Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Human Rights Watch

The war in Lebanon has brought a new round of people claiming that Human Rights Watch is biased against Israel and the United States. Yet, as David Asednik notes here, they also criticize Hizbullah's rocket attacks on Israel. David comes off sounding like this is the exception to a pattern. However, without following the organization closely, I have a rather difference impression. Human Rights Watch definitely goes after countries which are the enemies of the U.S. and Israel. You can see their Iran page here, and they also appear unimpressed by North Korea. Instead, the problem is that Americans (and presumably Israelis) only hear about their reports when they weigh in on an issue which is controversial within those societies. I also suspect that governments, wishing to maintain a monopoly on people's moral perceptions, have no compunctions about trying to portray independent voices as biased.

This is not to say that every action criticized by a human rights organization should immediately cease. It might make the world a better place, but is impractical unless everyone abides by it simultaneously, and that won't happen. However, people would do well to keep the larger picture in mind, and value voices dedicated to the human side of sometimes cold political calculations.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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