Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization that routinely attacks Israel, is trying to raise money in Saudi Arabia. The Arab News, a Saudi English-language newspaper, reported that Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, was given a welcoming dinner in Riyadh hosted by a prominent Saudi businessman and attended by "human-rights activists."
The Saudi businessman, Emad bin Jameel Al-Hejailan, said the credo of human rights was rising in Saudi Arabia. He commended Human Rights Watch for its work on Gaza – which included issuing a report depicting Israel as violating human rights and international law during its recent military campaign against the terror group Hamas.
"Human Rights Watch provided the international community with evidence of Israel using white phosphorous and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets," the Arab News quoted Whitson as stating. "Pro-Israel pressure groups in the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations have strongly resisted the report and tried to discredit it."
After NGO Monitor (a website that documents the anti-Western, anti-Israel bias of many nongovernmental organizations) publicized the Arab News story, the Wall Street Journal reprinted a blog posting on the site by George Mason University law professor David Bernstein. Now the Israeli government is pointing to the story as an example of HRW's fervent anti-Israel bias
"A human rights organization raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women's rights group asking the Taliban for a donation," a spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. "If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?"
HRW's Whitson claimed in an interview with the Post that she did in fact criticize Saudi human rights problems during her trip to the kingdom. But Whitson did not say that she publicly voiced any of those criticisms.
Bernstein responded that "it's extremely unwise for a human rights group to raise money in a totalitarian country, even from human rights advocates in that country; the organization may become dependent on that funding, which in turn could be cut off by the government at any time." He added that "it's more than unwise for HRW to specifically raise money in Saudi Arabia by portraying itself as an 'organization doing battle with pro-Israel forces,' which implies that HRW is serving as an 'anti-Israel force.' This suggests either that HRW isn't concerned about its reputation for evenhandedness, or that it's so maniacally anti-Israel that its leaders just assume that being anti-Israel is somehow the obvious evenhanded position that it embraces."