Professor Ralph J. Hexter
Provost, University of California at Davis

Dear Professor Hexter,

When you invited Sarah Leah Whitson to deliver the Inaugural Provost’s Lecture on Human Rights at UC Davis, I assume that you were unaware of the central role that she and her organization has played in undermining the moral foundations of human rights. To provide just three examples, Ms. Whitson was instrumental in marketing the Ghaddafi regime as "human rights reformers"; she went to Saudi Arabia to raise funds while ignoring the daily abuses of the regime, and has repeatedly contributed to false allegations and campaigns targeting Israel. The evidence clearly demonstrates that Whitson and some other officials of HRW are ideologues who exploit the façade of human rights to promote their personal biased political agendas, displaying double standards and making false allegations in a manner that is entirely inconsistent with the universal basis of human rights.

Given her record, the title of her talk — “At last, an Arab Spring: Black Swans of the Middle East; Human Rights Watch Reports from the Ground” – is particularly inappropriate. As the head of Human Right Watch’s Middle East and North African division, Whitson systematically neglected human rights in these countries, which were notorious for some of the worst practices and oppression in the world. HRW’s numerous campaigns and activities in the region have politicized and distorted the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights beyond recognition.

As a result of such behavior, HRW’s founder, Robert Bernstein, courageously denounced his own organization, and Judge Richard Goldstone, who was a member of HRW’s board, has acknowledged that the claims in his UN report, many of which were provided by HRW, were unsupported. (Whitson sought funds to promote the discredited “Goldstone report” on Gaza in her presentations in Saudi Arabia.) 

In the attached documents (NGO Monitor’s report on HRW’s Middle East campaigns, and HRW’s activities for 2011), we present the details, as currently available, of HRW’s involvement in the false "Tripoli spring" campaign of 2009, This includes the reference from the LSE justifying acceptance of funds from the Ghaddafi Foundation, as documented in Lord Woolf’s investigation. 

Ms. Whitson embodies the antithesis of human rights values. I therefore strongly urge you and the faculty of UC Davis to act quickly to invite serious advocates and experts on universal human rights, and would hope that future speakers will not contribute further to the destruction of these principles.

I look forward to your response,

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
Program on Conflict Management, Bar Ilan University and