Letter to the Editor, May 19, 2010

Editorial sparks discussion

Dear Editors,

I am taken aback by the recent editorial, “Talk of the Nation.” In particular, quoting from Ha’aretz about the recent study, that, “more than half of Jewish Israelis think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here.”


In response, I reference a series of articles regarding this issue.

Gerald Steinberg is the President of NGO Monitor and Chairman of the Political Science Department of Bar-Ilan University. His web address, http://www.ngo-monitor.org/articles/staff lists numerous articles documenting the anti-Israel bias of NGO’s in Israel, as well as the bias associated with the NGO’s European funding.

Robert Bernstein was the founding father of Human Rights Watch. His op ed printed in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/opinion/20bernstein.html details his own opinion that HRW has lost its moral compass in the Middle East, particularly with regards to Israel.

Benjamin Birnbaum, writing in The New Republic, takes aim at HRW. His starting point is Bernstein’s lost of faith. The details include fundraising in Saudi Arabia (not a bastion of human rights) by Sara Whitson, who is director of HRW Mid East and North African affairs.

What is shocking about the Jewish Light editorial is the unspoken context. I appreciate the attempt at even-handedness, but maybe there is a reason for Israeli reluctance to subscribe to the unfettered behavior of human rights organizations. Maybe the Jewish Light should take a little more time to dig beneath Ha’aretz’s story.

Sadly, in the Middle East, human rights and non-governmental organizations are not living up to their reputation, or so think many of our Israeli cousins. What upsets me is that an editorial such as that of May 5th might undermine our own courage to speak up on behalf of Israel. Does the Light believe that Israel with 62 years as a vibrant democracy is preparing to toss it overboard? Does the Light believe in its own pride of profession that this is a warning that can be treated with a single paragraph from Ha’aretz?

Yes, we can and we must be nuanced. We must separate the good from the bad, even during the fog of war; however, I do not believe that the mouthpieces of the human rights movements are speaking honestly and without bias with respect to Israel. As well, I believe the Light does its readers a disservice in its own attempt to be even-handed in a world where, sadly, yet increasingly, the cards are being dealt by a corrupt dealer with a crooked deck.

Ronnie Y. Fredman

University City

Publisher’s Note: Ms. Fredman makes some excellent points. However, there was no suggestion in the editorial that the Jewish Light subscribes to the views of organizations such as Human Rights Watch. If anything, we have been critical of their actions in the past. In fact, we wrote an editorial last fall on the heels of Robert Bernstein’s piece in the Times, praising him for his stance in opposition to the organization he founded. Our primary point was simply that denigration, or even perceived denigration, of freedom of expression -even in the face of aggressive voices such as HRW – can have a deleterious effect on the health of democracy, in Israel or otherwise.As for the need to speak up on behalf of Israel, please see our editorial in the May 12 issue regarding Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s appearance as commencement speaker at Brandeis University.