Watching HR Watch

May 6th, 2011

How disappointing to read the spate of attacks on Human Rights Watch and its reports about Israel's human rights abuses ("Tyranny Has a Witness," January/February). While editor Norman Boucher's response provides some counterbalance, it is important to raise the larger question of why anyone who criticizes Israeli policy quickly becomes the target of invective and character assassination.

While Human Rights Watch, like any other institution, deserves scrutiny, the letters were full of misinformation and half-truths. The Goldstone Report published by the United Nations in September 2009 described the Israeli attack on Gaza as "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."

The Israeli assault on Gaza is only the latest effort in a decades-long campaign to dehumanize the Palestinian people and delegitimize their national rights. It quickly became clear to early Zionists who were willing to face the truth that the pithy "land without a people for a people without a land" line was patently false. Unfortunately, such brave and thoughtful Zionists as Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, and Henrietta Szold lost the internal struggle with the nationalists and have been largely written out of history.

As a Jew who was raised to believe in and work for the dignity of all people, I am horrified by the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and Israeli's myriad human rights violations from unjust imprisonment to theft of resources to denial of medical care. This treatment is not only immoral; it is not in the best interests of Israel.

I ask all people of conscience, particularly my fellow Jews, to take a step back and consider the need for a just resolution of this conflict—for Palestinians, for Israelis, and for the world at large. This will come not from vilification of the other, but from looking carefully at our own behavior and seeking to make it right.

Andy Mager '83
Syracuse, N.Y.



Quite a volley against Human Rights Watch! Sheldon Siegel '56 advises the organization to do "some extensive research into the real reasons for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before they launch any more critical reports on Israel's being the principal cause." I advise Sheldon Siegel to take the first part of his own advice, but I am pretty sure that he will not do so. The defenders of Israel have their own fine-spun account of what happened in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2008, and at times in between, and they are sticking to their story.

My question to the defenders: Do you really think that your tribal ultranationalism is good for Israel in the long run? In my opinion, Judge Goldstone is a true Israeli patriot; how do you account for the existence of such a man?

Peter Johnson '67
Auburn, Ala.



I am very disappointed by the decision to publish an editor's response to the letters on Human Rights Watch and Israel. The letters section of a publication is intended to highlight readers' views on an issue. Unfortunately, in this case the editor has silenced them by insisting on having the last word. I fail to understand why this issue merits an editor's response without even giving readers a chance to read what others think, without having Big Brother seal the page. This only raises my, and probably others', suspicions that George Soros's wallet extends into our own backyard.

Michaella Matt '07
Jerusalem, Israel

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May/June 2011