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Human Rights Watch's Record in the Middle East
- Libya: In 2009, Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at HRW, visited Libya, claiming to have discovered a “Tripoli spring.” She praised Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif Islam as a leading reformer and for creating an “expanded space for discussion and debate.”
- Saudi Arabia:
- “Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain” (2010) regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia over a period of five years, downplays chronic and systematic violations such as violence and discrimination against women, the lack of freedom of speech or religion, and the role of the religious police.
- In 2009, HRW held a fundraising dinner in Saudi Arabia, using HRW’s anti-Israel bias and the specter of “pro-Israel pressure groups” to solicit funds from “prominent members of Saudi society.” At the event, Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson boasted that HRW allegations of human rights violations were instrumental in the Goldstone mission.
- Syria: On Syria, HRW published a minimalist, 35-page report, “A Wasted Decade” (2010), largely ignoring egregious violations.
- Founder’s condemnation: In a New York Times op-ed (October 19, 2009), HRW founder Robert Bernstein strongly criticized the organization for its role in “turn[ing] Israel into a pariah state” and for ignoring severe human rights violations in closed societies.
- Isolation of Israel: HRW played a central role at the UN’s 2001 Durban Conference, which called for the international isolation of Israel through boycotts and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense measures. Over the past decade, HRW has been at the fore of this demonization process.
- HRW continues to be among the leaders of calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel (measures that are not demanded for other countries). In the “Separate and Unequal” report (December 2010), HRW calls on the U.S. government to withholding security assistance from Israel. And, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division, endorsed a boycott of the Caterpillar corporation because the company sells equipment to the Israeli army.
- Obsessive and unjustified attacks on Israel: In the past twenty years, HRW has published 42 major reports on Israel, more than any other country in the Middle East. Most are based on unverifiable or false claims and distortions of international law.
- Employee collected Nazi memorabilia: Following the revelation (September 2009) that Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst” who wrote many of the reports on Israel, was an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia, he was suspended, then dismissed, and HRW promised an investigation. HRW has never released details of any investigation and imposed a confidentiality agreement on Garlasco.
- Role of Sarah Leah Whitson: MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson plays a central role in attacking Israel and in developing positive relationships with oppressive regimes. In 2010, she met with the Hamas Minister of Justice in an effort “to listen to all parties directly so she will prepare more objective and impartial reports,” and praised “the Lebanese sophistication for human rights.”
- Lack of transparency: HRW responded to increased scrutiny and criticism of funding practices by removing all annual reports and names of employees, except for department heads, from its website.