(Jerusalem) – In the face of intense criticism of its Middle East activities, Human Rights Watch has expanded its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) advisory board with the addition of ten members, largely based in the Middle East. While some are human rights activists in their own countries, (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc.), including woman’s rights, many also contribute significantly to targeting Israel through the language of human rights.

In particular, the addition of Ms. Asli Bali, and Aeyal Gross, who is known as an opponent of Israeli policies, will reinforce the political agenda of MENA heads Sara Leah Whitson and Joe Stork, as documented in NGO Monitor’s detailed analysis, “Experts or Ideologues?” These changes reflect and strengthen what founder Robert Bernstein criticized as HRW’s role in “turning Israel into a pariah state”, as well as HRW’s role in ‘lawfare’, including the intensive promotion of the Goldstone Report.  (Goldstone is closely linked to HRW, and was a member of the board until after his appointment to head the UNHRC’s “fact finding mission”.)

Another point of interest is the inclusion of Ahmad Zuaiter, who is a portfolio manager at Soros Fund Management. Soros’ Open Society Institute has become a major source of funding for HRW and for a number of other organizations that promote anti-Israel boycotts.

In terms of anti-Israel bias, the most problematic new members of HRW’s MENA board are:

1)     Ms. Asli Bali — editorial board of MERIP, a radical anti-Israel group (founded by MENA division deputy director Joe Stork in the 1970s); heads Princeton Committee on Palestine, which participated in “Israeli Apartheid Week”, co-sponsored Norman Finkelstein and similar speakers; refers to the Palestinian Authority as a “discredited quisling government that was mandated to provide security for its master, Israel”; active in promoting ‘lawfare’ campaigns directed against Israel, referring to Israel as the aggressor in 2006 Lebanon War; heads NY Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), whose agenda includes anti-Israel activities. (Whitson was also on the ADC board before joining HRW.)

2)     Prof. Amr Hamzawy, Egyptian academic and commentator, with a major focus on attacking Israel, and American support for Israeli security; calls for endorsement of the Goldstone report which “eats away at Israel’s moral legitimacy”; criticizes President Obama for continuing “the Bush doctrine of isolating Hamas”; claims that “Hamas has given up pursuing a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea”.

3)     Nabeel Rajab, heads Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which is also a platform for anti-Israel demonization and ‘lawfare’; Rajab signed letters and petitions referring to Israeli “crimes against Humanity”, war crimes and “intentionally violating international conventions on the rules of wars”; supporting the Goldstone campaign and an “International tribunal”.

4)      Aeyal M. Gross, law professor Tel Aviv University, official of a number of Israeli NGOs active in campaigning against government policies, such as Gisha, ACRI; often places exclusive blame for the conflict on Israel; accuses Israel of “widespread killing of Palestinian youth”; claims that the Goldstone report reveals Israel’s “great wickedness towards civilians”; supported a 2009 divestment campaign in Norway. During the 2009 York University “one state” conference controversy, Gross distorted the criticism of those who exposed the academic facade, falsely labeling them “hypocritical”.

NGO Monitor’s President Gerald Steinberg commented: “These additions to HRW’s board serve different and contradictory goals. On the one hand, by including some Arab human rights activists, Kenneth Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson acknowledge Robert Bernstein’s powerful criticism of having neglected campaigns against the despotic regimes in the Middle East. But a number of the individuals also add to HRW’s agenda of ‘turning Israel into a pariah state’, as recognized by Bernstein. Like Whitson and Stork, and other board members such as Helena Cobban, the addition of Asli Bali, Aeyal Gross and others reflect the anti-Israel obsession that is incompatible with universal human rights.  These appointments again demonstrate the need for a full and independent review if HRW is to recover relevance in the realm of human rights.” 

Editors Notes:

Please click here to view the NGO Monitor review of HRW’s 2008 activities

Other recent publications and reports by NGO Monitor include:-

Analyzing Human Rights Watch’s Defensive Response to Robert Bernstein – Nov 4, 2009

NGO Monitor Int Adv Board Members Call For Full independent Review of HRW – Sep 24, 2009

HRW’s ‘Rain of Fire’:  Neither Thorough Nor Impartial – April 2, 2009