19 February 2012

Nick Cohen adds his voice to criticism of HRW

A few days ago, I posted an article on how the founder of Human Rights Watch had "dissed" his own creation. Now Nick Cohen has added his voice, on the occasion of the Executive Director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, releasing his annual report.

Cohen starts his excellent article from The Spectator as follows: "Human rights campaigners need to follow a self-denying ordinance if they are not to become enemies of the values they espouse. Like a civil servant or judge, they must leave their passions at the office door…" It will come as no surprise that he immediately notes that this fails to happen. Thus, he continues that "...the record of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International tells you that it is hard for them to do so. To their politically committed workers impartiality can feel a thin and bloodless doctrine. It requires them to criticise people they regard as friends and provide inadvertent comfort to enemies."

Here, on Simply Jews, we are well aware of this. Nevertheless, it is valuable to have Nick Cohen confirming that what happens is that while "Human Rights Watch’s main concern is opposing western governments [and f]air enough, there is much to oppose, particularly in their policies on the Middle East", there is "[..] the danger is that liberals start believing that their enemy’s enemy is their friend, and embrace Islamists, who are anything but liberal." This, he says, is unfortunately what has happened to HRW and Amnesty International.

He goes on to note (last quote) "The point to bear in mind is that wealthy westerners, who call themselves liberals and feminists, have become the least reliable defenders of liberals and feminists from the poor world, who need their support. Nowhere more so than in the Middle East." He links to a book he has written on this matter, and that is "What's Left?", and while that is, of course, on this topic, so is at least the first third of his latest book (which is as far as I've read to date) "You Can't Read That Book".

The second half of this article directs us to Gita Saghal and her Centre for Secular Space and the open letter/petition she is writing to Kenneth Roth of HRW. It is certainly worth a few minutes of your time following the link to the letter and reading it. You could also, as Cohen says, consider signing it, especially if (in my opinion) you are able to add a weighty institutional name to your e-signature. The whole article is here.

By Brian Goldfarb.


Pisa said...

The main raison d'etre of both HRW and Amnesty seems to have become fighting for the right of non-white non-western people to do exactly what those organizations were meant to fight against. It might be the time for western democracies to question the right of such organizations to promote tolerance for the intolerant. I'm not suggesting censorship, just fighting back, in a totally politically incorrect way of course...

SnoopyTheGoon said...

 Re the first statement: agreed, and this is the best way HRW and AI will secure permanent employment.

Wait, there is Israel, so they shouldn't worry about employment. Oh well, it gets complicated at this stage.