Human Rights Watch: Covering up an Arab Trade in Black Slaves
By Charles Jacobs & Sasha Giller
January 6, 2011
Friends of Israel have long fumed over what they felt was the human rights community’s disproportionate and unfair criticism of the Jewish state: Major rights organizations typically portray Israel as among the cruelest of nations, while this planet’s actual dictatorships and tyrannies get wrist slaps.
Last year, this charge was bolstered by scandals engulfing Human Rights Watch (HRW), an NGO behemoth with an annual budget of $44 million.
In October, Robert L. Bernstein, HRW’s founder and a former chairman, blasted his own organization in The New York Times for obsessively focusing on Israel, while ignoring authoritarian Arab and Iranian regimes and terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. Bernstein charged that HRW “lost critical perspective on a conflict” by blaming Israel, the “repeated victim of aggression.”
HRW’s treatment of Mauritania’s black slaves cinches our case. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has more slaves per capita than any other nation on Earth. It abolished slavery in 1905, 1961 and 1980; the country criminalized it in 2007, but the UN, the US State Department, and Amnesty International report that slavery continues. According to UN reports – confirmed by our Mauritanian abolitionist allies – slaves in Mauritania are the wholly owned property of masters, passed on through their estates, like furniture or cattle. Slave girls are given as wedding gifts.
You might think black slaves would be a top priority for an American rights champion. But there’s a problem. While the slaves are African, their masters are not white Europeans; they are Arab-Berber Muslims.
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