The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

HRW and the Lobby

Since I attacked Human Rights Watch on this site for what I still maintain was a biased (in favor of Israel) coverage of the first two weeks (at least) of this summer's Lebanon war, it seems fair to me to bring attention for the virulent attack against HRW and its head, Kenneth Roth, by the usual Zionist agitators in response to its more balanced coverage starting about three weeks into the war. This NYRB article looks at that in depth, especially the role of a newspaper that regular readers will know I consider one of the most dangerous and hateful mainstream publications in the US, the New York Sun:

To the extent that the current campaign against Human Rights Watch is organized the driving force has been a newspaper launched in 2002, The New York Sun, which accused Kenneth Roth of anti-Semitism in a two-column editorial. The Sun is edited by Seth Lipsky, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was the founding editor in 1990 of The Forward, an English-language Jewish weekly that sought to link itself to the tradition of the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper with a social-democratic political outlook that had a wide readership among Yiddish-speaking immigrants. (Isaac Bashevis Singer published most of his work in the Jewish Daily Forward.) But Lipsky was forced out in 2000 because some of the owners of The Forward found him too right-wing. He launched The New York Sun with investments from the publishing tycoon Conrad Black (who is now being prosecuted for corporate crimes) and other financial backers intent on promoting neoconservative views. Black's wife, Barbara Amiel, became a columnist and the Sun's contributors have included right-wing commentators such as R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. and Peggy Noonan.

On July 25, just two weeks after the beginning of the war in Lebanon, the Sun published an attack on Human Rights Watch by Avi Bell, whom it identified as a law professor at Israel's Bar Ilan University and a visiting professor at Fordham University Law School. Bell attacked a Human Rights Watch statement published the previous week entitled "Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah"; he particularly objected to a question it posed, "What is Hezbollah's status in relation to the conflict?," and to the answer supplied by HRW:

Hezbollah is an organized political Islamist group based in Lebanon, with a military arm and a civilian arm, and is represented in the Lebanese parliament and government. As such a group, and as a party to the conflict with Israel, it is bound to conduct hostilities in compliance with customary international humanitarian law and common Article 3.

This was deficient, according to Bell, because it did not address the question of aggression, and he accused Human Rights Watch of "whitewashing Hezbollah's crimes of aggression." Another alleged fault was the failure to label Hezbollah's acts as genocide despite the fact that Hezbollah's leader had made statements indicating a desire to kill Jews. In early September Joshua Muravchik, writing in The Weekly Standard, also criticized HRW's failure to denounce aggression and claimed that HRW failed to accuse Hezbollah of genocide because this would divert it "from its main mission of attacking Israel."
Read on -- it's really a fascinating piece about how some media institutions such as the Sun and that act as an informal right-wing Israel "lobby" of the kind Walt and Mearsheimer wrote about -- as well as about how an institution such as HRW (which despite its different standards for Israel and other states does a great job reporting on the Arab world generally, especially Egypt and Iraq) has to do to defend itself from these attacks.

(By the way: what is it about New York City; it has no decent daily newspaper!?! Don't even bring up the Times...)