Tag Archives | Sarah Leah Whitson

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch and the Arab Spring

It’s fascinating to listen again to this talk by HRW Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson (starting at 16:53) from the Summer of 2009. The topic was “Human Rights in the Middle East.” Syria and Libya get barely a mention. Yemen isn’t mentioned at all. Israel gets by far the most negative attention, followed by Egypt and Jordan–apparently singled out because they are U.S. allies and have peaceful relations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority comes in for some criticism for “not representing all the Palestinians,” i.e., not being anti-Israel enough. While Israel is accused of engaging in “apartheid” and routinely violating international humanitarian law, such that the U.S. should rethink its support of its government, Hamas is referred to as the “elected government” in Gaza, which the U.S. shouldn’t try to undermine.

The weirdest moment in the talk, though, is when Whitson points out that no Arab country allows freedom of speech, the cornerstone of a free society. What one example, of all possible examples, does she use to illustrate the lack of freedom of speech? That Arab governments tried to prevent their populations from protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza in the war against Hamas in late 2008/early 2009. Just, WOW!

NGO Monitor comments on now HRW’s obsession with Israel left it unprepared to deal with the emerging events in the Arab world here. […]

Continue Reading 22

Taking the Yglesias Challenge on Human Rights Watch

Matthew Yglesias writes of Benjamin Birnbaum’s piece on HRW in The New Republic:

What I had in mind is that I don’t see what there is to rebut in the piece. As we’ve known for a while, some folks don’t like it that Human Rights Watch criticizes Israel. Some of those people aired their grievances to Birnbaum. But he doesn’t offer any new facts or new analysis or have any relevant expertise in international law. The result is a fairly dull narrative piece detailing how some HRW folks fell out with some other HRW folks over their disagreements about Israel. The piece itself is responsibly written but a bit confusing and doesn’t seem to advance any argument at all, much less a devastating one.

Well, here is my one-line summary of what we learn from the Birnbaum article (which just reinforces what those of us who were paying attention already knew): “HRW’s Middle East division is run by individuals who purport to be human rights activists with no political agenda, but who are in fact far left-wing anti-Israel ideologues who are extremely intolerant of any criticism from within or without the organization.” Birnbaum provides ample evidence on these points, some of which is reviewed here.

I think Sarah Leah Whitson’s and Joe Stork’s (the director and deputy-director of HRW’s M.E. division) bona-fides as far left-wing anti-Israel ideologues masquerading as neutral human rights advocates are well-established by now, but if Yglesias has some new information– e.g., that Whitson didn’t really gush over Hezbollah supporter Norman Finkelstein’s “brilliant mind and generous spirit,” or that she really doesn’t think that, like Finkelstein, the “focus” of her “life’s work” is “Israeli abuses”–let him rebut away.

UPDATE: And, I can’t resist this, it’s priceless. Ygelsias writes of Birnbaum, “But he doesn’t offer any new facts […]

Continue Reading 66