When a human rights watchdog spends more time criticizing a democracy with a vibrant press and judicial system than it does ruthless dictatorships suppressing rights and even attacking its own people, it's clear something is wrong.
And a scolding on that lost focuse has to resonate deeply when it comes from the person who created the watchdog group. In Monday's New York Times, Human Rights Watch Founder Robert L. Bernstein laments that his former organization has gone from working "to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters" to working in league with "those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state."
No state is perfect, he notes, but he contrasts the actions of a state with 80 human rights groups among a population of 7.4 million people with 350 million people in Iran and the Arab world, living in "brutal, closed and autocratic" states intolerant of dissent." (The latest evidence of that can be seen here.) But their plight is overshadowed as HRW "prepares report after report on Israel," Bernstein writes.
In fact, HRW officials recently went to Saudi Arabia to seek donations rather than report on human rights there. In appealing to their hosts, HRW officials boasted about their tough line toward Israel.
The problem started with the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and with the December/January battle against Hamas in Gaza. HRW, he finds, fails to distinguish between intentional and unintentional harm:
"Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch's criticism."