The Day In Israel: Wed July 15th, 2009

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Israel has ripped Human Rights Watch (HRW) a new one.

In the opening shot of a battle Jerusalem has decided to wage with NGOs it deems biased against Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday slammed a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) fundraising delegation to Saudi Arabia as evidence the organization has lost its “moral compass.”

“A human rights organization raising money in Saudi Arabia is like a women’s rights group asking the Taliban for a donation,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said Monday.

“If you can fundraise in Saudi Arabia, why not move on to Somalia, Libya and North Korea?” he said. “For an organization that claims to offer moral direction, it appears that Human Rights Watch has seriously lost its moral compass.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, responded by telling The Jerusalem Post that there was a need to distinguish between a government and its people, and to conflate the two was “misguided at best.”

“Certainly not everyone is tainted by the misconduct of their government,” she said, stressing that her organization did not take money from any governments around the world, but did solicit funds from individuals and foundations worldwide.

“There are private individuals in Saudi Arabia who are not part of the ruling government,” she said.

Regev’s comments came two weeks after Israel was ripped for alleged misconduct during Operation Cast Lead in reports issued by HRW and Amnesty International, two of the highest-profile human rights NGOs. Israel has decided to take a much more aggressive stance toward future reports issued by these organizations, the Post has learned.

“We will make a greater effort in the future to go through their reports with a fine-tooth comb, expose the inconsistencies and their problematic use of questionable data,” one senior official said.

“We discovered during the Gaza operation and the Second Lebanon War that these organizations come in with a very strong agenda, and because they claim to have some kind of halo around them, they receive a status that they don’t deserve,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry is currently considering how best to expand its focus and deal more systematically with this issue, and it is assumed this will be done together with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Post has learned.

At a press conference last week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Foreign Ministry was currently involved in a reform that would place a much greater emphasis on dealing with NGOs, which Lieberman said were replacing diplomats as the engine for setting the international community’s agenda.

Regev’s comments on HRW were triggered by an op-ed that appeared Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal’s online edition, reporting that a delegation from the organization recently visited Saudi Arabia to raise money from wealthy Saudis by highlighting the group’s activities against Israel.

This op-ed, written by David Bernstein – a law professor at Virginia’s George Mason University – was based on a report issued by NGO Monitor two months ago, which itself was based on an article on the visit that appeared in the Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News.

According to the Arab News story from May, a delegation of senior members of HRW were in Saudi Arabia and commended at a dinner attended by prominent members of Saudi society, human rights activists and dignitaries for work on Gaza and the Middle East as a whole.

According to the report, HRW presented a documentary and spoke on the report they had compiled “on Israel violating human rights and international law” during the Gaza operation.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:27PM: Israel’s Irone Dome rocket interceptor system has passed its first live trial.

8:33PM: Summary of day 2 of the Maccabiah Games, featuring one half of the team of wooden presenters we saw yesterday…plus a new wooden replacement.

6:50PM: Weekend at Bernie’s: Look who Bernard Madoff is joining in prison.

Wall Street’s biggest fraudster Bernard Madoff will serve his jail term along with an Israeli spy and an Islamic terrorist at a North Carolina prison, where he was transferred on Monday after the US Bureau of Prisons rejected his request to spend the rest of his life at the Otisville Correctional Institute, an easygoing prison.

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The Butner complex comprises two mediumsecurity prisons and a low-security facility in the same place, which could make it easier for Madoff to transfer to a lower security jail in the future.

Among the inmates at the complex is Jonathan Pollard, the former US navy officer convicted of spying for Israel in 1987, who is scheduled for release in 2015. Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheikh jailed for life in 1995 for plotting a “day of terror” in New York.

One of those men doesn’t deserve to be there. And it ain’t the blind terrorist nor the Wall Street crook.

6:15AM: A number of Jewish officials who met with US President Barack Obama have said they still have concerns about his approach to Israel, despite his efforts to assuage them.

About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks

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