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Human Rights Watch Says Human Rights Belong to All People

October 22, 2009

As present chairwoman and past chairman of the board of Human Rights Watch, we were saddened to see Robert L. Bernstein argue that Israel should be judged by a different human rights standard than the rest of the world.

Mr. Bernstein, as a founder of Human Rights Watch, has had ample access over the years to make his argument that we should not be reporting on Israeli conduct because Israel is a democracy. As recently as April, the full board of directors heard — and rejected — Mr. Bernstein’s proposal that Human Rights Watch should focus our research and reporting resources on closed societies.

After careful consideration, we and other members of our board stressed that democracies, too, commit serious abuses, with the United States’ “war on terrorism” and Israel’s conduct in Gaza just the latest examples. We reaffirmed our conviction that it is essential to hold Israel to the same international human rights standards as other countries. To do otherwise would be a violation of our core principle that human rights are universal.

As long as open societies commit human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch has a vital role to play in documenting those violations and advocating to bring them to an end.

Jane Olson
Jonathan Fanton
New York, Oct. 20, 2009

Full letters available here in response to this Op-ed

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