Just about every time I post something about Human Rights Watch, Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris, who served as HRW’s external legal advisor on the trial of Saddam Hussein, posts a nasty response. His response almost never addresses the substance of my post, but instead provides readers with an attack on the messenger, i.e., me.
Today he neglected to comment on HRW founder Robert Bernstein’s astonishing disavowal and critique of the organization he led for twenty years. Instead attacked my post on R. Bernstein for, among other things, suggesting that HRW not just anti-Israel, but “anti-Western,” which he said was a new claim on my part. [Readers are free to go to Opinio Juris themselves, but I’m not going to link and increase Heller’s post’s Google rank.]
I responded in the comments,”I have linked to this post by Prof. Maimon Schwarzschild. You may disagree, but I’d say that organizations staffed by people who implicitly hate the U.S. and Israel is [sic] ‘anti-Western’.” Maimon states, inter alia: “I’ve met one senior Human Rights Watch officer at several symposia in New York over the past few months, and I was genuinely taken aback at her visceral hatred not only for George Bush (that’s to be taken for granted in these circles) but for the US more generally.”
Heller then selectively reprints part of my response, without the link, and writes: “It takes a special kind of myopia to believe that HRW hates any country that supports Israel. (Or perhaps Bernstein thinks HRW hates the US because it opposes things like torture, illegal detention, and the like. I hope he’ll enlighten us.)”
Now, Heller could have disagreed with my conclusion on all sorts of grounds, but he could have at least restated my argument fairly, or at least in a way that remotely resembled what I wrote. I obviously didn’t argue in my comment HRW hates the U.S. because the U.S. supports Israel, much less because HRW opposes torture et al. Rather, what I said was that HRW hires staffers who hate the U.S., and I provided a link to one piece of evidence [a blog comment is generally not the place to get into a lengthy disquisition]– a law professor who recounts that he met a senior HRW staffer who in fact expressed visceral hatred for the U.S. over a several-month period.
It’s possible that Heller wasn’t being dishonest [I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here, even if he doesn’t give it to me], but was just didn’t have the time to read the link carefully, in which case he should of course refrained from saying anything. Not to mention he might have refrained from lecturing me about the “obligation of bloggers to get their facts right.”
UPDATE: Heller follows up with a post on R. Bernstein’s piece, to which he gratuiously adds a claim I “assume as a matter of faith that Israel can do no wrong.” Of course this is absurd on its face, but let me state for the record that I think Israel, being like other democracies run by fallible and not always wise individuals, has done many wrong things. Of course, Heller finds it much easier to resort to cheap rhetorical potshots rather than address the substance of my criticisms of Human Rights Watch.