That was quite an op-ed by its former head yesterday in the NYT. Robert Bernstein argued that violations of human rights were worse in closed than in open societies and that it was therefore important to focus on abuses in the former rather than the latter. That takes us back to the old moral equivalence debate. And Bernstein is obviously right that repression in countries surrounding Israel is exponentially worse than anything in the Jewish democracy. The question is whether that should lead us to ignore abuses by Israel or the US, for example, because overall, their records are far better. I don't see why we should. In some ways, because these abuses are more capable of being reversed in democratic societies, it makes pragmatic sense to include them, as long as the larger context is maintained. And that leads to Bernstein's clincher:
The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
That was indeed striking to me. So I went to the HRW website, which has a list of its reports on various human rights questions over the last few years. Go check it out for yourself.
I guess "written" and "condemnations" is a vague formulation, so Bernstein may be referring to something beyond these reports. And violations of "international law" may be affected by Israel's many wars beyond its borders, compared say, with Egypt's or Jordan's. But in the Israel and Occupied Territories section, I counted several reports on both Israeli and Palestinian abuses. Here are a few Bernstein may have missed in the last two years alone: