Watchdog group says HRW’s activities are inconsistent with moral principles

JERUSALEM – In response to recent statements that reflect racial animus by senior officials at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor has sent letters to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other US officials calling on the US government to reject further consultations with the organization until it implements reforms.

“Clearly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has morphed into a political advocacy organization characterized by double standards and bias – this is now widely understood,” says Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “But the recent racially-charged Huffington Post article, which exploited the American Civil Rights movement to incite racial hatred in the Middle East, crosses new red lines even for HRW and falls far outside any definition of ‘legitimate criticism.’ Action must be taken because this type of language contributes to animosity and hate”.”

Steinberg adds, “Our letter demonstrates that ‘the inclusion of HRW in official United States government policymaking and consultation is entirely inconsistent with the moral principles of human rights.’”

The inflammatory op-ed, authored by HRW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division head Sarah Leah Whitson, falsely accused Israel of “racial discrimination.” Whitson employed racial stereotyping in race baiting American Jews and Israelis. NGO Monitor noted that the words “segregate,” race/racist,”  “discrimination” and “equal/unequal” are repeated 23 times in this short piece, as Whitson sought to justify her support for discriminatory boycotts against Israel. (The BDS strategy was adopted in the antisemitic NGO Forum of the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference, in which HRW also played a central role.) Whitson’s article also stated: “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…”

“This op-ed and other HRW statements recall efforts to pit Jews vs. African Americans, making a complete mockery of Dr. King’s legacy,” Steinberg notes. “Similarly, HRW’s unjustifiable framing of the Arab-Israeli conflict as motivated by “Israeli racism” is a total distortion of the national and religious dimensions, and erases central peace and security issues from the agenda.”

Ms. Whitson’s op-ed followed her 2009 fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia, in which she raised the specter of the pro-Israel lobby in order to solicit donations from Saudi elites, including members of the governing Shura Council. Whitson also embraced and helped market the Gaddafi regime, and in particular, Moammar Qaddafi’s son Seif Islam.  In May 2011, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for Seif Islam on charges of crimes against humanity.

In November 2010, Whitson praised “the Lebanese sophistication for human rights” and in May 2010, she visited with Hamas officials in Gaza to reassure them of HRW’s “impartial” reporting and promised that HRW’s next report would allege Israeli violations of international law. Such ideological bias is clearly inconsistent with the universality of human rights.

Ken Roth, HRW’s Executive Director, has similarly displayed racial hostility, such as the offensive religious slur during the 2006 Lebanon War where he referred to the Jewish Bible as the “morality of some more primitive moment.”

Other failures show HRW’s lack of moral clarity – in 2009, Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst” and author of many publications accusing Israel of war crimes, was exposed as an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. And in January 2011, Shawan Jabarin, an alleged “senior activist” from the PFLP terror group (as pronounced by the Israeli High Court), was appointed to HRW’s Mid-East advisory board.

“The US government should look to other organizations for policy recommendations,” says Steinberg. “Race baiting is the antithesis of human rights values.”

NGO Monitor Letter to U.S. Officials

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

President Obama,

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) disturbing use of racially-charged rhetoric directed at Israel and American Jews raises major concerns regarding the appropriateness of United States government consultations involving HRW officials.

Attached is NGO Monitor’s statement HRW’s Whitson Race-baits Jewish Community; Exploits US Civil Rights Movement (April 17, 2011).  We analyze the article by Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle-East and North Africa Division, in the Huffington Post (“A Matter of Civil Rights, April 15, 2011), falsely and repeatedly accusing Israel of “racial discrimination and segregation.” This distortion is amplified by offensive stereotypes and generalizations about American Jews.

This is not an isolated example, but rather reflects a pattern of behavior. HRW employed an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia (Marc Garlasco), who wrote many of the reports targeting Israel.  Other examples of HRW’s exploitation of human rights and moral language include a Saudi Arabia fundraising trip led by Whitson to combat pro-Israel “pressure groups”, and the embrace of the Ghaddifi regime. (See And in response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, HRW issued a statement drawing equivalence between terrorists and their victims (“US: Osama Bin Laden Killed in Shoot-out,” May 2, 2011), and Executive Director Ken Roth posted on Twitter that killing bin Laden was not “justice”.

On the basis of this immoral behavior, it is our position that the inclusion of HRW in official United States government policymaking and consultation is entirely inconsistent with the moral principles of human rights.

We look forward to your response,


Prof. Gerald Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor