The Human Rights Watch bias against Israel

Matthew Yglesias, who was for Israel before he was against it, takes issue with David Bernstein’s citing of the founder of HRW criticizing its anti-Israel bias in the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

It’s certainly news that Human Rights Watch’s critics were able to get a former HRW chairman to slam the organization for having the temerity to hold Israel to the same standards of international humanitarian law to which it holds every other country. But Bernstein doesn’t appear to have any arguments to make that any of the instances of human rights violations HRW has documented didn’t take place. Instead his view is basically that Israel ought to be exempt from criticism because its enemies are mean:

No, Bernstein’s argument is that HRW is spending far more time and effort portraying Israeli violations than it is the human rights offenders that surround Israel. And Yglesias’ ever-astute commenters (the ones that aren’t slamming Zionism as racism) are comparing search result pages with number of reports, and declaring that since Israel and Egypt have the same number of pages, they have the same number of HRW reports. Argument over.

Except, well, let’s take a look by date, shall we? And include news releases as well as reports. For Israel and the Territories, we have the following press releases dating back to July. I’m going to put in bold those releases that do not concentrate on Israel:

Hamas: Investigate Attacks on Israeli Civilians   Oct 20, 2009
UN Security Council: Demand Justice for Gaza Victims   Oct 12, 2009
Israel: Stop Blocking School Supplies From Entering Gaza   Oct 11, 2009
UN: US Block on Goldstone Report Must Not Defer Justice   Oct 2, 2009
UN Human Rights Council: ‘Traditional Values’ Vote and Gaza Overshadow Progress   Oct 2, 2009
UN: US, EU Undermine Justice for Gaza Conflict   Sep 30, 2009
US: Endorse Goldstone Report on Gaza    Sep 27, 2009
EU: Demand Justice for Victims of Gaza War   Sep 25, 2009
Any chance for justice for victims of the Gaza war?   Sep 11, 2009
Israel: Gaza ‘White Flag’ Deaths Inquiry a Step Forward   Sep 10, 2009
‘Better than’ is not always good enough   Sep 9, 2009
Gaza: Rescind Religious Dress Code for Girls   Sep 4, 2009
Human Rights Watch plays no favorites in probes   Sep 3, 2009
Right of Reply: Don’t Smear the Messenger   Aug 25, 2009
False Allegations about Human Rights Watch’s Latest Gaza Report   Aug 14, 2009
Israel: Investigate ‘White Flag’ Shootings of Gaza Civilians   Aug 13, 2009
Gaza/Israel: Hamas Rocket Attacks on Civilians Unlawful   Aug 6, 2009
Will Arab States help end the Scourge of Cluster Munitions?   Aug 6, 2009
Israel: Ensure Improved ‘Attack Warnings’ to Civilians Are Effective   Aug 3, 2009
Palestinian Authority: Lift the Ban on Al Jazeera   Jul 17, 2009

The total: One release a month on the Palestinians. All the rest about Israel. Now, let’s take a look at the press releases about Egypt from July through the present.

Nobel Spotlights Need for Obama to Act on Rights   Oct 9, 2009
Egypt: Stop Killing Migrants in Sinai   Sep 10, 2009
US/Egypt: Obama Should Highlight Rights at Meeting With Mubarak   Aug 17, 2009
Will Arab States help end the Scourge of Cluster Munitions?   Aug 6, 2009
African Civil Society Urges African States Parties to the Rome Statute to Reaffirm Their Commitment to the ICC   Jul 30, 2009

Now let’s look at the totals. Twenty press releases under the category “Israeli and the Occupied Territories” since July. Four concern the Palestinians. Eighty percent of the HRW press releases in that time period concern Israel. Was Hamas firing rockets at Israeli civilians during that time? Yes. Was Hamas torturing Fatah prisoners during that time? Yes. Was Hamas killing “collaborators” without trial during that time? Yes. Was Hamas shooting at Israeli civilians on their farms during that time? Yes. What does HRW consider newsworthy? Lifting the press ban on Al Jazeera in the West Bank.

Look at the press releases concerning Egypt. Only one of them directly concerns Egyptian human rights abuses—the killing of migrants trying to get into Israel. Egyptian border guards have killed dozens of Africans fleeing over the border, and they’ve been doing it for years. A million African immigrants are poised along the Israeli border, so many that Israel will be building a fence to keep them out. And yet, there is only one news release about the deaths of civilians trying to make a better life for themselves than they can find in the Egyptian refugee camps. Why is that?

The commenters at Yglesias cite the number of pages in a search result as evidence that the reporting is equal. Clearly, their research skills need a little brushing up. HRW released three reports on Israel so far this year. HRW also released two about the Palestinians, one regarding the rockets from Gaza (in August, the first in two years about the nonstop rocket attacks on Israel), one regarding Hamas’ human rights abuses against Fatah and others in Gaza. HRW wrote zero reports about Egypt this year. That’s right. None.

In other words, Matthew, Robert Bernstein’s main point—that Human Rights Watch spends far more time on Israel than it does on the human rights abusers in the neighborhood around her—is true. Bernstein never said that Israel should be exempt, only that HRW should pay more attention to the human rights abusers in the countries without a free judiciary and laws on the books preventing such abuses. It’s a point I’ve been making for years. But when the founder of Human Rights Watch makes it—well, then one would have to think that there’s some validity to it. And if not, there’s always the evidence I’m citing in this post. But why would Yglesias let a little thing like facts get in the way of his opinion?

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25 Responses to The Human Rights Watch bias against Israel

  1. Monboddo says:

    Um…aren’t a lot of these press releases in response to criticism of Human Rights Watch? Which would suggest merely that HRW defends itself when attacked, and the number of press releases aren’t indicative of a special bias against Israel. And BTW, when exactly did Matthew Yglesias become “against Israel”? I am aware of specific criticism he’s made of Israeli policies, but that no more makes him anti-Israel than criticism of U.S. government policy makes one anti-American.

  2. The Navigator says:

    You’re distorting what R. Bernstein wrote; Yglesias was responding to something that Bernstein did, in fact, say. Yes, it’s true, he didn’t actually say that Israel should be entirely “exempt” – any reader of Yglesias knows that he regularly uses sarcastic hyperbole, and did not literally mean that Bernstein had claimed such a thing – but Bernstein >did< say that, in criticizing countries for abuses, HRW should pay less attention to Israel because it's an "open" and democratic society, and also that "there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally," and, therefore, implicitly, since Israel says that its actions are in self-defense, those actions should be viewed differently than those of its enemies. Yglesias makes the absolutely correct point that this is just one-sided special pleading for Israel, because every party always asserts, and usually genuinely feels, that its actions are necessary for self-preservation, so if we took R.Bernstein' logic seriously, and we took parties' word on whether their actions were necessary for self-defense, there would be very few abuses HRW could criticize. But of course, Bernstein does not intend such a logical extension; the whole point of this op-ed was just to get HRW off Israel's back.

    So, Yglesias may not have answered your concern that HRW over-emphasizes abuses by Israel. But you haven't answered Yglesias's concern that R. Bernstein's op-ed does, indeed, say that Israel, as a democratic state claiming to act in self-defense, should be held to a lower standard.

  3. Monboddo: Four of the releases are HRW defending itself against criticism, but since those are about criticism of Israel, I’d keep them in the list. However, fine. Let’s delete them. That means instead of 16 out of 20 news releases being directly about Israel’s supposed human rights violations, only 12 out of 20 are, still a whopping 60%. In that same time period, of the paltry five Egypt press releases, only one was directly about Egyptian violations of human rights. I don’t think you’ve managed to prove me wrong here.

    As for what I said about Yglesias, it’s that he was a lot more pro-Israel when he was an infant blogger, back when he was still in school and considered a “warblogger.” He’s changed a lot since then. You’re right, he’s not anti-Israel—that was a little overly harsh of me—but he’s not, IHMO, one of Israel’s friends.

  4. SteveL says:

    Ms. Yourish-

    It seems you are referring to my comment on Yglesias’ blog that Bernstein’s assertion (“Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region”) appeared to not be well founded.

    Doubtless my research skills could use a brushing-up, but you would seem to not be in a position to throw stones. You endeavor to refute my comment by looking at postings since July, 2009. While I completely agree that press releases are important as well as reports, looking at July-October does not suffice to confirm Mr. Bernstein’s assertion about “recent years.”

    I note further that a number of the news released you cite (and some of the reports, as well) are responses to very strong criticism of HRW, and were not original criticisms of Israel. You and her ilk are, in fact, the reason many of these statements were issued.

    Finally, one should expect there to be a surge of HRW activity in the aftermath of the Gaza incursion, or the Lebanon incursion.

    I stand by my comment, and invite you to compile the numbers in more detail, and for a longer period of time, if you care to. You are avowedly pro-Israel. I am not anti-Israel. As best as I can tell, however, HRW plays it pretty straight and criticises where there is something to criticise, and Israel is truly a small part of the total activity.

    To me, the criticism of HRW seems to be just a response from people who don’t want to deal with the substance of HRW’s criticism.

  5. Steve, rather than my spending hours more repeating some of my earlier work from years past, I invite you to peruse NGO monitor’s reports instead. Or UN Watch, to see how many anti-Israel resolutions there are in the United Nations vs. anti-, well, any other nation (particularly human rights offenders).

    The reason I went back only to July was to show the difference between news releases in only three months’ time. My purpose wasn’t to back up Bernstein’s exact claim, though I could, given enough time and effort (that I do not wish to take). But that job has been done (cf: References above) by others.

    If HRW plays it straight, why was one of their executives in Saudi Arabia raising money by attacking Israel in front of the Saudi audience? Why was Israel singled out second only to Saudi Arabia in 2008? Is 2006 far enough back for you? You want more? Dig around the site. There’s plenty of information there.

    You are mistaken about HRW’s even-handedness. I’m happy to open your eyes. I only hope you are keeping an open mind about it. And maybe click on a few links yourself, and do some research of your own. Because I think your opinion will change if you do a little reading on the subjecct.

  6. cliff was from montreal says:

    Meryl,
    Keep up the great work you are doing.
    You are an inspiration to us all!

  7. Patrick Meighan says:

    I’d like to note that, above, you categorize any HRW press release which is critical of both the Israelis AND the Palestinians as a press release “that concentrate(s) on Israel.” So, for example, HRW’s Oct. 12, 2009 release (“Demand Justice for Gaza Victims”) gets counted above as a press release that “concern(s) Israel” and not as one that “concern(s) the Palestinians,” despite the fact that the actual release demands justice for civilian victims on BOTH sides of the conflict, and decries Hamas’s war crimes as strenuously as it does the IDF’s. In fact, that’s true of 5 of the 16 press releases (above) which you chose not to bold (10/12, 10/2, 9/27, 9/25, 9/11). And then there’s the 9/10 press release (“Israel: Gaza ‘White Flag’ Deaths Inquiry a Step Forward”) which is actually a statement of praise by HRW for Israel’s laudable efforts to pursue justice and accountability in one particular incident, but which gets counted by you (above) as yet another statement critical of Israel.

    Between those 6 and the other 4 press releases which you’ve already conceded, to Monboddo, weren’t actually criticisms of Israel but rather were HRW’s responses to criticism, that leaves all of 10 actual HRW releases which “concentrate on Israel” out of the 20 total press releases issued in that time. 10 out of 20 is, of course, a flat 50%.

    “The reason I went back only to July was to show the difference between news releases in only three months’ time. My purpose wasn’t to back up Bernstein’s exact claim, though I could, given enough time and effort (that I do not wish to take).”

    I’ll take it for you. I’ll go back a year (back through October of ’08) through HRW’s page about Israel and the Occupied Territories and I’ll leave unbolded the ones that concentrate on Israel to the exclusion of the Egyptians or Palestinians.

    Egypt/Israel: Egypt Should End ‘Shoot to Stop’ Practice at Sinai Border Crossings OCT 3, 2008
    Palestinian Authority: Death Sentences Surge in West Bank, Gaza DEC 15, 2008
    Israel: Reverse Expulsion of Human Rights Rapporteur DEC 17, 2008
    Israel: Artillery Poses Risk to Gaza Civilians DEC 30, 2008
    Israel/Gaza: Civilians Must Not Be Targets DEC 30, 2008
    Israel: Gaza Ground Offensive Raises Laws of War Concerns JAN 4, 2009
    Israel: Allow Media and Rights Monitors Access to Gaza JAN 5, 2009
    Gaza: Israeli Attack on School Needs Full UN Investigation JAN 7, 2009
    Israel and Egypt: Allow Humanitarian Access to Gaza JAN 8, 2009
    Israel: Investigate Former Judge’s Killing in Gaza JAN 9, 2009
    Israel: Stop Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza JAN 10, 2009
    Israel: End Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis at Once JAN 13, 2009
    UN Human Rights Council Approves Gaza Inquiry JAN 13, 2009
    Israel: Stop Shelling Crowded Gaza City JAN 16, 2009
    Gaza Crisis: Regimes React with Routine Repression JAN 21, 2009
    “The Incendiary IDF” by Kenneth Roth JAN 22, 2009
    Israel/Gaza: International Investigation Essential JAN 27, 2009
    End the Double Standard in the Middle East FEB 10, 2009
    Israel/Egypt: Choking Gaza Harms Civilians FEB 18, 2009
    Israel: End Ban on Human Rights Monitors FEB 22, 2009
    Israel/Gaza: Donors Should Press Israel to End Blockade MAR 1, 2009
    Israel Blocks Rights Defender’s Travel MAR 10, 2009
    EU: Demand Accountability for Gaza Conflict Laws of War Violations MAR 16, 2009
    Remote Control Death MAR 20, 2009
    Witness accounts and additional analysis of IDF use of white phosphorus MAR 25, 2009
    Israel: White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes MAR 25, 2009
    Israel/Gaza: Cooperate With Goldstone Investigation APR 14, 2009
    Gaza: Hamas Should End Killings, Torture APR 20, 2009
    The Killing Goes on in Gaza APR 23, 2009
    Israel/Gaza: Israeli Military Investigation Not Credible APR 23, 2009
    Israel/US: Clinton Should Press to End Gaza Blockade APR 30, 2009
    UN: Support Goldstone Investigation into Gaza War Violations MAY 6, 2009
    Gaza: Pursuit of the Laws of War MAY 8, 2009
    US: Ask Israel to Cooperate with Goldstone Inquiry MAY 17, 2009
    Human Rights: Canada Reigns Large No More JUN 8, 2009
    Israel: Stop Demolishing Palestinian Homes JUN 12, 2009
    Gaza: Allow Shalit Contact With Family, International Red Cross JUN 24, 2009
    Israel’s settlements are on shaky ground JUN 28, 2009
    Israel: Misuse of Drones Killed Civilians in Gaza JUN 30, 2009

    By my count, that’s 39 press releases, above. Add ‘em to the 20 that you counted between July and October of ’09 and that’s a total of 59 HRW press releases about Israel and the West Bank over the past 12 months. And of those 61 press releases, 33 of them are singularly critical of Israel, to the exclusion of Egypt or the Palestinians (10 between July and October of ’09, plus 23 more between October ’08 and June of ’09). 33 out of 59 tallies out to 56%.

    33 out of 59 (56%) doesn’t quite seem to back up the claim that “HRW is spending far more time and effort portraying Israeli violations than it is the human rights offenders that surround Israel,” particularly if, during the time in which HRW was issuing those 33 press-releases singularly critical of Israel, it was simultaneously issuing a total of 51 press-releases singularly critical of Israel’s contiguous neighbors (11 about Syria, 12 about Egypt, 11 about Jordan, 9 about Lebanon, and 8 about the Palestinians [a number which, again, does not include the HRW releases jointly critical of both the Palestinians *and* Israel].

    Again, that’s 33 against Israel vs 51 against Israel’s contiguous neighbors. Now shall I start counting HRW’s press releases about Saudi Arabia and Iran as well, or can we, at this point, simply agree that Bernstein is untruthful when he declares that HRW is spending far more time and effort portraying Israeli violations than it is the human rights offenders that surround Israel?

    “You are mistaken about HRW’s even-handedness. I’m happy to open your eyes. I only hope you are keeping an open mind about it. And maybe click on a few links yourself, and do some research of your own. Because I think your opinion will change if you do a little reading on the subject.”

    This was not addressed to me, but having now done the research myself (and listed it above), I’d certainly have to agree with Steve’s assertion that over the past 12 months, HRW has indeed played it pretty straight with regard to Israel and Palestine.

    Patrick Meighan
    Culver City, CA

  8. Navigator, I’m not the one distorting what Bernstein wrote. You need to re-read the op-ed. Both you and Yglesias are raising a straw man argument. The gist of Bernstein’s op-ed is that HRW is concentrating overly on Israel instead of pointing out the human rights abuses of the unfree nations in the Middle East. The open/closed nation argument is a nice way to deflect the topic raised, but still doesn’t hold water, especially when Bernstein wrote this:

    At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

    And this:

    Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    That’s not asking for HRW to ignore Israel. That’s pointing out that, unlike Egypt or Saudi Arabia—or the Palestinian territories—Israel has a system in place to correct its own flaws. And Israel does, via its court system and via the fact that it is a country with the rule of law, not an autocratic dictatorship, kingdom, or nation governed by sharia.

    Nice try at deflection, but it’s not going to work. Yglesias is ignoring what R. Bernstein really said, and twisting what D. Bernstein wrote.

  9. I’m sorry, are you telling me that when you combine the press releases concerning four of Israel’s neighbors, plus the Palestinians, and compare that number to the releases solely about Israel (and you discount the ones that are about Israel and the Gaza war, thus making the criterion a little harder for scoring Israel) that it’s a plus for HRW’s even-handedness that there were only 33 releases about Israel and 51 releases about all of her neighbors? I mean, seriously? And on what planet does removing the Goldstone releases and HRW telling the world to pressure Israel make these releases that don’t concern Israel? Your criteria is that a press release must “solely” concern Israel enables you to remove releases that are ultimately critical of Israel from the queue.

    Even so. Let’s take your crazy criteria and compare: 33 releases on Israel. 51 on four nations plus the Palestinians. Sure. That’s totally even-handed, considering that Jordan has laws allowing “honor” killers to spend no time in jail, Egypt arrests bloggers and political opponents, Lebanon’s free TV station was burned down by Hezbullah, which is also building up with impunity its rockets aimed at Israel (under the nose of UNIFIL, no less), and, of course, there are the summary executions by Hamas, the laws repressing women that spring up regularly, the rocketing of Israeli civilians, the lack of the rule of law, and… well, you get the idea.

    But sure, by all means, that’s totally even-handed treatment by HRW. Say, when was the last time HRW mentioned Egypt’s political prisoners? Just wondering.

  10. Tatterdemalian says:

    I oppose HRW holding Israel to a higher standard. If HRW wants to be an organization for justice and progress, it must be even-handed and impartial in delivering its judgements. Holding any nation to a different standard from any other, no matter what the reason, is pure injustice.

  11. wurou.com says:

    I oppose HRW holding Israel to a higher standard.

  12. Dave123 says:

    Yglesias is now a professional blogger for a very left wing magazine which means he has to throw red meat talking points to his audience to make money. He can’t be counted on for any serious investigation into what he writes about anymore.

  13. Anon says:

    Of course Israel should be held to a higher standard than other countries in the region. For the same reason that we hold the FBI to higher standards than some Mafia crime family, and the reason I correct my children’s bad behavior in a restaurant, and ignore the similar behavior of other children at the next table. It’s a client state, and can be expected to conform to Western norms more consistently than others.

    And it makes perfect sense to criticize Israel whenever it fails to meet those standards, whatever the violations of others might be: Israel (a) has mechanisms to adjust its behavior and (b) enough will to do so that criticism isn’t an empty gesture, but might actually bring about improvements to people’s lives.

    If the criticisms have merit, Israel should make changes. If they don’t, it should show that they don’t. Whining about how tinhorn dictatorships get to have all the fun is utterly unbecoming.

  14. R Wootten says:

    Of course Egypt and Jordan and Palestine and Syria and the Sauds should not be held to lower standards. It’s human rights watch. Are you saying they’re a lower version of human? Most of the abuses these governments commit are upon their own citizens. Are they really less worthy? Besides, outside the suggestion of mallable standards, many of these entities have a track record of making preposterous claims against Israel for the sole purpose of generating this sort of negative publicity.

  15. maddernstein says:

    Out of interest, Ms Yourish, could you tell us precisely what you consider to be a human rights violation, and list said violations by Israel and the nations that surround it? Over, say, the past year? Press releases don’t really tell us much either way, and certainly don’t prove that X committed violation Y.

  16. Rick W says:

    It’s human rights watch, you want to hold Israels neighbors to lower standards. Are they lessor humans?

  17. Patrick Meighan says:

    “I’m sorry, are you telling me that when you combine the press releases concerning four of Israel’s neighbors, plus the Palestinians, and compare that number to the releases solely about Israel (and you discount the ones that are about Israel and the Gaza war, thus making the criterion a little harder for scoring Israel) that it’s a plus for HRW’s even-handedness that there were only 33 releases about Israel and 51 releases about all of her neighbors? I mean, seriously?”

    a) At the same time that I refrained from counting the joint Israel/Hamas denunciations against Israel’s total, I refrained from counting them against Hamas. If you’d prefer to add those joint Israel/Hamas denunciations to Israel’s total, you’ll have to simultaneously add them to Hamas’s total… which (obviously) makes HRW no less even-handed on the question than before.

    b) For all of the human rights crimes of Israel’s contiguous neighbors (and those crimes are many, and ghastly, and all amply categorized by HRW), none of Israel’s contiguous neighbors is currently occupying one foreign land (in violation of international law) and blockading a second foreign land (in violation of international law), nor have any of Israel’s contiguous neighbors killed hundreds of innocent civilians over the past 12 months… all things that, sadly, cannot be said about Israel at present.

    “Your criteria is that a press release must “solely” concern Israel enables you to remove releases that are ultimately critical of Israel from the queue.”

    How is that you categorize a joint condemnation of Hamas and Israel as something that is “ultimately critical of Israel”? If an HRW press release calls for “justice for the civilian victims on both sides of the Gaza war” and demands that experts “monitor how Israel and Hamas conduct domestic investigations of alleged laws-of-war violations” and bemoans “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by both Israel and Hamas” and calls for accountability for the “serious crimes by all sides in the Gaza war” and says that “Mortar and rocket fire from Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, the report says, was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of civilian life and to terrorize Israeli civilians” (all quotes from HRW’s Oct. 12 release), is that “ultimately critical of Israel”? Of course not. So, again, if you wanna pile that release onto Israel’s queue of HRW condemnations, then you gotta pile it on the Palestinians’ queue as well. Each pile will increase by exactly one, and your case for HRW’s anti-Israel bias will remains as weak as it is currently.

    “Even so. Let’s take your crazy criteria and compare: 33 releases on Israel. 51 on four nations plus the Palestinians. Sure. That’s totally even-handed, considering that Jordan has laws allowing “honor” killers to spend no time in jail, Egypt arrests bloggers and political opponents, Lebanon’s free TV station was burned down by Hezbullah, which is also building up with impunity its rockets aimed at Israel (under the nose of UNIFIL, no less), and, of course, there are the summary executions by Hamas, the laws repressing women that spring up regularly, the rocketing of Israeli civilians, the lack of the rule of law, and… well, you get the idea.”

    All of the above are terrible crimes against humanity, and all of the above are vociferously criticized on the HRW website, as they should be. Now stack those crimes (horrible as they are) against Israel’s apartheid apparatus in the West Bank, her suffocating blockade on Gaza that amounts to collective punishment against Gaza’s citizenry (in violation of international law), and her murderous bombardment of a trapped and powerless people early this year and that statistical breakdown (51 condemnations of Israel’s contiguous neighbors vs. 33 condemnations of Israel) seems almost generous to Israel, on HRW’s part.

    “Say, when was the last time HRW mentioned Egypt’s political prisoners? Just wondering.”

    Most recently? Oct. 9. Just in the year 2009 (so far) I count 7 HRW press releases and reports in which HRW voices opposition to Egypt’s practice of imprisoning dissidents (Oct. 9, Aug. 17, Jun. 4, Jun. 2, Jun. 1, May 13, Mar. 4).

    Any other questions?

    Patrick Meighan
    Culver City, CA

  18. SteveL says:

    I will just note that, speaking strictly of the numbers, I have yet to see a compelling case that “in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.”

    You focus on July-present, Ms. Yourish. In that time, as Cliff noted above, there were 10 press releases focused on alleged Israeli abuses. In the same time period, there were 12 that focused on Iran. Of course there has been a lot going on in Iran in the last 4 months. Similarly, there has been a lot going in and around Israel at various points in recent years.

    I did take a look at the NGO Monitor Report (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/hrw.pdf). A plot on p. 43 shows relative HRW activity in the middle east furing 2004-08, based on a particular weighting scheme developed by NGO Watch. This shows that Israel ranks higher than any other country in 2004 and 2006, but ranks third in 2005, third (just ahead of fourth) in 2007 and second (just ahead of third) in 2008. Attempting to add the numbers over the whole five-year period, it looks like Israel mentions are 15% – 20% higher than Egypt and Iran.

    Does this support “far more condemnations”? I would say not conclusively.

    First is the issue of the particular weighting scheme used. Generally this seems roughly reasonable, and to my brief review the report looked largely defensible, but it is just one arbitrary weighting scheme, and NGO Monitor appears to be focused (like Ms. Yourish) in defending Israel in particular from criticism.

    Second is the issue raised above – how much of this HRW activity represents responses to criticism of HRW from those who dislike its criticism of Israel? One might pick 10% as a rough but conservative estimate of this, based on discussion above. This gets the differences down pretty close to being in the noise.

  19. a) At the same time that I refrained from counting the joint Israel/Hamas denunciations against Israel’s total, I refrained from counting them against Hamas. If you’d prefer to add those joint Israel/Hamas denunciations to Israel’s total, you’ll have to simultaneously add them to Hamas’s total… which (obviously) makes HRW no less even-handed on the question than before.

    Once again, Israel is one nation. Her neighbors equal four, plus the Palestinians. So HRW’s even-handedness would be shown by parity of news releases about Israel and about her neighbors, all of whom are far worse abusers of human rights. That is the argument, that HRW concentrates on democracies like Israel, to the detriment of dictatorships like Syria, autocracies like Egypt, and pretend democracies like Lebanon and Jordan, not to mention the thugocracies of the Palestinian territories.

    The rest of your post is misdirection, exaggeration, and untruths. I’m not accusing you of lying. Just of passing along the lies that have been presented to you. For instance:

    her suffocating blockade on Gaza that amounts to collective punishment against Gaza’s citizenry

    That suffocating blockade doesn’t seem to be working very well.

    Goods Flood Gaza’s Tunnels, Turning Border Area Into a Shopping Mecca
    At Nijma market, refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, microwaves, air-conditioners, generators and ovens filled the tents, all at inflated prices, having been spirited into this town on the border with Egypt through tunnels under the sand. Some Gazans have even purchased cars smuggled in parts into the isolated Palestinian enclave.

    As for the rest of your arguments, well, try reading some other sources for the true number of civilian deaths (note that Elder used Hamas sources for the identity of those killed, not the NGOs that have an agenda in reporting civilian deaths).

    nor have any of Israel’s contiguous neighbors killed hundreds of innocent civilians over the past 12 months…

    Oh, it’s only deaths that counts, is it? Not random rocket attacks on the civilian population, day after day after day? Let’s take a look at the monthly rocket calendars that Elder has been keeping for the past several years. 268 kassams have been launched since the end of the cease fire. The Gaza war did not happen in a vacuum. Over 8,000 missiles were launched from Gaza before Israel said enough and did something about it. And then there’s the fact of Hamas shooting from within the civilian population, hiding within the civilian population, and using civilians as human shields. Here’s a British Colonel who was the former commander of British troops in Afghanistan saying that the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. I don’t suppose you’ve taken the time to listen to or read Col. Kemp’s words?

    No. Because that wouldn’t fit the narrative, which you repeat verbatim, that Israel is the worst offender of human rights in the middle east, and quite possibly in the world today.

  20. Steve: When HRW, like the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, finds more faults with Israel’s human rights records than China, Cuba, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, and Libya (to name a few) combined, then I would have to say that we are not faulting HRW for their reports being anti-Israel. We are faulting them for concentrating on Israel over the far more serious human rights abusers. I was pretty up-front with that. Why do you need me to repeat it?

    Are you aware of the fact that when Israel kidnapped Adolf Eichmann out of Argentina in 1960 and spirited him to Israel to pay for his crimes, the UN passed a resolution condemning Israel for violating Argentina’s sovereignty?

    This was in 1960, seven years before the UN was able to use the excuse of “occupation” to bash Israel. Are you starting to see a pattern? I sure have.

    I am not imagining HRW’s obsession with Israel. It’s real. Stop denying it.

  21. And by the way, that suffocating Gaza blockade, Patrick? Egypt controls the Rafah crossing. Funny how you didn’t remember to mention that in your comment above. And please quote the international law that Israel is violating, also whether or not Israel is a signatory to the treaty that you are quoting. Because I think you’re passing along the anti-Israel narrative, but not the facts such as they are. By the way, that would also make Egypt guilty of violating the same laws. Why are you not complaining about their human rights abuses on Gaza?

  22. SteveL says:

    Meryl-

    HRW is not the UN, which I never mentioned. Please deal with my actual arguments rather than rebutting things I have never said.

    And it is simply not true that HRW has “finds more faults with Israel’s human rights records than China, Cuba, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, and Libya (to name a few) combined.” This is an outrageous exaggeration of even NGO Watch’s findings. Please review the definition of “combined.”

  23. Steve, I did deal with your arguments. You added all four of Israel’s neighbors, plus the Palestinians, to come up with a total of press releases more numerous than the ones dealing with Israel—which was, last time I checked, still only one nation.

    That’s proof that HRW is exaggerating Israel’s flaws and minimizing her rights-abusing neighbors.

  24. Oops, that was Patrick, not you. You simply compared Iran’s press releases with Israel’s. While Iran was subjugating internal protesters, Israel was doing—what, exactly? There was no war. There are no Israelis in Gaza. There were missiles and attacks coming out of Gaza.

    But still, sure, the same number of releases on Iran brutally repressing a civilian revolt, and Israel refusing to open the Gaza crossings should absolutely merit the same number of releases from Human Rights Watch.

    Starting to see why I’m saying that HRW concentrates on Israel to the exclusion of the rights abusers in her neighborhood yet?

  25. Tatterdemalian says:

    “Of course Israel should be held to a higher standard than other countries in the region. For the same reason that we hold the FBI to higher standards than some Mafia crime family,”

    I oppose holding the FBI to a higher standard than a Mafia crime family, too. If the FBI starts acting like the Mafia, they shoud receive the same treatment (jail time) the Mafia does, and if the Mafia starts meeting the moral and ethical standards the FBI meets, however unlikely that is, they should no longer be treated like criminals.

    The entire principle of law is based on this. The only reason anyone would defend the Mafia because “they can’t be expected to meet the same standards as the FBI” are people who, for their own selfish reasons, want to end the rule of law. People who would rather be nobles in a dark age, than mere citizens in a golden age.

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