Rights group is biased on Israel, says its own founder

October 22, 2009
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Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead. HRW accused Israel of committing war crimes there in January

Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead. HRW accused Israel of committing war crimes there in January

The founder of Human Rights Watch has blasted the group for “writing report after report about Israel” while ignoring the rest of the Middle East.

“The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records,” wrote Robert Bernstein in the New York Times on Monday. “Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.” Mr Bernstein was the chairman of HRW from 1978 to 1998. He said the group had abandoned its original mission of reporting on closed societies and that democratic societies like Israel could correct their own mistakes.

The organisation came under fire this summer after its Middle East director told a Saudi Arabian audience that it needed their money to battle “pro-Israeli groups”. It later emerged that its Middle East deputy director had justified the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and that one of HRW’s senior military analysts was a collector of Nazi memorabilia.

HRW issued a statement claiming that its work on Israel was “a tiny fraction” of what it did, adding that it “does not believe that the human rights records of ‘closed’ societies are the only ones deserving scrutiny”.

Last updated: 6:04pm, October 22 2009