Daniel Levy's Defense of Human Rights Watch:

You can read it here. Levy writes:

The apparent trigger for this assault on a group that represents the global gold standard in human rights monitoring, analysis, and advocacy, was a visit by HRW's Middle East-North Africa director, Sarah Lee Whitson, to the Saudi kingdom. I happened to find myself on a panel at The Century Foundation discussing the Middle East with Whitson just days before this storm broke — I went back and watched tapes of that panel discussion. To accuse Whitson of being soft on the Saudis or somehow singling out Israel for criticism is quite astonishing as I'm sure you'll agree if you take ten minutes to listen to her presentation — of that, more in a moment.

Okay, so I listened. If you have any illusions about HRW's neutrality or objectivity re Israel and its neighbors, you should too.

Whitson had a fifteen-minute presentation on human rights in the Middle East. She spends approximately three minutes and thirty-five seconds describing Israel's alleged violations of international law and human rights. Her presentation of the relevant facts and relevant international law is tendentious in the extreme [Gaza, with not a single Israeli soldier or civilian, is "occupied?" Israel "transferred" its population to the West Bank? Using white phosphorous to illuminate targets violates international law?]. She accuses Israel of apartheid. She consistently refers to the wars in Lebanon and Gaza as "Israel's wars," even though, obviously, they were fought against foes that were launching cross-border attacks against Israel's civilian population and which declare themselves to be at war with Israel. She accuses Israel of war crimes, including "indiscriminate" bombing of South Lebanon, which, given the low civilian casualty in the second Lebanon War--even Hezbollah puts the total in the high hundreds, while Israel says low hundreds, out of a population of hundreds of thousands--from a nation with one of the most powerful air forces in the world, is absurd. If Israel had engaged in indiscriminate bombing, casualties would have been in the tens of thousands. I expect foes of Israel to engage in such hyperbole, but Whitson is supposed to be an "objective" human rights advocate.

And after Whitson's several minute-long exhaustive survey of Israel's alleged sins, she spends all of approximately twelve seconds on Hamas and Hezbollah, and this is the total of what she said: "of course there are also violations of international humanitarian law by the armed groups that are fighting Israel, namely Hamas and Hezbollah, but of course there are armed groups that have been in conflict with them [sorry this isn't coherent--ed.]. And that's something Human Rights Watch has documented." That's it.

After the exhaustive list of Israel's alleged crimes, no mention of

  • Hamas's suicide murders
  • Hezbollah and Hamas's indiscriminate (really indiscriminate) lobbing of missiles into Israel
  • H & H's use of human shields, use of civilian establishments for military purposes, and failure to wear military uniforms
  • the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers
  • Hamas's reign of terror against Christian Palestinians
  • Hezbollah's threat to democracy in Lebanon
  • Syrian and Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism
  • Hamas's murder of Fatah supporters
and so forth and so on.

She then spends several more minutes criticizing U.S. aid to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, with additional specific criticisms of Israel thrown in, and suggests the U.S. should be nicer to Hamas and less supportive of Fatah.

And note that this was a speech to an American audience. God knows what she said in Saudi Arabia. And God knows what she thinks privately, as opposed to what she reveals publicly. Somehow Levy hasn't persuaded me that this speech shows that Whitson doesn't single out Israel for criticism in the U.S., much less when she's on a fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia.