There are certain occasions that make you question whether we're all consulting the same dictionary. Today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the influential organization Human Rights Watch is having a fierce internal debate over whether Iranian leadership calling for the destruction of Israel and the Jews is, in fact, "incitement."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves during a welcoming ceremony for his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad (unseen) in Tehran on October 02, 2010. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
The Wall Street Journal writes:
Human Rights Watch is the George Soros-funded operation that has outsize influence in governments, newsrooms and classrooms world-wide. Some at the nonprofit want to denounce Iran's regime for inciting genocide. "Sitting still while Iran claims a 'justification to kill all Jews and annihilate Israel' . . . is a position unworthy of our great organization," Sid Sheinberg, the group's vice chairman, wrote to colleagues in a recent email.
But Executive Director Kenneth Roth, who runs the nonprofit, strenuously disagrees.
Asked in 2010 about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that Israel "must be wiped off the map," Mr. Roth suggested that the Iranian president has been misunderstood. "There was a real question as to whether he actually said that," Mr. Roth told The New Republic, because the Persian language lacks an idiom for wiping off the map. Then again, Mr. Ahmadinejad's own English-language website translated his words that way, and the main alternative translation—"eliminated from the pages of history"—is no more benign. Nor is Mr. Ahmadinejad an outlier in the regime. Iran's top military officer declared earlier this year that "the Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel."
Mr. Roth's main claim is legalistic: Iran's rhetoric doesn't qualify as "incitement"—which is illegal under the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948—but amounts merely to "advocacy," which is legal. [Emphasis added]
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth talks during a media conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. (Photo: AP)
Apparently the two are differentiated because in advocating violence "there is time to dissuade," but incitement "must be suppressed because it is tantamount to action."
The aforementioned Roth claimed "no one" has acted on Iran's calls to annihilate Israel and the Jews.
At that, the Wall Street Journal's David Feith chronicles Iran's many moves to target the state of Israel. From its nuclear program, to Hezbollah, to Hamas (both of which receive either direct or indirect support from the Islamic nation), Iran has already demonstrated its willingness to attack Israel. What it lacks, at the current time, is superior weapons.
An Iranian woman walks past a poster featuring portraits of (L-R) Israeli military intelligence chief General Amos Yedlin, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Defence Minister Ehud Barak during an anti-Israeli ceremony in Tehran on March 9, 2008. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
The Jerusalem Post reached out to Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, to weigh in on the issue:
“This is a blatant example of Roth’s indifference to genocidal threats and human rights abuses when these target Israel,” [he said].
“Roth, who has controlled Human Rights Watch since 1996, has consistently demonstrated a obsession with attacking the Jewish state, and the people he selected to lead HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division are also infected with this deep bias,” Steinberg wrote.
“While Gaddafi was ranting against the Zionists, HRW embraced the regime as ‘human rights reformers.’ HRW’s studied silence in the face of Iran’s genocidal threats further demonstrates this organization’s moral bankruptcy.”
Steinberg added that “George Soros, who now provides HRW with most of its budget after many donors withdrew support, shares responsibility for enabling such immoral behavior under the facade of human rights.”
When asked to comment for the article, Roth said the organization may review Iran's positions, but said he believes claims Iran is inciting violence is really just "part of an effort to beat the war drums against Iran."
"In other words, Tehran will continue to call for Israel's obliteration—and Human Rights Watch will continue to sit back and watch," the Wall Street Journal's David Feith concludes.