On February 5, 2011, the New York Times published a graphic entitled “Why the Arab World Is Seething,” offering examples of alleged human rights abuses in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories. According to the Times, “While the fury has varied roots, clues to its depth are offered by snapshots of rights violations reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in the region during the last year.”
Relying on Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, with documented ideological biases on the Middle East, is ill-conceived. NGO Monitor’s detailed research shows that HRW continues to deemphasize the most egregious and systematic abuses in closed societies. Similarly, Amnesty International engages in highly politicized campaigns against Israel. In addition, there are serious concerns about the lack of professional qualifications and research capabilities of the NGOs’ staff and Middle East departments.
Another key issue with the NYT graphic is the conspicuous absence of examples of abuse from Saudi Arabia. Here, the Times may be following the NGOs’ lead of downplaying systematic human rights violations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – in favor of a focus on Israel. Furthermore, why include the “Palestinian Territories”? There have not been mass rallies against the Palestinian leadership/s or notable regime change (as in Lebanon), or even intensified attacks against Israel. Once again, the graphic repeats typical NGO claims without evidence or qualification, that there is a “long-standing humanitarian and human rights crisis” in the West Bank and Gaza.