Human Rights Watch To Increase Focus on Terrorism

By Marc Perelman

Published July 29, 2005, issue of July 29, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Human Rights Watch announced that it is creating a new senior position to handle terrorism issues, leading one right-leaning Israeli watchdog to take credit for the move.

The Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor issued a statement last week giving credit for the move to its own reports, which alleged an anti-Israel bias on the part of Human Rights Watch. In its statement, NGO Monitor said that Human Rights Watch had taken “an important step in the right direction” and asserted that by creating the new post the organization was acknowledging its “failure to date to consider the human rights impact of terror attacks in Israel, the U.S., and elsewhere.”

The claims were rejected by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Roth said that his organization’s decision to create the position of terrorism/counterterrorism project director was a result of a budget increase and would not alter the group’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which has angered Israel and many of its supporters.

“We already have a researcher dealing with the issue and the new position won’t change anything,” Roth told the Forward, before taking aim at the head of NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, director of the program on conflict management at Bar Ilan University. In reference to Steinberg and NGO Monitor’s recent boasting, Roth said: “Such a claim can only be made by a man who looks at the world through a mirror.”

Steinberg, Roth added, “hates us because we are one of the only international human rights organizations working in the area.”

Steinberg stood by his claim that Human Rights Watch was changing its approach to terror as a result of external pressure.

NGO Monitor is run by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which is headed by Dore Gold, an informal adviser to Prime Minister Sharon.

Despite his feelings about NGO Monitor, Roth acknowledged that some of the recurring criticism of his organization from Jewish groups was constructive. Still, he added, often the real issue is that “some people can’t stand criticism of Israel at all.”

In recent years, Human Rights Watch has earned some rare praise from Jewish organizations for denouncing suicide bombings as crimes against humanity.

Roth said that the organization’s criticism of Israel had caused one major Jewish donor to cut funding, but said that the loss had been more than balanced out by a surge in contributions, especially in the last year, including large ones from Jewish donors.

Roth said the group’s budget has jumped from around $22 million to $28 million over the last year, allowing a build-up of its terrorism staff, including the hiring of an Arabic speaker based in Cairo and the upgrading of its Arabic Web site to spread its human-rights message to Arab countries.

“We have been adding positions across the board and we have been building up our terrorism staff,” Roth said. “This is a way for us to consolidate those efforts and have a more senior person provide strategic guidance.”

At the same time, the organization has also focused on policies adopted by governments in the name of cracking down on terrorism.

“Dealing with terrorism is a huge issue for us since 9-11 because it directly impacts the values we defend,” he said. “Counterterrorism has become a new excuse for human rights abuses and we will pull no punches against any government, be it Russia, the United States or Israel.”

In addition to its campaign against Human Rights Watch, NGO Monitor also took aim earlier this year at the left-leaning New Israel Fund. At issue was the New Israel Fund’s decision to grant a law scholarship to Shamai Leibowitz, an critic of Israeli occupation who had advocated the transformation of Israel into a bi-national state. In particular, NGO Monitor attacked the New Israel Fund after Leibowitz, the grandson of the liberal Orthodox philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, spoke out in favor of “selective sanctions” against Israel, including divestment.

After complaints from donors and board members, New Israel Fund officials said the group would review its grant policy. The organization said the matter was still under review.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.