The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Is Human Rights Watch racist?

OK, I know a few of the people who work at the Middle East section of Human Rights Watch, and a lot of the people who work with them. I have tremendous respect for the work they do detailing abuses in Arab countries and helping train local rights activists. I know that they are frequently under pressure to be careful about their coverage of Israel because a lot of their funding comes from pro-Israel American Jews. But this possibly tops it all. If you go to their home page, you see two stories. Here is the first paragraph of the first one:

Israel: Investigate Attack on Civilians in Lebanon

IDF Must Take Precautions to Protect Civilians Fleeing Areas at Risk

(Beirut, July 17, 2006) – The Israel Defense Forces should provide details about a bombing on Saturday that killed 16 people in a convoy of civilians fleeing a Lebanese village near Israel’s border, Human Rights Watch said today. Under international humanitarian law, all parties to an armed conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect civilians fleeing areas at risk.
And here is the first paragraph of the second:

Lebanon: Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Haifa Designed to Kill Civilians

Anti-personnel Ball Bearings Meant to Harm “Soft” Targets

(New York, July 18, 2006) – Hezbollah's attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.
No mention of deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel, although it is clearly doing that (and quite successfully.) Obviously its weapons do not hurt "soft targets" -- except, oh wait, the Lebanese government says they're using phosphorus bombs and vacuum bombs (thermobaric bombs, possibly the most lethal conventional weapons around). Perhaps this should be investigated? After all there have been many reports of people having phosphorus burns now.'

Earlier HRW had issued a call to avoid hitting civilians in both countries. But now that this has happened, a little even-handedness might be in order.