HRW explains (and the hole gets deeper)


I just noticed this: on July 17, Human Rights Watch put out a statement hoping to lay to rest allegations that a senior official, Sarah Leah Whitson, solicited cash from Saudis by dumping not just on Israel, but on the bugbear, the "Israel lobby":

As an organization with a global mandate, we are naturally endeavoring to diversify our financial base and have begun to actively explore funding in regions as diverse as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Accordingly, Human Rights Watch staffers made presentations on our work to two private audiences in Saudi Arabia in May 2009 (as well as to audiences in Amman and Beirut). These were receptions in private homes, hosted by people who were interested in Human Rights Watch and who invited other guests to learn more about us. Among the guests at one of those receptions were the deputy head of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia and a member of the Shura Council, a government-appointed consultative body. Neither of these individuals was solicited for funds, nor would Human Rights Watch ever accept funds from such officials, in any country. Government officials are, of course, important interlocutors for our advocacy on Saudi human rights policy.


At the receptions in Saudi Arabia, we discussed and answered questions about our work in Saudi Arabia, which includes coverage of women’s rights, the juvenile death penalty, domestic workers, and discrimination against religious minorities. No other human rights group has produced a more comprehensive, detailed, and thorough body of work on Saudi Arabian human rights issues in recent years than Human Rights Watch (  

The audience also heard a presentation about the situation in Gaza, which dominated worldwide headlines earlier this year and is naturally a matter of concern to those in the region who are interested in human rights. We feel Human Rights Watch distinguished itself with accurate, sober, and impartial work on the Gaza conflict in early 2009, including coverage of Israel’s use of white phosphorous, as well as Palestinian political violence during the conflict. We also discussed criticism leveled against Human Rights Watch, particularly by US-based groups and commentators, that we are biased against Israel. We sought to juxtapose that criticism with the charges we face in much of the Middle East (and from some Western critics) that our US donor base makes us "soft" on Israeli human rights violations.


* Does/ would HRW solicit funds in Israel?

* Does/Would it do so through presentations that expose human rights abuses by Palestinian authorities and by Arab governments?

* We get it: The targets were private citizens. We also understand that if one is to make representations about abuses, one does so to offficials: "Government officials are, of course, important interlocutors for our advocacy on Saudi human rights policy."

But why are they in the same room? Are we to seriously believe that the HRW official told the potential givers, "We need your money to fight your government’s abuses" and then turned to the government officials and said "Nu, nu nu?"

What about this scenario: The Saudi officials were in the room to consider giving a hechsher to giving to HRW; perhaps the potential givers told HRW, "Hey, we’d like to be generous, but we’d also like not to be royally screwed. How about we get someone official in the room and you make it clear you’re the good guys?"

So then Sarah Leah Whitson goes out of her way to dump on Israel (not unheard of in her case) and: on the Jews.

Is that what happened?

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