The credibility of NGOs like Human Rights Watch depends on their being above and apart from the conflicts they monitor – to not take sides. Human Rights Watch has been criticized by many, including its founder, for giving up all objectivity an adopting an anti-Israel campaign.
Their grudge against Israel has been clear for a while, and David Bernstein has written about it frequently here.
Now, we find evidence of direct personal animus. A news story reveals a private Facebook group whose members include a medley European journalists, NGO officials, and far-left activists. Recently the group turned to discussing an Israeli government report that the famous killing of a Palestinian boy at the start of the Second Intifida was in fact staged. Not only was he not shot by Israel, as much prior evidence suggested, he appears not to have been killed at all. (It would not be the last time Palestinians elaborately staged deaths for PR purposes.)
The issue is not the IDF report, but the comments made about it by Peter Bouckaert, HRW’s Emergencies Director (responsible for civilians in wartime, according to his twitter page). He wrote: “Typical IDF lies. As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood.”
He goes on the complain that the New York Times coverage of the Israeli report will be used by supporters of Israel.
I previously criticized HRW for releasing reports on alleged Israeli crimes without waiting for the IDF’s comments – now we know: why wait for a “typical lies” that just build up the more time they get? Seriously, HRW should reveal what reports the “emergencies director” was involved in writing.
Academic writing on human rights and international law often treats groups like HRW as custodians of the truth, and accepts their claims without much further scrutiny. That practice is methodologically unsound.
UPDATE: Buockaert is apparently responsible for the HRW report on the 2nd Lebanon War, entitled “Why the Died,” which accuses Israel of war crimes largely based on relies on (favorable) credibility judgements regarding Lebanese testimony about whether certain targets were Hezbollah sites. The report also admits significant errors in earlier report (that doesn’t make them lies!).