This is a lethal blow to Hu­man Rights Watch

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - MARTIN BRIGHT

THE IN­TER­VEN­TION FROM Robert L Bern­stein in the de­bate over the cred­i­bil­ity of Hu­man Rights Watch is be­yond dev­as­tat­ing.

Mr Bern­stein founded the or­gan­i­sa­tion and was its chair in the two decades from 1978 to 1998, dur­ing which time HRW built it­self into one of the most re­spected mon­i­tors of state abuse in the world. His op-ed piece in the New York Times ac­cuses the present lead­er­ship of los­ing its way over the is­sue of Is­rael.

But far more se­ri­ously, it ac­cuses his suc­ces­sors of be­tray­ing the found­ing prin­ci­ples on which Mr Bern­stein and oth­ers built the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

In par­tic­u­lar he points to the dis­tinc­tion HRW once made be­tween demo­cratic and un­demo­cratic worlds; closed and open so­ci­eties. Put like this it seems an ob­vi­ous point to make. But it some­times takes some­one of Robert Bern­stein’s au­thor­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence to cut through the cant of a de­bate like this.

The key para­graph in the piece is this: “The re­gion is pop­u­lated by au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes with ap­palling hu­man rights records. Yet in re­cent years Hu­man Rights Watch has writ­ten far more con­dem­na­tions of Is­rael for vi­o­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional law than of any other coun­try in the re­gion.”

This is not to say that Is­rael (or any other demo­cratic coun­try) is be­yond con­dem­na­tion. It is quite pos­si­ble to ar­gue that Robert Bern­stein’s purist stance on the dis­tinc­tion be­tween closed and open so­ci­eties is out of step in the age of Abu Ghraib and Guan­tanamo.

But it is hard not to draw the con­clu­sion that Hu­man Rights Watch’s claims to in­de­pen­dence are now in tat­ters.

Hu­man Rights Watch has al­ready been se­ri­ously dam­aged by the rev­e­la­tion that Marc Gar­lasco, a se­nior mil­i­tary an­a­lyst used by the or­gan­i­sa­tion to in­ves­ti­gate Is­rael, was a col­lec­tor of Nazi mem­o­ra­bilia.

It is dif­fi­cult to see where Hu­man Rights Watch can go from here. Its cred­i­bil­ity is now shot.

This is no small mat­ter. Hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions are not there to act as a com­fort blan­ket for the con­science of lib­eral bleed­ing hearts. They per­form an es­sen­tial func­tion in un­cov­er­ing abuse and rep­re­sent­ing the voice­less.

It is no one’s in­ter­est to have a vacuum where Hu­man Rights Watch used to be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.