Human Rights organisations are no longer just focuses on social justice issues but very heavily funded, many times to push particular agendas.

By Rolene Marks

The human rights industry is worth billions of dollars. This is serious wonga! According to recent statistics reported by the Business Research Company, the global human rights organizations market size was expected to grow from $16.60 billion in 2021 to $17.47 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate. That is a lot of lucre.

One could see why people are drawn to working for human rights organisations – after all who wouldn’t want to work for what they perceive is a noble and just cause? The two most notable organisations are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. There are notable parallels between these organisations. Both of these once venerated NGO’s were founded by Jews. Both enjoy extremely high profiles and trust. Both are seen as the litmus test for evaluating human rights transgressions. Both have a clear obsession with the State of Israel. Both have seen their original founders publicly distance themselves from the organisations for fear they were headed down a dangerous, agenda driven road.

When an organization, no matter how noble their mandate is, starts to veer off course and head down a very dubious path it often raises question “who is funding them?”

For the purposes of this article, we will take a look at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) describe itself as “an independent, nongovernmental organization, supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. Human Rights Watch does not solicit or accept donations by governments, directly or indirectly.  This includes governments, government foundations, and government officials.  Indirect donations include those that are, or appear to be, made on behalf of a government or government official through an immediate family member, another intermediary, or a foundation.” In other words, this is who funds us; but don’t expect us to tell you exactly who they are. This is a procedure followed by Amnesty International as well and is no indication of untoward practice but when these organisations take a stroll down dangerous lanes, it does beg the question – who is doling out the dough?

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 supportdissenters. 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.”

This has become more and more apparent as HRW turn its focus away from the many human rights atrocities and points a damning finger at Israel. HRW’s former Director Ken Roth who retires next month, has devoted the majority of his online social media presence to singling out Israel – but what else can you expect from someone who once tweeted about “being invited for  coffee with Hezbollah” or that Hamas’ use of tunnels to potentially kidnap Israeli soldiers, did not necessarily contravene international law.

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.

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.

Remember when ice-cream didn’t have an opinion?

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 2021 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 – a strategy Amnesty International also followed in their recent report.

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?

What is extraordinary are the huge salaries received by Roth and his ilk as evidenced in the most recent report featured below.

The cost of hate creation (Courtesy of UN Watch)

While the organization is careful to disclose its financials, it will not disclose which countries, governments, associates etc. write the big cheques.

When a respected human rights organization falls foul of its mandate to the point where its founders raise the alarm bells, one has to ask who is forking out the finance?

Amnesty International

The other “big hitter” in the human rights world is Amnesty International. Founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer. It was originally his intention to launch an appeal in Britain with the aim of obtaining an amnesty for prisoners of conscience all over the world. Before his passing in 2005, Benenson denounced Amnesty International for its fixation of the State of Israel.

Amnesty International (AI) has a well-documented history of anti-Israel and antisemitic activity and this has been exposed by organisations such as NGO Monitor. A huge portion of its budget seems to focus on nefarious ways to undermining and delegitimizing Israel – including its recent report accusing the Jewish state of “crimes against humanity and practicing apartheid”. They managed to magically redefine what Apartheid was in order to push its agenda. 

Antisemitism, hatred and incitement conveyed in a seemingly subtle way with intentional misuse of the term Apartheid (AI)

Examples include its 2015 rejection of a “Campaign against anti-Semitism in the UK” – the only proposed resolution at its Annual General Meeting that was not adopted; comments by its current Secretary General that Israel is a “government that is rogue” and the head of its Finland branch that Israel is a “scum state”; and the fact that no other country in a conflict zone is the focus of similar Amnesty-led boycotts. Amnesty International have routinely hired staff who have posted antisemitic content on social media including Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty UK’s “crisis response manager” who tweeted on November 19, 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon & Luciana Berger walk into a bar….each orders a round of B52s (inspired by @KarlreMarks Bar quips) #Gaza.” The three people he characterized as war-mongers are British Members of Parliament, all of whom are Jewish.

The organisation refused requests to investigate rising antisemitism in the United Kingdom and have routinely embarked on campaigns to promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the Jewish state.

Their above mentioned report released in February this was the bitter cherry on the cake  and has been dismissed by countries including France, the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and many more as it is seen as a clear breach of the widely recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The code adopted by the UK government and other authorities’ worldwide states that it is antisemitic to deny Jews their right to self-determination “by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”. There is genuine concern that this report could add fuel to the already flaming fires of antisemitism.

But Amnesty International have also come under fire. Legal figures and MPs in the UK have called for the UK Charity Commission to consider Amnesty’s status because publishing such a report from its UK office could be a contravention of the clearly stated criteria of the Charity Commission.

Just last month, an independent inquiry into AI’s secretariat found that the human rights organisation has a culture of white privilege with incidents of overt racism. Ouch! (Click and read the full report here).

Some of the accusations include:

Senior staff using the N-word and P-word, with colleagues labelled over-sensitive if they complained.

Systemic bias including the capability of black staff being questioned consistently and without justification, and minority ethnic staff feeling disempowered and sidelined on projects. Micro-aggressive behaviour such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair.

A lack of awareness or sensitivity to religious practices resulting in problematic comments and behaviour, including mocking Ramadan.

Aggressive and dismissive behaviour, particularly over email and often directed towards staff in offices in the global south.

Kieran Aldred, who worked for AIUK as an advocacy officer for three years until 2018 said:

 ““Working for AIUK destroyed my self-confidence, my belief in my capabilities. I didn’t think I was skilled enough to do my job, that any organisation would ever hire me, let alone promote me, and I suffered from ongoing depression and anxiety.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“It is critical in the change that we need to make at Amnesty UK that we acknowledge that his report makes abundantly clear the scale of the transformation we must make to change lots about Amnesty UK as a place to work.”

This is the same organization that spends a fair chunk of cash writing reports, trotting out “experts” like notorious anti-Israel activist, Miko Peled, running seminars and putting up posters and billboards accusing Israel of Apartheid.

These two organisations are not the only heavily funded, agenda rife NGO’s. There are many others. This is not to say all human rights organisations have flung out their mandates in favour of disproportionate focus on the Jewish state.

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine rages on and with it a trail of human rights abuse and China continues to imprison Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, Christians murdered in Nigeria, Iran hangs dissidents and members of the LGBTQI+ community and many other crimes against humanity continue, perhaps the megabucks poured into the human rights industry is best spent focusing on their plight and not on rallying up hate against the Jewish state.

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).


  1. Great expose’ !!
    Given that both AI and HRW are loath to disclose who and where their funding is derived from, it can’t be too difficult to dig up such info. Reading both Bill Browder’s books, “Red Notice and Freezing Order” he details how easy it was to follow the flow of dirty money and the authority’s ability to track and find the source of such funds. Therefore, to find those funders shouldn’t be too difficult. No doubt just as those nefarious money launderers spared no effort in blocking investigations, both AI and HRW will try similar tactics, but such investigations must be far easier, especially given the racial connotation.

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