HRW's lame evasion

Human Rights Watch, the Soros-funded anti-Israel group, has a lame evasion of criticism of its obsessive reporting on the Israeli-Arab conflict, in which Israel is invariably faulted.

Human Rights Watch's Iain Levine recently claimed that Human Rights Watch (HRW) is accused of bias anywhere it reports, as if that shows it must be unbiased. Levine's claim fails in light of the recently proven anti-Israel bias of three of the most senior employees in HRW's Middle East and Africa division, who are responsible for much of the organization's reporting on Israel.

First, a little bit of history. HRW was founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, mainly to promote human rights in repressive regimes where the rights of millions were violated daily. Over the past 20 years, since the fall of the iron curtain, HRW has re-branded itself by making claims to expertise and moral authority in dealing with the moral, factual and legal issues related to asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric warfare is a far different field than protecting intellectual dissidents. The moral and legal clarity that exist regarding torture, apartheid and totalitarianism don't exist regarding means of fighting guerrilla and terrorist groups And even where the law and morals are relatively clear, they can be judged only with expertise in areas like military strategy and forensics. HRW lacks that expertise.

Last week, it was disclosed that HRW's chief military analyst and ‘expert' on asymmetric warfare, Marc Garlasco, is an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. HRW has responded to those accusations by claiming that Garlasco collects war memorabilia generally, but if he does, it seems to be a well-kept secret. As has been exposed by numerous blogs over the past week, beginning with Omri Ceren's Mere Rhetoric, Garlasco is a collector of Nazi-era German objects like daggers, Iron Crosses and swastikas. He has written hundreds, maybe thousands, of posts on forums dedicated to the topic, like, where he illustrates his posts with a picture of a Nazi medal incorporating a swastika and eagle above an anti-aircraft gun. He has written a 400 page book on the topic of Nazi German medals. Contrary to HRW's claims, no evidence has been forthcoming about any efforts by Garlasco to write about or collect any non-Nazi German artifacts that compare in scope and quality to Garlasco's fetish with Nazi objects. HRW claims Garlasco is a "serious military historian," but provides no evidence that Garlasco has ever studied, taught or acquired any expertise in the field. Writing a hobbyist's monograph on German medals does not make one an "historian" in any real sense. Garlasco is, at best, an expert in the Nazi symbols of war rather than in the history of military strategy or weaponry. Especially in light of other recent incidents involving senior HRW employees, Garlasco's foray into tastelessness leaves more than a hint of bias.

Garlasco is the third high-level HRW employee in recent months whose objectivity has been questioned. In May, HRW's Middle East and Africa Division Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, went to Saudi Arabia to raise money for HRW. In the home of one of the most notorious human rights abusing regimes on the planet, and one that is so openly anti-Semitic that it denies Jews the right to step on its soil, Whitson's fundraising pitch highlighted HRW's battles with "pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations" and the need to refill HRW's coffers in light of its anti-Israel reporting during and following Operation Cast Lead. Whitson's anti-Israel bias should have come as no surprise. Whitson served on the Advisory Board to the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee before she came to HRW, and she supports the Arab boycott against Israel.

And just a few weeks ago, Maariv exposed Whitson's deputy, Joe Stork, who has written many of the group's most damaging reports about Israel, as a radical anti-Zionist activist, who opposed any recognition of Israel, and who was a member of an advocacy group that expressed understanding for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics (the original Hebrew article is here).

HRW's statistically demonstrated obsession with Israel, the evident bias of its most senior employees that deal with our country, and the repeated errors of fact and law that plague its numerous anti-Israel reports cannot be brushed off with boilerplate claims of objectivity. It is a facetious insult to our moral intelligence to compare the significance of complaints from regimes that do not police themselves, and that violate human rights as a matter of policy, with the complaints of a highly self-critical, self-regulating culture like Israel.

In the 1940's, Soviet communism was criticized by both Nazis and Western democrats. Being criticized from both sides is not proof that HRW is doing things right. It's time for HRW to stop changing the subject and either answer its critics or accept their criticism.

Thanks To Alex Safian, author of Joe Stork, Senior Human Rights Watch Staffer, Supported Violence against Jews and Israel's Destruction.

Carl in Jerusalem blogs at
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