To read this article, click here.


"HRW has been dogged for years by Israeli claims that it is unfairly biased, or, more specifically, that it has failed to hold others—namely, Hamas and Hezbollah, along with anti-Semitic groups worldwide—sufficiently accountable for human rights violations. But relations between Israel and HRW are now at their worst since 2001, when Israel, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, blamed the organization for failing to stand up against expressions of anti-Semitism during the United Nations’ 2001 conference on racism in Durban, South Africa. “This is the first time it’s really resonated,” said Steinberg. “It’s only in the past couple of years that Jewish board members, especially, began to be concerned and think there’s a problem.”" "“They frequently say, ‘We’re trying to be evenhanded,’” said Robert Bernstein, the founder of Helsinki Watch and now a board member emeritus at HRW. “I don’t understand trying to be evenhanded, because to me Israel is interested and a believer in human rights and it stands out in the Middle East as practicing it in their country.” At its inception, he said, Helsinki Watch planned only to operate in closed societies—undemocratic, illiberal countries without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and other basic rights. Operating in open, democratic societies like Israel is complicated because, as Bernstein noted, there are domestic organizations, like B’tselem in Israel, that do “a beautiful job” of holding their own governments accountable. “If you could cover every human rights act, it would be fine,” Bernstein said. “But you can’t, so you have to make choices about what you cover, and once you make choices, you’re political, whether you want to be or not.” The overall result of HRW’s current work, he added, “is to say we’re being evenhanded in a way that makes it come out that both sides are equal abusers of human rights—I don’t agree with that.”"