Defending himself against the inference (a perfectly reasonable one to draw from yesterday’s post) that he believes that Human Rights Watch officials “shouldn’t talk to Arab audiences about Israel,” Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
No! Of course not. What I’m suggesting is that they shouldn’t fund-raise in Arab countries, especially un-free Arab countries — by bragging about their opposition to Israel, and by invoking the greatest bogeyman of all, the Jewish lobby. It’s just so tacky it’s hard to believe Ken Roth, the group’s director, would ever endorse this practice.
I think it’s relevant to note here that Ken Roth never endorsed this practice. Nor is there any evidence that any HRW representative ever engaged in it. This is all Goldberg’s invention.
I spoke to Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, and asked her to respond to Goldberg’s characterization of HRW’s work and fundraising practices. Whitson acknowledged that “obviously our work in Israel is of interest in the Middle East,” but that “the common perception in the region is that, as an American organization, we’re too soft on Israel”:
In talking about our work, we point out that we are as critical of Israel as we are of every other country in the Middle East. That really comes as a surprise to people in the Middle East when they hear that, because they have the opposite perception.
As to Goldberg’s charge that HRW was raising money by “invoking the greatest bogeyman of all, the Jewish lobby,” Whitson laughed, saying “there’s no way to talk about our work on Israel without [noting] attacks against Human Rights Watch from right-wing pro-Israel groups.” Whitson said that such criticism was brought up to counter the common perception that HRW is “too soft on Israel,” and not as some sort of insidious anti-Semitic fund-raising ploy.
One shouldn’t even have to point this out, but discussing HRW’s work on Israel (wherever and with whomever, even with, yes, Arabs) is obviously not the same as “bragging about HRW’s opposition to Israel.” Discussing the very real and intense hostility that right-wing pro-Israel groups show toward HRW’s reporting — hostility to which Jeffrey Goldberg has, through sloppy and tendentious journalism, now added some weight — is obviously not the same as invoking “the Jewish lobby.” The real question here is what Goldberg’s interest is in conflating these things.