HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH DEFENDED
Last week, ( JC October 23) there were two separate attacks, an editorial and a letter, on Human Rights Watch’s work on Israel. This follows the publication of two critical commentaries earlier in the year. In all this coverage, your newspaper has not pointed to a single error of fact in our reporting of human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war by Israel and Hamas.
Amid the partisan smears and innuendo, our critics make three serious points about our work. First they say we disproportionately focus on Israel. This is false. Israel accounts for about 15 per cent of our published output on the region. Israel is a small fraction of what we do.
Second, our critics claim that our research is flawed — relying on Pales- tinian witnesses with a political agenda. Wrong again. As in other conflicts, we carefully corroborate the testimony of eye-witnesses and victims.
Third, our critics argue that we should focus on “closed” countries, such as China, rather than on “open” societies such as Israel. We completely reject this. It is a call for double standards which would fatally undermine our credibility. We must apply the same human rights standards to all countries, open and closed. To do otherwise is to indulge in partisanship and solidarity which leads to blindness to the abuses of one side, and blindness to the humanity of the other. Tom Porteous London Director, Human Rights Watch, Pentonville Road, London N1