HRW Defends Shawan Jabarin

Last week, I noted that Human Rights Watch had appointed Shawan Jabarin to its Middle East Advisory Board. Jabarin runs a Palestinian human rights NGO based in the West Bank. He also has been found in a series of Israeli Supreme Court opinions to secretly lead a double life as a top official of the Palestinian terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Iain Levine of Human Rights Watch responds to the criticism here. (I find it interesting that HRW has decided to let Mr. Levine speak for the M.E. division; I think their p.r. people have realized that Ken Roth and M.E. director Sarah Leah Whitson are so hostile to Israel that they just add fuel to the fire whenever a controversy erupts). The thrust of his remarks is that HRW chose to disregard the Israeli Supreme Court opinions because they were based on secret evidence. (Since when is “secret” a synonym for “baseless?”)

Critic Stuart Robinowitz, who has longstanding ties to HRW, responds to Levine here. Robinowitz points out that Whitson and Roth, when recommending Jabarin to the HRW board of directors, asserted that he had discontinued his ties to the PFLP more than twenty-five years ago. Whitson and Roth failed to even mention the Israeli Supreme Court’s findings to the contrary.

Robinowitz concludes: “In 2006, Jordan barred [Jabarin] entry for security reasons. Do staff members of HRW have more reliable information about Jabarin than the supreme court and security services of Jordan and Israel?”

Understating matters considerably, Robinowitz told the Jerusalem Post that “the Jabarin incident, I believe, is part of a pattern of conduct that casts doubt about Mr. Roth’s and Ms. Whitson’s ability to deal with matters affecting Israel in a balanced and objective manner.”

[The comments section on the previous thread on this matter was far from enlightening, so I'm not going to bother with comments here.]

UPDATE: Anne Herzberg of NGO Monitor emails to point out a series of misstatements (i.e., lies) in Levine’s defense of Jabarin.

The most telling one relates to this claim by Levine: “In addition to his criticisms of Israeli violations, [Jabarin] has been one of the leading Palestinian voices condemning … suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Hertzberg retorts: “I have been personally monitoring Al Haq [Jabarin's NGO] and Jabarin for nearly 5 years. I have never seen any evidence that either has condemned suicide bombings or rocket attacks.” I (Bernstein) checked Al Haq’s website, searching for, among other things, “rocket” and could find no criticism of Palestinian rocket attacks, suicide bombings, or other attacks on civilians.

And here, an official Al Haq statement explaining Jabarin’s position sure seems to try to differentiate between “Palestinian resistance” (i.e., Palestinian terrorism), and other forms of terrorism:

After the events of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 the United States succeeded in establishing linkages between legitimate resistance against occupation and terrorism. She has imposed its own definition of “terrorism” and considered the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation as a form of terrorism. Such a position by the United States was in the interest of Israel and gave her an opportunity to relate the Palestinians legitimate resistance to terrorism also.

While there is no explicit defense of the suicide terrorism that was plaguing Israel at this time, it’s hard to read this statement as anything other than a claim that this suicide terrorism was in fact a form of legitimate “resistance.” Of course, this is hardly surprising for someone who is entwined with the PFLP terrorist group.

FURTHER UPDATE: I sent a polite email to Al Haq via its website asking for evidence that Jabarin has ever condemned Palestinian rocket attacks or suicide bombings. I’d be happy to publish such evidence if it were presented, but it hasn’t been.

Meanwhile, Kevin Jon Heller finds that Al Haq has, in fact, pointed out that Palestinian rocket attacks are illegal, albeit in one line out of thousands published in the last several years, so I hereby acknowledge that Al Haq has done so. Heller also finds one ambiguous paragraph in a press release that may or not mean that Al Haq claims to have criticized Palestinian rocket attacks.

Even reading these statements generously, they still don’t come close to justifying Iain Levine’s claim that Jabarin “has been one of the leading Palestinian voices condemning torture by the Palestinian Authority, and suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza.” Indeed, the only statement I’ve found attributed to Jabarin himself is his claim that “Palestinian resistance” is distinguishable from “terrorism.” And of course, the most relevant point remains Jabarin’s ties to the PFLP.

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