Is Human Rights Watch Targeting Israel?

The Human Rights organisations seems to be focusing a lot of attention on Israel – at the expense of other conflicts around the world.

By Rolene Marks

Ken Roth has an obsession. Hardly a day goes by without Ken fixating on the State of Israel. Ken Roth is the Director of Human Rights Watch, an alleged (and I don’t say this lightly!) social justice orgnaisation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) mandate is to be a watchdog for human rights violations all over the world. Ken Roth has decided that the focus of his efforts should be on Israel. Israel is an imperfect country but is a democracy with the rule of law. It seems that lately, Ken Roth is fixated on Israel and this is evident in his almost obsessive tweeting about the Jewish state.

Hardly a day goes by without multiple tweets from Ken, pushing a clearly negative narrative and dare I say, agenda? A few weeks ago, he had the audacity to blame rising antisemitism on the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza during the recent conflagration between Israel and Hamas, using an article from left-leaning publication, Ha’aretz to try and bolster his claim. This resulted in a mega-pile on from organisations and individuals alike who called him out on his flagrant antisemitism.

Tablet Senior Writer Yair Rosenberg tweeted, “Here’s the director of Human Rights Watch blaming Jews for antisemitism. Antisemites, like all bigots, have used alleged acts of their targets to justify attacks on them (‘they killed Jesus! they swindle!’). Obscene for an ostensible human rights group to push their propaganda.” He added in a later tweet: “Antisemitism wasn’t caused by Jews ‘killing Jesus’ in the Middle East centuries ago. That was the bigot’s excuse. Antisemitism isn’t caused by Israeli actions in 2021. That’s the bigot’s excuse. Antisemitism is caused by the hate of the bigot, who will always find a new excuse.”

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer noted that Roth had issued his tweet during Tisha B’Av “when Jews mourn the destruction of their Temple & sovereignty in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Since then, the Jews faced burnings, expulsions and the Holocaust. Now there is Israel. We’re thrilled & proud. And we’ll never take lessons from an antisemite.”

Roth tried to walk back his Tweet, saying “Interesting how many people pretend that this tweet justifies antisemitism (it doesn’t and I don’t under any circumstances) rather than address the correlation noted in the Haaretz article between recent Israeli government conduct in Gaza and the rise of UK antisemitic incidents.”

But Sam Sokol, the author of the Haaretz article, tweeted that Roth had used “an article I wrote to try and bolster his point. And it does nothing of the sort.”

But Roth has not stopped there. It has become a daily activity amongst Israel advocates and our allies to call Roth out on his obsessive tweeting about Israel while staying silent on gross human rights violations across the world. He could tweet about the Palestinian Authority crackdown on journalists and critics or the million + Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps in China, or the Biafran people in Nigeria, or the genocide of Christians in that country. There are sadly, countless other conflicts or oppressed people that could do with a smidgeon of Ken’s attention.

Instead he turns his attention to Israel, accusations of Apartheid, excoriating Israel’s leadership – all with a generous serving of Ben & Jerry’s boycott endorsements.

It is no coincidence that Roth is focusing so much attention on the overpriced ice-cream manufacturers boycott, after all it was his colleague, Omar Shakir, who advised the Ben & Jerry’s board.

Omar Shakir, the Director of HRW Israel-Palestine, was booted out of the country in 2019 for BDS activities that contravened Israel’s laws. He has now dedicated his energy and time to publishing reports accusing the Jewish State of war crimes during the May conflagration and a separate one accusing the country of practices of Apartheid – while scarcely a mention about any transgressions from Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Shakir even went so far as to totally redefine the term Apartheid to push his agenda.

Going but not Gone. Departing at Ben Gurion Airport in 2019 after being expelled from Israel, American citizen Omar Shakir, the director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has been recently advising Ben & Gerry’s as well as publishing reports accusing Israel of war crimes and Apartheid.(Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

If it smells a lot like vendetta, it probably is.

Robert L Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights watch eventually turned against the organization that he started with noble intentions.

In an op-ed in the New York Times in October 2009, he wrote

“As the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.”

Man of Principle. In a 2009 op-ed for The New York Times, Robert Bernstein accused Human Rights Watch – the organization he helped found in 1978 and long oversaw – of being grossly biased against Israel.  (Elisabeth Bernstein)

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world, many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens, who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighbourhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

(excerpt from article: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/opinion/20bernstein.html)

In 2014, Roth all but endorsed Hamas’ use of tunnels to potentially kidnap Israeli soldiers, hinting that this did not contravene international law.

Can HRW, an organization that practices such flagrant bias and whose Directors are routinely accused of antisemitism not just by Jews but by notable politicians and other high profile people, still be taken seriously or even considered a human rights organisation?

The evidence points to the contrary but with high-profile events like the 20th Anniversary of the UN Conference on Racism taking place next month, HRW is bound to enjoy some attention as they present their “findings”. At least ten countries will be boycotting this event out of concerns for a repeat of the 2001 conference that became nothing short of an antisemitic and anti-Israel festival of hatred.

Venomous Hate. At least ten countries will be boycotting the 20thanniversary of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism Conference out of concerns for a repeat (seen here) of that antisemitic and anti-Israel hatefest in Durban, South Africa. (Archives: AFP)

Many of us are concerned about what will result from this conference, especially in light of escalating global antisemitism. This is where human rights organisations should lead the fight against antisemitism but for HRW, those days are long gone.

They discredit the dignified and noble memory of their founder – and the very foundations upon which they were formed.




While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

One thought on “Is Human Rights Watch Targeting Israel?

  1. Rolene Marks outdoes herself in this hard-hitting article. The truth should always be uncompromising and Rolene succeeds brilliantly in this case. The pitiful mewling of the blinkered, fulfilling their haters’ raison d’état that their deplorable militancy has taken them deserves the unrelenting criticism leveled at them. “Hate has caused a lot of the world’s problems, but up to now has not solved one.”

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