Lay Off Israel, Human Rights Watch: Founder

Group founded to light closed societies has gone astray
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2009 9:42 AM CDT
In this Jan. 18, 2009 file photo Palestinians gather belongings in the rubble of buildings after Israeli troops withdrew from the northern Gaza Strip, in Jebaliya refugee camp.   (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)
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(Newser) – Human Rights Watch has lost its way, writes founder and chairman emeritus Robert L. Bernstein. The once even-handed organization has launched a jeremiad against Israel—a liberal democracy with a “vibrant free press”—while effectively ignoring abuses in closed, autocratic societies in the region it was created to address. Democracies like Israel have a civil society with the “ability to correct” abuses, Bernstein writes. HRW’s scrutiny is desperately needed elsewhere.

“Judging by the amount of news coverage,” Bernstein writes in the New York Times, Israel has “probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world.” But the locus of reported abuses—the Palestinian territories—is closed, and reports are necessarily suspect. To correct the lack of information, HRW must reengage in the hard-to-reach places that truly need its help, and not cast aside its "important distinction between open and closed societies.”