This letter to the Daily Beast is notable for at least three reasons.
(1) First, no weasel words like HRW’s previous statements on the issue. “Goldstone has reconsidered the report’s conclusion that Israel had a policy of deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza—a charge Human Rights Watch never made.” As I noted previously, I don’t think a reasonable observer could read HRW’s reports on Gaza, especially in light of statements by HRW poobahs Ken Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson, and reach that conclusion.
Opinio Juris commenter Michael Huntziger found a particularly damning quote from HRW, one I had overlooked: “The Obama administration should fully endorse the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone.” Advocating full endorsement sure sounds like the equivalent of agreeing with the charges in the report.
(2) Given that the other three Goldstone Report investigators are sticking by the report, HRW is now implicitly suggesting that they are defending unsubstantiated conclusions which HRW itself refuses to endorse. Given that this undermines the credibility of the other three, and they clearly had great influence on the report, what does that say about the credibility of the rest of the report? (Of course, the only reason that Goldstone was appointed to begin with was to add an aura of credibility to a report commissioned by the blatantly anti-Israel UN Human Rights Commission with the preconceived mission of attacking Israel).
(3) HRW brought in Levine to deal with p.r. relative to Israel for two obvious reasons: (a) he has a Jewish surname; and (b) Roth and Whitson get so exercised about Israel that they consistently make public statements that reinforce the perception that they are anything but unbiased human rights advocates. (Whitson, recall, has a poster on her office door of Paradise Now, the movie that empathizes with Palestinian suicide murderers.) Levine seemed to have cooler wits about him.
“Seemed” is the operative word. Here’s how Levine begins his letter, a letter, mind you, written in response to an article by Stuart Robinowitz, a man with longstanding prior ties to HRW:
The distortions, ugly innuendos, and blatant falsehoods about Human Rights Watch’s Middle East work that Stuart Robinowitz recycles here have long circulated through the corners of the Internet occupied by those who believe that Israel can do no wrong and that any report of serious Israeli abuses must be the product of the observer’s bias.
So Levine has joined the HRW crew that responds to criticism of its lawfare against Israel with vitriol and insult. And I can’t let the irony of Levine accusing others of “blatant falsehoods” pass without noting it.