Human Rights Watch flotilla stance mirrors that of US, Israel

Michael Corcoran, Stephen Maher, The Electronic Intifada, 23 July 2010

Supporters of Israel often accuse Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the most prominent human rights organizations in the world, of having an anti-Israel bias or even being anti-Semitic. For instance, a recent lengthy article inThe New Republic accused the group of paying "disproportionate attention to Israeli misdeeds." Similarly, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz has said that HRW exhibits a "willful blindness when it comes to Israel, and its enemies have completely undermined the credibility of a once important human rights organization." Indeed, there is no shortage of other similar critiques of the organization by supporters of Israel.

Given such strong condemnations, one might have anticipated that HRW would have been especially vocal in its criticism of Israel's 31 May attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attempting to deliver aid to Palestinians in Gaza and break Israel's three-year old siege of the territory.

Yet despite the alarms sounded by its most staunch critics, HRW has been mostly silent on the horrific attack. When they have spoken out, they have been notably timid, essentially sharing the same positions as the US government, Israel's closest ally. According to a search of the group's website, the flotilla attack has only been addressed four times. By contrast, Amnesty International (the organization's closest peer) has tackled the issue 17 times, issuing much stronger statements of condemnation than those released by HRW. The jarring difference in how these two human rights organizations have responded to the flotilla attack raises important questions about the functioning of the largest and most reputed human rights organization in the United States.

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