(Jerusalem) – NGO Monitor today released the first systematic study on Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) activities in the Middle East over the past several years. Publication coincides with the anticipated publication of the Goldstone committee’s Gaza report, and UN Human Rights Commissioner Pillay’s threat of  International Criminal Court (ICC) action. The Goldstone process closely echoes HRW’s agenda and faulty methodology, which are examined in NGO Monitor’s report.

NGO Monitor’s report of HRW’s Middle East activities from 2001 to 2009, with over 80 pages of case studies and analyses of HRW’s publications related to Israel, includes:

  • Profiles of HRW’s Middle East division staff, led by ideologues with a history of pro-Palestinian activism, rather than human rights experts.  The division is headed by Sarah Leah Whitson (who actively supported the “Caterpillar” Israel boycott campaign, and led the HRW fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia). Similarly, deputy director Joe Stork, spent 20 years as a founder and editor of the radical anti-Zionist Middle East Report (MERIP), including participation in a “Zionism and Racism” conference in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, before joining HRW. Other in-depth profiles analyze the professional qualifications and biases of Executive Director Kenneth Roth, Reed Brody, Darryl Li, Nadia Barhoum and Lucy Mair.
  •  Methodological failures: HRW’s publications related to Israel, including the 2002 Jenin reports, the 2006 Lebanon war, and the flood of publications on Gaza, rely largely on claims from unreliable eyewitnesses, and local NGOs with limited or no credibility.  These reports consistently confuse speculation with fact, distort international law and omit evidence that does not support the predetermined conclusions. (In many cases, HRW ignored videos showing Hamas and Hezbollah use of human shields.) These practices systematically violate the NGO fact-finding guidelines of the International Bar Association.
  • Comparative data showing the disproportionate emphasis on Israel:  This highlights HRW bias, and also diverts resources that should be focused on the oppressive regimes and absence of basic freedoms in other Middle East countries. Analysis of 2008 publications using a weighted quantitative methodology again shows HRW focused more attention on Israel than on Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and others.
  • HRW reports on Israel are focused on very narrow and artificial issues that strip the context of the conflict, and indict Israel from the beginning. This is demonstrated in HRW post-Gaza reports on white phosphorous, drones, and white flags, all based on unsupported Palestinian claims and speculation, while using terms like “war crimes” repeatedly.

These major flaws in HRW’s focus on Israel are also reflected in the activities of the Goldstone fact-finding mission on Gaza. Although Goldstone resigned as a Human Rights Watch board member after NGO Monitor noted a conflict of interest, his statements have strongly echoed and defended HRW’s bias, particularly in relation to the 2006 Lebanon War and over Gaza.

In parallel, HRW officials such as Kenneth Roth, have staunchly supported Goldstone, attacked the investigation’s critics, called for broad support of the investigation and reproached President Obama for neglecting to mention the commission in his Cairo address.

NGO Monitor’s President Prof Gerald Steinberg said “As shown by NGO Monitor’s unique in-depth analysis, HRW repeatedly applies unprofessional methodology in support of an anti-Israel bias.  Human rights values and research standards have been replaced by ideology. The evidence shows that the Middle East division of this powerful organization needs a full and systemic overhaul, to recover its moral foundation and relevance in promoting human rights, particularly in repressive regimes.           

Furthermore, the UN human rights structure and the NGO community work in close coordination, and are mutually reinforcing.  Goldstone’s strong identification with Human Rights Watch forms the political foundation for his biased inquiry, while Pillay’s statement pushes the process further towards implementing HRW’s agenda”.

Editors Notes:
Click here to view NGO Monitor’s report “Experts or Ideologues?”

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


Other recent publications and reports by NGO Monitor include:-

The Goldstone ‘Fact Finding’ Mission and the Role of Political NGOs – September 7, 2009

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

HRW and White Phosphorous: Condemn First, Correct (Maybe) Later – January 14, 2009

Amnesty and HRW Lebanon War Claims Discredited – Dec 28, 2006