HRW's Garlasco Suspended:

N.Y. Times:"A leading human rights group has suspended its senior military analyst following revelations that he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia."

As has become its practice with controversies that don't fit its narrative, the New York Times is extremely late to the controversy over HRW, and its analysis is more than a dollar short. The Times puts the Garlasco controversy in the context of a battle between human rights groups and the Israeli government, as if the government is somehow pulling the strings of dozens of bloggers who've been investigating HRW.

And instead of quoting any of HRW's manifold respectable critics, the reporter quotes a Hebrew U. professor, Yaron Ezrahi, who says that "Human Rights Watch's credibility might have been wounded because Mr. Garlasco's hobby 'has armed the right-wing fanatics' who 'work day and night to demonize any individual or organization that raises questions about the military practices of Israel when they end up even with unintended civilian casualties.'"

The recent controversy over HRW and Israel started with my piece in, based on a blog post here at the V.C., over HRW's fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia, in which Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson sought support from the Saudi elite by demonizing Israel. My views on Israeli war/peace politics are probably somewhere between Ehud Barak's and Tzipi Livni's [in other words, between Israel's center-left and center], though of course I approach things from an American, not Israeli perspective. And my connection to the Israeli government is approximately zero.

The yeoman's work on HRW, including the information that I used for the Saudi Arabia post, has been done by NGO Monitor. I understand from mutual acquaintances that Prof. Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University, who runs NGO Monitor, is a moderate in Israeli political terms.

Plenty of other non-right-wing-fanatics have raised questions regarding HRW's objectivity and accuracy when it reports on Israel. Perhaps the Times could have found out these facts before quoting Professor Ezrahi's nonsense. Of course, that's assuming, probably incorrectly, that reporter John Schwartz didn't go trolling for a quote that supported his pre-conceived story line. (Exactly how did Schwartz get this story, anyway? Fed to him by folks at HRW who recognize a friendly reporter, perhaps? No other news outlets seem to have it.)

The Times somehow manages to avoid mentioning the controversy over the Saudi Arabia trip, the controversy over the vociferously anti-Israel pre-HRW histories of various HRW Middle East staffers which have recently come to light, and the controversy over the inaccuracies and distortion in various recent HRW reports on Israel, particularly its recent reports on white phosphorous and white flags. (You can find the critiques at NGO Monitor's website.) These issues were covered in the news and op-ed pages of newspapers around the world, but not in the "paper of record."

And while falsely portraying HRW's critics as fanatical right-wingers, the Times manages to omit mention of the fact that HRW's top people are, by any objective standard, not simple "human rights advocates" but far leftists in either Israeli or American political terms. So the story is played as "human rights groups vs. right-wing government," and it's obvious despite Mr. Garlasco's suspension which side the reader is supposed to favor.

I've had several requests to open comments to one of these HRW posts, but unfortunately I'll be unavailable for moderating over the next two days, and I just don't do unmoderated comments.