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Daily Israel Report

Obama-Sponsor Gives $100M to Anti-Israeli 'Human Rights Watch'

HRW reports are said to focus disproportionately on Israel, exhibit 'consistent bias, false and contradictory statements.'
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 9/13/2010, 12:06 PM / Last Update: 9/13/2010, 1:11 PM

Anti-Israeli secular-Jewish billionaire George Soros has pledged $100 million to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental group that claims to monitor governmental abuses of power. The grant is among the largest of its kind ever made. It will be paid in ten annual $10-million portions.

HRW's reports have been excoriated by the “NGO Monitor” watchdog organization as focusing disproportionately on Israel for alleged abuses, and for exhibiting “consistent bias, false and contradictory statements, and the use of irrelevant evidence and inappropriate methodologies.”

Soros has been a major contributor to Barack Obama's political campaigns. He published an article in the New York Review of Books in 2007 in which he asserted that the U.S. should pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas regardless of whether Hamas recognizes the right of the Jewish state to exist. Soros claimed that one reason the U.S. has not done so is the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Soros' donation is meant to help HRW coax other donors to give more money, too, raising the group's annual budget from $48 million to $80 million within five years. According to the Associated Press, HRW will be able to hire 120 more staffers and set up new offices in emerging powers like India and Brazil. In addition, Soros and HRW want the organization to rely less on U.S.-based contributors and board members. Being perceived as an American group is a liability, Soros said.

Soros has been involved with HRW, which was founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, since its early years.

The group is a controversial one. Even former chairman of HRW, Robert L. Bernstein wrote that HRW "has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state." Bernstein claimed in a New York Times article last October that "Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on [the] conflict."

Soros told the New York Times that the grant to HRW is one of several large gifts he intends to give in the near future, and that this move is “partly due to age."

NGO Monitor Slams HRW for Stance on Israel
NGO Monitor devoted a 2009 report to HRW, under the title “Experts or Ideologues? A Systematic Analysis of HRW’s Focus on Israel.”

In the report, NGO Monitor explains that “HRW exerts major influence on the UN and on the policies of governments through condemnations of Israel for alleged violations and demands for 'independent investigations.' These allegations then become amplified through the media.”

It alleged that HRW campaigns and publications “reflect consistent bias, false and contradictory statements, and the use of irrelevant evidence and inappropriate methodologies, including sources... that are neither credible nor verifiable.”

A comparative study including HRW's reports on other regions showed “greatly disproportionate emphasis on Israel in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Division, double standards in the use of terminology such as 'war crimes,' 'collective punishment,' etc., and in distorted uses of international legal terminology.”

Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director since 1993, is behind “HRW’s current emphasis on criticizing the policies of open and democratic systems, specifically regarding responses to terror,” NGO Monitor found. The MENA division's director Sarah Leah Whitson and senior staffer Joe Stork have made the group's reports, according to the watchdog organization, “disproportionately focused on criticism of Israel, using allegations of human rights and international law violations.”