October 21, 2009
Alright, my past couple of posts have been out of pure anger or emotional euphoria. I need to post something a little more balanced. Here I go.
In today’s NY Times, Robert Bernstein, former chair of Human Rights Watch and current board member, wrote a piece for the Op-Ed section regarding HRW’s approach to “closed” versus “open” societies. He accuses HRW of focusing too heavily on Israel’s human rights issues and ignoring other Middle Eastern countries.
There seems to be an awful lot of opposition to HRW’s reports on Israel lately. Personally, I think they’re doing well. What surprised me most about Bernstein’s article was his statement that HRW “casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.” This doesn’t make sense to me. Is he saying that reports on the US, Italy, and Brazil aren’t worth doing? Are their human rights violations less worse than those in the Middle East? Is HRW any less dedicated to other Middle Eastern countries as a result of their reports on Israel?
It just doesn’t make sense to me. True, HRW has published quite a few reports on Israel in the past few months. It has also had numerous reports on the U.S. and Russia in the past few months as well. Furthermore, while I don’t have a great or thorough understanding of how the reports are generated, I know that some countries are more difficult to enter than others. If a country will not allow HRW researchers to visit, then it becomes much more difficult for them to develop a report.
All in all, I’m glad that HRW and its critics can have this dialog and get it all out in the open. Look for HRW’s response tomorrow in the NY Times. I’m sure there will be one.
August 21, 2009
A friend I met at AUC came to visit me, and we reminisced about our times in Zamalek, drank, ate, and smoked shisha. She showed me an article the Caravan, the school newspaper, had published about the Arab students’ sentiments about the U.S. and Israel. The majority opinion was that 1) Israel has no right to exist; and 2) the U.S. should stop shoving their noses into the Middle East’s business.
Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge that I have very little and limited understanding of any and all Middle Eastern conflicts. (Then again, who doesn’t?) With that said, I think that such statements regarding Israel’s existence are wildly inappropriate. If this is how Arab students in an Arab country feel, shouldn’t they pressure their governments to support the Palestinians, whom they claim are innocent victims of Zionist policies? Last time I checked, almost none of the Arab nations have done anything to help the Palestinians. They recite anti-Israel propaganda, but do little to compromise, or to take in Palestinian refugees.
In terms of Egypt, couldn’t one argue that the Arabs have no right to be there either? I believe the Coptic Christians are the closest relatives of the oldest (and true?) Egyptians. Same for the U.S. It’s been noted many times that the country technically belongs to the Native Americans/Indians. And I don’t think we can easily get started on all of South America. So if you want to argue about who has rights to land, it’s a lost cause.
My other gripe about these arguments is the assumption that Palestinians hate Israel as much as everyone else. When some friends and I visited Hebron and Ram Allah, we asked some people we met how they felt about Israel. While the few people we talked to may not represent all of Palestine, they said that they just want peace. They have no problem with Israel existing, so long as they can visit their families and not be treated as cattle. This seems reasonable, doesn’t it? For someone to ask for peaceful and humane co-existence?
Asking for basic human rights is not a problem. Demanding that an entire country disintegrates is.