Gaza, particularly, and Saudi textbooks being taught to young children calling Jews “monkeys and pigs.” Hate speech is the precursor to genocide. I understand giving hate speech a lot of latitude in an open society where it is sure to be criticized - but in a closed society it goes unanswered and encouraged by the government, governments that control all the media.

If I’ve misinterpreted the positions of these human rights organizations, I’m happy to be corrected.

Human Rights Watch believes it is its job to protect civilians on both sides in a war. This is where we really disagree. In the Israel-Palestine conflict they cannot protect either side for reasons Colonel Kemp will address. Worse, their methodology which is to analyze a war after it is over is flawed and in my view its staff has little knowledge of the realities of asymmetric war and makes accusations of war crimes where others would understand the sad collateral damage of war. In the Israel-Palestine war, it seems to me, the Israelis are usually the party accused. Hamas, I believe, is fighting a war of attrition, and doesn’t subscribe to the Geneva conventions . . .

We will focus on women’s rights and free speech. These two rights – the spearhead of most totalitarian repression – are so important because where they are absent, achieving the other very important human rights is practically impossible. We will, of course, go into closed societies. The very idea of human rights organizations spending some of their small resources to be another voice in an open society with what we see happening all over the world in closed societies is almost ludicrous. Now that these closed societies are exploding, they will need every ounce of the human rights community’s attention so that we don’t have another Iran.

Meanwhile, HRW is embroiled in yet another controversy: Sarah Leah Whitson's 2009 praise for Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif Islam as a leading reformer.

Posted by TS at March 3, 2011 08:06 AM

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