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Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia

And bashes Israel

Jesse Oxfeld
July 15, 2009

The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal today carries an indignant op-ed by David Bernstein, a law professor George Mason University, about a recent Human Rights Watch fundraising trip to Saudi Arabia. He is partly indignant that HRW even ventured to the human rights-challenged kingdom. (Though it seems to us there’s nothing wrong with following Willie Sutton’s bank-robbing advice and going where the money is.) But he is mostly indignant over the pitch Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, gave to the wealthy Saudi Arabians she was hocking for money. Whitson highlighted HRW’s battles with “pro-Israel pressure groups in the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations,” according to Bernstein. So that’s apparently what Human Rights Watch sees as its mission, taking the anti-Israel side in U.S., E.U., and U.N. debates, its Middle East director says. Sort of puts all those theoretically objective HRW reports charging the IDF of abuses in a different light, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Tablet contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg, on his Atlantic blog reports his email exchange with HRW chief Ken Roth whether it’s true that his organization fund-raises in Saudi Arabia by touting its “battles” with pro-Israel groups. Remarkably, and after lots of evasion, Roth basically says yes.

Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.