Why Some Human-Rights Groups Have Done So Much Good, While Others Do So Much Harm

June 23 2022

Known to diplomats as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), philanthropies like the International Campaign for Tibet have done much to provide information about, and call attention to, terrible abuses of human rights in parts of the world that would otherwise be ignored. Such groups, notes Elliott Abrams, can accomplish things that are difficult for governments or the various branches of the UN. But the same independence that accounts for the success of some NGOs also explains the moral corruption of others—particularly two of the world’s largest and most influential, which have become consumed by obsessive and irrational hatred for the Jewish state:

In 2021, Human Rights Watch had $256 million in assets and revenue of $130 million. It employs more than 500 staff members in 105 locations globally and has an annual budget of $97 million. Amnesty International is even larger, raising $436 million in 2020 and spending $376 million. It is critical to examine their size and influence: compared to many NGOs in the field of democracy promotion and human rights, they are behemoths whose staffs and spending dwarf others in the field. Both organizations maintain large public-relations staffs and their reports attract enormous attention.

In theory size can be an advantage. . . . But the very large size of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch raises several problems. . . . When two gigantic NGOs dominate the field, their voices can drown out those of many other, far smaller organizations. What’s more, NGOs and their leadership are not immune from harboring prejudices and political biases.

Moreover, when two such NGOs dominate the field, questions may arise as to their own internal “democratic gap.” Such large and rich organizations report to no one, nor of course are they democratically run internally. Their top officials theoretically report to boards of trustees, but the boards are themselves self-perpetuating and independent from any oversight. The very independence of NGOs, one of their greatest strengths, can become an issue when two organizations so dominate the field.

The ancient question Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or “Who will guard the guards themselves?” arises here—and is difficult to answer. Others in the field of democracy promotion may be reluctant to criticize such powerful players—in part because anyone in the field may think he or she might one day seek employment as part of their large (and at the top very well-paid) staffs, and in part because they do not wish to tangle with organizations having such influence.

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Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, NGO

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion