• Human Rights Watch (HRW) is leading the campaign to promote the widely criticized “Goldstone report” on the Gaza War, with close to thirty statements to date.
  • These statements repeatedly equate Israel to Hamas, immorally compare its response to attacks on civilians to the genocide in Sudan, falsely accuse Israel of “willfully” killing civilians, and raise the specter of the “Israel lobby.”
  • HRW’s lobbying aligns it with such human rights stalwarts as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Libya, Iran, Malaysia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Hamas.
  • The close links between Goldstone and HRW continue to constitute a clear conflict of interest, and as former board member, he shares responsibility for the bias in HRW’s activities. On its part, HRW pressed for the creation of this pseudo-“fact finding mission,” and its credibility and prestige are directly tied to the report, which frequently relies on HRW’s unsupported allegations. 
  • As during the 2006 Lebanon War, HRW’s executive director Ken Roth falsely accuses Israel of the “deliberate infliction of suffering on civilians.”
  • By siding with the Islamic and non-aligned bloc at the UN, HRW is also strengthening its ties with Saudi Arabia.
  • HRW’s extensive media campaign diverts attention from the criticism and scandals such as the Saudi fundraising event, revelations of anti-Israel activism, and the exposure of Marc Garlasco’s Nazi memorabilia fetish.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has invested significant resources promoting the widely criticized “fact finding report” issued by Richard Goldstone on the Gaza War and  commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council. HRW’s massive lobbying effort aligns it with such human rights stalwarts as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Libya, Iran, Malaysia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Hamas, which are vigorously campaigning for the adoption of the recommendations, including war crimes indictments.  In contrast, Canada, the US, France, Germany, and others have condemned the mission’s mandate, as well as its methodology and findings. 

1) HRW’s Campaign Supporting Goldstone

As of October 15 (one month after the publication of Goldstone’s report), HRW had issued twenty-seven statements, and the number is increasing. Between Goldstone’s appointment in April 2009 and the September 15 release date, HRW issued more than fifteen calls praising the establishment of the inquiry, promoting Goldstone’s “eminent” character, demanding that Israel cooperate despite the inherent bias, and lobbying the U.S. and others to pressure Israel.

These statements largely ignored the one-sided mandate promulgated by the UN Human Rights Council and repeated Goldstone’s misleading claim that the mandate had been officially expanded to include violations committed by Hamas. [1]

Since the report’s release, HRW has issued at least an additional twelve statements in support of Goldstone, and HRW officials have been widely quoted in the media.  This campaign allies the organization with Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and similar regimes.  HRW’s statements repeatedly and immorally equate Israel to Hamas, and immorally compare its response to attacks on civilians to the genocide in Sudan.  Many of the statements accuse Israel of “willfully” killing civilians and also raise the specter of the Israel lobby such as, Why No Justice in Gaza? Israel Is Different, and so…

See:
Appendix 1: HRW Statements Supporting Goldstone
Appendix 2: Selected Quotes from HRW Publications

2) Conflicts of Interest: The Goldstone-HRW Links

Goldstone was a member of HRW’s board until shortly after his appointment to the HRC’s mission.  He resigned after NGO Monitor pointed out the manifest conflict of interest.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Goldstone issued a letter staunchly defending HRW’s Executive Director Ken Roth. Roth had leveled poisonous and false claims regarding Israeli operations against Hezbollah, claiming that Israel was acting under the auspices of a “primitive” religion.

On September 17, the New York Times published an op-ed by Goldstone defending his work.  The language in this piece closely mirrors that of an HRW press release issued on September 16.  The nearly identical language in both publications suggests Goldstone and HRW officials collaborated on both the timing and content of their work. [2

In return, Goldstone’s report includes over 30 quotes and citations from HRW publications.  These largely repeat, without question or independent investigation, allegations made by HRW in its Gaza war publications.  Many of these claims were authored by Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military expert” and obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. 

It is certainly in HRW’s interest to bolster the report, aside from the above-mentioned personal connections with Goldstone, as the credibility and prestige of HRW are directly tied to the acceptance of the Goldstone report.

In addition, in allying itself with the Islamic and non-aligned bloc at the UN in attempting to force adoption of the Goldstone report, HRW is also solidifying its ties with Saudi Arabia, which were reflected in the May 2009 fundraising dinner in Riyadh. The Saudi leadership has also lobbied for the Goldstone report and routinely backed the Sudanese government led by ICC fugitive, Omar al-Bashir.    

Furthermore, HRW’s extensive media campaign diverts attention from the intense criticism of the organization and its leadership.  In addition to furor over Saudi fundraising, HRW is under pressure following NGO Monitor’s detailed report on the anti-Israel activism by the leaders of the Mideast and North Africa Division, and the exposure of Marc Garlasco’s obsessive Nazi memorabilia fetish.  HRW’s leaders have sought to avoid the implications of these scandals through ad hominem attacks, accusing its critics of lying, “racism,” and raising the specter of the “Israel lobby.”  On this basis, human rights luminaries have called has called for a full and complete investigation of HRW.

For more information on how HRW has abandoned universal human rights and morality, see NGO Monitor’s systematic analysis of HRW:  Experts or Ideologues?

3) HRW’s immoral comparison between Israel’s attempts to prevent attacks on its civilians and the systematic gang rapes, mass murder of hundreds of thousands, and genocide in Darfur and Congo

In this campaign, HRW’s main line of attack is that the U.S. government is obligated to endorse Goldstone’s discredited report so that Washington has political cover to pursue war criminals from Darfur and the Congo.  According to Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Mideast and North Africa Program Director,

Failure to demand justice for attacks on civilians in Gaza and southern Israel will reveal hypocrisy in US policy. The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free.

Several other HRW statements make this same illogical claim. HRW’s Emergencies senior researcher, Fred Abrahams, made similar claims on a conference call organized by B’Tselem and the fringe group Ta’anit Tzedek (Fast for Gaza).

To equate January’s Gaza confrontation aimed at eliminating rocket attacks on Israeli civilians with the genocide in Darfur – where hundreds of thousands have been murdered, and systematic mass rapes and torture are a daily horror – is highly offensive and cheapens the suffering in Africa.  The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Bernstein commented about the immoral tenor of these claims:  “[Reasonable people would not think] to analogize Israel’s action in Gaza to the wars in Congo and Sudan to begin with.”

4) Ken Roth’s role in the “support Goldstone” campaign

Following the model used during the 2006 Lebanon War, HRW Executive Director Roth continues to falsely attribute immoral motives to Israeli military operations.  As Irwin Cotler (former Canadian Justice Minister and attorney for Nelson Mandela) has observed, “Roth writes not like a lawyer - let alone a human rights lawyer - but as a propagandist.”

In a letter to the Economist attempting to defend Goldstone (which can be seen as a quid pro quo for Goldstone’s 2006 defense of Roth), Roth writes:

it is wrong to suggest that Israel is being held to higher standards in Gaza than those to which American and European forces have been held in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan: if the laws of war are violated those forces are exposed by NGOs and the UN. There has been no evidence in those conflicts of a deliberate infliction of suffering on civilians by American or European forces, as there was in Gaza by Israeli forces. (emphasis added). 

Notes:

Click here for NGO Monitor’s analysis of NGO statements during the Gaza War
Click here for extensive coverage of the Goldstone Mission

[1] Although Goldstone claimed he would widen the inquiry, the Council never officially agreed to do so, and the original resolution remains in force.

[2] For instance, HRW’s September 16, 2009 press release states, “But both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating and holding accountable members of their own forces for serious laws-of-war violations.” Goldstone’s September 17, 2009, New York Times op-ed notes, “Unfortunately, both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces.”

Appendix 1: HRW Statements Supporting Goldstone

A Second Bite?, Joe Stork, October 13, 2009
UN Security Council:  Demand Justice for Gaza Victims, October 12, 2009
Nobel Spotlights Need for Obama to Act on Rights, October 9, 2009
UN Human Rights Council:  “Traditional Values” Vote and Gaza Overshadow Progress, October 2, 2009
UN: US Block on Goldstone Report Must Not Defer Justice, October 2, 2009
On the Goldstone report, Singapore, free trade, aircraft air, BRICs, Ken Roth, Economist, October 1, 2009
Why No Justice in Gaza? Israel Is Different, and so…,October 1, 2009
UN: US, EU Undermine Justice for Gaza Conflict, September 30, 2009
US: Endorse Goldstone Report on Gaza, September 27, 2009
EU: Demand Justice for Victims of Gaza War, September 25, 2009
Letter to European Union Foreign Ministers regarding the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, September 25, 2009
Israel/Gaza: Implement Goldstone Recommendations on Gaza, September 16, 2009
Any chance for justice for victims of the Gaza war?, Joe Stork, September 11, 2009
Right of Reply: Don't Smear the Messenger, Ken Roth, August 25, 2009
Letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown regarding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, August 19, 2009
Israel: Investigate ‘White Flag' Shootings of Gaza Civilians, August 13, 2009
Gaza/Israel: Hamas Rocket Attacks on Civilians Unlawful, August 6, 2009
Israel: Misuse of Drones Killed Civilians in Gaza, June 30, 2009
Human Rights: Canada Reigns Large No More, June 8, 2009
Obama Mid-East Speech Supports Rights, Democracy, June 4, 2009
Egypt/US: Obama Should Press Mubarak on Rights, June 2, 2009
US: Ask Israel to Cooperate with Goldstone Inquiry, May 17, 2009
Gaza: Pursuit of the Laws of War, May 8, 2009
UN: Support Goldstone Investigation into Gaza War Violations, May 6, 2009
Israel/Gaza: Israeli Military Investigation Not Credible, April 23, 2009
Israel/Gaza: Cooperate With Goldstone Investigation, April 14, 2009

Appendix 2: Selected Quotes from HRW Publications

  • HRW’s September 30 press release calls the US and the EU “shameful” and scolds them for “undermining justice” by not immediately and unreservedly embracing Goldstone.
  • Two statements issued on October 2 accused the UN and US of “stalling justice” by not pushing for the adoption of Goldstone. In one statement, Sarah Leah Whitson – HRW’s Mideast and North Africa Director, who led HRW’s fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia invoking the specter of “pro-Israel pressure groups” – attacked the US for “w[i]n[ning] Israel a reprieve.”  Its other statement, assessing the work of the UN Human Rights Council, ignored this discredited UN body’s silence regarding human rights abuses outside of Israel, including the crushing of the democracy movement in Iran and the continued abuse of women and religious minorities in Saudi Arabia. 
  • HRW issued a statement on October 12 directed to the UN Security Council, libeled the Israeli justice system, claiming that Israel acts with “impunity” and “has poor record[] of accountability.” HRW falsely claims that Israel engaged in “willful killings of civilians, deliberate attacks on civilian objects, wanton destruction of civilian property.” 
  • An October 13 op-ed by Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW’s MENA department and longtime anti-Israel activist, called the Obama administration’s criticism of Goldstone “breathtakingly cynical” and implied that Hamas attacks constitute “resist[ance to] military occupation.”
  • In an October 9 statement editorializing about Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, HRW compared Israel’s efforts to defend its civilians with the mass murder, genocide, and systematic mass rape occurring in Sudan, Congo, and Kenya.