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October 1, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

In open letter, members of NGO Monitor’s advisory board say HRW ‘has degenerated into a political lobby aimed primarily at Israel,’ call for replacement of senior officials, particularly in Middle East division

Leading academics, journalists, legal and security experts, including Elie Wiesel, Professor Alan Dershowitz, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey and Professor Judea Pearl, called last week for an independent review and reform of Human Rights Watch (HRW). This follows NGO Monitor’s recent in-depth study of HRW’s Middle East activities over the past several years.

According to NGO Monitor, an open letter signed by members of its International Advisory Board highlights the finding that “On Middle East issues, HRW has degenerated into a political lobby aimed primarily at Israel.” The recent Goldstone report on the Gaza war, which includes 30 unverified references to HRW claims, underscored this bias, said NGO Monitor, adding that Richard Goldstone himself was until recently an HRW board member.

This public letter, said NGO Monitor, cites HRW’s attempts “consistently and disproportionately single-out Israel for condemnation,” adding that NGO Monitor’s analysis of HRW’s 2008 publications shows “more attention was focused on Israel than on Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and other regimes in the region.”

The signatories, members of NGO Monitor’s International Advisory Board, also criticized HRW’s recent fundraising event in Saudi Arabia as “further evidence of the organization’s radical agenda.”

In Riyadh, the head of HRW’s Middle East division referred to the need to combat “pro-Israel pressure groups,” according to NGO Monitor.

‘Moral bankruptcy’

NGO Monitor further claimed that recent revelations over HRW’s senior Middle East staff “reinforce analysis showing the central role of ideologues, rather than human rights experts.

“Heading the division is Sarah Leah Whitson, who actively supported the ‘Caterpillar’ Israel boycott campaign, and led the HRW fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia. 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,” NGO Monitor claimed.

According to NGO Monitor, HRW recently suspended its senior military analyst Marc Garlasco and launched an investigation following the “exposure of his obsessive interest in Nazi memorabilia.”

As a result, said NGO Monitor, the letter called for HRW’s board members to instigate a wider inquiry, a “full independent review” which “should include the replacement of senior officials, particularly in the Middle East division”. Signatories also recommend “the adoption of firm guidelines to prevent such abuses in the future”.

NGO Monitor President, Prof Gerald Steinberg said, “Having carefully documented HRW’s one-sided Middle East work for several years, it is clear that the organization places a political agenda above universal human rights values. This letter reflects the urgent need for an independent and comprehensive review, in order to put a firm end to HRW’s moral bankruptcy”.