20 Oct Bernstein on HRW, Part 341 (Updated)
I had resolved to avoid blogging about Bernstein’s endless series of attacks on Human Rights Watch, but I couldn’t let the following pass without at least some acknowledgement:
At what point does the MSM stop treating HRW as a neutral source on human rights in the Middle East, and start treating it like the left-wing, anti-Israel, anti-Western organization it has openly become? And at what point do HRW’s liberal, human-rights oriented American donors become tired to enabling this? Maybe the growing dismay of long-time HRW supporters like [Robert] Bernstein explains why Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson decided to expand HRW’s donor base to Saudi elites? Better to take money from Saudi princes than to worry about how your growing loss of credibility among even among your natural supporters will affect your fundraising.
What a remarkable paragraph. HRW is now not simply anti-Israel, it’s actually anti-Western. I have no idea what it would mean for HRW to actually be anti-Western; perhaps it wants to turn the US into an Islamic state?
As for Bernstein’s claim that HRW has taken money from Saudi princes — I’d like to see his evidence. He has never made that claim before, and I can’t find a reference to princes by any of the other usual suspects, such as NGO Monitor. Moreover, Sarah Leah Whitson has stated categorically that HRW has never raised money from the Saudi government.
With each telling by Bernstein, HRW becomes more and more demonic. I look forward to the claim that Ken Roth is hiding bin Laden in HRW’s New York City offices!
UPDATE: Here is Bernstein’s reply:
I’d say that organizations staffed by people who implicitly hate the U.S. and Israel is “anti-Western.”
As for the princes, to my knowledge, not all of the thousands (I’ve seen estimates from 7-27K) Saudi princes are part of the Saudi government, though they are related to the king. And HRW has publicly announced, in response to criticism of its trip to S.A.: “Human Rights Watch is eager and delighted to find supporters of the human rights ideal – financial or otherwise – in any and all countries of the world.” And who has more money in Saudi Arabia than the elites? If HRW would clarify that it would not accept money from anyone who is a member of the House of Saud, regardless of whether they have an official government position, I’d be happy to retract that comment.
This is truly revealing. First, in Bernstein’s view, the US and Israel are synonymous with the West. Europe — which is much more willing to openly criticize Israel’s behavior (and the US’s enabling of that behavior) — doesn’t count. Second, now HRW hates the US, too? It takes a special kind of myopia to believe that HRW hates any country that supports Israel. (Or perhaps Bernstein thinks HRW hates the US because it opposes things like torture, illegal detention, and the like. I hope he’ll enlighten us.) Third, regarding the princes, note how Bernstein makes an inflammatory claim for which he provides no support, then promises to retract the inflammatory claim if HRW disproves it. What an interesting approach to the obligation of bloggers to get their facts right!
UPDATE 2: Bernstein has a new post up at VC attacking me. It’s here — I am happy to link to his posts, although he refuses to do me the same courtesy, ostensibly because he doesn’t want to drive up my Google rank (which is more than a little petty, given that we share a co-blogger in Ken). It’s a predictably misleading post, the best evidence of which is this claim:
Now, Heller could have disagreed with my conclusion on all sorts of grounds, but he could have at least restated my argument fairly, or at least in a way that remotely resembled what I wrote. I obviously didn’t argue in my comment HRW hates the U.S. because the U.S. supports Israel, much less because HRW opposes torture et al. Rather, what I said was that HRW hires staffers who hate the U.S., and I provided a link to one piece of evidence [a blog comment is generally not the place to get into a lengthy disquisition]– a law professor who recounts that he met a senior HRW staffer who in fact expressed visceral hatred for the U.S. over a several-month period.
This is, of course, shamelessly revisionist history. Go to Bernstein’s original post: he didn’t claim that “HRW hires staffers who hate the U.S.”; he claimed that HRW is “left-wing, anti-Israel, anti-Western organization.” He only offered the narrower, but only marginally less ridiculous, claim after I challenged his characterization of HRW. And note Bernstein’s evidentiary standard: he apparently thinks evidence that one HRW staffer “hates the US” allows him to conclude that HRW is “staffed by people who implicitly hate the U.S. and Israel” and thus — for reasons that he can’t be bothered to explain — that HRW is anti-Western.
It is profoundly ironic that Bernstein complains that I have not restated his argument fairly. As it turns out, he cannot even restate his own argument fairly.
P.S. It’s also interesting to note Bernstein’s assertion that “a blog comment is generally not the place to get into a lengthy disquisition.” True enough — but that fails to explain, conveniently enough, why he made the even more general claim that HRW is “anti-Western” in a blog post, not a blog comment, and still failed to offer any evidence for that claim. Indeed, Bernstein didn’t even link to Manion’s opinion about the HRW staffer in his original post. He only provided a link to his supposed “evidence” that HRW is anti-Western after I called him on his claim. (And then attacked me for not reproducing the link!) Not that we should be surprised: after all, Bernstein freely admits that he believes it’s perfectly acceptable to make inflammatory accusations about HRW without evidence, as long as he promises to retract them if HRW proves that they are false.