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February 27, 2017

The Washington Post Omits the Anti-Israel Record of Human Rights Watch

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Robert Bernstein


A Feb. 24, 2017 Washington Post report on the decision by Israeli authorities to block the entry of an anti-Israel Human Rights Watch (HRW) employee omitted key information (“Human Rights Watch worker barred by Israel”). The dispatch, by The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth, failed to fully inform readers about HRW’s history of singling out the Jewish state for opprobrium and mischaracterized the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Post reported that Omar Shakir, HRW’s recently announced Israel and Palestine country, was denied entry into Israel. Booth briefly quoted Israeli concerns that HRW is “systemically anti-Israel,” but failed to elaborate.

In fact, Human Rights Watch, a self-appointed arbiter of human rights abuses around, has a long history of anti-Israeli bias.

HRW, as CAMERA has highlighted, has raised funds on the basis of its singling out Israel. HRW has even used the criticism that it receives from “pro-Israel pressure groups” to get funds from wealthy Saudi donors (“Minority Report,” New Republic, April 27, 2010). HRW’s own founder, Robert Bernstein, repudiated the group in a Oct. 19, 2009 New York Times Op-Ed that noted the non-profit organization was guilty of “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

In his 2016 autobiography entitled, Speaking Freely, Bernstein enunciated on his criticisms of the organization he helped create and on whose board he served for decades. Bernstein pointed out that HRW misleadingly treats as fact the opinion that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law. He also wrote that although HRW occasionally criticized—often only when forced to do so—the terrorist group Hamas, it “placed a greater emphasis on denouncing” Israel.

Indeed, the Executive director of the Middle East and North Africa section that oversees Israel, Sarah Leah Whitson, previously worked for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. There, according to non-profit watchdog NGO-Monitor, she was “very active in pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel causes.” Whitson's AAADC work goes unmentioned in her HRW bio. [For a recent CAMERA expose' of HRW's anti-Israel slant, see “Low-Hanging Fruit: Human Rights Watch and Palestinian Child Laborers,” April 14, 2015.]

In response to allegations of bias, Whitson rashly compared her critics to Hezbollah. Ironically, this is the same U.S.-listed terrorist organization that she referred to as merely an “Islamic Resistance” in a 2007 article in the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar. In that piece she—not surprisingly—sought to portray Israel as an aggressor.

In addition to omitting this pertinent history, The Post whitewashed the BDS movement. The paper cited a NGO Monitor video clip of Shakir speaking in support of BDS in 2010 at the University of California-Irvine, but then noted that BDS “supporters say” that movement is “designed to force Israel to end its almost 50-year military occupation and practices it compares to ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians.” The Post failed to inform its readers that the BDS movement seeks the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and counts among its founders and supporters numerous terrorist groups (see, for example “CAMERA Refutes ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ BDS Advocacy, May 19, 2015).

In his autobiography, Bernstein noted that anti-Israel terror groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, are aided in the “battle for international opinion” when “foreign press…uncritically cover the reports of human rights organizations without closely examining the merits and political repercussions” of these NGO’s assertions. By omitting both HRW’s checkered history regarding Israel and the BDS movement it abets, The Post confirms Bernstein’s concerns.

Posted by SD at February 27, 2017 08:03 PM

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