HRW appoints alleged terrorist to Mideast Board

Shawan Jabarin’s ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group spark outrage; NGOs defend him as ‘human rights leader.’

Shawan Jabarin 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Shawan Jabarin 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has appointed Shawan Jabarin, a Palestinian who, according to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), is a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to its Mideast Advisory Board.
Jabarin denies being a member of the terrorist organization.
Writing on the online Daily Beast news site on Tuesday, Sir Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times, disclosed Jabarin’s appointment and his alleged terrorist activity in a lengthy investigative report.
In 2007, Israel’s Supreme Court termed Jabarin “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” because he was active at the same time in the Al-Haq Palestinian human rights organization and the terrorist organization.
HRW’s decision to include Jabarin on its Mideast Board sparked criticism from Robert L. Bernstein, the founder of HRW, Stuart Robinowitz, a prominent New York attorney who has undertaken human-rights missions for the American Bar Association and Helsinki Watch (the predecessor to HRW) in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and El Salvador, and Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.
“This appointment ends any façade that Human Rights Watch is a moral ‘watchdog’ organization,” Steinberg said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court said in a ruling in 2009 that “material pointing to [Jabarin’s] involvement in the activity of terrorist entities is concrete and reliable material.”
In 2008, the court wrote that Jabarin “is among the senior activists of the terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
And in 2007, the Court noted that Jabarin "is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organization, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organization which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.”
Steinberg said that “Mr. Jabarin has ties to the PFLP terror group, which specialized in aircraft hijackings and carries out suicide bombings and political assassinations.
He also heads an organization, Al-Haq, which is among the leaders of delegitimization campaigns targeting Israel. This appointment is a slap in the face from HRW Executive Director Ken Roth and Chairman James Hoge to terror victims, Israelis, Jews, and others who seek to uphold universal human rights.”
Asked if HRW should recall its appointment of Jabrin and sever ties with him, Bernstein told The Jerusalem Post from New York on Wednesday that he “wants to wait and see what they do.”
Bernstein added that unless he is unaware of certain information, HRW has done the “wrong thing.” He said that “they could have put other people on the board who would not have created this problem for them.”
In an e-mail to the Post on Wednesday, Robinowitz wrote, “Mr. Roth and Ms.
Whitson [Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division] should have disclosed the opinions of the highly regarded Israel Supreme Court to HRW’s board of directors. Their failure to do so raises disturbing questions.”
HRW spokeswoman Emma Daly responded to the Post on Wednesday and cited a HRW press release from 2009 in which the Supreme Court is mentioned. Daly wrote, “We have repeatedly and publicly referred to the role of the Israeli High Court in Jabarin’s case. As we note in that release, the court’s decision was based on secret evidence from the Israeli authorities that neither Jabarin nor his lawyers were allowed to see or contest.
Instead, we place more credence in Jabarin’s public and well-known record of integrity as a human rights defender for more than two decades. That record marks him as the sort of human rights leader whom we should have on our Middle East advisory committee.”
Sari Bashi, director of Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said, “Approval of a travel ban based on secret evidence is far from ‘proof’ of wrongdoing.
Security blocks can be imposed because someone attended a lecture, participated in a conversation about politics or had a family member who was injured or killed by the Israeli army – and is therefore considered to have a ‘motivation’ to harm Israel.
“Sometimes security blocks are imposed to pressure people to collaborate with the Shin Bet. The evidence is often collected from informants seeking to please their handlers, and it cannot be refuted, because it is kept hidden from the person accused of wrongdoing. It is easy to make accusations while hiding behind secret evidence. It is far more difficult to engage in the twodecade long nonviolent struggle that Shawan Jabarin is leading to protect the human rights of those vulnerable to abuse.”
Robinowitz said that Jabarin’s lawyer had consented to the court’s confidential treatment of information from informants.
He continued, “When Ms. Whitson asked the members of the Middle East Advisory Committee and the HRW Board to approve Mr.
Jabarin, with Mr. Roth’s approval, she did not mention the Israel Supreme Court’s three opinions (2007, 2008 and 2009) finding that Mr. Jabarin was an associate of the PFLP and a security risk.”
He added, “The sole defense offered by Ms. Daly is a two-year-old HRW press release complaining about the court’s 2009 opinion upholding Mr. Jabarin’s travel ban. But it is not reasonable to withhold highly relevant information today based on a press release from two years ago...
“Why didn’t Ms. Whitson and Mr. Roth tell the board about the court opinions in January 2011, when they were asking the board to approve Mr, Jabarin?” Robinowitz asked.
Robinowitz continued, “Mr. Roth’s and Ms. Whitson’s defense – reliance on a two-year-old misleading press release – merely compounds their present misleading conduct. In the final analysis, Mr. Roth and Ms.
Whitson have put themselves above the law by assuming they can disregard the Israeli Supreme Court, which is one of the most highly respected judicial bodies in the world.”
He said that “the Jabarin incident, I believe, is part of a pattern of conduct that casts doubt about Mr. Roth’s and Ms. Whitson’s ability to deal with matters affecting Israel in a balanced and objective manner. That is not consistent with HRW’s mandate to be even-handed, transparent and accountable.”
Steinberg told the Post that “Human Rights watch has been working together with Jabarin and Al-Haq in an informal capacity for a long time, but the official appointment is an example of HRW Executive Director Ken Roth’s and the group’s Middle East and North Africa division’s enlistment in the widespread delegitimization campaign being conducted against Israel.