Having just returned from being locked for almost an hour in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center mall while a surprisingly large robot fired three 12-gauge shotgun shells into a suspicious package, which was then disposed of by a man in a Kevlar body suit, I was not, I confess, in a mood to indulge those who make light of Israel’s security concerns. Shortly after, my feelings were compounded by reading Benjamin Birnbaum’s excellent piece in The New Republic on the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch and its treatment of Israel. It is doubtful that a better, or more important, piece of classic muckraking journalism will be published in the coming months.
The piece takes as its impetus the recent controversy between the organization’s staffers and some of its board members, in particular, its founder Robert Bernstein, who recently published a New York Times op-ed denouncing the organization’s attitude toward Israel. Its real value, however, is its exposure of the personalities behind the organization; the faces behind the impersonal reports and press releases that constitute the public face of HRW.