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Founder of HRW: Organisation has lost its way with Israel

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posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 08:21 AM
This is an op-ed piece in the NY Times by Robert L Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch, an organisation that is one of Israel's fiercest critics.

In it he argues that HRW has lost the distinction between open and democratic societies and closed authoritarian societies and spends a disproportionate amount of time and resources criticising Israel when there are far worse things going on in the Middle East. It's worth a read.

AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

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.

Source: New York Times

posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 10:57 AM
reply to post by mattpryor

Excellent find.

Clearly correct, but not realized by most.

In short, Gaza attacks, Israel COUNTER attacks and Israel is the bad-guy, ignoring the gazan's who fired first and started this.
(by Gazan's, for the most part I refer to the Hamas terrorists)

posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 11:15 AM
reply to post by mrmonsoon

Yeah, but who's going to believe it now?

The damage is already done and in a lot of people's eyes Israel is guilty as charged.

Worth remembering as well that much of the infamous Goldstone report was based on HRW "evidence".

posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 11:18 AM
reply to post by mattpryor

Who, the educated who read and learn.

The uneducated who don't read, will not.

Sad but true.

posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 11:38 AM
reply to post by mattpryor

But wait...isn't he Jewish?
second line.

posted on Oct, 20 2009 @ 03:45 PM
So im assuming every one whos posted so far agrees with matts closing paragraph then that I take from it as saying the moment a society becomes democratic, free and happy its exempt from being scrutinized in areas of human rights, since hey their democratic, free and therefore in the right, so nothing bad could happen there or if it does its a lesser evil compared to the totalitarian boogey man over the border.

I guess all non democratic free and happy countries (what country truly is?) are all evil human rights abusive places that have to be whittled out and stomped on. Robert L Bernstein mentions they recognize no country is perfect, but is Israel actually doing any of the things he mentions as a democratic and free country who should do and know better?. Considering even the most recent examples of dissent stomping we've had posted here (those anti-mandatory military service teens, the dob in an Israeli girl with Arab boy friend threads for example) it seems Israel (or at least alot of its citizens and media) dont see a need for...

vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform

Human Rights Watch has every right to criticizes any country it likes as harshly as it thinks it merits, even more so those supposed democratic, and free regimes and countries that use their installed political system as a weak excuse to divert attention... I mean thats what the organization is about isnt it at its core, human rights, not 'we only target what we deem, bad countries with what we deem bad political and social systems installed and the human rights abuse they do'... in reality they need to turn their spot like on just more than Israel I agree... Britain and America being two that come to mind... even my own country has human rights issues.

Edit:- Also Matt id like to ask by this segment of your statement

when there are far worse things going on in the Middle East

I assume you admit then that there are at the very least some issues with Israel in regards to human rights abuse?

Edit2:- Hmm just noticed this interesting thread started over in the 'Other Current events' forum by GypsK...

Press Freedom Index 2009

So much for an adversarial press then in Israel, and yes Iran is fourth from the bottom, but hey its Iran, that goes without surprise.

[edit on 20-10-2009 by BigfootNZ]

posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 07:58 AM
reply to post by BigfootNZ

Thanks for the reply BigfootNZ.

I think HRW has every right to criticise Israel, or whatever country it pleases, however this should not be the organisation's main purpose - and to a casual observer it does seem that their ME department seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time investigating and chastising Israel which is only one side of the conflict. Maybe this is because Israel is an soft option - precisely because it is a free and open society with a great deal of internal debate which makes it easier for rights groups to operate.

I have not seen, for instance, HRW criticise Hamas for its treatment of Gazan civilians, the punishment beatings, the executions, which we all know goes on. I didn't see HRW criticising Hamas when they launched their purge against Fatah after the elections. I didn't see HRW criticise Hamas when they were launching missiles into Israeli homes and schools.

I can only presume this is because they can't conduct investigations in Gaza unless they are investigating what Israel has done, because in order to do anything in Gaza you have to first get Hamas approval. Same goes for journos and UNRWA.

Interestingly I looked on their website this morning and the top article under the Middle East was "Hamas: Investigate Attacks on Israeli Civilians", which seems bizarre since it was Hamas that ordered and carried out these terrorist attacks and that they were a deliberate policy to provoke an Israeli response. The story was published yesterday, which leads me to believe that this is a reactionary measure in response to Bernstein's Op-Ed.

To me there is a very clear moral distinction here - one party deliberately targeted the other's civilians, launching rockets from soft targets that they knew the Israelis would not hit (or would generate international outcry when they did), such as Al Jazera HQ, schools etc. These attacks were launched at times of day when kids would be going to school and people would be on their way to work. Utterly deplorable. The other party responded with military action which caused unintended harm to civilians.

I do not believe for one second that the IDF deliberately targeted non combatants, because this doesn't fit into any rational model of behaviour for a modern Western army (especially one as PR conscious as the IDF), and is pointless in either a military or political sense. In fact I think that Israel went to great lengths to avoid harming non-combatants - more out of fear of the international response than out of altruism - but war is a messy and chaotic business and the question to me should be:

- Was military action justified?
- Were precautions taken to minimize harm to non-combatants?

The answer to me is yes to both of the above, in which case any investigations into the conduct of the IDF during said military action should be on a level playing field with other armies and conflicts around the world, and should not be allowed to become a political weapon for countries that want to take the US and allies down a peg or two and who have no room to talk when it comes to respecting peoples' rights.

I would have liked HRW to have been a bit more forceful and pushy before the war, when Hamas were firing rockets on Israeli civilians, because it seems that if the international community had been a bit more awake and responsive then war might have been averted. But that doesn't seem to be how the world works.

Yes there are undoubtedly human rights abuses going on in Israel, on both sides of the conflict, and I find it frustrating that a disproportionate amount of effort is spent criticising the one side who actually have laws and a legal system to protect peoples' rights (and very often does). I assume that this is because it is easier to criticise the side that is most open and facilitating to criticism, and an underlying belief within the organisation that Israelis are the bad guys and Hamas are helpless victims. To me this seems unjust.

I read something about the freedom of press report which explained why Israel was ranked so low - I'll dig it out when I get a sec. But as far as I'm aware there are no government restrictions on the Israeli press or media.

posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 08:17 AM
"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"

I interpret this as Bernstein saying that "open" and "democratic" societies do not require the international community investigating and possibly charging suspects of war crimes. Or at least not in the same proportion.

A small part of me agrees with his logic, but it's simply fuelling the fire ladies and gentlemen. One rule for us in the western world and another for closed non-democratic states/countries. C'mon.

The second point I interpret from Bernstein (whom I respect alot, but also disagree with somewhat) is the ranking of importance of war crimes around the world, well perhaps not specifically war crimes but 'human rights' generally. This should have no bearing whatsoever if a war crime has been committed, or more to the point, possible evidence of such.

If a trial does go ahead, and that's a big if, it will be scrutinised to such a high level - I cannot see how a conviction would be obtained without absolute certainty of guilt.

I'm at loss as to why more Israelis do not see that it's absolutely in their best interests to undergo due process here. Enemies of Israel will use their perceived injustice to rally more support and hatred. Alas, just keep fuelling that fire so effectively.

posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 08:49 AM
reply to post by Caveat Lector

I agree with you, and I agree that full disclosure would probably be in Israel's best interests now that it's got this far.

Should the world hold the Israeli government and military to a higher standard precisely because they are advanced, Western and open and unlike Hamas they should know better? Theoretically I don't have a problem with that (but the same should go for the US, Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, etc), but NOT when "holding to a higher standard" means giving the West's enemies ammunition to use against us.

Furthermore if that process is needed then it should be a process that civilised and free societies do amongst themselves, not at the bequest of countries that have no respect for human rights whatsoever, or even laws in place to protect human rights.

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