WASHINGTON – The head of New York-based Human Rights Watch refused to label as genocidal Iranian calls to obliterate the Jewish state and compared Iran’s mullah leadership to the Shas party.
The Wall Street Journal’s David Feith, as assistant editorial features editor with the paper, obtained internal HRW emails and published last week a report, headlined “Dancing around genocide,” about alleged HRW bias against Israel and an internecine conflict within HRW’s top leadership about the group’s head, Kenneth Roth, and his failure to take Iran’s calls to destroy Israel seriously.
The Journal reported that Sid Sheinberg, HRW’s vice chairman, wrote in an email, “Sitting still while Iran claims a ‘justification to kill all Jews and annihilate Israel’ is...a position unworthy of our great organization.”
According to the newspaper, Roth wrote in one email, “Many of [Iran’s] statements are certainly reprehensible, but they are not incitement to genocide. No one has acted on them.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that “Israel must be wiped off the map,” while former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has openly contemplated firing a nuclear missile at Tel Aviv.
Roth told the Journal that, although a committee may look into Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric, he believes the country is not inciting genocide against the Jewish state. Instead, he argued, the push to label Tehran’s calls for Israel’s destruction as genocidal is “part of an effort to beat the war drums against Iran.”
In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Saturday, Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, wrote, “This is a blatant example of Roth’s indifference to genocidal threats and human rights abuses when these target Israel.”
“Roth, who has controlled Human Rights Watch since 1996, has consistently demonstrated a obsession with attacking the Jewish state, and the people he selected to lead HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division are also infected with this deep bias,” Steinberg wrote.
“While Gaddafi was ranting against the Zionists, HRW embraced the regime as ‘human rights reformers.’ HRW’s studied silence in the face of Iran’s genocidal threats further demonstrates this organization’s moral bankruptcy.”
Steinberg added that “George Soros, who now provides HRW with most of its budget after many donors withdrew support, shares responsibility for enabling such immoral behavior under the facade of human rights.”
The Journal report noted that “while Hamas started indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli towns a decade ago, Human Rights Watch took years to issue a report. From 2000 to 2010, it published about as many reports condemning Israel as criticizing the tyrannies in Syria, Libya and Iran combined. In 2009, the group’s top Middle East official went fundraising in Saudi Arabia – that human rights paragon – where she spoke proudly of her disputes with ‘pro-Israel pressure groups.’”
The online Jewish magazine Tablet obtained a separate set of emails, in which Roth compared Shas’s Rabbi Ovadia Yosef with Iranian leaders.
According to Tablet, Roth wrote, “Would you suggest that Human Rights Watch denounce these statements as incitement to genocide? If not, what is the difference between these statements and the ones by Iranian leaders that you consider incitement to genocide? After all, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s statements are arguably more direct than those made by Iranian leaders, and Israel, unlike Iran, has the means to carry them out.”
In addition to the controversy surrounding HRW’s position on Iran’s extremist rhetoric toward Israel’s existence, the human rights organization has been embroiled in scandals over the years for failing to track and combat Iran’s lethal homophobia.
During a wave of persecution against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that included the presumed hanging of gay Iranian youths, Scott Long, the disgraced former head of HRW’s LGBT division, did not document the murders and repression in a systematic report.
Afterwards, he sparred with critics charging him with severe incompetence.
The online publication Queerty wrote an article titled, “Disgraced Human Rights
Watch director Scott Long Quits,” about Long’s departure in 2010. HRW claimed
that he left the organization for personal and health-related reasons. It is
unclear if the HRW fired him. British gay activist Peter Tatchell
recently won a complaint case against Long in late November.
Tatchell’s website, “the UK publisher Routledge has issued a public apology to
Peter Tatchell for 20 ‘misrepresentations and distortions’ and ‘inaccurate
allegations’ made by the former Human Rights Watch program director, Scott
Long.” Routledge withdraw an academic paper by Long due to his shoddy
scholastic work in connection with Iran’s LGBT community and his attacks on
Tatchell, who slammed Long during his tenure at HRW for failing to combat LGBT
persecution in the Islamic Republic.