The assault on Human Rights Watch and Shawan Jabarin

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

A little wave came out of the Israeli agitprop machine yesterday: Harold Evans wrote a piece in the Daily Beast, soon amplified  by one of the Washington Post’s resident Israelists, Jennifer Rubin. They attacked Human Rights Watch, the venerable organization once called Helsinki Watch, where it monitored Soviet bloc compliance with the Helsinki Accords.

HRW now has a global reach and still shines a light on practices which dictatorships and oppressive regimes prefer would go unnoticed. 

Recently, HRW appointed Shawan Jabarin, a West Bank Palestinian activist, to its Mid East advisory committee. Like all politically active Palestinians, Jabarin has been subject to decades of harassment by Israel—travel bans, detentions, the typical kind of thing. Many of the actions against him have been justified by Israeli courts by reference to “secret evidence”. On that basis, Evans and Jennifer Rubin label Jabarin a “terror activist.” An Israeli agitprop outfit, NGO Monitor, references Jabarin’s connections as a student activist in the 1980’s with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group which carried out several high profile airline hijackings about forty years ago. 

In a pointed letter to the Daily Beast, HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson noted that Jabarin has a long and internationally recognized career as a human rights activist and a dense record of cooperation with Israeli human rights groups. Next to that accusations of terrorism based on murky “secret evidence” and ties to a group which was active two generations ago don’t mean very much. I concur completely. 

But the episode underscores another question: what are Palestinians supposed to do to fight for their rights? Three facts always belong in that discussion. Two involve the former Israeli prime ministers, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Both worked at the highest levels of organizations seriously engaged in terrorism in the years leading to Israel’s founding—deploying terror against Arab civilians and British troops. Together the two make up their own cornerstone of the cliché “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Because their cause was victorious, the two have been received with pomp and circumstance in Congress and the White House, and are of course revered in Israel and by Israel’s friends in the US.

To the cases of Begin and Shamir should be added the statement made in 1998 by former Israeli general, prime minister and current defense minister Ehud Barak. Asked by an Israeli journalist what he would have done if he was born Palestinian, Barak replied simply “I would have joined a terrorist organization. ” I assume there is not much to the “secret evidence” against Shawan Jabarin. But what if there were? On what basis does anyone put Palestinian terror on different moral plane than that initiated by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Why not try to judge both acts by a single standard?

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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19 Responses

  1. Citizen
    February 17, 2011, 2:18 pm

    Phil, I suggest you ask your childhood pal, Dick Witty, the self-proclaimed liberal Zionist and frequent commenter here, that question. I’m sure he will be glad to explain to you the difference, and, for sure, we’d like to see his explanation here. Recently he’s dissed the idea of universal rights as a tool of anti-Zionists. He’s implied to us that back in the heady days of US domestic dissent over Jim Crow and the Vietnam War he was of a different opinion about universal human rights–at least respecting those old issues.

  2. fuster
    February 17, 2011, 3:36 pm

    If Jennifer Rubin doesn’t like it, it’s probably a good idea.
    Loathsome writer, can’t reason worth a lick, and makes a perfect hire for the Washington Post. No one can accuse them of liberal bias as long as they give space to a knuckle-dragging reactionary Rubin.

  3. Jeffrey Blankfort
    February 17, 2011, 3:38 pm

    I would like to put in a needed word for Human Rights Watch which in recent years has become a major target of the Ziontern, with Canadian-Israeli Gerald Steinberg’s “NGO Monitor” making it a special target.

    Whereas, it was originall formed as Helsinki Watch and for most of its difference took a hands off or feather like touch when dealing with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and its wars on Lebanon, that has long ago ceased to be the case, with its 166 page report describing in detail the apartheid situation that exists between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank, being the latest example, a report that was ignored by the US media as well as by most of the alternative media.

    Nevertheless, most of what passes for the American Left (still mired as much of the Right in a Cold War mindset) keeps its distance from HRW pointing most recently to the fact that George Soros has pledged to give the organization $100 million in a matching grant over the next ten years.

    Soros, who has never shown support for Israel in public, seems to be
    everybody’s bogeyman, as was revealed when it turned out that he and family members had given over half a million dollars to J Street. The latter was keeping that secret, obviously, because of the almost universal hatred of Soros within the Zionist community. We don’t know if Soros hoped J Street would be more of an alternative to AIPAC than it has, but his willingness to donate to an organization that, at least, promised to be an alternative to the traditional Jewish lobbying operation was consistent with the way he has donated his money to various organizations around the world through his Open Society Policy Center which embodies the belief system and policies of what might best be described as “liberal capitalism”. In short, it is designed to support human rights, transparency, and an idealistic definition of democracy without challenging the basis of the capitalist system. This, naturally, makes him the enemy of those who want to maintain the system as it is, regardless of its inherent inequities, as well as those who want every revolution to be socialist and who are now complaining that what we see happening in Egypt does not live up to their requirements (never mind that all the self-styled socialist societies have ended up in dictatorships and that those advocating the same in the West, and particularly in the US, show nothing but a record of failure on their own political resumes.)

    The foregoing thoughts have been prompted by what I see occurring in Egypt and across North Africa and the Gulf and the critical reaction to them by the bloviators at Global Research and certain Trotskyists who are claiming that the uprising in Egypt was orchestrated by Washington simply on the basis that representatives of several of the organizations most active in Cairo were apparently entertained for a couple of weeks three years ago in Washington.

    These critics from the Left, with their “purism” should be viewed, in the end, as patronizing and racist, as those whom they criticize so impotently, in Washington.

  4. Keith
    February 17, 2011, 3:48 pm

    Human Rights Watch is a funny kind of human rights organization. Their ties to the Democratic party and the Clinton administration run strong and deep. They do some good work, particularly around Israel/Palestine, apparently to establish and maintain street cred, but I am very cautious about them. Their support for the US/NATO “humanitarian” assault on Yugoslavia was pure propaganda for the benefit of their former colleagues.

    • Donald
      February 17, 2011, 4:20 pm

      “They do some good work, particularly around Israel/Palestine, apparently to establish and maintain street cred, but I am very cautious about them. ”

      I think that’s too cynical. One can distrust them on particular topics if you have good reason to do so, but they do far too much good work to dismiss it just as an attempt to establish street cred. You acknowledge yourself how they do good work on the I/P conflict. That alone shows they aren’t exactly in the pockets of the Democratic Party or the Clintonites. And I’d love to see the day when the reports on the I/P conflict in the MSM were as truthful as what HRW writes.

      If we had to rely only on perfect people and perfect organizations we’d have nothing at all.

      • Keith
        February 17, 2011, 8:00 pm

        DONALD- “I think that’s too cynical.”

        Perhaps so, but I have grown concerned about the growth of government funded and foundation funded NGOs performing much the same function as the missionaries of a different era. Pious and well-meaning, with good works to show, however, ultimately complicit in Western imperialism.

        “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” (Lily Tomlin)

      • Jeffrey Blankfort
        February 17, 2011, 9:41 pm

        I think you’re too hard on NGOs, Keith. Some have played an important role, for example, in bringing to light the facts of Israeli apartheid and are consequently under attack in Israel. Others, with questionable agendas, have provided window dressing for undermining indigenous struggles, particularly those connected in any way to the AFL-CIA (sic).

        Generalizations about them don’t serve any useful purpose. What is important is to evaluate what they do and have done, from whom they get the bulk of their funding, who sits on their advisory boards, and how they relate to the people they are supposed to be serving on the ground. Unless an oppressed people are engaged in armed struggle during which there is no place for an NGO, they can serve as important intermediaries to the outside world. HRW has developed from its tainted beginnings to be just that.

  5. fuster
    February 17, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Keith, what assault on Yugoslavia are you mentioning?

    Do you mean against Serbia?

    • Keith
      February 17, 2011, 7:42 pm

      FUSTER- I am referring to the US/German/NATO dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia, misrepresented as a humanitarian intervention, which established NATO as a US controlled out of area strike force.

      • fuster
        February 17, 2011, 8:05 pm

        gee, Keith, I thought that the various Socialist Republics that made up Yugoslavia fell apart on their own because they didn’t get along too well.
        I remember some squabbling or something. Didn’t realize that it was the US etc etc causing it.

      • Keith
        February 17, 2011, 11:19 pm

        FUSTER- So you thought that the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia was strictly the consequence of seething ethnic hostility which inexplicably erupted following the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Germany off to the side performing it’s traditional role as a good neighbor, and Uncle Sam reluctantly becoming involved because of unselfish benevolence? Are you joking? Fortunately, I am here to provide you with some helpful information to assist in your evaluation. Basically, I’m going to copy and paste excerpts from something I wrote in 2005. If you would like some sources for further reading, please don’t hesitate to ask.

        “U.S. Presidents lie all of the time. It’s part of the job. You can’t be an empire without military intervention, which, in turn, requires selling warfare through massive deception. The left is generally aware of the massive (and clumsy) deceit concerning Iraq, hence, all of the “Bush lied, people died” bumper stickers. On the other hand, the American/German dismemberment of Yugoslavia was welcomed by much of the left as a necessary and praiseworthy humanitarian intervention. The skillful American/German exploitation of ethnic divisions, rivalries and ambitions, combined with the military destruction of the Yugoslav infrastructure was strongly supported by most of the left. Only a few lefties maintained a critical perspective and saw through the massive propaganda and deception.

        A bit of history. Between 1960 and 1980, the Yugoslav economy grew at an average of 6.1%. Good economic conditions served to ameliorate ethnic divisions and tensions. Divisions, I might add, that continued to be exploited by western intelligence agencies in their never ending quest to divide and conquer. Unfortunately, Yugoslavia became ensnared in the World Bank/IMF debt trap. By the end of the 1980s, the Yugoslav economy was more-or-less run by the IMF, with the familiar and predictable results. Industry declined, poverty increased, and social services began to be cut. Additionally, money was targeted to the republics (Bosnia, Croatia, etc) while the central government was de-funded. This weakened the central government and created economic pressure for separation. Also, the central government was blamed for the consequences of IMF policies.

        In 1990, the U.S. congress passed the Foreign Operations Law of 1991 which, among other things, specified a cut-off of all aid, credits and loans to Yugoslavia within six months. The World Bank and IMF were directed to follow suite. The only money to be permitted was to go to the right-wing separatist forces. It was, in effect, a declaration of economic war against Yugoslavia. The CIA predicted a bloody civil war as a consequence. Of course, that was the intent.

        Following the break-up of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and Germany had decided that their imperial interests were best served by breaking-up Yugoslavia as part of the overall plan to return Eastern Europe to Third World status as a supplier of raw materials, cheap labor, and markets for the Western economies. The plan for Yugoslavia called for an independent Croatia (along the lines of the independent Croatia established by Hitler during World War II), a Muslim dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a greatly weakened Serbia. For propaganda purposes, what little was left of Yugoslavia was referred to as Greater Serbia to create the impression of aggressive expansion.

        Throughout the conflict, which was created and fomented by the U.S. and Germany, massive aid flowed to the right-wing separatist forces. In Bosnia, for example, the separatist Muslims (moderate Muslims were pushed aside) were armed, trained and funded by the U.S., Germany, and various Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Aid included Mujahadeen fighters from Afghanistan including elements of al-Qaida. Both the Croatian and Bosnian separatist forces carried out massacres and massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs. These forces had been trained by the U.S. and were being advised by U.S. military officers. Former NATO commander U.S. General John Galvin planned and executed a successful Bosnian offensive in 1995.

        All the while, the U.S. media predictably engaged in a massive propaganda campaign demonizing the Serbs, who were compared to the Nazis. Tales of rapes and death camps were orchestrated by our jingoistic press in support of the Imperial crusade. Nothing new there. This time, however, Jewish groups, women’s groups, and all manner of nominally left-leaning NGOs joined in the hysteria. People who knew nothing about the area took leave of their common sense and were stampeded into supporting a highly destructive, flagrantly illegal bombing campaign. It was the most effective propaganda campaign I have ever seen, and proof that when a Democrat makes war, there is no real opposition on much of the so-called left. As for the Right, when have they ever protested against U.S. aggression?

        And what are the consequences of Bill Clinton’s “humanitarian” intervention? For the people of the former Yugoslavia, it has been a disaster. This is particularly true for the Serbs who have been ethnically cleansed from Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and have had Serbia destroyed by the U.S. led bombing campaign. Bridges, roads, power generation, water purification, hospitals, and TV stations were defined as valid “military” targets. Depleted uranium continues to poison the countryside. They have been reduced from a decent life to Third World paupers, all the while being blamed for the consequences of U.S./German geostrategic intervention. All of the groups now live in countries whose economies are directly administered by the IMF, with the inevitable consequences of neoliberalism. Countries, I might add, that are now too small to be economically viable. Once again, the Great Powers have Balkanized the Balkans.

        On the other hand, the Imperial powers did just fine. A united and expansionist Germany took a big step toward establishing a new Mitteleuropa. The U.S. got to establish new military bases in the region, including the strategically located camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. These serve as instruments of power projection and military domination and control. One of the biggest victories for the U.S. was the ability to transform NATO into a U.S. controlled, out-of-area strike force. NATO is well on its way to becoming a U.S. controlled mercenary army.

        My primary reason for focusing on the “humanitarian” intervention in the Balkans is to highlight the ubiquitous use of fraud and deception by the elites to garner public support for destructive policies. Also, to discuss the reason that Bill Clinton was able to engage in unprovoked aggression with virtually no opposition on the left. Basically, the reason is that the majority of the left tend to think of the Democrats as good guys and the Republicans as bad guys. Therefore, the left tended to believe the Clinton administration (and allied NGOs) on faith, and to give unqualified support. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

        How to avoid being fooled? The first step is to avoid the good guys versus bad guys world-view. Further, it is critically important to understand that the men of power and their information spinners (media, PR, etc) lie all of the time as part of their job. Most probably believe their own lies. It is also critically important to be aware that the U.S. is a national security state empire. A national security state stimulates and controls its economy through military spending. In order to justify this spending, the U.S. needs to engage in ongoing military confrontations, preferably with a weak and defenseless country which can be attacked with impunity. The business of America is war. Added to this is the reality of empire. Empires don’t engage in humanitarian interventions, they conquer and occupy, subjugate and exploit, kill and terrorize. Finally, simple common sense tells you that you bomb a country to destroy it, not to save it. That, of course, was the unstated purpose of the bombing: to destroy what little remained of the former Yugoslavia for geostrategic reasons.

        The “humanitarian” intervention in Yugoslavia exemplifies what should be a core truth for progressives: we are surrounded by constant deception and fraudulent mythology. Only by removing our ideological blinders and honestly confronting the systemic and structural dynamics of elite behavior can we begin to perceive reality for what it is. Actions speak louder than words. Ignore the lies. Evaluate the actions. Draw the obvious conclusions. The United States is a corporate/elite controlled national security state empire. All analyses of foreign and domestic policy must be grounded in that reality. A key component of opposition is to shatter the mythology which camouflages this reality.”

      • fuster
        February 18, 2011, 12:37 am

        Thank you Keith for a very interesting perspective.

      • Ellen
        February 18, 2011, 5:17 am

        It is a strange perpective, filled with much opinion and conjecture. It leaves out that the German foreign Minister at the time, Genscher, was immediately sacked because he –on his own initiative and because he was born in and grew up in Croatia — recognized the Croatian call for independence. This sparked and legitimized the grab for power by different interests — each, and especially Serbian, resorting to ancient nationalistic sentiments to move the masses. The Serbs, as a group and for many structural reasons, had access to the military resources and were well positioned to force their will. Thus the sieges onto Bosnia and Croatian populations by Serbians. Easier to quickly kill (8000 snuffed out in four days) than work on building integrated civil society. Interestingly some Serbian military joined in helping to defend the Bosnians.

        The bombings by NATO forced a rapid end to that horrible war. Nationalistic Serbian sentiment feel that if the bombings had not taken place, their objectives would have been met and all would be Now be Serbia. To say the bombing was unprovoked is well….strange.

        The Dayton accords leave much unresolved and have and introduced new problems. Mostly assuring all parties remain weak, divided and dependent as Keith concludes.

      • Keith
        February 18, 2011, 4:12 pm

        ELLEN- “The bombings by NATO forced a rapid end to that horrible war.”

        You don’t bomb a country to save it, you bomb it to destroy it. The bombings contributed to the ethnic conflict which intensified following the bombings as was predicted. Yugoslavia was dismembered and Serbia destroyed. The US and Germany got what they wanted. The notion of an altruistic empire is an oxymoron. We no more got involved in the Balkans to save lives than we got involved in Viet Nam to protect the people from “internal aggression.” Rather than continue, I’m going to provide you with the bibliography I offered Fuster so that you can more accurately determine if my perspective is strange.

        “Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions” by Diana Johnstone

        “The New Military Humanism: Lessons From Kosovo” by Noam Chomsky

        “To Kill A Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia” by Michael Parenti

        “NATO in the Balkans: Voices of Opposition” by Ramsey Clark, et al

        “Liar’s Poker: The Great Powers, Yugoslavia and the Wars of the Future” by Michel Collon

        “Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia” Edited by John Catalinotto and Sara Flounders

        Also, Edward S. Herman has authored numerous articles on this subject for Z Magazine and other venues.

      • pjdude
        February 18, 2011, 12:37 am

        Yugoslavia was a disaster waiting to happen. Yugoslavia happened as a result of the austrian-hungrian empire’s dominance of the southern slavic peoples. Yugoslavia was destined to break up as the southern slavic peoples pushed for their own ideinty.

        hell even the name give in indication of this as Yugoslavia means south slav

  6. Jeffrey Blankfort
    February 17, 2011, 4:43 pm

    You don’t establish street cred with the Democratic Party by criticizing Israel, nor with the liberal Jews who have been the major donors for both it and Amnesty. I was also critical of HRW’s stand on the war on Yugoslavia although those who opposed the illegitimate NATO war did not do their cause much good by pretending that Milosevich was an upstanding socialist leader who had not committed war crimes. War crimes were, in fact, committed on all sides.

    This was in keeping with the refusal of the international left to offer support to the people and the workers of the repressive police state regimes of the so-called “socialist bloc” because to do so would give aid and comfort to the war criminals in Washington. By ignoring them, of course, they opened those regimes to the penetration by the US, the UK, etc. We see the same in Iran, today, when much, if not most of what remains of the Left, is silent, over the brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests by the Ahmadinejad regime. Is there fundamentally any difference between what is happening there and what we saw in Egypt, in Tunis, in Algeria, Libya, or this morning in Bahrain?

  7. pabelmont
    February 17, 2011, 6:42 pm

    “On what basis does anyone put Palestinian terror on different moral plane than that initiated by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Why not try to judge both acts by a single standard?”

    This the question of the DUALITY between former terrorist and current head-of-state. The OTHER DUALITY is between non-state terrorism and state terrorism.

    The USA often rather opportunistically uses definitions of “terrorism” which exclude state terrorism.

    There are many definitions of terrorism.

    Here is a non-USA definition:

    since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

    It is possible that the phrase “criminal acts” is intended to exclude acts of state.

    One USA definition appears not to exclude state terrorism: Title 18 of the United States Code (regarding criminal acts and criminal procedure) defines international terrorism as:

    [T]he term ‘international terrorism’ means activities that . . . involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; [and] appear to be intended . . . to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; . . . to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or . . . to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and [which] occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

    However, even this definition makes use of the notion of violating the laws of a state (and excludes international law, thus excluding the laws of war, genocide conventions, etc.).

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