THE SPINE NOVEMBER 21, 2010
There are a few people who will go down in history as clear-sighted and even heroic founders of the human rights movement which began in the last decades of the twentieth century. Some of them lived in inner exile in the countries that kept them hostage. Some of them lived in external exile longing to go home. A few of them lived in free countries like the United States from which they could carry on their crusades unfettered by cruel regimes and supported openly by the people at home and by their intellectual institutions.
The pre-eminent among these are Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, husband and wife from the old and rotten Soviet Union; Prince Karel von Schwarzenburg, exiled from then Communist Czechoslovakia and now foreign minister of the Czech Republic; Natan Sharansky, "prisoner of Zion" in Communist Russia, now living in Israel; and Robert L. Bernstein, an old-fashion literary and literate book publisher who also happened to be the founder of Human Rights Watch, to which he devoted more than a quarter century of his life. Of course, there are others.
But Bernstein has a certain standing. And he has gotten into a colossal argument with the organization he started. You can read about it in a devastating article, published earlier this year in TNR, by Ben Birnbaum. The odds that the truth will win out here have been considerably shortened by an "ace of spades" $100 million contribution to H.M.W. by George Soros, who knows how to choose the objects of his grandeur and grandiosity when it comes to targeting Israel.
In any case, a speech by Bernstein won't have more power than $100 million. After all, money does talk, and an infinity of cash can clinch an argument.
But it won't hide the truth.