Commentary Magazine


Time for Honesty

Robert L. Bernstein, chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998, took to the pages of the New York Times yesterday to offer a scorching indictment of the group he previously led. In doing so, he offers some important insights not only into Human Rights Watch but also like-minded Israel bashers, whether they masquerade as a serious international body (the UN Human Rights Council) or as a pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street).

Bernstein notes the ludicrous imbalance that permeates the thinking and activities of Human Rights Watch: “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.” As he continues, Israel — which is “home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world” — is subjected to report after report and condemnation after condemnation, while the Arab world’s atrocious human-rights record gets a free pass. Hmm. Sounds pretty much like the UN and J Street as well.

As for Hamas and Hezbollah, Bernstein notes that while these groups wage a despicable war (supported by the Iranian regime), Human Rights Watch doesn’t seem much concerned about their war crimes. He writes:

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

Well, this too is par for the course for the UN and J Street.

Bernstein deserves credit for a full-throated denunciation of the group. He reminds us that there are, unfortunately, no truth-in-labeling laws to prevent virulently anti-Israel organizations from disguising their true mission. What is required is for those who don’t share the anti-Israel agenda to call them out and label them for what they are.

The U.S. has no business lending its name to the UN Human Rights Council. It should, if the White House were not bent on a fanatical mission to ingratiate itself with the world’s miscreants, denounce the council as a hotbed of anti-Israel bias and get out. As for J Street, it’s one thing for lawmakers to lend their name to a group when no due diligence has been done. It’s quite another to remain mum once the nature of that organization has been laid bare. It is, as the Obama administration tells us, time to be honest about what these groups are and what they really believe.

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