With the appointment of Shawan Jabarin, an alleged senior activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), to its Middle East Advisory Board, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has completed the transformation from a human rights watchdog to a radical agit-prop group.
The PFLP, one of the world’s most vicious terrorist organizations, is the antithesis of a human rights group. Its members have carried out numerous suicide bombings, political assassinations, and aircraft hijacking, among other atrocities.
But Jabarin’s business card lists a different affiliation — the Palestinian group known as Al Haq, which uses the language of human rights to lead delegitimization campaigns targeting Israel.
That dual persona led the Israeli Supreme Court in 2007 to refer to Jabarin as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” — a human rights worker by day and a terrorist by night. According to a report in The Daily Beast on Feb. 15, Jabarin was convicted in the mid-1980s of “recruiting members for terrorist training outside Israel and severed nine months of a 24-month jail sentence. After his release from jail, both Israel and Jordan restrict his travel. The Israeli Court has upheld these restrictions in 2008, 2009, and again in 2010, noting that the evidence against Mr. Jabarin continues to be damning.
HRW’s embrace of Jabarin highlights the total moral collapse that led founder Robert Bernstein to denounce the biases and failures of his own organization. He told The Daily Beast: “I am of course shocked, but even more, saddened, that an organization dedicated to the rule of law seems to be deliberately undermining it.”
HRW was created during the Cold War in order to hold closed and oppressive regimes accountable, and to campaign for victims of daily human rights abuses. But when it comes to Israel, the group excels in the exploitation of moral rhetoric to advance immoral goals.
By appointing Jabarin to its Middle East Advisory Board, HRW Executive Director Ken Roth and Chairman James Hoge have also signaled their contempt for victims of PFLP terror, as well as for the Israeli Supreme Court. The judges are widely respected among their American counterparts for balancing anti-terror policies with preserving civil liberties, but the former is irrelevant to HRW’s agenda.
HRW is not alone abusing human rights as a façade for radical ideology. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) campaigned for Ameer Makhoul, the head of Ittijah (another political NGO), who admitted to having spied for the Hezbollah terror group. In declaring its support for Makhoul as a human rights defender, Amnesty entirely ignored the court records, including the fact that “the defendant accepted responsibility for his actions.”
Similarly, AI forced Gita Sahgal, its leading women’s activist, to leave the organization after she questioned their cooperation with an alleged Taliban supporter, Moazzam Begg. Claudio Cordone, who headed Amnesty at the time, publically condoned “jihad in self-defense,” demonstrating the Orwellian hijacking of the moral frameworks in the pursuit of immoral objectives.
Like Amnesty, HRW has a record of aligning with individuals, organizations, and countries that are the antithesis of human rights, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division.
In May 2009, MENA division director Sarah Leah Whitson went to Saudi Arabia to raise funds, selling the message that HRW counters “pro-Israel pressure groups.” In 2010, Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst” and author of numerous claims accusing Israel of “war crimes,” was revealed to be an obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia. HRW was embarrassed into firing Garlasco, but they never published an independent review of his reports, as promised.
The deeply-rooted bias among HRW senior officials, most notably Whitson and Joe Stork, in contrast to human rights principles, is well documented. But Jabarin’s appointment is an emphatic slap in the face to terror victims, Israelis, Jews, and others who care about universal human rights.
Instead of restoring the organization’s moral compass by rebuilding MENA from the ground up, Roth and Hoge have accelerated the abuse. And while long-term supporters of HRW have left, reducing the funds available for pursuing Roth’s ideological agenda, George Soros rescued the organization with a 10-year, $100 million donation. Notably, Soros is also a backer of Al Haq. With Jabarin joining HRW, and the massive resources both organizations receive, the alliance is poised to accelerate the anti-human rights agenda.
Gerald Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution, and a professor of political science at BarIlanUniversity.