Human Rights Watch really ought to lay low for a while. Over the past few months, the once-admired watchdog admitted to fundraising in Saudi Arabia as an anti-Israel organization and discovered that one of the writers of its anti-Israel reports is a big fan of Nazi memorabilia. Yesterday, the organization’s founder, Robert Bernstein, published a blistering op-ed in the New York Times accusing the organization of abandoning its mission and becoming obsessed with attacking Israel. (See Noah Pollak’s analysis of HRW’s rebuttal here.)
So what does HRW do? It tries to prove its even-handedness. It has announced that, in its opinion, Hamas — the universally reviled terror organization that has never found an anti-civilian tactic too crude to embrace, the jihadist group that made suicide bombing a form of martyrdom, that lobbed thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian centers and brought on the entire 2009 military operation in Gaza — that this Hamas ought to conduct a “credible investigation” into accusations that it, too, committed war crimes. In a letter penned by the organization’s Middle East and North Africa division head, Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW applauds Hamas’s recent acceptance of the Goldstone Report. “In the past, Hamas tried to justify the unjustifiable by defending unlawful rocket attacks,” Whitson said. “Having now promised to follow the Goldstone Report’s recommendations, Hamas has no excuse for not carrying out serious war crimes investigations.”
Like it did before? Hamas has, of course, promised it will do so right away, and we’re all very glad to hear it. But of greater interest is what such a letter says about HRW. I remember that great scene in The Treasure of Sierra Madre when Walter Huston, the older prospector, yells at his younger and less stalwart fellows, “You’re so dumb, there’s nothing to compare you with!” It’s one of my favorite movie lines because it captures the fact that sometimes something is so outrageous that the mind gropes in vain for an effective metaphor. Asking Hamas, a recognized terrorist group, to conduct an investigation into its war crimes is like, like … what? Is it like asking a Mob family to investigate charges of racketeering in its ranks? Or like asking a congenital liar to go to confession? How about asking a convicted mass murderer to investigate reports about his violent tendencies? Around the free world, people are imprisoned just for membership in Hamas. What could such a letter mean?
Maybe we should let Human Rights Watch just keep opening its mouth.