- Deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch
- Views Israel as a colonial force in the Middle East and supports its destruction as a means to liberate Palestine
- Believes Arab violence against Jewish Israelis is part of a legitimate anti-imperialist struggle against an illegitimate racist (Zionist) regime
Joe Stork is the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based NGO with a strong anti-Israel bias. Having joined HRW in 1996, Stork, a Marxist, is one of the longest-serving members of the organization’s Middle East wing.
In 1971, when Stork was a prominent activist for the Palestinian cause, he and six colleagues established the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) as a spinoff of the Institute for Policy Studies, where Stork was a “student.” Supporting the agendas of the PLO, MERIP called for Israel’s destruction and published a report lauding a terrorist leader who was affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). According to Stork, MERIP had been created because existing leftist critiques of “U.S. support for Israel” were “inadequate.”
From 1971-95, Stork served as the chief editor of MERIP’s bimonthly magazine, Middle East Report, which he co-founded. Also during his tenure with MERIP, Stork distributed literature from both the PFLP and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction. According to NGO Monitor, “MERIP was centrally involved in activities of the radical Left, and its rhetoric reflected Marxist anti-imperialist ideology. MERIP Reports carried laudatory interviews with terrorist leaders and other activists.” After nine Israeli athletes were murdered at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, MERIP issued an editorial that read: “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement, but we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action…. It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.” And in a 1972 panel discussion organized by MERIP and held at the Institute for Policy Studies, Stork said that “at some point we want to talk about ways we here in this country [the United States] can best support the [Palestinian] movement.”
In 1976 at the University of Baghdad, Stork participated in an Iraqi conference on “Zionism and Racism” which was organized under the auspices of Saddam Hussein. The event celebrated the one-year anniversary of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. There, Stork gave a presentation that made reference to the “Zionist colonization of Palestine,” the “Zionist settler-colonial enterprise,” and the “Zionist theft of the property and productive resources.” When referencing Israel’s 1967 victory over its Arab enemies, Stork identified “the single most important cause” of the Arab defeat as “the failure of the regimes in question to mobilize their societies for the kind of protracted struggle that is critical for the liberation of Palestine.” “[T]he surplus extracted from the masses was used to construct a military machine that was completely inadequate to the task of liberating Palestine,” he added.
In a subsequent article based on the presentation he had given at the 1976 conference, Stork characterized the “spontaneous random outbreaks of violence”—by Palestinians against Jews—as an expression of “the revolutionary potential of the Palestinian masses.” He also stated that “the struggle against Zionism can only be won by struggling against imperialism, not by striking deals with future [Henry] Kissingers.”
Stork continued to deride Israel with incendiary rhetoric during the years that followed:
- In a 1981 article, Stork charged that the “Zionist establishment” had responded to criticism of Israel by attempting to distance itself “from the more odious stances of the Israeli government.”
- In a 1986 article, Stork made reference to Israel’s alleged “policy of provocation and brutal reprisal against Palestinians and Arabs,” and he criticized “the pernicious influence of the Zionist lobby.”
- In another 1986 piece, Stork falsely accused Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin of having referred to Palestinians as “two-legged beasts.” (In reality, Begin had applied the term “two-footed animals” specifically, and only, to terrorists who sought to murder Israeli schoolchildren.)
- Stork was similarly hard on the Jewish state in “Nuclear Shadow over the Middle East” (a 1986 article), “North Africa Faces the 1990s (a 1990 article), and “U.S. policy and the Palestine Question” (a chapter he wrote for a 1992 book titled The United States and the Middle East: A Search for New Perspectives). In the latter, Stork impugned “Zionist hegemony,” American-Israeli conspiracies that he claimed were being secretly hatched, and “the elaborate ritual labeled the peace process.”
- When HRW released the results of a 2001 study of torture techniques used by the Palestinian Authority, Stork said that such practices had not been developed independently by Palestinian officials, but had been learned by Palestinian security officers while they were incarcerated in Israeli prisons, where guards allegedly perpetrated acts of torture on a regular basis.
- In a May 2002 interview, Stork charged that Israel was guilty of “destruction on a wide scale,” “a pattern of unlawful killings of unarmed civilians,” “very serious violations of humanitarian law in some cases requiring criminal investigation,” and “killings of civilians in circumstances where there doesn’t appear to have been any military justification.”
- In 2004, Stork claimed that Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorism security barrier in the West Bank “seriously impedes Palestinian access to essentials of civilian life, such as work, education and medical care.”
- In a 2007 panel discussion, Stork voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
- NGO Monitor reports that in a May 11, 2008 public letter to President George W. Bush, Stork and his co-authors “minimized or omitted Hamas’ attacks on Israeli border crossings where humanitarian aid is delivered, as well as the diversion of that aid by Hamas.”
Stork’s theoretical framework holds that the Middle East conflict is a “struggle of liberation versus imperialist control”—i.e., the struggle against the neo-colonial (and racist) force represented by Jewish Israel. Because it is “colonial,” the very existence of Israel is, by Stork’s reckoning, illegitimate. By logical extension, violence by Palestinians—the allegedly rightful indigenous inhabitants of the region—is thus justified as “resistance,” while any harm visited upon Arabs by Israelis—the invasive imperialists—is condemnable.
In the January 2010 issue of the Carnegie Endowment’s Arab Reform Bulletin, Stork published an article titled “Obama and Human Rights in the Middle East: Suggestions for Act Two.” In this piece, Stork:
- praised President Barack Obama for having spoken “movingly of the ‘daily humiliations’ and ‘intolerable’ situation of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation”;
- directed the bulk of his attention and his harshest language toward Israeli responses to terror attacks, and made only a brief mention of notorious human-rights abusers like Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia;
- repeatedly accused Israel of “collective punishment” which “violates international law”—an allehgation that, as the Gatestone Institute points out, “exploits and misuses a clearly defined legal term referring to criminal penalties, not economic sanctions … [which under international law] are entirely legal”;
- complained about the “impunity” with which Israel allegedly mistreated the Palestinians;
- exhorted the Obama administration to impose sanctions against the Jewish state;
- lamented that “the Obama administration’s promotion of human rights with abusive Middle Eastern governments … has been ambiguous and, in some cases, negligent, raising concern that the United States is still operating in a universe of double standards when it comes to confronting serious human rights violations by important allies”;
- made no mention of Iran and Syria’s arming of Hamas and Hezbollah, which had laid the groundwork for the thousands of rocket attacks that those groups launched against Israel in recent years;
- criticized the Obama Administration for failing to endorse the Goldstone Report’s biased condemnation of Israeli anti-terror measures as “war crimes”;
- failed to mention that the Goldstone mission was initiated and bankrolled by the Arab League, and that Richard Goldstone was a board member of HRW;
- accused Israel of having placed “wholesale restrictions on the movement of goods and people,” when in fact, Israel was providing thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza each week;
- rebuked the Obama administration for having “backed off its insistence that Israel halt all new construction” of “illegal” West Bank “settlements”;
- complained that the Obama administration’s “criticism of Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been muted at best”; and
- urged the president to publicly threaten “reductions in military aid” to Israel if the latter refused to stop its policy of closely monitoring all imports into Gaza.
In October 2012, Stork acknowledged that “after five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services.”
In addition to his work with HRW, Stork is currently a consultant for the Middle East Studies Association‘s Committee on Academic Freedom, which is co-chaired by Zachary Lockman—a Marxist, anti-Israel, anti-American professor at New York University. Stork has also served on the advisory committees of the American Friends Service Committee, the Institute for Policy Studies’ Foreign Policy in Focus initiative, and the Open Society Institute‘s Iraq Revenue Project.
For additional information on Joe Stork, click here.