In contrast to the UN secretary-general and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the head of Human Rights Watch is refusing to unequivocally condemn Thursday’s kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, emphasizing instead that they attended school in an “illegal settlement,” and demanding that his critics first condemn an unrelated event from a month ago, the alleged IDF killing of masked rock-throwers.
After repeated appeals from Twitter users for HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth to end his silence on the abductions, Roth finally responded with this carefully-constructed tweet: “Attending school at illegal settlement doesn’t legitimize apparent kidnapping of Israel teens. They should be freed.”
Attending school at illegal settlement doesn't legitimize apparent kidnapping of #Israel teens. They should be freed http://t.co/EO1jeWh8Ht
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 14, 2014
But why would Roth even bother to mention that the youths — two of them aged 16 — studied in an “illegal settlement”?
In all of history, was there ever a case where the head of a human rights group issued a statement concerning innocent hostages — while they were still in the hands of kidnappers — which deliberately connected them to an “illegal” act, let alone devoting half the text to it?
Although Roth appears to insist that this fact “doesn’t legitimize” their kidnapping, the only possible reason he mentioned it was to equivocate his appeal, which amounted to nothing more than “they should be freed.”
HRW’s standard procedure is to call out actions as violations of international law.
Indeed, in other like cases, HRW has issued lengthy press releases and reports condemning the abductions of civilians as a war crime, citing chapter and verse of the Geneva Conventions.
Yet here not only does Roth’s tweet exceptionally fail to invoke the law against the perpetrators of the kidnapping, but he instead invokes the law against the victims — for attending school at an “illegal” settlement.
By contrast, the ICRC — whose Geneva headquarters are up the street from where I write these lines and which, I assure you, is hardly a card-carrying member of the Zionist movement — was unequivocal:
International humanitarian law prohibits abduction as well as the taking of hostages. The ICRC calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Sha’er and Naftali Frenkel. They must be treated humanely, and their lives and dignity protected and respected, as required by international humanitarian law.
ICRC calls for the immediate and unconditional release of three teenagers abducted in the #WestBank http://t.co/J2m1irAjzd
— ICRC in Israel & OT (@ICRC_ilot) June 15, 2014
These are exactly the kinds of things Roth’s HRW would normally say in other situations — but not, it would seem, when it comes to Israeli victims.
And that the victims are children does not seem to matter in the slightest to Roth, though it did to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General condemns the abduction on 12 June of three Israeli students, including two minors, in the West Bank. He expresses his solidarity with the families of the abducted and calls for their immediate release.
The UN being what it is, Ban’s statement regrettably felt the need to inject a comment about Israeli actions in Gaza, but at least his initial condemnation was firm, detailed and unequivocal, and he went the extra emotional step of expressing solidarity with the victims’ families.
When I pressed Roth on his shameful tweet, he came back with this new tweet: “Kidnapping 3 Israeli boys is wrong. So is killing 2 Palest’n boys posing no imminent threat. Join me to condemn both?”
Kidnapping 3 Israeli boys is wrong. So is killing 2 Palest'n boys posing no imminent threat. Join me to condemn both? http://t.co/bssHoRDJ6l
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 15, 2014
Roth apparently sees himself as making a concession to his critics — OK, the kidnapping is “wrong” (though not “illegal,” much less a war crime) — and then, parry and thrust, he hits them with a challenge: “Join me to condemn both?”
Yet why must Roth, or anyone else, have to first condemn Israel for an unrelated event that took place a month ago, bad as he alleges it to be, before condemning this weekend’s ongoing crime committed by Palestinian terrorists?
Why the spurious linkage, especially when Roth had already condemned the IDF’s alleged actions numerous times over the past month?
Why compare the abduction of innocent minors to the alleged killing of masked rock-throwers at a violent riot, wrongful as the latter incident might be?
UN rights chief has "very serious concerns" re #Israel killing of 2 Palestinian teenagers posing no immediate threat. http://t.co/RCT7nc7FRX
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 23, 2014
CNN report suggests #Israel fired live, not rubber, bullets killing two Palestinian teens posing no immediate threat. http://t.co/EF5yBQXd1u
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 25, 2014
Apparent war crime when #Israel forces shot & killed two West Bank Palestinian boys posing no imminent threat: @HRW. http://t.co/938MIEG4rH
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) June 9, 2014
It’s important to bear in mind that Ken Roth is today the most powerful individual in the human rights universe.
As the once-mighty Amnesty International is mired by internal battles, union strife and an ever-revolving leadership, Roth controls an ascendant $228-million empire that recruits top diplomats, UN officials and journalists into its ever-expanding global staff, at the same time as it places its own officials in key positions of influence, including the senior ranks of the U.S. State Department’s human rights division.
Sadly, while the organization accomplishes important work on many areas, the Twitter feed of its enormously influential leader — who was born Jewish — reveals this person’s pathological, daily obsession with portraying the Jewish state as irredeemably irredentist, racist or bloodthirsty, causing him to turn a blind eye, or, worse, explain away, terrorism committed against Israelis.
When your New York human rights organization is more indifferent to the suffering of innocent Jews than international organizations like the UN and the ICRC, it’s time to realize you have a problem.