Sunday, November 26, 2023

Human Rights Watch under Fire for Allegedly Accepting Millions in Qatar Funds - Benjamin Weinthal


by Benjamin Weinthal

Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Tuesday published a leaked Qatari government document claiming Qatar's regime paid 3 million euros to HRW.


Middle East Media Research Institute on Tuesday published a leaked Qatari government document claiming Qatar's regime paid 3 million euros to HRW.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch is facing another financing scandal involving donations, this time from Qatar—a Gulf country that was urged by one expert in a recent US congressional hearing to be classified as a state-sponsor of terrorism.

The Washington D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Tuesday published a leaked Qatari government document claiming Qatar's regime paid 3 million euros to HRW.

MEMRI translated the Qatari Prime Minister's Office document that declares the matter is "confidential and urgent."

According to MEMRI's translation, Abdullah Bin Khalaf Hattab Al Ka'bi, director of Qatar's Office of the Prime Minister, wrote to Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al-Emadi in January 2018, stating: "His Excellency the Prime Minister has agreed to provide monetary support of 3 million euros to the organization Human Rights Watch, under the Humanitarian Aid section, and that it should be distributed with the knowledge of the Embassy of Qatar in London so that it can be aware of it and take the necessary [steps] with regard to it."

The subject of the letter notes "providing additional monetary support to the organization Human Rights Watch."

MEMRI wrote that the translation of a document in Arabic was leaked as part of Project Raven.

Executive director of the organization UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told i24NEWS on Thursday: "These reports are very disturbing. They need to be fully investigated. There are strong reasons to fear that this may be true. We would need accountability. The money would have to be returned."

Neuer added, "Qatar is a human rights abusing regime. They enslave migrant workers...caused thousands of them to die. They support the Taliban. They support Hamas. They support terrorism. They have an egregious human rights record."

He continued "If it's true, this would be shameful but not inconsistent with their [HRW] actions in the past. We have seen, because of their anti-Western ideology and anti-Israel ideology, that they will often cozy up to Islamist regimes, whether it's Hamas or Hezbollah. There is a corrupt and twisted culture at Human Rights Watch and that needs to be fixed."

Marc Eichinger, a former French intelligence agent who has written extensively about Qatar's alleged financing of Islamist terrorist movements, told i24NEWS, "Many NGOs are being funded by Qatar and there should be international rules concerning these activities. They should be regulated like any listed companies raising fund on the stock markets. They should provide full transparency over their funding and their management."

Eichinger said "HRW employee Natalie Lundgren worked in the past for the Qatar Foundation and was program manager of World Innovation Summit for Education. These entities are closely linked and under the control of Sheikha Moza. Human Rights Watch can always deny any link with Qatar. The fact is that Mrs Lundgren is in charge of fundraising in Paris and comes from WISE. "

Natalie Lundgren started her work for HRW as the Development and Outreach Manager in 2018. Her previous job was for the Qatari-funded WISE initiative. i24NEWS sent a press query to Lundgren asking if she played a role in securing the alleged Qatari donation for HRW.

Neuer noted that Danielle Haas, an Israeli who worked for HRW for over 13 years, just quit HRW due to the institutional bias against the Jewish state.

Qatar's alleged enabling of Qatar's terrorism was the focus of a congressional hearing in late October. Rich Goldberg, a member of then-President Trump's National Security Council, said at the hearing that "Replacing a Major non-NATO ally designation with a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation would have a destabilizing effect on Qatar overnight — rippling through its global investment portfolio, energy sector, national air carrier, and international prestige."

In 2020, the online news organization The Intercept revealed that HRW's then-Executive Director, Ken Roth, accepted a $470,000 donation from a Saudi billionaire based on the condition that HRW would not use the money to protect the rights of the persecuted LGBTQ-plus community in the Middle East.

Roth was compelled to return the donation after The Intercept report. Neuer urged HRW to reveal the results of the investigation into HRW accepting money from Saudi Arabia.

The founder of HRW, the late Robert Bernstein, issued a scathing indictment of HRW in his 2009 New York Times opinion article titled "Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Middle East."

Bernstein argued that HRW devoted massive and disproportionate resources to criticizing Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, at the expense of exposing human rights violations in closed totalitarian regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran and Arab dictatorships.

He wrote "the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch's Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel."

Berstein added, "Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."

i24NEWS sent press numerous queries to Human Rights Watch and Qatar's government.

HRW's press department told i24NEWS that "HRW never solicited or accepted any money from the Qatari government or any other government. We do not accept money from governments."

In response to i24NEWS's question about HRW accepting money from a Saudi billionaire ostensibly opposed to LGBTQ plus rights, HRW responded that "In 2012, Human Rights Watch made a deeply regrettable decision to accept a donation that included conditions that the funds not be used to support HRW's work on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the Middle East and North Africa. We also regret that the grant was made by the owner of a company that Human Rights Watch had previously identified as complicit in labor rights abuse. "

Benjamin Weinthal, a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe for Fox News Digital. Follow him on Twitter at @BenWeinthal.


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