HRW’s subjectivity; or, MENA Behaving Badly

This article was originally posted at the Elder of Ziyon blog.

Visitors to Jerusalem this month can pick up the latest free print edition of the English language magazine ‘This Week in Palestine’ from hotel lobbies and other points of distribution. In this June 2010 edition they will find a plethora of anti-Israel articles all of which reinforce the familiar narrative of Palestinians oppressed by Israelis, without any mention of Palestinian violence, the reasons for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints or the inter-factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The uninformed tourist’s heart will bleed after reading of children in Ramallah who have never had the opportunity to paddle in the Mediterranean Sea during the hot Middle East summer, but of course the various writers invariably neglect to mention that this is a result of the Oslo accords freely signed by Palestinian leaders and not just some spiteful action on the part of Israel.

Among the articles, most of which are designed to work at a purely emotional level and do not allow uncomfortable facts to distract from their message, is one entitled ‘Juthuruna’  by Nadia Barhoum.

“Some mornings we would wake up to shots from the IDF firing range, just a few hundred feet from my aunt’s home. We could see the soldiers, filing one behind the other, aiming at actual cut-outs of bodies with bull’s-eyes drawn across their chests. The sound of the shots was jarring at first, and then slowly became ‘adi, just background noise. I would strangely begin to feel this way about many other aspects of life there; I began to notice the normalization of occupation: waiting hours to get anywhere, identity cards being demanded at every crossing, and the look of worry on Amti’sface when she knew that anyone was going to travel beyond the village. We could not live as we wanted there.”

Heart string-tugging propaganda aside, this piece takes on a more sinister aspect when one realises that Nadia Barhoum works for Human Rights Watch in New York in its Middle East and North Africa division (MENA).
By now we are more than familiar with HRW’s less than objective reports on subjects such as
Jenin , the anti-terrorist barrier, the 2006 Lebanon war and Operation Cast Lead. We are aware that the infamous Goldstone Report  contains over 30 citations from HRW publications and that in 2009 HRW went fundraising in Saudi Arabia using an anti-Israel platform. Many, including HRW’s own founder Robert Bernstein,  are concerned  by the moral poverty displayed by HRW which discredits the entire field of human rights organizations.

Apparently HRW has learned nothing from the recent scandals which sullied its name because here we have yet another one of its employees displaying blatant, if totally unsurprising , pro-Palestinian bias. Assuming that the folks at HRW actually read Barhoum’s CV before they hired her, they would be familiar with the fact that she was an active member in ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ whilst at university and is on record as stating that the SJP’s “message . . . is to resist occupation and end the apartheid-like framework which is found in Palestine-Israel”. Not the sort of core stance conducive to the production of impartial, balanced reports upon the subject of the Israel/Palestine conflict, one would have thought. In fact, one has to take this train of thought one step further and try to imagine HRW hiring a known pro-Israel activist of any shade….

One may well ask if it actually matters that Nadia Barhoum has written a saccharine- sentimental article for ‘This Week in Palestine’, seeing as we are already familiar both with her personal political perspectives and those of the organization by which she is employed.  When one appreciates exactly where this tourist-aimed propaganda originates, one can see that it matters very much.  ‘This Week in Palestine’ is produced by the International Middle East Media Centre which was founded by the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People (PCR). The PCR was founded by Ghassan Andoni and its Director is George Rishmawi; both of whom are co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and indeed the PCR operates under the endorsement and guidance of the ISM. The ISM, as readers are aware, is one of the organizers of the ‘Free Gaza’ flotillas, including the last one which ended in bloodshed aboard the Mavi Marmara due to the inclusion among its participants of jihadist terror supporters seeking martyrdom.

So now we have the rather absurd and surreal situation in which Human Rights Watch has the gall to call for an ‘impartial investigation’ of the flotilla deaths whilst one of the employees in its Middle East division which issued the above statement co-operates with a publication linked to the organizers of that flotilla who have no qualms about welcoming into their ranks jihadists with a death wish and illegally transferring funds to a terrorist organization proscribed by the country out of which HRW operates.

HRW may well be within its rights to continue to weave its tangled web of anti-Israel propaganda, including the employment of staff with connections of various dubious shades and records of blatant anti-Israeli bias. Equally, the rest of the world is well within its rights to relate to HRW as the ridiculous joke it has become. The losers here are the unfortunate people in this world who really do need an impartial, fair and objective body to promote and protect their human rights because HRW’s record on Israel indicates without a shadow of a doubt that it no longer possesses the necessary qualities needed to be considered an apolitical human rights organization and therefore neither its reports nor demands can be granted credence.

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