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Founder and Board Member of HRW Blast HRW's Anti-Israel Bias

5:30 PM, Aug 26, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Maybe it was the fact the latest revelation that the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division, Joe Stork, had praised the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics that finally forced some introspection at the organization, but two members of the Human Rights Watch board have now broken ranks with their own organization to criticize the obvious bias in its handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Allison Hoffman buries the lede in her article for Tablet, but it doesn't matter -- she's got the goods:

At a time when Jews are anxious about how Israel will fare in negotiations with the Obama administration over a peace deal with the Palestinians, the Stork and Whitson affairs present an unfamiliar problem to HRW: how to reassure liberal Jews, including HRW's founder and one of its current board members, worried that the organization is playing into the hands of anti-Israel activists from New York to Riyadh. Whether or not its staff actively seek out ways to target Israel, as Netanyahu's office claims, by appearing to focus so many of its resources on Israel-five reports have been issued already since the Gaza War, three of them criticizing the IDF's conduct, and another report about Israel's "wanton destruction" is forthcoming-and by hiring people like Stork and Whitson, HRW, under executive director Ken Roth, leaves those doubts unanswered. "Ken feels their facts are right, and the critics are wrong, next case," said Sid Sheinberg, the former Hollywood mogul and vice-chair of HRW's board. "I don't believe that's the way the Israelis should be treated."...

"They frequently say, ‘We're trying to be evenhanded,'" said Robert Bernstein, the founder of Helsinki Watch and now a board member emeritus at HRW. "I don't understand trying to be evenhanded, because to me Israel is interested and a believer in human rights and it stands out in the Middle East as practicing it in their country." At its inception, he said, Helsinki Watch planned only to operate in closed societies-undemocratic, illiberal countries without freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and other basic rights. Operating in open, democratic societies like Israel is complicated because, as Bernstein noted, there are domestic organizations, like B'tselem in Israel, that do "a beautiful job" of holding their own governments accountable. "If you could cover every human rights act, it would be fine," Bernstein said. "But you can't, so you have to make choices about what you cover, and once you make choices, you're political, whether you want to be or not." The overall result of HRW's current work, he added, "is to say we're being evenhanded in a way that makes it come out that both sides are equal abusers of human rights-I don't agree with that."

Until Joe Stork and his boss, Sarah Leah Whitson, are fired from Human Rights Watch -- her for pandering to anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia and him for being a flat-out terrorist sympathizer -- the organization will have no credibility to weigh in on the most important conflict in the Middle East. Supporters of Israel will dismiss its reporting out of hand, which should be cause for concern even among those who somehow believe it is the democratic government of Israel rather than the militant terrorist organization Hamas that represents the greater threat to human rights. Stork was caught praising the Munich Massacre and didn't even deny it in his response!

If HRW really cares about the civilians caught in the crossfire in Israel -- and it's not at all obvious that they do -- then they will drop these two and try to recapture some of the credibility that they so badly squandered. Then Stork and Whitson can move on to getting Freedom Medals from Obama, and all the other great career opportunities for anti-Semites in Washington.