In 2010, the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch published a report on Saudi Arabia that included criticism of Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber’s business practices, such as gross mistreatment of employees and other rights violations. One year later, al Jaber gave the organization a $470,000 gift, negotiated by HRW’s executive director, Ken Roth, who also agreed to limit the group’s gay advocacy in its Middle East activities.
Nine years later, when the details of this deal were leaked, some asked how Roth and HRW, held up as paragons of virtue, selflessly and fearlessly fighting the good fight for human rights, could have betrayed basic ethical principles.
But for those who have followed Roth and his organization over the years, the revelations are not surprising.
In 2009, a newspaper in Saudi Arabia published a short item on what was supposed to be an unpublicized (secret) visit by HRW’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, and Hassan Elmasry, a member of the board of directors. In the Wall Street Journal, professor David Bernstein highlighted the hypocrisy of going to a country with one of the worst records on human rights in order to solicit donations for countering the “pro-Israel pressure groups.”