Glossing Over Real Issues of Nazi-Era Enthusiast Working for Anti-Israel Group

On Tuesday, Times reporter John Schwartz discovered the controversy over Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the left-wing Human Rights Watch. Garlasco, who has filed a series of anti-Israel reports for HRW, was revealed as an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia by Omri Ceren, the blogger at MereRhetoric.

Schwartz got the bare bones of the story right in "Rights Group Assailed for Analyst's Nazi Collection."

A leading human rights group has suspended its senior military analyst following revelations that he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia.

The group, Human Rights Watch, had initially thrown its full support behind the analyst, Marc Garlasco, when the news of his hobby came out last week. On Monday night, the group shifted course and suspended him with pay, "pending an investigation," said Carroll Bogert, the group's associate director.

"We have questions about whether we have learned everything we need to know," she said.

But Schwartz misleadingly boiled the conflict down to ideological terms, lumping "the new Israeli government and its allies on the right" against Human Rights Watch, as if the Nazi memorabilia revelations were a result of Garlasco and HRW being targeted by the Israeli government.

The suspension comes at a time of heightened tension between, on one side, the new Israeli government and its allies on the right, and the other side, human rights organizations that have been critical of Israel. In recent months, the government has pledged an aggressive approach toward the groups to discredit what they argue is bias and error.

Schwartz also failed to get into the clear anti-Israel bias of Garlasco's reports for Human Rights Watch. As Ceren wrote in his September 8 scoop on Garlasco's interesting hobby:

Bloggers and activists concerned about Israel have been baffled and frustrated by the first Garlasco almost since he joined HRW. On his public photography site he posts gratuitous Palestinian and Lebanese death porn in between galleries of cute Western-looking kids playing soccer (no link - keeping his kids out of it). He provides a seemingly never-ending stream of interviews to all kinds of outlets, where he spins tales about ostensible Israeli atrocities. The only problem is that many of these tales - per Soccer Dad and IsraPundit and Elder of Ziyon and NGO Monitor and CAMERA and LGF - are biased and inaccurate. That doesn't stop Garlasco from putting them into the kind of HRW reports that make their way into international anti-Israel condemnations and academic anti-Israel dissertations.

Schwartz explained Garlasco had written a long book about Nazi medals and that his hobby was revealed on Mere Rhetoric, "which quoted his enthusiastic postings on collector sites under the pseudonym 'Flak88' - including, 'That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!'"

Then Schwartz brought up the misleading Israeli government angle again.

The administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also weighed in, but its views on groups like Human Rights Watch were already clear. Mr. Netanyahu's policy director, Ron Dermer, told The Jerusalem Post in July, "We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups; we are not going to be sitting ducks in a pond for the human rights groups to shoot at us with impunity."....Other groups say they have felt more heat from the Israeli government and its allies.

And apparently only "right-wing fanatics" care about a possible relationship between Garlasco's interest in Nazis and his anti-Israel reports.

Yaron Ezrahi, a professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said he did not believe that Mr. Garlasco's interest in memorabilia could support allegations of "premeditated bias." He said, however, that Human Rights Watch's credibility might have been wounded because Mr. Garlasco's hobby "has armed the right-wing fanatics" who "work day and night to demonize any individual or organization that raises questions about the military practices of Israel when they end up even with unintended civilian casualties."

Mark Hemingway at National Review Online wasn't impressed:

Are "right-wing fanatics" at issue here? Isn't the issue that HRW's analysis consistently appears anti-Israel? Or maybe the issue is that over the summer, a Human Rights Watch director was heavily criticized for pandering to the Saudis on Israel in an attempt to fundraise? Or maybe the issue is recent reports HRW deputy director Joe Stork put his name to a statement that read "we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action [in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the 1972 Olympics]...It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps"?

Of course, none of this background made it into the Times ' report. If HRW's credibility is damaged here it's because Garlasco's hobby is just one of many recent revelations suggesting the organization has an unjustifiable anti-Israel bias.