Special Report: "HRW Needs Transparency and Accountability in Hiring "
In May 2004, Human Rights Watch issued employment announcements for a Researcher on Israel/Palestine (Link has expired) and in Middle East/North Africa Advocacy(Link has expired). Given HRW’s intense emphasis on this region, and on issues related to the Israeli-Arab conflict and responses to terrorism in particular, this process and the outcome will receive careful examination. Past evidence of political basis and deviation from its mission statement, as seen in HRW’s active participation in the demonization of Israel, particularly in the infamous Durban “Conference on Racism” (2001) highlights the questions of transparency in employment policies. As documented and analyzed by NGO Monitor these political and ideological excesses have severely damaged the credibility of rhetoric invoking universal human rights norms.
HRW’s entrenched structural bias is reflected by the background of Joe Stork, acting executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division. Before joining HRW, Stork was a highly visible and radical anti-Israel political activist and ex-editor of Middle East Report. After the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, this organization urged socialists to "comprehend the achievements" of the atrocity. ("Who Are the Terrorists," MERIP Reports, No. 12, September-October, 1972, pp12-13) Similarly, after a Palestinian terror attack on an Israeli school, Stork’s organization declared that "all Israeli settlers are potential targets of the Palestinian resistance" ("Ma’alot: an Account and an Evaluation," MERIP Reports, No. 29, (June 1974), pp21-3. Since coming to HRW, Stork’s biases have shaped this organization’s activities and its credibility.
The criteria and process used by HRW’s leadership in Stork’s case remain hidden, highlighting the salience of the NGO “democratic deficit” and facade of exploiting the rhetoric of human rights and international norms to pursue extremist political objectives.
To avoid a repetition of the Stork example, it is critical that HRW open its decision making process to transparent public examination and involvement. Having published clear criteria, including the need to be “scrupulously objective” and the ability to investigate “without prejudice or favor”, the question is who will be responsible for assessing the candidates accordingly? Given HRW’s history of political bias, how will this organization avoid inbreeding and reinforcement of unacceptable activities? The criteria for the Israeli/Palestinian researcher require a knowledge of Arabic, whereas Hebrew fluency is only "desirable". This suggests a preference for someone who is Arabic speaking and therefore also likely to be familiar with and sympathetic to the pro-Palestinian orientation that is already dominant at HRW. As a result, the details of the process by which applicants are screened must to part of the public record, to insure accountability.