With an enthusiasm that would make even the most adept PR professional blush, the Washington Post issues a press release about Human Rights Watch newest sugar daddy,
With $100 million Soros gift, Human Rights Watch looks to expand global reach
The $100 million gift to Human Rights Watch from billionaire George Soros announced last week will extend the overseas presence of the influential American rights champion and ensure its financial health for years to come.
But the goal of the gift is more ambitious still: to alter the way human rights are promoted in the 21st century, making rights advocacy less of an exclusively American and European cause.
The donation, the largest single gift ever from the Hungarian-born investor and philanthropist, is premised on the belief that U.S. leadership on human rights has been diminished by a decade of harsh policies in the war on terrorism. Soros said he hopes the money will cultivate a much broader constituency of foreign policymakers and philanthropists who embrace the notion that human rights should be observed universally.
Except as the prinicipals interviewed for this article acknowledge later, HRW isn’t likely to make much headway in China. HRW can make a difference in many countries which have functioning governments with independent judiciaries and a culture of freedom. Against despots, HRW doesn’t have much of a chance. There’s no traction for their agenda.
This is a point that former board member Robert Bernstein made last year in an op-ed published in the New York Times.
When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. 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.
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 â€” many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watchâ€™s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
Given the insurmountable challenge of actually changing closed societies, HRW has chosen to villify Israel, a much easier goal.
And thus the Post reports:
Human Rights Watch regularly comes under attack from governments around the world, including China, Russia, Israel, Iran, Syria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
The criticism that comes from Israel is nothing like what HRW has to put up with from the other countries listed. The criticism from Israel is about HRW’s methods and biases. And HRW operates freely in Israel.
The Human Rights Watch gift will consist of $10 million annual grants over the next decade. Human Rights Watch is expected to find funding to match that grant. It is also seeking to cultivate a new generation of foreign donors to fund the group’s activities. Today, Human Rights Watch receives 30 percent of its funding from abroad, mostly from Europe and some from Japan. It has a target of raising 40 percent of its funding from abroad within five years and 50 percent within a decade.
The large injection of money from Soros highlights a reversal of fortune from 2008, when the recession eliminated 7 percent of the organization’s funding. Last year, Human Rights Watch raised $45 million, its most in a single year. It plans to increase its annual budget to $80 million within five years.
Bernstein’s critique is absent from the Post article. So too is mention of numerous scandals that have emerged from the organization that have hurt its fundraising ability. The only problem that HRW suffered from is the recession.
The Washington Post didn’t take a close look at HRW or Soros, but the New York Post did, in the form of an op-ed by Gerald Steinberg.
The bias is indisputable: HRW’s publications on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” made up 28 percent of its total Mideast output in 2009.
Which makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well-established. In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.
In extending his control over HRW, Soros seeks to increase its staff by 40 percent, reposition it as a major international player and restore its influence as an arbiter on universal human rights. But while his grant will alleviate the crisis caused by HRW’s declining income, it only deepens the moral crisis.
If there’s any value to the Washington Post article, it is an unguarded statement at the end.
“I don’t know that Human Rights Watch is going to be able to establish a presence in China to make China a force for promoting human rights,” Neier said. But he noted that there are important human rights promoters in Brazil, South Africa and other countries that may have a greater impact on their own national debates.
This isn’t about human rights, but about “national debates,” or politics. Just as Soros has used his money to influence the political process in the United States (unsuccessfully in 2004; successfully in 2008) he sees HRW as a means to extend his reach into other countries.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad.