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 or new analysis or have any relevant expertise in international law.” I certainly hope he’s not arguing that journalists should only write about subjects in which they have real expertise, or his blog is going to be awfully silent. Or did I miss Yglesias’s Ph.D. in Korean Studies?

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