David Bernstein Misrepresents Human Rights Watch (Yet Again)

by Kevin Jon Heller

This time concerning the Goldstone Report and whether Israel intentionally targeted civilians during Operation Cast Lead as a matter of policy.  You know a post is in trouble when it’s entitled “Human Rights Watch Lies re: Goldstone Retraction,” but then states, three paragraphs later, “Well, maybe lying isn’t quite right. Roth chose his words carefully, and I suppose it’s technically true that HRW never explicitly endorsed a Goldstone Report finding that Israel had a policy of targeting civilians.” So HRW is lying, except that it’s not.

The misleading title, however, is far from the biggest problem with the post.  Even worse is Bernstein’s inability to understand what Goldstone retracted and what HRW has said about Israel’s ostensible policy of intentionally targeting civilians.  Here is the relevant paragraph from Goldstone’s editorial (emphasis added):

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

Goldstone thus clearly distinguished between individual incidents in which specific Israeli soldiers intentionally targeted civilians, the existence of which he believes has been reaffirmed by the Israeli and UN investigations, and the existence of an official Israeli policy to intentionally target civilians, which he believes has been disproven by by the Israeli and UN investigations.

Now consider the laundry list of statements that, according to Bernstein, contradict Ken Roth’s recent claim in the Guardian that HRW has never argued that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of official policy (emphasis in the original):

Let’s start with Mr. Roth himself, writing in the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 25, 2009:

Israel could have conducted the war by targeting only combatants and taking all feasible precautions to spare civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. That is mandated even though Hamas often violated these rules, because violations by one side do not justify violations by the other.

Instead, as Human Rights Watch has shown through detailed, on-the-ground investigations, Israeli forces fired white phosphorous munitions indiscriminately over civilian areas, shot and killed Palestinian civilians waving white flags, attacked children playing on rooftops with precision missiles fired from aerial drones and needlessly destroyed civilian property.

Now let’s move on to various HRW reports.

HRW, April 23, 2009:” Human Rights Watch’s investigation into the fighting in Gaza concluded that Israeli forces were responsible for serious violations of the laws of war, including the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas, the apparent targeting of people trying to convey their civilian status…

HRW, Aug. 13 2009 [After discussing alleged “white flag” killings by Israeli soldiers]: “The Israel Defense Forces have for years permitted a pervasive culture of impunity regarding unlawful Palestinian deaths”

HRW, Sept. 16, 2009: “The 575-page report, released on September 15, 2009, documented serious violations of international humanitarian law by Israel, with some incidents amounting to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, including willful killings.”

HRW, November 3, 2009: “It also found that Israeli forces unlawfully used white phosphorous munitions and heavy artillery in densely populated areas, fired upon civilians holding white flags.”

HRW, April 11, 2010: “Between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza killed several hundred Palestinian civilians and wounded many more, some during Israeli attacks that were indiscriminate, disproportionate or at times seemingly deliberate, in violation of the laws of war.”

HRW, Feb. 7, 2010: “Human Rights Watch documented 53 civilian deaths in 19 incidents in which Israeli forces appeared to have violated the laws of war. Six of these incidents involved the unlawful use of white phosphorus munitions; six were attacks by drone-launched missiles that killed civilians; and seven involved soldiers shooting civilians who were in groups holding white flags.”

HRW, Feb. 26, 2010: “Nor has [Israel] conducted credible investigations into military policies that may have contravened the laws of war or facilitated war crimes. These include the targeting of Hamas political institutions and Gaza police; the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in populated areas; and the rules of engagement for aerial drone operators and ground forces.”

What is most obvious is that none of these statements actually claim that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of official policy. They all focus on specific incidents, not on the policies of the Israeli government.  Indeed, Bernstein tacitly admits as much, because he feels compelled to add that “In none of the statements excerpted below did HRW provide any caveats to the effect that the incidents in question may have involved rogue soldiers or units, as opposed to being Israeli policy.”

In other words, Bernstein believes that, unless HRW indicates otherwise, any claims that HRW makes about specific incidents should be considered claims about Israeli policy in general.  That’s ridiculous, of course, and completely inconsistent with how HRW works.  HRW knows full well how to claim that violations of international law reflect the official policies of the Israeli government.  See here, for example, where HRW claims that “Israeli settlement policies also violate international human rights prohibitions against discrimination.”  Or here, where HRW argues, with regard to the blockade of Gaza, that “Washington should disassociate itself from unlawful Israeli policies that directly harm civilians.”  Or here, in the Guardian editorial that Bernstein mentions, where Ken Roth specifically claims that Israeli did not have an official policy during Operation Cast Lead of intentionally targeting civilians, but did have an official policy of “indiscriminate use of heavy artillery and white phosphorous in densely populated areas, and its massive and deliberate destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructure without a lawful military reason. In Bernstein’s world, however, this consistent practice means nothing.  Unless HRW adds the “caveat” that “HRW does not claim that this incident reflects official government policy,” we have to assume that every violation of international law identified by HRW took place pursuant to an official policy of the Israeli government.

What makes Bernstein’s burden-shifting argument even more ridiculous, however, is that a number of the statements he singles out directly contradict the idea that HRW believes that all of the problematic incidents reflect official Israeli policy.  Consider, for example, HRW’s claims concerning Israel’s statements concerning the “indiscriminate” use of white phosphorous.  The word “indiscriminate” means, of course, “thoughtless” or “in a random manner” or “impartially,” depending on the dictionary.  HRW might believe that Israel has an official policy of using white phosphorous in an indiscriminate manner — and likely does, given Roth’s recent editorial — but the existence of such a policy would mean that Israel did not intentionally target civilians using white phosphorous.

The same problem (for Bernstein) arises concerning HRW’s claim that “The Israel Defense Forces have for years permitted a pervasive culture of impunity regarding unlawful Palestinian deaths.”  Claiming that Israel fails to properly supervise its soldiers is, of course, very different than claiming that Israel fails to properly supervise its soldiers in order to execute a government policy of intentionally targeting civilians.  Indeed, the statement pretty clearly indicates that, in HRW’s view, the problem is the failure to supervise, not the existence of an official policy of intentionally targeting civilians.  Again, this conclusion can only be avoided if we assume — ridiculously — that HRW is always required to indicate when its conclusions about specific incidents do not reflect official policy.

Bernstein claims that Roth’s editorial represents “yet another blow to HRW’s credibility, both because of its conflict with Goldstone’s current position, and because of Roth’s current misrepresentation of HRW’s views.”  By so grossly misrepresenting HRW’s views, Bernstein only undermines his own credibility.

POSTSCRIPT: For an excellent discussion of what Goldstone actually retracted, as opposed to right-wing distortions of the editorial, see Bill Schabas’ recent post here.


27 Responses

  1. If HRW and Amnesty International, backed up by KJ Heller, are no taking great pains to state that they never, ever, meant to state or even imply that Israeli policy was to target civilians during Operation Cast Lead, Goldstone’s op-ed is already having great positive effect.  And I guess KJ is used to this, since he criticized Israel for “attacking” a school in an event that he later acknowledged never happened.  http://opiniojuris.org/2009/01/10/israels-shifting-defense-of-its-attack-on-the-un-school/

    And gotta love the cite to Schabas, who concludes by calling Israel an “anachronistic blot on the region left to be resolved.”  Always fun to see the sort of source that KJ, who claims not to be hostile to Israel, chooses to rely on.  It’s also scary to see a genocide scholar (Schabas) making a statement that could easily be construed as endorsing genocide, given that it’s unlikely that Israel will be “resolved” without a mass murder of its Jewish population.

  2. Is there anything better than a Bernstein “response”?  Paragraph 1 simply ignores HRW’s practice of specifically identifying actions that it believes reflect official government policies in favor of attacking me (for having an open mind, something he obviously knows little about).  Paragraph 2 then attacks one of the world’s most eminent and respected international criminal law scholars, implying (but not quite saying, to leave himself an out) that perhaps that scholar supports the slaughter of Jews. Absolutely disgusting.

    Classy guy, that Bernstein.

  3. Roth again, Dec. 29, 2009 : “Israel’s view that one prevails in asymmetric warfare by pummeling rather than protecting civilians is not only illegal but also counterproductive.”
    And one more time, Oct. 1, 2009: “Richard Goldstone’s charge that Israel implemented a deliberate and systematic policy to inflict suffering on civilians in Gaza is not, as you said, the ‘central organising premise’ of his report. Rather it is the conclusion of the report arrived at after a serious examination of the evidence.”
    Then there is Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East division, speaking in Saudi Arabia in May 2009: “Human Rights Watch provided the international community with evidence of Israel using white phosphorus and launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets.”
    Whitson again, in a public presentation on July 9, 2009: Israel’s use of white phosphorous and heavy artillery in Gaza were “violations of the law that require you to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and to target only combatants.”
    What was that again?  Roth says that “HRW has never argued that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of official policy”? Even if you don’t accept the other quotes from HRW itself as evidence, Roth and Whitson certainly have argued that Israel did.

  4. KJ, you are getting a bit personal with DB and I think much more of you than that.
    Truth is I recall you really did come off as being of the opinion the Israel gov’t violated int’l law and cited Goldstone as one of the underpinnings for your support.
    I am impressed that Goldstone has retracted and it is up to your conscience to decide whether to do come to the realization that you may have misjudged the situation.

  5. What Schabas actually wrote is “The autocratic regimes in the Arab countries are an anachronistic blot on the world. Their days are clearly numbered. That will leave only one anachronistic blot on the region left to be resolved” – so it is clear that in his view it is not Israel that needs to be dealt with, but rather its present regime/government. Or else, it is strange that his statement was not understood as advocating the genocide of all Arabs in the world…

  6. It’s always fun (but not in a way that’s becoming of scholars) to watch scholars quibble. Underlying the obvious dislike that Bernstein and Kevin have for each other is a far greater concern. If there are as many versions to the truth as there are opinions about it, it must be pretty darned hard to form an opinion anyway

  7. Ethan,

    It’s true, I do get personal with Bernstein in a way that I don’t get with anyone else.  I have many friends with very different views than mine, and I respect many conservative scholars I don’t know even though I disagree with them, including some who write about Israel (such as Avi Bell).  Bernstein is the only one who has accused me of believing that Israel has no right to exist and who has (now) insinuated that Bill Schabas, whom I greatly admire, advocates genocide of Israeli Jews.  So I hope my somewhat personal tone can be excused, if not justified.

  8. Regarding any claim that you do not agree with the rights of Israel – that is just plain silly.  And if he accuses you of same – unless he has evidence of same which he does not – that is wrong of him.  So I “hear you” as to why you went after him the way you did.
    I also agree with you that Schabas did not advocate a genocide – although his reference to Israel as a blot that presumably needs to be removed is clearly not complimentary either. My friend, know this.  To my great sorrow, there are people in this world who think 10 Holocausts are 10 too few so I can “hear” what DB is saying.
    And IMO Schabas is mistaken.  No one needs to be an Israel Firster to understand that it is incorrect to compare Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iran with Israel.  In Israel there is freedom of religion – try practicing a non-Moslem faith in Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iran.  I think women also have greatly diminished rights in these nations (driving, voting, property, etc) while they enjoy full rights in Israel.  Schabas clearly has an anti-Israel agenda.

  9. The  central focus of Hamas “rules of engagement” is the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians from Palestinian population centers in Gaza. Their use of “human shields,”  in putting civilians in harms way, in and of itself, constitutes a war crime. Yet, HRW seems strangely silent on the issue of Hamas war crimes, also disclosed in the Goldstone Report, focusing only on allegations against Israel, which Judge Goldstone has significantly discredited through his Washington Post article. In an atmosphere where Hamas, per the terms of its Charter, openly rejects any form of non-violent resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Israel is clearly within its rights to “individual, or collective self-defense,” under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter! If Hamas continues to launch its rockets from population centers, Israel must take such measures as are feasible to minimize civilian casualties, but is not otherwise required to refrain from responding to threats to its national security. The unvarnished reality is that this conflict will continue until either Israel devastates Gaza in this perpetual war, or the Hamas barbarians succeed on the battlefield, which seems even far less likely to occur!

  10. Mike 71,

    With respect, if you think HRW is “strangely silent” concerning war crimes committed by Hamas, then you need to spend more time on their website.

  11. Ethan, slightly offtopic but since you mentioned it: Iran is not an “Arab regime”. Iranians are Persians. The Iranian situation with regard to women’s rights and religious freedom is also slightly different than it is usually presented in the west: women enjoy far more rights than in many Arab countries (for instance, they can drive a car), and Christians and Jews actually enjoy constitutional protection. That is not to say that there is no discrimination or that their situation is as good as it should be, but one should be careful in sweeping all these countries together and making broad generalisations. I’d also say that the situation in Libya – for the time being still a secular dictatorship, as long as the outcome of the current war is unclear – is quite different from that in Saudi Arabia, even if both are Arab countries. Let’s criticise each for the specific violations of rights that are actually taking place there.

  12. Wlm Muller: You are correct and make a valid point. My post was meant to serve as a general response against what Schabas says (see the link in the main article). Schabas talks about Arab dictatorships as “blots” and then refers to Israel as a “blot”.   Schabas did not differentiate between what he calls Arab dictatorships and neither did I.
    Also, while women may enjoy “comparatively more rights” in Iran as you point out this is a relative term – compared to other neighboring nations.  But certainly not equal rights.  Moreover, I am not impressed with Iran (see their brutal suppression of their people’s demand for freedom and their jailing of citizens who are protesters) and with respect to Libya well, just look at the news.  As you concede, the Saudi Arabian record on “rights” is well … pretty bad.

  13. An anti-tank shell fired from Gaza just hit an Israeli school bus.  Children have been injured.
    Obviously, this is a heinous criminal act.  Targeting civilians is simply evil. Targeting children is not forgivable. Of course the Israelis will respond and we will hear the one-sided condemnations.  The Israelis have every right and duty to respond.  It is called self-defense and is a primary bulwark of international law. And while on topic, the purposeful firing of an anti-tank shell into a children’s bus is a violation of international law. These are ant-tank weapons not anti-school bus weapons. I guess Hamas pays no attention to the manufacturers’ instructions.  Why should they – they consistently evade their obligations and get away with violating CIL.  I think attacking children is of such evil that those who have done this deed should be hunted down.

  14. I fully understand how emotions can get heated on Israel and Palestine, on both ends, but I would sincerely advise Prof. Bernstein to be a bit more charitable in his interpretation of the views of others; others then can and should extend the same courtesy to him. There is no need to assume the worst of other colleagues, especially when they have not given any cause for this – quite the contrary. In his post, Bill Schabas did NOT refer to Israel as a blot that needs to be resolved, and certainly not so in a genocidal fashion; the language he used is neither here nor there on what the ‘blot’ in question in fact is. Knowing Bill and looking at the text of his post as whole, I am pretty sure that he referred to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as the ‘anachronistic blot.’  And that indeed is a blot that needs to be resolved to the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians, the sooner the better, with due respect both for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and Israelis’ right to live in peace.

  15. Marko, on re-reading the post in light of your comment, it is indeed possible that this is what Schabas meant, though it’s hardly a model of clarity. If indeed Schabas meant only that the lack of Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza is a “blot,” I apologize for suggesting otherwise–it struck me the way it did because it sounded so much like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s rhetoric re Israel.

    (I would add, though, that the Palestinians are exercising self-determination in Gaza, and the Hamas regime is at least as much of a “blot” as Mubarak et al.–If other Arab peoples deserve not just self-determination but freedom from autocracy, as they do, so do the Palestinians)

    Now, if only we could get KJ to acknowledge that the quotes from Roth and Whitson noted above undermine the thesis of his post.

  16. This maybe a bit beside the point, but I seriously doubt calling any nation and its system of governance should be called blots or similar derogatory words. We’ve all had our share of “blotted” history and naming and shaming only shows an acutely lopsided view of world history. With all due respect to Prof. Schabas (who I think is great) I do not understand why they are either anachronistic or blots. I am extremely naive but I would like to understand why he refers to it as an anachronistic blot

  17. It’s interesting to see what Bernstein considers “undermining.”  To recap: he claimed that Ken Roth basically lied when he said that HRW never endorsed an official Israeli policy to target civilians.  To support that claim, he offered a bunch of quotes that focused on individual acts of targeting and did not mention an official policy.  He then said that, in the absence of a disclaimer to the contrary, we should assume that HRW believes all individual acts are the product of official policy.  Finally, I pointed out, using quotes from Roth and Whitson, that HRW’s consistent practice is to note when it believes individual acts reflect official policy — and that HRW has never claimed that the intentional targeting of civilians reflects official policy.

    So how, exactly, do the Roth and Whitson quotes “undermine the thesis” of my post?

  18. “(Washington, DC) – The Obama administration should fully endorse the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone and demand justice for the victims of serious laws-of-war violations in the conflict, Human Rights Watch said today.” – HRW Press Release, September 27, 2009 (emphasis mine)

    If HRW did not fully endorse the Goldstone Report, including the “finding” that Israel targeted civilians as a matter of policy, why was it asking President Obama to do so?

    Why did HRW release dozens of press releases promoting the report, none suggesting any disagreement with Goldstone Report’s findings, including the allegations that Israel targeted civilians as a matter of policy, if HRW’s official position was that Israel did not target civilians as a matter of policy?

    If HRW believed Israel to be blundering and negligent, rather than malicious and wilful, why didn’t it speak up when Israel’s most vitriolic opponents were relying on the Goldstone Report to portray Israel as morally equivalent to Hamas, which does murder civilians as a matter of policy?

    In light of HRW’s unrestrained promotion of the Goldstone Report, it is rather incredible to suggest that the Roth and Whitson quotes should be interpreted in the light most favourable to Israel.

  19. “So how, exactly, do the Roth and Whitson quotes ‘undermine the thesis’ of my post?”  Easy. You endorse Roth’s claim that “HRW has never argued that Israel intentionally targeted civilians as a matter of official policy.”  You further claim that my quotes (which I still think are decisive) don’t show otherwise.  I then provided two quotes from Roth and two from Whitson where they say that Israel targeted civilians.  Whitson, for example,  stated that Israel Israel violated int’l law by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants and not targeting only combatants (which means they also targeted combatants) and was “launching systematic destructive attacks on civilian targets”.

    Now perhaps there is some perverse way for KJ to argue that criticizing Israel for targeting civilians and launching attacks on civilian targets is not an accusation of targeting civilians, but I’d love to see it. KJ, I think, has to be reduced to arguing that (a) these don’t represent official HRW statements, just the opinions of its two most important figures re the Middle East; and (b) we should not be interpreting any ambiguities in the official statements in light of these comments. Good luck with that.

  20. All one really needs to note is that Bernstein still thinks his original quotes are decisive, indicating that in Bernstein-land words like “indiscriminate” equal “intentional.”  But it’s also worth pointing out how little Bernstein knows about IHL; if he knew anything about it, he would not be equating the intentional destruction of “civilian targets” with the intentional destruction of “civilians.”  As Ken Roth’s editorial makes clear — the one that in Bernstein-land supports Bernstein’s position — he was endorsing, rightly, the idea that Israel intentionally attacks civilian infrastructure, i.e, buildings and the like that do not qualify as military objectives:

    In fact, Israel’s problem is not that the rules are inappropriate for asymmetric conflict, but that the government chose to ignore them in Gaza. As the Goldstone report pointed out, when the Israeli military used such weapons as heavy artillery, flechettes, and white phosphorous (which causes horrible burns) in densely populated areas of Gaza, and when it authorized the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, it flouted the law. No other Western military doctrine today would permit such indiscriminate attacks or deliberate destruction.

    If Roth had meant that Israel deliberately attacked civilians, he would have said so.  Unlike Bernstein, HRW chooses its words carefully.

  21. This is fun, because KJ never lets anyone else have the last word.  First, it’s pretty obvious that civilian targets often have civilians in them. Beyond that, I’m waiting, and I’m sure will wait forever, for KJ’s explanation of how Whitson’s claim that Israel didn’t target just combatants but also civilians really didn’t mean Israel was targeting civilians.

    Not to mention KJ’s explanation of M. Hunziger’s quotation above, in which HRW wants the U.S. to fully endorse the Goldstone Report, while HRW now claims it didn’t fully endorse the G.R.  But I’ve noticed in the past that KJ just responds to points on which he thinks he has at least a plausible response to, and simply ignores the rest.

    And, to conclude my very last post on this issue, I’m very pleased to see, and will quote KJ on this in the future, that HRW has now backed away from any claim that Israel targeted civilians in Operation Cast Lead, and indeed never meant to state or imply as much.  Given that the latter claim is what has motivated much of the post-Gaza two minutes of hate against Israel, I’m glad that HRW, however dishonestly and belatedly, has backed down.

  22. It seems like the Palestinian human rights groups agree with Bernstein on this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/07/richard-goldstone-report-gaza

    Relevant quote: In the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, a number of reports, including those conducted by the UN fact-finding mission, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, concluded that the many civilian casualties and the extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure during Operation Cast Lead cannot be attributed to human error alone. (emphasis added)

  23. Kevin Heller claims that anyone who suggests that HRW does not focus on Hamas enough needs to check the HRW website. The thing is, I have and while the answer is not directly responsive to KH’s charge, they should suffice:

    James Ron and Howard Ramos published a piece for Foreign Policy in November of 2009 which found that from 1991-2000, “Human Rights Watch’s most written on countries were, in descending order, the United States, Turkey, Indonesia, China, Russia, India, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sudan, Israel, and Burma.” Similarly, Amnesty International’s “hit list” was, in descending order, “the United States, Israel, Indonesia, Turkey, China, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Britain, India, Russia, Rwanda, and Burundi (there were 11 countries because of one tie).”

    No Arab country makes the top ten, and given the available numbers, it is probable that even as an aggregate, reports on Arab countries do not outnumber reports on Israel (surely not by “much”). Additionally, it is not too bold of an assumption to state that Israel’s position on the “Human Rights hit list” has worsened post-2000, in the aftermath of the Second Intifada.


    So tell me KH, is it really those who think HRW needs to recheck their agenda who need to peruse HRWs site more, or it HRW unflinching defenders like yourself, who embolden HRWs vendetta against Israel at the expense of more pressing human rights situations (I wonder if you support HRW’s fundraising efforts in Saudi Arabia as well; remember, when HRW tried swaying Saudi donors by showing how critical HRW is of Israel)?

  24. Hmm, according to Zach’s numbers, Israel comes in ninth in the “who does HRW write most about” contest.  That’s quite a vendetta!

    But by all means, Zach, please inform us exactly how many times HRW has to condemn Hamas’s deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians in order to prove it’s bona fides.  Then we can talk.

  25. The best part of Zach’s comment, though, is that he says he has checked HRW’s website and then cites someone else’s study about checking the site!

  26. Looks like KH has a chip on his shoulder. Are you really applauding HRW for placing Israel 9th on the list out of a possible 192 countries?

    And in his second comment, KH condemns me for…wait for it…using data and statistics. I’m sure KH would have preferred it if I showed him a video tape of all the times I’ve accessed and searched the HRW website, but alas, I refuse to indulge voyeurists.

    A simple search on HRW’s website turns up 1890 reports on Israel, and only 372 on Hamas, a rate of 5:1. Of course, this is a silly way to assess HRW’s “hit list” because this merely tracks the keyword’s mention, which explains why a reasonable person would have looked at my previously cited data and said, “Yes, HRW has a problem,” instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks that bear no relation to the substance of my comment.

    As for HRW’s wooing of the Saudis by highlighting how often HRW criticizes Israel, KH is silent (this, of course, means that KH disagrees with HRW itself, because HRW clearly has no problem admitting its Israel problem when it involves Saudi money).

    Can KH justify the existence of more Israeli reports by HRW on Israel than the whole of the Arab World, even though none of the latter are ranked free by Freedom House?

    Based on his previous two comments, he’d rather not even make the attempt.

  27. In my previous comment, “reports” should read “results” because in the HRW context, reports means something specific. Additionally, HRW deals with countries, not groups (Hamas would fall under the broad category of “Israel and the Occupied Territories” on the HRW website), so as I said, a simple search on the HRW website will not turn up the desired results, which is why I provided alternative and substantial data on HRW from an outside source.

    But to add some more data on this, a friend of mine put together a list of HRW reports qua reports and compared the number to the Freedom House rating. He found:

    “The most disproportionate attention is paid to the US (210/4), UK (33/2), Indonesia (88/5), Israel (39/3), Serbia, India, Croatia, Chile and Canada” [with the first number being the number of reports, and the second being the Freedom House rating].

    “The countries with severe human rights issues that are all but ignored by HRW are Laos, Brunei, Oman, and Qatar, each with zero HRW reports. Countries with the worst Freedom House scores of 13 or 14 that had the least reports are Equatorial Guinea (2), Turkmenistan (4), Belarus (4), Eritea (5)  and North Korea (6).”


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