Decades ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW)—and its predecessor, Helsinki Watch—concerned itself with the fate of Jewish dissidents being terrorized by the Soviet government. But those days are long gone, and the organization now fixates on finding imaginary sins for which to condemn Israel, while ignoring anti-Semitism—unless, of course, it can be traced to the far right. Ben Cohen writes:
When it has come to such matters as boycotting Israel or left-wing agitation against Jews in the guise of “Zionists,” or the persistence of crudely anti-Semitic beliefs among Europe’s Muslim communities, [HRW] has invariably dismissed Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism by holding up the banner of “free speech” or by suggesting—as its director Ken Roth did in 2014—that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is the reason why Jews on the continent keep getting insulted, spat at, beaten up, and even kidnapped and murdered.
But when members of the German extreme right gathered to protest coronavirus-related restrictions, wearing yellow stars and carrying banners with anti-Semitic slogans, an HRW representative jumped at the chance to lament this “sad reminder” of the persistent hatred of the Jews. As Cohen notes,
there have been plenty of “sad reminders” of the stubbornness of anti-Semitism before the coronavirus came along. The problem for HRW, perhaps, is that those earlier episodes did not emanate from the right. Take France, where eleven Jews have been murdered by anti-Semitic terror or brutal violence since 2006—not a single one of them at the hands of far-right thugs. Because the killers in all these instances came from immigrant backgrounds, HRW has always felt uneasy addressing this particular form of anti-Semitic violence, and simultaneously reassured in the mistaken belief that once the Israeli “occupation” ends, then Muslim anti-Semitism will disappear as well.
[W]hile HRW understands that anti-Semitism is a core element of the extreme right’s worldview, it sees its appearance in other contexts as a marginal aberration.