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Sarah Leah Whitson, the controversial head of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division, is under heavy fire for inflammatory racial rhetoric against Israel and Jews – as well as continued support for the Goldstone Report.
According to a statement issued to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based human rights watchdog organization, Whitson “frequently employs highly offensive and racially charged language regarding Israel.”
NGO Monitor cited Whitson’s op-ed, “A Matter of Civil Rights,” which appeared last week on the liberal news outlet The Huffington Post website.
It read, in part: “In a week when the US paused to recall the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Peres might have considered King’s message – an end to segregation – and why such a system of racial inequality remains in place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories…”
NGO Monitor noted that the words “‘segregate,’ ‘race/racist,’ ‘discrimination’ and ‘equal/unequal’ are repeated 23 times in this short piece.”
Professor Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor, said “HRW and Whitson cynically use double standards and race-baiting against Jews to attack Israel – while ignoring the universal basis of human rights norms. This abuse of moral standards to promote hatred has grave consequences for the human rights movement that go far beyond the anti-Israel racism in this agenda.”
NGO Monitor added that “Abusing Dr. King’s assassination for this purpose is particularly offensive – erasing both the Jewish community’s leadership in the civil rights struggle, and Dr. King’s support for Israel. In contrast, Whitson takes a racist position denying the right of the Jewish people to sovereign equality.”
Minky Worden, a spokeswoman for HRW, responded to the criticisms leveled against her organization to the Post by e-mail on Wednesday.
“HRW stands fully behind Sarah Leah Whitson and the work of our Middle East and North Africa division, which documents human rights violations in Israel, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and other countries in the region with equal vigor, as any objective read of our website will show,” Worden said.
“We reject allegations of bias against any country, and stand by our reporting – which is the product of the organization as a whole, rather than any regional division or individual.”
Responding to Worden’s defense of Whitson, Steinberg told the Post on Wednesday, “There is no substance in HRW’s response. In contrast to these cliches, NGO Monitor, HRW founder Robert Bernstein, and others have shown that HRW’s MENA division systematically targets Israel, while neglecting – and in the case of Libya, embracing – Middle Eastern dictators. Whitson’s racially charged language seeks to foment hatred towards Jewish groups and deserves widespread condemnation. This is vile racism and anti-Semitism promoted under the facade of human rights.”
African-American student leaders from the Vanguard Leadership Group recently criticized the use of apartheid comparison’s with Israel’s policies by a pro-Palestinian group in the US as “spreading misinformation about its policies, fostering bias in the media and jeopardizing prospects for a timely resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such irresponsibility is a blemish on your efforts.”
Meanwhile, Stuart Robinowitz, a prominent New York-based attorney who conducted human rights fact-finding missions for HRW and the American Bar Association, called for Human Rights Watch to issue an apology and “admission of error” in connection with its support for the discredited Goldstone Report.
Writing on the Daily Beast website last week, he noted that, “HRW had made much of its charges that Israel deliberately targeted civilians before last week’s retraction by Judge Goldstone.
Yet Executive Director Kenneth Roth cannot bring himself to acknowledge the significance of the judge’s recantation.”