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In May 2009, leaders of Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited Saudi Arabia – one of the major violators of the norms that HRW claims to promote – to raise funds for the organization.  Arab news reported that “senior members” of HRW – including Middle East Division director Sarah Leah Whitson, and Hassan Elmasry, a member of the International Board of Directors and the ME Division’s Advisory Committee – attended a “welcoming dinner” and encouraged “prominent members of Saudi society” to finance their work.  HRW’s anti-Israel obsession was stated as the major reason for holding this Saudi fundraiser: “The group is facing a shortage of funds because of the global financial crisis and the work on Israel and Gaza, which depleted HRW’s budget for the region.”

Whitson’s appeal for Saudi support and money acknowledged and cited HRW’s anti-Israel focus extensively, claiming that “Human Rights Watch provided the international community with evidence of Israel using white phosphorus and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets.” As NGO Monitor’s systematical analysis demonstrated, HRW’s allegations were based on false and unsupported claims. But in pitching HRW to the Saudis, Whitson invoked the canard of “pro-Israel pressure groups,” which, she declared, “strongly resisted the report and tried to discredit it.”

Similarly, Whitson told the Saudi leaders about HRW’s role in anti-Israel activities in the US Congress and the United Nations, boasting that this propaganda campaign was instrumental in the UN’s “fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations of serious Israeli violations during the war on Gaza,” to be headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, who was also a member of HRW’s board at the time. (He resigned after the investigation began; as NGO Monitor noted, his membership on HRW’s board was a conflict of interest.)

Whitson also visited Libya in April, praising the totalitarian regime for its “spirit of reform,” and wrote about this visit in the publication, Foreign Policy.