Human Rights Watch director justifies British anti-Semitism

Human Rights Watch chief Ken Roth dug in his heels after justifying soaring levels of British anti-Semitism.

By World Israel News Staff

Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth got himself in trouble with a tweet justifying anti-Semitism. The tweet was eventually deleted, but not without continuing to offend Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is always wrong, and it long preceded the creation of Israel, but the surge in UK anti-Semitic incidents during the recent Gaza conflict gives the lie to those who pretend that the Israeli government’s conduct doesn’t affect antisemitism,” Roth tweeted on Sunday.

The tweet shared a Haaretz article about Britain’s rising levels of anti-Semitism during and after Operation Guardian of the Walls. Haaretz picked up on a study by the Community Security Trust, the UK’s anti-Semitism watchdog, which recorded 628 anti-Semitic incidents in a one-month period — a rise of 365 percent.

Reaction to Roth’s tweet was furious. Jews denounced the HRW executive for essentially blaming Jews for anti-Semitism. Some slammed Roth for qualifying what should have been a clear denunciation of Jew-hatred with the word “but.”

Others noted the insensitivity and irony that Roth would tweet such a sentiment on Tisha B’Av. The saddest day on the Hebrew calendar, Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples and other Jewish tragedies.

“It is unclear how the head of a charity supposedly concerned with human rights can make this sort of victim-blaming statement,” said David Mendoza-Wolfson, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“If he had done so about any other ethnic group whose members were being targeted under the pretext of something happening thousands of miles away, he would be a pariah. But, as often seems to be the case with anti-Semitism, those excusing it or rationalising it seem to get a free pass.”

Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, tweeted, “Anti-Semitism is bad, period. To justify anti-Semitism as a result of our just operation against Hamas in Gaza is to give it legitimacy. I would suggest focusing on the human rights violations in Gaza under Hamas rule.”

Hillel Neuer of UNWatch asked, “Would Roth ever say ‘Persecuting Blacks, gays and women is wrong, but…'” Neuer, like others, also called for HRW to dismiss Roth.

Roth initially dug in his heels, tweeting that people were deliberately misinterpreting his tweet, saying, “Interesting how many people pretend that this tweet justifies anti-Semitism (it doesn’t and I don’t under any circumstances) rather than address the correlation noted in the Haaretz article between recent Israeli government conduct in Gaza and the rise of UK anti-Semitic incidents.”

But that only fueled further Jewish criticism. Haaretz reporter Sam Sokol, who wrote the article, fired his own shot at Roth, saying, “And he had to use an article I wrote to try and bolster his point. And it does nothing of the sort.”

Roth deleted his original tweet, then retweeted Sokol’s report.

But even that exposed the HRW executive to further criticism when he wrote, “I deleted an earlier tweet because people misinterpreted its wording. I repost the Haaretz article here without commentary: ‘UK Anti-Semitism Rose to Record Levels During Israel-Gaza Fighting,’ ‘the most intense period of anti-Jewish hatred seen in recent years.'”

Pro-Israel blogger Forest Rain summed up the responses, tweeting, “We understand you perfectly… you just didn’t like being called out for your hate.”