HRW’s Kenneth Roth Fails Reading Comprehension

Via NY Times “The Lede” Blog: In November 2012, Amnesty International tweeted, “Feel enraged by the violence in #Gaza & #Israel? Demand that @netanyahu & @AlqassamBrigade stop attacks on civilians.”

Egyptian activist Mona Seif responded in a tweet, “@amnesty you don’t ask an occupied nation to stop their ‘Resistance’ to end violence!!! SHAME ON YOU!”

Human Rights Director Kenneth Roth, responding to a controversy over the fact that Seif is a finalist for a human rights award for which he is one of the judges, told the N.Y. Times’s “The Lede” blog that “I haven’t seen anything indicating that by ‘resistance’ Mona means attacking civilians.”

Sigh. Now, Seif claims, rather implausibly, that her tweet apparently referring to attacks on Israeli civilians as “Resistance,” coupled with her longstanding public support for Palestinian resistance, did not actually reflect support for attacks on Israeli civilians. But even if you are credulous enough to believe her, you would still have to admit that the tweet itself is “something” that “indicates” “that by resistances Mona means attacking civilians,” and can’t simply be ignored as if the charge against Seif is a figment of the Zionist imagination. If Roth had said, “Mona used intemperate language, but she has now made it clear that she opposes attacks on civilians [she hasn’t; instead, in a very lawyerly statement, she said that “I have never called for nor celebrated attacks on civilians,” which is hardly the same as opposing such attacks] then I wouldn’t give Roth a hard time. Of if Roth had acknowledged that Seif supports attacks on Israeli civilians, but claimed that her true importance is her work on human rights in Egypt, then at least we’d have an honest, debatable position. Instead, we have Roth’s unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious, which is unfortunately of a piece with his and his organization’s general hostile approach to Israel.

In fact, I doubt that Roth actually fails to comprehend that purported human rights hero Seif has supported attacks on Israeli civilians. It’s just that he doesn’t care. [UPDATE: Perhaps I should clarify that I am not drawing an inference that Roth doesn’t care from this particular statement. Rather, I’m drawing it from both a long history of his own often egregiously dishonest statements about Israel and Judaism, and from his stewardship of Human Rights Watch, whose Mideast division is run, with Roth’s enthusiastic consent, by individuals who had a known record of hostility to and activism against Israel before they were hired, and have acted in accordance with that record at HRW. Roth has even, in a weak moment, acknowledged that HRW focused its resources disproportionately on Israel, something HRW spokesmen usually deny. I’ve documented this and more in detail on this blog, and if you’re interested you can google bernstein volokh and “human rights watch.” But in short, while it’s usually wise to give people the benefit of the doubt, Roth has long since forfeited any presumption in his favor; quite the reverse.]