Open Zion

08.26.13

The Israel Project Answers Beinart's Call

Last fall, Peter Beinart challenged the pro-Israel community—especially conservatives—to take "yes" as an answer from the human rights community when it criticizes the Palestinians. The occasion was a report by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch about the militant group Hamas's repression in the Gaza Strip. "One might think that a detailed report documenting Hamas oppression would be greeted with delight by the 'pro-Israel' American right. After all, they loathe Hamas more than anyone, right?" Beinart wrote. "Curiously, though, I couldn’t find mention of the report on the websites of Commentary, Jennifer Rubin, the Weekly Standard, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Free Beacon."

I'm happy to report this morning that at least one pro-Israel group, the Israel Project (TIP), has taken Beinart up on the challenge, even if it was only on Twitter. TIP isn't quite a right-wing pro-Israel group, but it certainly trends that way. Since Josh Block took over the shop last year, I've noticed a more decidedly right-leaning bent creeping into its work. Nonetheless, TIP deserves credit for bringing attention to HRW's excellent work: ".@HRW: #Hamas must end death penalty for child offenders http://is.gd/p4cjHe," the group wrote on its Twitter feed.

I, for one, was surprised that TIP was the first group of note to rise to Beinart's challenge. That's because Block, TIP's president and CEO, has very clearly voiced his disdain for HRW. He expressed it in a 2009 e-mail exchange with Matt Duss, who wrote it up at ThinkProgress. (Disclosures: Duss is a personal friend; I used to work at ThinkProgress; and Block doesn't much like either of our work, which you can read about in another parenthetical interjection in this recent post.) Block, who was then the spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), told Duss:

HRW has repeatedly demonstrated its anti-Israel bias, and for an organization that claims to be objective about human rights to go hat in hand to raise money from the Saudi ruling elite, while bragging about and seeking to further its Israel-bashing is deeply revealing of the group’s fundamental hypocrisy and its policy of holding a double standard when it comes to Israel. Human Rights Watch has long ago lost all credibility when it comes to human rights issues in the Middle East.

As for the charges about HRW and Saudi Arabia, you can read Duss's post in full or check out an article I did at the time.

Nonetheless, credit should be given where it's due, and the Israel Project should be commended for rising above the right-wing attacks on Human Rights Watch and promoting its valuable work to all the undoubtably pro-Israel followers of its Twitter account.