Human Rights Watch’s Homepage Features…

So President Assad has apparently attacked civilians with chemical weapons, killing hundreds and injuring more. The Egyptian government has slaughtered hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who in turn have been engaging in pogroms against Egyptian Christians. Just for the heck of it, I decided to see which of these stories Human Rights Watch featured most prominently on the front page of its website.

You guessed it!

Neither*. (For those reading this once the home page is changed, here is the story that Human Rights Watch apparently thinks is the single most important human rights issue in the Middle East today.)

*Note, by the way, that it takes HRW until paragraph 5 to note that Israel claims that the homes in question were built in violation zoning rules, and, if you read carefully, you note that HRW, despite the talk of “war crimes,” doesn’t actually dispute that claim, but rather suggests that Israel unfairly restricts Palestinian building. But claims of discrimination-without-adequate-basis against the Palestinian population in granting permits for new buildings in disputed territory, while certainly not outside the purview of a human rights organization, hardly amounts to the “individual or mass forcible transfers” that HRW tries to allege.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the Israel story is likely featured because it’s the most recent press release (though, as another reader points out, not all press releases are deemed important enough to be featured in the “picture box”). Fair enough. But there are two ways of keeping attention on an issue. One is to publish a lot about that issue, the other is to delay extraneous reports on other issues. On number 1, HRW has four releases about the Syrian government this month; by contrast, for example, I count at least fifteen in January 2009 about Israel, during and after the Gaza War. On number 2, why release dubious accusations about Israel when by any reasonable measure more significant things are occurring in neighboring countries? (One possible answer, beyond animus: HRW officials have noted that Arab critics often accuse them of being too soft on Israel. Perhaps they think that criticizing behavior by Arab forces will be better-received if they mix in some Israel-bashing).

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