Today’s leading human-rights advocates generally espouse the leftist perspective which, in its analysis of human societies, draws a stark dichotomy between oppressors on the one hand, and victims on the other. A cardinal principle of leftist thought is that the "underdog" generally occupies the moral high-ground in any dispute, and thus automatically merits the sympathy and support of public opinion. Human-rights activists, therefore, typically pass harsh judgment on the actions of wealthy, powerful, industrialized nations -- most notably the United States. As such, they ascribe to the U.S. all manner of negative traits: racism, sexism, imperialism, aggression, etc. Extending this line of thought, they invariably cast America as the villain in its conflicts with enemies foreign and domestic.
Amnesty International (AI), for instance, complains that the anti-terrorism legislation known as the PATRIOT Act “undermines the human rights of Americans and non-citizens, and weakens the framework for promoting human rights internationally.” In 2004 Amnesty's secretary general Irene Khan condemned the “security agenda promulgated by the U.S. Administration,” calling it “bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle.” Khan further claimed that America had “openly eroded human rights to win the ‘war on terror.’”
AI has also denounced the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities where the U.S. has held hundreds of high-level terror suspects in custody since 9/11. In March 2005, the executive director of Amnesty's USA branch, William Schulz, alleged that the United States had become "a leading purveyor and practitioner" of torture and asserted that senior American officials -- including President Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former CIA director George Tenet -- should face prosecution by other governments for violations of the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. "The apparent high-level architects of torture," Schulz remarked, "should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998." Schulz’s comments were echoed in May of 2005 by Irene Khan, who charged that “Guantanamo has become the gulag of our times.”
Human-rights leaders do not reserve their criticisms solely for the U.S., but extend them also to America's close ally Israel -- routinely tarring the latter as an "apartheid state," a perpetrator of "war crimes," and a habitual violator of the human rights of Palestinians.
Along those lines, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) pointed out in 2009 that many senior staffers and researchers at Human Rights Watch (HRW) have compiled long track-records of extreme anti-Israel partisanship. For example, Sarah Leah Whitson, who currently serves as director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, previously worked for two non-governmental organizations -- MADRE and the Center for Social and Economic Rights (CESR) -- that routinely refer to Israel as an “apartheid” state that is guilty of “brutality” against the Palestinians. Former HRW researcher Lucy Mair also worked for CESR prior to joining HRW, and she wrote regularly for the anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada. Nadia Barhoum, whom HRW hired in 2008, had previously been a leading member of the radical UC Berkeley chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, where she frequently characterized Israel as an “apartheid state” guilty of “mass atrocities.”
Perhaps the most rabidly anti-Israel HRW staffer of all is Joe Stork, who has been with the organization since 1970 and now serves as deputy director under Sarah Leah Whitson. In 1976 Stork traveled to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to attend a “Zionism and Racism” conference that was held to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. On other occasions, Stork has referred disparagingly to the “Zionist colonization of Palestine”; the “Zionist settler-colonial enterprise”; the “Zionist theft of the property and productive resources"; Israel's “policy of provocation and brutal reprisal against Palestinians and Arabs”; and the “pernicious influence of the Zionist lobby.”
Like HRW, Amnesty International also aims a large share of its human-rights charges at Israel. In 2009, for instance, Amnesty's Irene Khan urged the U.S. government to consider carefully the accusations levied against Israel in the Goldstone Report, a document that unfairly charged the Jewish state with “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.” "It's the responsibility of the UN Security Council to take that report as seriously as it has taken reports for instance on the situation in Darfur," said Khan. "There can be no double standards for justice for war crimes or crimes against humanity."
This section of Discover The Networks contains resources that discuss the agendas and activities of human-rights advocates around the world. For a comprehensive definition and discussion of human rights as a concept, click here.