On Oct. 22, notably during the Jewish Sabbath, the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) is set to host a panel on “Racism and the Crime of Apartheid in International Law.” As CAMERA has already detailed, the panel features a grossly one-sided panel of anti-Israel activists who have accused Israel of being guilty of “apartheid,” including Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir.
An inside source, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed that the Oct. 22 panel was and continues to be organized by HRW. Given HRW’s history of distorting facts and the law to serve partisan ends, the nature of the lineup for the panel could not have been a surprise to ABILA.
The sponsors of the conference have also known about the lineup for some time now, and yet the panel remains grossly one sided. This flies in the face of a statement by the spokesperson of one of the leading sponsors of the conference, White & Case LLP.
After criticism of White & Case’s sponsorship of a University of Chicago event featuring HRW’s Omar Shakir, a firm spokesperson told JNS, “We are not involved in or consulted on any of the programming decisions these student organizations make. Had we known in advance of this event, we would have insisted that our firm not be associated with it in any way.”
When White & Case said this to JNS, the firm already knew about the one-sided propaganda panel it was sponsoring at ABILA’s International Law Weekend.
For one, in ABILA’s program for the conference, the description for the panel used classic HRW language which openly declared that Israel was guilty of “systematic oppression of Palestinians.” Though the language was eventually removed after ABILA first began receiving pushback, it made clear from the start that there was never any interest in the panel being an engaging, vigorous debate of an unsettled area of law. Rather, it was plainly intended to be a propaganda session for HRW and their ideological buddies.
Moreover, White & Case, as well as other sponsors, were specifically asked about these issues as early as Oct. 14—two days prior to the publication of a JNS story about White & Case’s involvement in the University of Chicago event—but “declined to comment.” Additionally, in an email to the author, a senior leader at ABILA forwarded a statement dated Oct. 17 by Leila Sadat, the current president, which mentions that “some of our sponsors that they were contacted about this panel as well.”
White & Case cannot claim ignorance, nor can it claim the situation has in any way been adequately rectified.
In the statement by Sadat, she also writes that a decision was made to “add additional speakers to assuage any concern that the discussion would be one-sided.” This is a dishonest claim.
Those speakers that were subsequently added came in a specific order. The first additional speaker was Mia Swart. Far from “assuaging” concerns about one-sidedness, Swart, friend of HRW and formerly of Al Jazeera, is a known anti-Israel activist who is also on record of accusing Israel of “apartheid.”
Only days after HRW added a fourth anti-Israel speaker was someone with an opposing viewpoint finally added, likely as it emerged who Swart was and where she stands on these issues. It had become clear that rather than take the issue seriously, HRW was more interested in sticking it to the other side.
Four ideologically similar anti-Israel partisans to just one barrister who has challenged the “apartheid” narrative can hardly be considered a victory for vigorous debate and open inquiry. This amounts to little more than putting lipstick on a pig. Giving a single individual 15 minutes to respond to 60 minutes’ worth of material does not make for a serious conversation, and if White & Case wants to argue otherwise, they are merely insulting the public’s intelligence.
Then again, that seems to be exactly White & Case’s style lately. They claimed ignorance over the University of Chicago event while simultaneously knowing exactly what they were sponsoring at ABILA’s International Law Weekend. The same law firm also provided cover for Morningstar’s role in promoting the anti-Semitic BDS movement. As detailed by Richard Goldberg of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, while White & Case’s report claimed that Morningstar does not recommend or encourage divestment, “the evidence presented in [its] report demonstrates otherwise.”
HRW has clearly demonstrated in recent years that it is more interested in partisan politics and anti-Semitic canards than in honest discussions of international law. Respectable legal institutions, like White & Case and ABILA, should know better than to follow suit.
David M. Litman is a media and education research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).