Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Human Rights Watch Watch, next Installment

Jeffrey Goldberg from center left, and Noah Pollak from sort of right, both warmly recommend Benjamin Birnbaum's long piece in The New Republic about Human Rights Watch and Israel.

Someday perhaps a historian will set out to unravel the sorry tale of Human Rights Watch and Israel. He or she will gain access to the organization's archive and will peruse all the reports, but also the story behind them. Who was put on which stories and with which intentions. What was said at which meeting. Which funds were solicited, and with which strings attached (there are always strings attached, make no mistake). She'll figure out what external players were important, why, and she'll track their paper trail (well, digital paper trail). Her study will probably be mildly devastating, and thereafter it will be cited in the footnotes of three separate books on the history of antisemitism in the early 21st century. Then the matter will sink into the oblivion it probably deserves. Israeli high-school students of the mid-22nd century will not have heard of HRW.

Birnbaum's report isn't that research. He's a journalist, not a researcher. His effort, however, is available now, not in that distant then, and it's important reading if you're of the opinion that HRW is a significant actor in the war of words against the Jewish state.

A short synopsis, if you lack the time or inclination to read the report:
1. The HRW folks who focus on Israel really really don't like us.
2. They scrupulously refuse to deal with the context of Israel's actions. This means, they are structurally dishonest.
3. The HRW folks have extremely thin skins - they can't stand criticism - which they guard by doing their best to shut out anyone who might offer any criticism.

You'd think that last point would be odd coming from people who's entire undertaking is the dishing out of criticism - but only if you've not been paying attention to any of them. If you have been paying attention, it's a banal observation. Of course they've got thin skins. They are holier than the rest of us, and aspersions on holy people are heretic.


aiwac said...

The article is fascinating; kind of like watching a train wreck in action.

BTW, I'm curious as to why you haven't mentioned the whole dust-up over at Betzelem with Lizi Sagi. If HRW was a train wreck, this was an airplane wreck...

AKUS said...

Not only do these organizations have thin skins, they play by a set of rules which boil down to this:

We criticize anyone and everyone and that is a fair and honest view of the situation because we are better and know better than everyone even when we are wrong.

When we are criticized, that is a dishonest attack on freedom of expression and democracy by those who have no right to respond to our criticisms, no matter how ill-founded they are.