Summary:  Offsetting the overdue increase in reports on Arab and Iranian human rights violations, HRW’s condemnations of continue, based on journalists’ reports and unverified Palestinian claims. In December, HRW published a letter to President Bush on "Expanding Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories", and responded to an Israeli newspaper article on options in the face of Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza . Both denunciations were based on unverified media reports and false claims. While the revamped Middle East advisory board has expanded HRW’s horizon beyond , it has not ended political abuses of human rights norms.

As noted in recent digests, HRW has reversed a trend of many years by focusing less on allegations against in its Middle East activities, and more on human rights violations in the wider region. Recent reports include:

However, in an apparent attempt to provide artificial political “balance” in its activities in the region, HRW’s attacks against continue, rooted in political biases. On December 27, HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson (whose anti-Israel activism predates her employment at HRW) attacked Israeli policy in the form of a letter to President Bush condemning "Expanding Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories". As in past HRW allegations against , this letter was based on unverified media reports and repeated the distorted politicized rhetoric of international law, including references to the discredited advisory opinion of the ICJ.

On this foundation, Whitson restated the political objective of HRW’s leadership, calling for sanctions against , including cutting aid. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, termed this letter ridiculous, noting that HRW has failed to use its resources to highlight the human rights abuses of Palestinian terrorists, as demonstrated by NGO Monitor reports. Representative Anthony Weiner (D–NY) added: "Given that the security fence has inarguably reduced terrorism and death by would-be Palestinian bombers, it seems any organization truly concerned about human rights should be supporting ‘s right to construct it." (See Meghan Clyne, “Human Rights Watch’s Letter Seen as Anti-Israel”, New York Sun, January 11, 2006)

Similarly, December 23, Sarah Leah Whitson attacked a column by an Israeli journalist on options for responding to continued Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza . Whitson’s gratuitous press release was headlined “Israel: Gaza Power Cut Would Violate Laws of War: Militant Attacks Cannot Justify Unlawful Collective Punishment”. Although the statement condemned "the use of Qassam rockets, which are indiscriminate weapons often fired into Israeli civilian areas in violation of international humanitarian law", this was a secondary issue for HRW, and not the focus of the statement, which condemned based on an unconfirmed newspaper article. As these HRW activities have demonstrated, while the structural changes initiated by the major donors have reduced the disproportionate and excessive focus on , the revamped Middle East advisory board has not signaled the end of the political campaigns.


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