Human Rights Watch

Homeward Bound
June 19, 2010

The lady has been an old crone for more than half a century. So it was inevitable that some people in the profession would feel sympathy for Helen Thomas, even in her wicked quintessence. And not only merciful to her person but concerned for her lost job. Yes, Hearst pushed her, but Thomas, intuitively sensing that she would no longer be deferred to by the president or the press corps, went gently. Her wacky game was up. But this is not comedy. And Thomas’s answer to a random question—from a rabbi, it is true—about her current thoughts on Israel were deadly serious.

Fact and Familiarity
June 16, 2010

Restrepo National Geographic Entertainment Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Let It Rain IFC Films “War is hell.” General Sherman’s three-word definition has never been surpassed. He meant to dispel prevalent notions about glory, which he called moonshine. Factual knowledge, he apparently thought, would diminish war. The still camera had already started to support him; now there are also film and video.

Family Business
May 21, 2010

Embarrassment is an important element in the pedagogy of experience. There are mistakes I will never make again because I made them once and was usefully shamed. In the winter of 1974, when I was a bright and callow student, and did not yet grasp the difference between knowledge and knowingness, I endured such a lucky education at the hands of Diana Trilling. The subject was the danger of simplification in the intellectual engagement with politics.

The Downside Of Anger
May 20, 2010

One strange human quirk I’ve just noticed is that people often ignore the substance of what you’re saying and focus instead on how much time you spend saying one thing versus another. A couple days ago, I wrote a reply to Peter Beinart’s much-discussed New York Review of Books manifesto on Israel.

May 14, 2010

If you've been following developments in Darfur, then you know the situation is dire. Last month, the U.N. reported that fighting between the Sudanese army and an obscure rebel faction rendered the Jebel Marra region in southern Darfur inaccessible to humanitarian aid, cutting off some 100,000 Darfuris who had relied on aid agencies for food, water, and medical care.

Goldstone Creamery
May 08, 2010

The other day I wrote about a news report revealing that Richard Goldstone, as an Apartheid-era South African judge, had issued such rulings as acquitting police officers who broke into a white woman's home on suspicion that she was having sex with a black man. Goldstone directed a controversial U.N. Human Rights Council report on Israel's Gaza war. I concluded, "It's morally murky territory -- the ultimate question is whether and to what degree a white South African could take a position such as a judge for a regime that had such despicable laws.

The Case For Birnbaum
April 29, 2010

Earlier this week, I urged you to read Ben Birnbaum's thorough, fair-minded exploration of Human Rights Watch and Israel. If you want another testament to the article, check out HRW's reply. Any long, reported expose of an organization will invariably produce a lengthy response challenging at least some of the details. The amazing thing about this reply is that it contests none of the specific claims in the piece.

Who Will Watch The Watchers?
April 27, 2010

Ben Birnbaum has a long, very carefully reported, and highly convincing article in TNR about Human Rights Watch and Israel. Last fall, the founder of Human Rights Watch resigned from the organization and charged it with anti-Israel bias. Birnbaum's article is not a fulsome denunciation of HRW. It's a very balanced piece of narrative journalism that gives HRW its due, while still establishing two points beyond a doubt: First, the group has attracted people to its Middle East division who tend to be highly unsympathetic to Israel.

Minority Report
April 27, 2010

On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.

CORRESPONDENCE: We’re Actually Good for Israel
April 26, 2010

There is broad consensus on the board of Human Rights Watch in support of its Middle East work in general and its Israel-Palestine work in particular, contrary to the suggestion of "a civil war" over Israel ("Minority Report," May 13, 2010). As the co-chair of HRW's advisory committee on the Middle East and North Africa and long-time (now emerita) member of the board, I have been a part of virtually all conversations about our work in the region in the last twenty years.