Marc Garlasco’s little “hobby”

There is a huge commotion in the blogosphere about the fact that Marc Garlasco, the senior military affairs specialist at Human Rights Watch, has long sustained a hobby of collecting and writing about Nazi memorabilia.
I’ve thought this over lot since I first learned about it yesterday. Is collecting and writing a long book about Nazi memorabilia in his spare time something an employer like Human Rights Watch ought to be concerned about?
After consideration, I say Yes.
Now, it’s true that here in the US we have very strict protections for free speech. Thus, collecting Nazi uniforms and insignia and even wearing them in public– as Garlasco apparently was in this photo— is not illegal here. (Wearing them in public would be illegal in Germany and several other places.)
But to have him doing work on human rights in the daytime, while carrying on with this intensively pursued hobby in the evening? That is bizarre, and disturbing.
Even more so when you realize that a lot of the work he has done has involved dealing with Israeli officials and citizens, and analyzing the IDF’s operations.
It would be like employing someone to do child-protection work by day who goes home and collects pictures of naked or suggestively-clad children by night. For allegedly “artistic purposes”.
As Ron Kampeas of JTA wrote about Garlasco’s very enthusiastic pursuit of his hobby, “Ewwwww.”
Now, as y’all no doubt know, I’m on the Middle East advisory committee of Human Rights Watch. And I’ve been very disturbed indeed by the attacks the young, aggressively rightwing Israeli organization NGO Monitor has launched against the work HRW has done on the IDF’s combat behavior.
But right now, I’m looking at this page on NGO Monitor’s website, and agreeing with much of what they have there on this topic.
One thing (scroll down to Footnote 1) they have is a copy of a defense of Garlasco’s actions that someone– reportedly representing HRW– has posted into several blogs in recent days.
For NGO-M to post that text is a real service, since I haven’t been able to find an HRW response anywhere else– including on their own website. (I have a request outstanding to HRW Exec. Director Ken Roth for an interview on this issue.)
That reportedly-from-HRW text concludes thus:

    Garlasco is the author of a monograph on the history of German Air Force and Army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to websites that promote serious historical research into the Second World War (and which forbid hate speech). In the foreword he writes of telling his daughters that “the war was horrible and cruel, that Germany lost and for that we should be thankful.”
    To imply that Garlasco’s collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime. These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.

Well, I’m not sure about Garlasco’s record as a “serious military historian.” By all accounts, his book, title “The Flak Badges”, seems to be an aid for collectors of such badges, not a work of serious military history.
I also share some of the concerns his critics have voiced about the actual military expertise Garlasco brought to the job at HRW, when he moved there after having worked in the Pentagon for eight years. Between 1995 and 2003 he had various jobs as a civilian employee of the Pentagon, doing military intelligence work including some work on targeting US cruise missiles.
But as I noted on JWN last year (including here), he made some serious– and very basic– mistakes during the Russian-Georgian war in identifying which country various cluster-bomb remnants came from… Even more disturbingly, perhaps, the HRW powers-that-be were frustratingly slow in correcting the incorrect accusations he originally made against Russia on this score, which were used by all the political forces in the west that were trying to mobilize public and even perhaps military support for Georgia at the time…
The crying shame of the latest revelations is, of course, that HRW is one of the most politically powerful of the numerous human-rights organizations that over the past nine months have compiled detailed documentation of the many laws-of-war violations committed by Israel (and some by Hamas) during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
So this whole series of revelations about Garlasco’s “hobby” threatens to distract a lot of attention from the well-documented claims that many excellent organizations– not just HRW– have pulled together about those violations.
And what happened to the people in Gaza last winter– and what continues to happen to them now, for goodness’ sake, as Israel still prevents them from engaging in even basic rebuilding of their shattered homes and lives– is a whole lot worse than “Ewwwww.”

71 thoughts on “Marc Garlasco’s little “hobby”

  1. David

    I agree with you completely. I sent the following email to Human Rights Watch when I found out:
    Dear HRW:
    The recent furor over the discovery that HRW investigator Marc Gerlasco is a Nazi memorabilia collector has been largely orchestrated by right-wing organizations intent on discrediting HRW’s report on Gaza. This has gone all the way around the world and up the food chain, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu commenting on the controversy.
    Mr. Gerlasco may very well have innocent reasons for collecting Nazi memorabilia, penning a 430-page book on the subject, or permitting photos of himself in Nazi clothing to be circulated on the internet. There are all kinds of hobbyists, from the 60 year-old who spends 2 weeks in Pennsylvania in the summer fighting mock Middle Ages wars in chain and mail, to Trekkies who learn how to speak in Klingon. In my experience, most of them are harmless. But some of them have – well – issues.
    Nevertheless, the public relations damage done to HRW by this disclosure is considerable and the credibility of the HRW Gaza report is at stake. I would suggest that HRW commission an independent review of the report, perhaps in cooperation with another human rights organization, to salvage both the report’s and the organization’s credibility. Also, HRW should undertake background checks – similar to what political parties do with potential candidates – of its most visible researchers and directors to avoid being blindsided in the future. If you hadn’t noticed, you are under attack.
    As for Mr. Gerlasco, I think he has become a liability to HRW and should be asked to fall on his sword for the organization. That’s the reality.
    Regards,

  2. Robert Consoli

    This attack on Garlasco is unlike you Helena – and unworthy of you. Attack the man for his lack of expertise or whatever but not his hobbies or enthusiasms. It’s not clear in this writing what you’re really upset about. It sounds like you’re more concerned about spin than the work that HRW is actually doing.
    ‘Let the evil think evil.’ They always will anyway.
    And, as an historian, I can assure you that a pamphlet such as ‘Flak badges’ might very well be of assistance to a ‘serious’ historian.
    Best to you,
    Bob

  3. Helena

    Bob, I did a lot of reading of the material that is out there on the internet now about what Garlasco has been doing with regard to his hobby– including posts he put up on Nazi-memorabilia websites that showed him wearing a shirt emblazoned with Nazi insignia in public, raving about a particular SS leather jacket on someone else’s website, and openly discussing with his NM friends the prospect that if he published his book in his own name it could put him jeopardy with his HRW employers.
    Pretty evidently he was living a secret life on those sites that he was hiding from his employers. Why did he see the need to do that?
    I do NOT think collecting Nazi memorabilia is an innocent diversion.
    Also, even if his book might be of interest to a serious historian, is it the work of someone who is himself a serious historian? I have seen no evidence that it is.

  4. Robert Consoli

    Censorious much?
    Collecting Nazi memorabilia IS an innocent hobby. Here’s what’s not innocent: Did Garlasco exalt the ideas of Mein Kampf? Did he intimate that those ‘dirty Yids got what was coming to them’? Did he ever say that ‘What this country needs is a good Kristallnacht’? Did he advocate ideas of Aryan racial purity? Did he go around muttering darkly about the ‘untermenschen’? Did he complain about the ‘monopoly by Jews of the International Banking System’?
    Sorry, Helena. It’s your blog and you can advocate for whatever but I will always be a free speech absolutist. If his work for HRW was incompetent then make THAT case. Otherwise leave the man alone. I say again, this isn’t wothy of you. Enthusiasm about Nazi memorabilia is characteristic of many adolescent boys. Nazi stuff is ‘dark’ and ‘forbidden’. It has mana. Parents hate it. Most boys grow out of this. Garlasco didn’t. So what? I thought you believed in free speech, Helena. What do you suppose that Free Speech means? Are you in the business of rooting our thought-crime now?
    Robert H. Consoli

  5. b

    Hi Helena,
    you do know my position to Garlasco as I pointed out his Georgia/Russia clusterbomb errors.
    But in this case I do have to defend him.
    You write:
    “Thus, collecting Nazi uniforms and insignia and even wearing them in public– as Garlasco apparently was in this photo– ”
    The sweatshirt Garlasco is wearing in the picture has the Iron Cross insignia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Cross
    The Iron Cross was established as a Prussian military sign in 1813 and today it is still the official country mark on German military vehicles.
    See for example here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pionierpanzer_Dachs_right_Side.jpg
    The iron cross has zero to do with Nazis or similar ideologies.
    I understand that Garlasco is interested in German air-defense organization (and its badges) during WWII. He is using the “Flak88” as a screenname in some fora. The 8.8cm Flak (Anti air cannon) was one of the most famous weapons in WWII.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8.8_cm_FlaK_18/36/37/41
    So nothing with Nazi relation there either.
    Damn Garlasco for his task as former job of air targeter for the U.,S. forces.
    Damn Garlaso for being very wrong on the Georgia/Russia war.
    That’s all fine.
    But the Garlasco=Nazi campaign is pure hasbara and there I see truth behind it. It is only intended to slander HRW for pointing out Israeli cruelties.
    Bernhard

  6. Anonymous

    I must confess I too share the same fascination for German military regalia, probably in the same vain as Garlasco. To me, it is simply martial artwork and fashion. In no way do I pursue it as a form of political expression.
    To be true, the Iron Cross that can be found on Garlasco’s hooded sweatshirt is of a design that predates Nazism for well over a hundred years. Many Jewish-German veterans of the First World War were awarded this medal for bravery. (Marc spells his name with a “c”, is he by chance Jewish himself?)
    As a serious student of military history, I recognize the historical contribution provided by Garlasco’s book on German flak badges.
    All of this said, I definitely realize the potential political connotations often associated with such collecting. About ten years ago, I donated my personal collection of German military regalia to another collector. Even so, I still maintain that the study and collection of these historical artifacts is, in itself, legitimate.
    As Helena has pointed out, like me, Garlasco recognized that there are political consequences (right or wrong) to the collection of such regalia. His position at HRW is very important. He should have put the political needs of this organization, above those of his own personal indulgence into what is widely regarded as a dark period of Western history.

  7. Robert Consoli

    Thank-you Mr. Anonymous for your support (I was afraid I wouldn’t get any). But don’t use weasel words. You say ‘He should have put the political needs of this organization above those of his own personal indulgence.’
    No he shouldn’t.
    We live in a free society. Try to remember what that meant. It meant that if it’s not forbidden then it’s allowed and that the forbidden itself must be narrowly circumscribed. If Helena has a case to make against Mr. Garlasco on the grounds of inability to do his job then she should make that case and she can use her influential blog to do it. I myself neither know nor care whether Mr. Garlasco is competent. But, absent that, I would have expected Helena to be the first among the defenders of freedom of speech and action. The Helena I knew would have been appalled at the prospect of having ones job jeopardized over what is completely inoffensive personal behavior. Ms. Cobban is concerned (as you are apparently) with ‘spin’. But then no one is more prone to punishment of perceived offenders than an enraged liberal.
    For shame.
    Robert H. Consoli

  8. Domza

    “Human rights” has long been weaponised.
    “Climate change” is being weaponised.
    The division between “work” and “leisure”, a recent conceit in history, and one that remains unavailable to the vast majority, is now also being weaponised, right here on JWN.
    Springtime for Consoli is night-time for most of us.

  9. Robert Consoli

    Dear Helena,
    I have reread your original item very carefully and I’m truly shocked and outraged by what I see.
    Your effrontery is breath-taking. You appear to be arrogant enough to think it perfectly right to
    do some superficial research on the man’s personal life and then just casually and cruelly sit in judgment on him before a sizable audience without him having any chance to defend himself.
    If every last blogger on the Internet were to take out after Garlasco because of his hobbies it
    still wouldn’t be any of your d—– business. The Helena I knew and read for years would have known that instinctively. His personal life is none of our business. And I have no time for weak and pitiful justifications about the effect on HRW. HRW will be attacked by Israeli simps for any possible reason or no reason at all. They’re moral criminals and that’s what criminals do. If Mr. Garlasco had spit on the sidewalk we’d read about it in NGO with giant scare headlines. Thanks for helping.
    The truth is, Helena, that if HRW were staffed by angels created by Almighty God for the express
    purpose of producing the Gaza Report it would still be just as savagely attacked by the neo-cons
    and their Israeli enablers. THAT’S the truth. But you refuse to see this and, since your opponents won’t take you seriously, you are now taking out your anger and frustration in an area where you CAN accomplish something. As part of a mob you have now turned on your allies. How foolish and self-defeating! How thoughtless! How arrogant!
    That you have made Mr. Garlasco’s personal life your business and to judge it is just shameful. But what can we say about your cruel and even libelous insinuation that Garlasco is engaged in something like child porn!? What’s happened to you? I hope that you wrote that cruel and stupid thing while tired and exhausted. We all have lapses, God knows. Take a good look at yourself. You’ve been misled by your zeal into becoming like an old Red-basher from the ’50’s. You owe your readers an apology but, most of all, you owe an apology to Mr. Garlasco.
    I hope to read someday that you have done this.
    Mr. Garlasco likes to dress up in pictures of the Iron Cross. And the monsters who dropped white phosphorus and DIME artillery rounds on the citizens of Gaza? THEY’RE criticizing HIM???!!! And YOU’RE helping?
    Every morning when I log on I see on my desktop the RSS feed from Just World News and ‘The Weekly
    Middle East Analysis by Helena Cobban’. I also follow you on Twitter.
    There.
    Fixed.
    Robert H. Consoli

  10. Warren L

    Yeah, I’m with you Helena. The whole thing is kind of creepy. Particularly given his job and what and who he has to deal with. It would be one thing if he had a few 19th & early 20th century Iron Crosses along with other old memorabilia/antiques from various other countries as part of some big Old-Stuff collection, or even an old war-time Lugar. After all, a lot of American war veterans brought back stuff like that from Europe. And the Iron Cross is an old German military symbol that well pre-dates the Nazis. German Jewish soldiers from the First World War and earlier conflicts would have worn it.
    But dressing up in Nazi outfits, etc? Nah, certainly not given the job he holds. Doesn’t fly. He needs to go.

  11. Anonymous

    Well, I haven’t actually found any photos of him wearing a nazi uniform. There is a pic of him wearing a sweatshirt with an Iron Cross, but that isn’t a nazi uniform, probably its mere enthusiast’s apparel.
    Mr. Consoli, you’re right. That was a poor choice of words I used. What I was trying to get at is the collection of German military regalia, particularly those from the nazi era, is a very sensitive issue, both socially and politically. We can argue the relative merits of such, but that’s beside the point. It is what it is.
    Personally, I can defend collectors, historical researchers, enthusiasts and re-enactors,. But the truth is, for many people, the subject matter is offensive, no matter how reasonable an argument is presented. It is an emotional issue. Even E-Bay won’t handle such items, not even postage stamps.
    Like I said, I’ve a fascination for this kind of thing myself. I’m a trained historian. I can differentiate between the different uniforms, medals, badges, cuff titles, tunics, edged weapons, you name it. But I gave up collecting this kind of regalia because I realized that there are people in my life, both socially and politically, that would find this kind of thing disturbing, no matter how reasonable, and that it has the potential to hurt people that I care about. Particularly my Jewish friends, as well as my liberal friends from Germany.
    Garlosco admitted knowledge of the same prevailing condition. Still, he pursued his hobby without regard to the consequences. Now the political organization with which he is affiliated has become effectively undermined. Was it worth it? I would say not.

  12. richard landes

    i’m very impressed by your honesty in assessing this information. while inconsolable Consoli is infuriated, i’d ask you to reconsider something different. if Garlasco did shoddy work in georgia and HRW took too long to correct it, then isn’t it possible he’s done sloppy work in gaza and HRW won’t correct it. (Gaza beach june 2006 is a good example: he fumbled every aspect of the inquiry, including switching halfway thru from one shell to another as the data contradicted his initial over-hasty call.)
    similarly, if Garlasco is scathing in his (again over-hasty) condemnation of israeli targeted killings, what’s going on if he’s got almost nothing to say about American TKs when the Israeli ratio of combatants to civilians is 2:1 and the American one is 1:10 (at best)?
    you may not like these young, aggressive, “right wing” attacks on HRW, but if you look at them impartially, you’ll find that the “right-wingers” are far more connected to real data than HRW.
    nor is this criticism of HRW necessarily “right wing.” on the contrary, it’s only “right wing” if you think that the palestinians represent the “progressive” side of this tale (as does HRW, clearly).
    but if you open up your mind a tiny bit, and look at the vicious genocidal brainwashing that goes on in palestinian culture and the pervasive intimidation of dissent, and compare it with the exceptionally self-critical and free-discourse of israel, it may be that these “right wing” groups are actually defending progressive values (including honesty) far better than HRW.
    just a thought…

  13. Anonymous

    And so Mr. Landes (and others like him) are quick to take advantage of Garlasco’s undermined credibility.
    Really is a shame Garlasco let his organization down like this.
    (I ask again, is Marc jewish?)

  14. Sharon Kahn

    I agree that the hobby of collecting and enthusing about Nazi memorabilia is weird and inappropriate to a man in a position of power at HRW. But it is merely the scum at the top of a very polluted pond. When one looks at the body of work done by HRW, one finds bias that has in no way contributed to the well-being of the people HRW is trying to protect. The first priority in settling a fight is to identify the aggressor — and punish aggression. Since you mention Israel: It is blatantly obvious that Hamas targets Israeli civilians and deliberately endangers its own people without compunction. It is also obvious (if you look) that the IDF maintains the highest regard for life, and undertakes to protect Arab civilians even at risk of its own personnel. All civilian casualties caused by the IDF are accidental.

  15. kassandra

    @Ms Khan: HaHaHaHaHaHa. Thanks for putting Garlasco’s collection into perspective and for reminding us of the accident-prone IDF.

  16. Howard

    Mr. Garlasco’s obsession with Nazi memorabilia is disturbing in that he is avidly participating in and (presumably, assuming that his book sells) profiting from a trade that explicitly glorifies some of the worst human rights abusers of the 20th century.
    I find far more troubling the point that Mr. Garlasco’s own Pentagon record of targeting missile strikes apparently resulted in a far higher civilian to target death ratio than Israel’s strikes during the Gaza war. Does HRW demand that he be investigated as a war criminal? No, HRW employs him as an expert.
    Given the job of human rights organizations – promote human rights around the world, defend the human beings whose rights are most seriously threatened and serve as the “canary in the coal mine” – and given the deference with which they have been treated in the west, it is all too easy for such organizations to forget that they are fallible, circle the wagons and reject criticism out of hand. But rejecting criticism will not make the problem go away.
    What is shocking is not the attacks by HRW’s detractors, but rather the evidence that has made some decisions that reveal either shockingly bad judgment or a serious double standard. Given that evidence, anyone who cares about the integrity of HRW should be asking why HRW made these kinds of decisions.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  17. David

    Robert H. Consoli
    The collecting of specifically Nazi memorabilia is not exactly “completely inoffensive personal behavior”. Collecting stamps, coins or even buttons is “completely inoffensive personal behavior”.
    Whether it is wrong in this case I will reserve judgement as I don’t know enough facts.

  18. yochanan ben avrohom

    the use of the term 88 has a major neo nazi connection today
    88 stands for heil hitler.
    way to go. ad that to the HRW spokes bigot that said the munich murders were understandable

  19. Helena

    It is quite immaterial to this discussion whether Garlasco is Jewish or not.
    Also, Yochanon, please read the guidelines on courtesy and don’t refer to my friends at HRW in such a demeaning way.

  20. Howard

    @kassandra: Are the IDF truly accident prone compared to other militaries? Not really. The British and Americans have killed an awful lot of civilians by accident in the last few years – far more than the Israelis have.
    Accidents happen on highways all over the world. Fighting a war is far more complex than driving, and in the fog of war the visibility is sometimes much worse than it was the last time you drove in the fog. Maybe you think you would be smarter or luckier than the people who have to make these kinds of decisions while under Hamas or al Qaeda mortar fire. I don’t know.
    Soldiers shoot their own people by accident. It’s called friendly fire. Everybody does it. And friendly fire is still a far less likely accident than the death of a civilian who is in the wrong place at the wrong moment, or whose house is chosen a a launch pad for rockets, whether he likes it or not. Non-combatants do die by accident, particularly when the combatants hide behind them.

  21. Howard

    @ anonymous
    Garlasco is Roman Catholic, and his entire pre-college education took place in private Catholic schools. He attended St John’s University (again, a Catholic university). No, he’s NOT Jewish.

  22. lora lumpe

    Helena
    u write:
    So this whole series of revelations about Garlasco’s “hobby” threatens to distract a lot of attention from the well-documented claims that many excellent organizations– not just HRW– have pulled together about those violations.
    And what happened to the people in Gaza last winter– and what continues to happen to them now, for goodness’ sake, as Israel still prevents them from engaging in even basic rebuilding of their shattered homes and lives– is a whole lot worse than “Ewwwww.”
    Right. So why are u giving this nonsense a lift in your blog?
    Bernhard — way up at the top of the comments on this blog — provided documentation to dispute/refute the alleged NAZI-symp “proof” being put forward by NGO Monitor, you and some others here.
    I’m sure NGO Monitor appreciates your help. I doubt the people of Gaza do.

  23. Titus

    Wow, the fact that Helena is in the HRW organization is as striking as the Nazi geezer. Would any follower of this blog send Helena to run an unbiased inquiry into anything to do with Israel? Please.
    It ain’t photos with swastikas you’ll find he in, but it is worse.
    How about the Saudi funding of HRW. When was the last timeHelena put a magnifying glass on Saudi Arabia. I want to see Helena’s tax returns, too much travel in a time that bona fide journalists are being laid off.

  24. Jonathan Taylor

    As an HRW supporter who is deeply concerned about human rights, I admit find this situation troubling, just as Helena does.
    A person’s hobbies are his own business, but would anyone be leaping so enthusiastically to Marc Garlasco’s defense if he were collecting, displaying and wearing Klu Klux Klan regalia?
    The Nazis were a good deal worse than the KKK, and someone who finds their insignia and material to be so important in a positive way… may have some unresolved issues.
    Furthermore there is the question of sensitivity. Bush’s use of “Crusade” justifiably upset Muslims, even though the US is not a successor to the Crusades. The Nazis are a more sensitive issue, and someone who indulges in Nazi material, even if he makes a point of condemning them in public, is treading on some global sore spots.
    HRW or any other human rights org is only as good as its credibility, and all pro-Israel activists need to do to shoot down any report Garlasco is part of, is to point out his Nazi fetish.
    After these revelations, Garlasco should do the right thing and move on, maybe back to the Pentagon where they don’t object to Nazi fetishism.

  25. R.B. Glennie

    Hello –
    I must say, although I am highly critical of HRW, I must disagree with you over this man’s hobby.
    It doesn’t necessarily follow that bec. one collects Nazi memoribilia, that one is a Nazi, or is even sympathetic to the Nazi cause.
    As an example, I love the rock and pop music of the late ’60s – Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Beatles and so on. However, I subscribe to almost none of the political and social beliefs that any of these performers have or had (assuming that they had any).
    Also, your statements about the Russo-Georgian war are, to me, very problematical for a `human rights’ activist to hold.
    Just to sum up: there is absolutely no question whatsoever as to who was the aggressor in that conflict. Russia, in an effort to impose itself on a much smaller country, had militarily occupied sections of Georgia under false pretences (i.e. `protecting’ `Russian citizens’ that had been given, by Russian fiat, citizenship of Russia).
    Given this, it is a matter of indifference as to who `fired the first shot’ – even if were Georgia, the latter were only responding to a challenge to their sovereignty by a militarily stronger power.
    Also, your statements that Hamas violated `some’ human rights in the war against Israel, is quite simply bizarre. Hamas is not a non-state actor: it the government of a UN-recognized territory, and as such, it has been in continual, flagrant violation of human rights and the laws of war.
    I think your concern over the Nazi memoribilia collector is entirely due to politics: that is, it will detract from HRW’s continual campaign to demonize the Jewish State.
    thank you

  26. dartmouth park

    “The Iron Cross was established as a Prussian military sign in 1813 and today it is still the official country mark on German military vehicles.”
    What proportion of Mr Belasco’s trade in Iron Crosses involves such medals from 1813-1933 or since 1945? I think that might help us answer the question of how innocent this might be. He does seem particularly keen on WWII.
    The fact that were Mr Belasco to wear his Iron Cross shirt in Germany, he would soon receive the attention of the police, ought to tell us something.
    8.8cm may be the principle gauge of a flak gun used by the Third Reich, but ’88’ is very commonly used as part of posters’ names on far right websites. There, it means only one thing – Heil Hitler (as 18 means Adolf Hitler). Extreme right websites offer links to dealers in Nazi memorabilia or reproductions. Under such circumstances, to use the name ‘flak88’ if you’re not a Nazi seems, at the very least, rather careless.
    I am also a historian and the simple reproduction of flak badges is not history but antiquarianism squarely aimed at the collector, however many photos are included. History involves making use of archival material to construct an argument about the past; in this instance what the design of flak badges tell us about the Third Reich, WWII or the culture of the units concerned, the badges themselves forming part of a wider narrative. Allowing the reader to tell a genuine badge from a fake is not history.
    I find it depressing that some people should see this as an attack on “Reds” (?!) or on people who are critical of Israel; that people should wonder out loud about whether Mr Belasco is Jewish depresses me even more. I am on the left and pro-Palestinian, yet I find this disturbing. We live in a free society, but with that freedom comes responsibility, especially when it concerns those charged with being the public face of a major human rights organization.

  27. dartmouth park

    Sorry, for Belasco, please read Garlasco in the comment above. My mind’s been too much on early twentieth century theater…

  28. neurodoc

    Robert Consoli says, “…I will always be a free speech absolutist,” but he doesn’t understand what it is to be “a free speech absolutist.” If he did, he would realize that there is no incompatibility between being a “free speech absolutist” and criticizing what someone else says/writes, as Helena Cobban has done. Indeed, a “free speech absolutist” is someone who can truthfully say with hesitation, reservation, or qualification, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    “Free speech absolutism” is a commitment to defending the someone’s right to say/write whatever they will, not a commitment to defend the content of what they say/write.
    There is NO “free speech” issue here. No one is saying that Garlasco doesn’t have a First Amendment right to say/write what he has. That does not mean, however, that HRW should have hired him or that HRW should continue to employ him in the wake of these revelations about his fetish for Nazi decorations.

  29. omnivore

    There was at a time when people took seriously their own responsibility to civility, while not assuming that the world existed to coddle their particular sensitivities.
    At that time, an ad hominem argument was offensive and deemed essentially weak and the person making it as deficient in character, and an intellectual weakling; pursuing the interest that the mind proposed was not.
    Let’s all take a moment to have a good laugh at those benighted individuals who did not understand that responsibility and competence should always be judged by bland conformity to vague social norms and the ability to self-censor.

  30. steve bronfman

    Imagine that this same man was HRW’s expert on Lebanon. Imagine 12 or 24 articles he wrote for HRW were about Lebanon. Imagine if of those 12 articles (excactly 50% of everything he’s writen for HRW) he constantly criticised Muslim Lebanese forces (Shi’ites say?) and seemed to favour Maronite Christians. Imagine then Muslim organisations investigated and found much of his research was flawed and he seemed to show an anti-Muslim bias. Imagine then it was discovered that he was a leading collector of crusader memorabilia, had written many books about the heroic deeds of the crusaders and was photographed in crusader outfits. Imagine if he commented on one blog that he didn’t want to put his real name on his latest book about the crusades because (his bias would be public) he may be fired from his job.
    Would it not seem to explain his anti-Lebanese Muslim bias and his support for the Maronite Christians of Lebanon in the above hypothesis?
    Would these same people argue that he was an truly balanced individual and fit to continue writing “unbiased” reports about the political situation in Lebanon? I think not. However, this is exactly what has happened in the case of Israel. Marc Garlasco has an obsession with the leading mass-murderers of Jews; the Nazis. His articles show a constant anti-Israel prejudice. This comes on top of other HRW controversies against Israel/Jews in recent weeks with Joe Stork praising the murder of Jewish Olympic Athletes in the Munich Massacre (http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/founder_and_board_member_of_hr_1.asp) and HRW seeking dubious S’audi funding on the basis of their track record of being anti-Israel. (http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/ngo_monitor_hrw_s_flawed_research_reports_used_to_seek_saudi_funding)

  31. mary sue seymour

    Well said. the spam sent out to various blogs, including Elder of Ziyon’s ( check it!) defending Marc was very chilling. On Elder of Ziyon’s blog there were a number of URL’s that resolved to HRW.org that were threatening and very inappropriate in their defense. I suggest you go and read them…..
    HRW has important work to do, sad that this is a distraction from the crucial job you have.
    I give you huge credit for saying what you did and even tho I disagree in some ways with HRW on Isreal at least you give me hope that HRW is not an organization lost in space that doesnt recognize that having someone with a clear and proven Nazi fetish investigating the Jewish state and printing reports on it just might pose a credibility problem for decent people everywhere.
    Heres hoping you can get your point across to the crazy people who seem to be running things there.
    They are doing so much more harm than good.
    The rebuttal in the Gaurdian today was also appalling.
    thanks.

  32. Donald

    I have mixed feelings on this. I think Garlasco should resign because he’ll be made the issue every time HRW reports on another set of Israeli atrocities–you can see that happening in this thread. Reporting on these issues is too important to be held hostage to this sort of issue.
    OTOH, trashing someone as a Nazi symp because of his military history fetish is, well, a kind of McCarthyism. You don’t imply that someone is a Nazi sympathizer unless there is evidence that he approves of Nazi atrocities. It’s simply a fact that many people are fascinated by various aspects of military history and like to collect things which seem weird to the rest of us and though this might be offensive to a pacifist, this doesn’t mean Helena has any particular insights into another man’s soul.
    I’ve got a friend who is fascinated by the Roman Empire. I suppose this means he should be accused of supporting crucifixion and the mass slaughter of subject peoples the Romans engaged in when they rebelled.
    Unless there is evidence that Garlasco is a Nazi symp beyond his military collector’s fetish we shouldn’t be assuming this, no matter how much it offends Helena (who is so quick to demand civility with respect to herself and her friends).

  33. kassandra

    @Howard. Thanks for putting the Garlasco hobby into perspective. As long as there are people out there, like you, who excuse the murder and maiming of thousands of defenseless people herded into an open-air prison as a response to “alQuaeda/Hamas mortar fire”, Garlasco’s hobby pales in comparison. Also, I would be wary of using the “everyone does it excuse”. I’m sure that’s what many of the guards at Auschwitch told teach other.
    I would be concerned if Garlasco began collecting IDF memorabilia. The Nazis are long gone and history. The IDF is here and now.

  34. omnivore

    @Donald:
    I’m not picking a fight here, but isn’t there a contradiction in saying that the attacks on Garlasco are McCarthyism, but that he should resign? Isn’t the point that McCarthyism depends on the abuse of civility, on the preparedness of people who mistake civil discourse for mere politesse, for avoidance of conflict, on people who will rollover in the face of it?
    As the US Town Halls show, our view of how things are received is so overdetermined by the media that we rely on, and their priorities so distorted towards spectacle that saying “he’ll be the issue” is much like saying that we should accept that death panels are the issue when health care is discussed. As soon as you decide courses of action based on the fear of how others will present it, you enable a fundamentally dismissive attitude towards civility and inquiry.
    Civility is always based on the understanding that difference in private attitude, interest or belief is not a criterion for rejection of public statement.
    Is it not worth reflecting that a generation ago, it was far from uncommon to hear people dismiss arguments made by “Hebraic gentlemen” precisely because of their private belief. That was bigotry, but it was also provincial incivility, and so is the Garlasco affair.

  35. omnivore

    @Steve Bronfman:
    “Would it not seem to explain his anti-Lebanese Muslim bias and his support for the Maronite Christians of Lebanon in the above hypothesis?”
    If you know someone for whom this applies, why not point out to them that the preference for simple causality and the perception that such things are self evident might be misinterpreted as a sign of an closed mind, and encourage them to not leap to conclusions, and to ask questions about the nature of the proof that their argument relies on?
    You could point out that the persistence of the myth of Elders of Zion depends on its attractiveness to a certain kind of bigot who is attracted precisely to its “self-evidential” simplicity. Show them that the “obviousness” of the argument speaks more the pre-existent rigid world view of the speaker than to any mastery of the ability to think critically.
    Already in these comments it has been declared that Mr Garlasco is “someone with a clear and proven Nazi fetish “. No such thing has been demonstrated, but I have no doubt that the person saying so believes it has been. This reveals a certain tendency to low standards of proof in my view, and a preference for oversimplification for the purposes of reinforcing pre-existing biases — a univeral human weakness that has the unfortunate effect of robbing us of our common humanity, tant pis.

  36. Donald

    Omnivore–
    Yes, there is a contradiction or at least tension in my position. If HRW decides to stick with Garlasco I’d defend their position. At the same time, it is entirely predictable how future HRW reports on IDF atrocities are going to be treated by the IDF apologists, and I fully expect that the MSM, like the NYT for instance, will probably report “both sides”.
    So it’s unfair to Garlasco and it’s a concession to McCarthyism, but I think Garlasco should voluntarily step down so that his hobby doesn’t provide yet another excuse for the atrocity apologists to dismiss well-documented reports.
    But I’m not comfortable with this and you might be right.

  37. omnivore

    “it’s been proven”.
    I remember when it was proved that Iraq had nuclear weapons. I remember it was proved there was yellowcake. I remember when it was proved that John Kerry was a coward. I remember when they proved trickle down economics would save the economy. I remember it was proved that the Soviet Union was in no danger of collapse. I remember it being proved that if the President does it, it’s not illegal. I seem to remember it was proved that the negro would never be able to be the equal of the white man. I remember when it was proved that blacks in S. Africa were happy under their white masters. I remember it was proved that there was a lone gunman. I remember it was proved that there was a land without people for a people without a land.
    Perhaps understandably, I’m most skeptical of people for whom proof seems to be surprisingly easy to hand when some agenda of their own can be served by it.

  38. omnivore

    @Donald:
    Certainly there is a devil’s advocate element to my position: you are right about the way that later events will be treated. While it seem the right wing is associated with this tactic, it’s by no means the right’s prerogative: the treatment of Joe Wilson (the recent one) by many on the left, who are dragging up past indiscretions simply plays to the same destructive impulse, and will contribute nothing to the debate. There are plenty more examples, and all sides are far too well equipped with ammunition.
    I think, though, that a higher standard is required for what disqualifies a person for public utterance. As we race for the bottom, the interests served are demagogic, populist and play to the worst among us, on any side of a debate. Ultimately, civil society in and of itself cannot function without all parties assuming, to a reasonable degree, the good faith of their opponents. There is no embarrassment in advocating for a far more stringent level of transgression before insisting that private interests be the determinant of public competence; it comes down to insisting on the good faith of the other side, and the corollary understanding that before someone is forced out of a job, the burden of a broadly acceptable proof is on the accuser.

  39. Pastaneta

    I wonder…
    Are you disgusted because the reality of the antisemitism at HRW has been outed. Because this is what happened!
    our antisemitic attacks on the Jewish state for defending itself against the murderous beasts of Gaza have now been shown to be done by a Nazi admirer.
    Outed!
    Not a moment too soon.

  40. Donald

    “ur antisemitic attacks on the Jewish state for defending itself against the murderous beasts of Gaza”
    Well, that speaks for itself. Funny how extremists all sound alike–I bet those Palestinians who plan or carry out or support terrorist attacks talk the same way about their victims.

  41. Pastaneta

    @Donald
    Yes, when Jews defend themselves you bitch like you do here. OTH I didn’t hear too many condemnation of the rocket attacks on South Israel until a very timid one because you were compelled to do so. And attacks on Jews? Never a condemnation… You defend what are false “refugees”, and hope that Jews will be killed. There is a word for the like of you and it isn’t very nice.
    The good thing of course is that useless fools of your kind won’t change Tsahal strategy one bit… And the time when Jewish blood was cheap is past. This I believe is what riles you the most… As well as your little Naqzi admiring friend who you defend

  42. steve bronfman

    (of course the dude has a Nazi fetish)'”it’s been proven”.
    I remember when it was proved that Iraq had nuclear weapons’
    -I assume you mean WMD’s? No one ever claimed that Iraq had nuclear weapons (In 1981 their Nuclear weapons ambitions was ended with Israels destruction of their Osirak Nuclear reactor). I think you’re referring to is the so-called “weapons of mass destruction?”
    Well Iraq/Saddam did have them. They used them. They gassed Kurds in the 1980s and also used chemical and biological weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war killing thousands.
    As to Marc Garlasco’s nazi fetish. Lets study the evidence;
    He stated “That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” –Flak88 (aka Marc Garlasco), wehrmacht-awards.com, 2005
    His car license plate is “Flak88”, which is also his online username (the name of a WW2 German gun and a neo-nazi reference to “Heil Hitler”
    http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/coupe-talk-2007/139945-new-flak-mini.html
    He wrote a book about Nazi medals called “The Flak badges” http://www.mererhetoric.com/archives/11275875.html
    His screen logo is a swastika. http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/expert_or_ideologues_hrw_s_defense_of_marc_garlasco_s_nazi_fetish
    Marc even admits his guilt when he writes “Flak88: So I am trying to figure out what to do. My book is clsoe to done, but I am not sure if I should put my name on it. If folks at work found out I might very well lose my job. That is the reality, so don’t dwell on it – ok? But this is a small group of people – should I worry? And shouldn’t I stand up for myself? And if I use a psyeudonym isn’t that worse, like I am trying to hide something?” http://www.germancombatawards.com/print.php?threadid=6370&page=1&sid=ba6ff1bfd04dddddd98bfd54d89680bf
    What more could someone do to have a nazi “fetish” than to be an avid collector of nazi memorabilia, very active in all the forums/clubs to the extent that you’ve writen books about the subject and dress up in Nazi/German gear http://www.hurryupharry.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/marccross.jpg To have your username named after a Nazi Weapon (with dubious neo-nazi inuendo). To have a car license plate with the same name. This guy eats, sleeps and breaths nazi-memorabilia. It 100% constitutes a proven “Nazi-fetish”.

  43. Howard

    @kassandra
    I obviously misinterpreted your comment as sincerely labeling the IDF as accident prone, and my response was that the IDF had fewer accidents in Gaza than the US or UK in Iraq. Certainly the IDF had a lower civilian-to-target kill ratio than other armies fighting today, and a lower civilian-to-target kill ratio THAN MR. GARLASCO HIMSELF (since he admits that the missile strikes that he targeted in Iraq killed tens of civilians but KILLED NONE OF THE INTENDED TARGETS). Re-read my comments. I was clearly NOT stating that “it’s okay because everybody does it” but rather taking exception to what I thought was your characterization of the IDF as being more accident-prone than other militaries fighting in the world today.
    But clearly, I was wrong. I misread your statement. It seems that you believe that the IDF killed all of the civilians ON PURPOSE because (and I am basing this statement on your bogus Auschwitz analogy) that’s why they were there in the first place. Pardon me, but that’s bollocks.
    The facts don’t support this assertion, and in any case, if Israel had wanted to flatten Gaza and kill tens of thousands of Gazans, tens of thousands would have died. But given the intensity of your belief, I doubt that even the statements of Hamas leaders themselves would dent your belief.
    Your attack on “people like me” is rather offensive and your loose rhetoric is inaccurate in all respects. Its use of statistics is shoddy. Its analogies are off-target. And it ignores the basic fact that Hamas has always been able to end the conflict so that the Palestinians can build a real national state, which incidentally I support the way I supported the idea that Israel should withdraw from Gaza in the first place.
    I’m sorry to say that your reply says more about you than it says about “people like me.”

  44. omnivore

    @Steve Bronfman
    You seem to rely somewhat on assumptions, Steve. I think I can refresh your memory without the admirably diligent linking you provide, by referring to Ms Rice’s statement about “smoking guns not being mushroom clouds” et al. The following statement about yellowcake ought to have clarified that. Also, no-one in the US doubted that Saddam Hussein had poison gas, since, as they say, they had the receipts to prove it. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with what I actually said — as opposed to what you seem to wish I had said.
    Your supplied “proofs” that Garlasco is a “fetishist” mean little if you don’t define and justify your use of the term. Everything you’ve brought up — a custom plate, writing a book about a subject, and an awareness communicated in an email that his book might be used as the basis for an ad-hominem attack — an entirely accurate perception, as it turns out — applied to, say raising chinchillas or collecting california wines would not warrant the term, “fetish”. The term is loaded, and I’m sure that you didn’t mean to suggest that such slight evidence constitutes justification of the term. It does not, and I can only commiserate with you: I’m sure everyone wishes that a few links borrowed third-hand, some tendentious opinions and tenuous connections could sway others to their view. But I’m equally sure that this sort of infantile wish-fulfillment is not really what you want.
    A couple of further things. I absolutely agree that his single statement of admiration for an SS jacket is distasteful, and as one who has made my share of mistakes, I am very glad that I live in a society where the norm is not to pillory every such singular transgression, as no doubt we all are glad; all the more so as one statement of this sort falls far below the standard a reasonable person would use to establish a “fetish”. Second, the publisher of the book that Mr Garlasco has produced seems to be both consistent in their subject matter, and Mr. Garlasco’s book seems to be of a piece with the other books in their catalogue. I would expect that if Mr. Garlasco is as dreadful, as pro-Nazi as his critics assert, then there would be no difficulty in demonstrating this group of authors’ admiration for, approval of Naziism; I would certainly agree that that would go a distance to supporting your assertion, but you have not done that work. I think that you will agree that ruining someone’s career should not be too easy, and I am sorry that this burden falls on those for whom everything is all so self-evident, but I have better things to do.
    By the way, this week is the week when Gordon Brown apologized to Alan Turing, the scientist who more than perhaps any other contributed to the defeat of Naziism, by applying his brilliant if quirky — some might say “fetishistic” if they had sufficiently little concern for accuracy — mind to the cracking of the codes used by the Germans. Mr. Turing as you will know, was drummed out of the civil service for his particular fetish, that of homosexuality, and committed suicide. Sad that, but sadder to see how the viciousness of people destroys others and risks destroying so much more. We can only imagine what might have happened if he had been so treated before the war.

  45. mehrdad

    @Helena Cobban:
    you, like many other leftist modern antisemits, are fighting the wrong country.
    i wish you just one week of sharia-treatment. after that you will pray to let you inside israel.
    people like you are the modern version of julius streicher and josepf göbbels.

  46. Marilyn

    Excuse me but this is utter crap and should be dismissed as such. Every day people make films about Hitler, about the nazis, about the war and so on – should they all be silenced as well if they do human rights work?
    LIsten up – jews are not the only damn victims on the planet and this serial victimhood they indulge in has to be stopped.
    Hamas simply did not commit any war crimes, they couldn’t leave Gaza while Israel was blasting them to bits and that is the end of that fiction.
    What garbage about nothing.

  47. Donald

    “The facts don’t support this assertion, and in any case, if Israel had wanted to flatten Gaza and kill tens of thousands of Gazans, tens of thousands would have died.”
    True–if Israel wanted to kill tens of thousands, they could have. What they have done instead is impose a brutal sanctions regime of collective punishment and then to kill hundreds of civilians with indiscriminate firepower. Collateral damage is a joke in this context.
    Very few regimes are as bad as they possibly could have been. Israel’s wartime brutality is fairly typical of many Western countries, I think, with their willing to hurt and kill innocent people in moderate numbers to achieve its objectives. Of course they lie about it–that’s part of the game. They couldn’t kill tens of thousands and convince even their US supporters that it was justifiable (though perhaps I underestimate their US supporters).

  48. steve bronfman

    Marilyn makes some typical “anti-Jewish/Israel” assertions. This is the sort of rubbish that could equally come from the left or the right these days. Lets address them all;
    “Excuse me but this is utter crap and should be dismissed as such. Every day people make films about Hitler, about the Nazis, about the war and so on – should they all be silenced as well if they do human rights work?”
    No. Making a neutral documentary about the second world war is not the same collecting swastika memorabilia as a hobby/obsession. “He (Garlasco)has posted thousands of comments on Nazi memorabilia sites including Germancombatawards (981 posts) and Wehrmacht-awards (7735 posts)” http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/expert_or_ideologues_hrw_s_defense_of_marc_garlasco_s_nazi_fetish He clearly has an obsession with the Nazis which does indeed make his neutrality seem dubious.
    “LIsten up – jews are not the only damn victims on the planet and this serial victimhood they indulge in has to be stopped.” This is anti-semitism pure and simple. If this was the case then why would so many members of Human Rights Watch be Jewish? Some Jews founded the organisation. Do you mean all Jews? Some Jews? Name them. This really shows readers Marilyns thought process. All Jews are bad. All Jews hold a view. Jews are the other. Jews are wrong. Jews use victimhood as a weapon. I would say that Palestinians actually use victimhood as a weapon. No one talks about the 800,000 Jews forced out of Arab/Muslim countries after the foundation(and their descendants) as “refugees” today (or the European Jewish refugees) precisely because they have become Israelis (or French etc). So why are Palestinians refugees from 1948 (and their decendants) still classed as “refugees” 60 years later? Because they are being used as pawns, perpetual victims, against Israel. Why is there no UNRWA for say the Hindus/Muslims from the division of India? Because the world uses the palestinians as victims. If Jews are the new nazis then, in the minds of europeans, europe shouldn’t feel as guilty for the genocide of Jews in Europe.
    Infact the opposite is true. Jews like myself want HRW and lefties to start focusing on other areas in the world. eg Yemen etc instead of obssessing about the supposed abuses of Jews only.
    Garlasco wrote 12 out of his 24 articles for Human Rights watch about Israel. Why not try focusing on Sudan, Burma, China, Yemen, Egypt, Western Sahara, Kurdistan etc etc instead of 50% of all articles about Israel.
    In anycase. If 100 million Americans were killed in the next 5 years, Americans would still be talking about it in 60 years. 1 out of 3 Jews were murdered by the Nazis. It didn’t matter about their sex, age, political beliefs, if they were religious, if they practiced christianity. Even if they were 1/4 “jewish”. Almost all the Jews of Europe were wiped out. There has truly never been a genocide on that scale before and to that degree. However, Jews don’t own victimhood. Jews recognise the genocide of the Armenians, the Native Americans, the Gypsies, etc etc Your argument is simply to deny Jews any victimhood at all. Ironic when you criticise Jews for winning wars too.
    “Hamas simply did not commit any war crimes, they couldn’t leave Gaza while Israel was blasting them to bits and that is the end of that fiction.” Here are some; Firing missiles indiscriminately at Israeli Civilians. Not wearing uniforms is against the Geneva convention as is not allowing the red cross to see its prisoners. Keeping weapons caches amongst civilians. Firing missiles from built up areas. Etc etc.
    The phrase “nazi” is thrown around a lot these days so much so its meaning has been blurred and weakened. But lets put things in perspective. Themes such as the collective guilt of all Jews are often found on neo-nazi websites held by fascists. People like Marilyn therefore have very little difference in their beliefs about Jews than neo-Nazis. The “left” truly has lost its moral compass.

  49. steve bronfman

    Marilyn makes some typical “anti-Jewish/Israel” assertions. This is the sort of rubbish that could equally come from the left or the right these days. Lets address them all;
    “Excuse me but this is utter crap and should be dismissed as such. Every day people make films about Hitler, about the Nazis, about the war and so on – should they all be silenced as well if they do human rights work?”
    No. Making a neutral documentary about the second world war is not the same collecting swastika memorabilia as a hobby/obsession. “He (Garlasco)has posted thousands of comments on Nazi memorabilia sites including Germancombatawards (981 posts) and Wehrmacht-awards (7735 posts)” http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/expert_or_ideologues_hrw_s_defense_of_marc_garlasco_s_nazi_fetish He clearly has an obsession with the Nazis which does indeed make his neutrality seem dubious.
    “LIsten up – jews are not the only damn victims on the planet and this serial victimhood they indulge in has to be stopped.” This is anti-semitism pure and simple. If this was the case then why would so many members of Human Rights Watch be Jewish? Some Jews founded the organisation. Do you mean all Jews? Some Jews? Name them. This really shows readers Marilyns thought process. All Jews are bad. All Jews hold a view. Jews are the other. Jews are wrong. Jews use victimhood as a weapon. I would say that Palestinians actually use victimhood as a weapon. No one talks about the 800,000 Jews forced out of Arab/Muslim countries after the foundation(and their descendants) as “refugees” today (or the European Jewish refugees) precisely because they have become Israelis (or French etc). So why are Palestinians refugees from 1948 (and their decendants) still classed as “refugees” 60 years later? Because they are being used as pawns, perpetual victims, against Israel. Why is there no UNRWA for say the Hindus/Muslims from the division of India? Because the world uses the palestinians as victims. If Jews are the new nazis then, in the minds of europeans, europe shouldn’t feel as guilty for the genocide of Jews in Europe.
    Infact the opposite is true. Jews like myself want HRW and lefties to start focusing on other areas in the world. eg Yemen etc instead of obssessing about the supposed abuses of Jews only.
    Garlasco wrote 12 out of his 24 articles for Human Rights watch about Israel. Why not try focusing on Sudan, Burma, China, Yemen, Egypt, Western Sahara, Kurdistan etc etc instead of 50% of all articles about Israel.
    In anycase. If 100 million Americans were killed in the next 5 years, Americans would still be talking about it in 60 years. 1 out of 3 Jews were murdered by the Nazis. It didn’t matter about their sex, age, political beliefs, if they were religious, if they practiced christianity. Even if they were 1/4 “jewish”. Almost all the Jews of Europe were wiped out. There has truly never been a genocide on that scale before and to that degree. However, Jews don’t own victimhood. Jews recognise the genocide of the Armenians, the Native Americans, the Gypsies, etc etc Your argument is simply to deny Jews any victimhood at all. Ironic when you criticise Jews for winning wars too.
    “Hamas simply did not commit any war crimes, they couldn’t leave Gaza while Israel was blasting them to bits and that is the end of that fiction.” Here are some; Firing missiles indiscriminately at Israeli Civilians. Not wearing uniforms is against the Geneva convention as is not allowing the red cross to see its prisoners. Keeping weapons caches amongst civilians. Firing missiles from built up areas. Etc etc.
    The phrase “nazi” is thrown around a lot these days so much so its meaning has been blurred and weakened. But lets put things in perspective. Themes such as the collective guilt of all Jews are often found on neo-nazi websites held by fascists. People like Marilyn therefore have very little difference in their beliefs about Jews than neo-Nazis. The “left” truly has lost its moral compass.

  50. bronfman steve

    Marilyn makes some typical “anti-Jewish/Israel” assertions. This is the sort of rubbish that could equally come from the left or the right these days. Lets address them all;
    “Excuse me but this is utter crap and should be dismissed as such. Every day people make films about Hitler, about the Nazis, about the war and so on – should they all be silenced as well if they do human rights work?”
    No. Making a neutral documentary about the second world war is not the same collecting swastika memorabilia as a hobby/obsession. “He (Garlasco)has posted thousands of comments on Nazi memorabilia sites including Germancombatawards (981 posts) and Wehrmacht-awards (7735 posts)” http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/expert_or_ideologues_hrw_s_defense_of_marc_garlasco_s_nazi_fetish He clearly has an obsession with the Nazis which does indeed make his neutrality seem dubious.
    “LIsten up – jews are not the only damn victims on the planet and this serial victimhood they indulge in has to be stopped.” This is anti-semitism pure and simple. If this was the case then why would so many members of Human Rights Watch be Jewish? Some Jews founded the organisation. Do you mean all Jews? Some Jews? Name them. This really shows readers Marilyns thought process. All Jews are bad. All Jews hold a view. Jews are the other. Jews are wrong. Jews use victimhood as a weapon. I would say that Palestinians actually use victimhood as a weapon. No one talks about the 800,000 Jews forced out of Arab/Muslim countries after the foundation(and their descendants) as “refugees” today (or the European Jewish refugees) precisely because they have become Israelis (or French etc). So why are Palestinians refugees from 1948 (and their decendants) still classed as “refugees” 60 years later? Because they are being used as pawns, perpetual victims, against Israel. Why is there no UNRWA for say the Hindus/Muslims from the division of India? Because the world uses the palestinians as victims. If Jews are the new nazis then, in the minds of europeans, europe shouldn’t feel as guilty for the genocide of Jews in Europe.
    Infact the opposite is true. Jews like myself want HRW and lefties to start focusing on other areas in the world. eg Yemen etc instead of obssessing about the supposed abuses of Jews only.
    Garlasco wrote 12 out of his 24 articles for Human Rights watch about Israel. Why not try focusing on Sudan, Burma, China, Yemen, Egypt, Western Sahara, Kurdistan etc etc instead of 50% of all articles about Israel.
    In anycase. If 100 million Americans were killed in the next 5 years, Americans would still be talking about it in 60 years. 1 out of 3 Jews were murdered by the Nazis. It didn’t matter about their sex, age, political beliefs, if they were religious, if they practiced christianity. Even if they were 1/4 “jewish”. Almost all the Jews of Europe were wiped out. There has truly never been a genocide on that scale before and to that degree. However, Jews don’t own victimhood. Jews recognise the genocide of the Armenians, the Native Americans, the Gypsies, etc etc Your argument is simply to deny Jews any victimhood at all. Ironic when you criticise Jews for winning wars too.
    “Hamas simply did not commit any war crimes, they couldn’t leave Gaza while Israel was blasting them to bits and that is the end of that fiction.” Here are some; Firing missiles indiscriminately at Israeli Civilians. Not wearing uniforms is against the Geneva convention as is not allowing the red cross to see its prisoners. Keeping weapons caches amongst civilians. Firing missiles from built up areas. Etc etc.
    The phrase “nazi” is thrown around a lot these days so much so its meaning has been blurred and weakened. But lets put things in perspective. Themes such as the collective guilt of all Jews are often found on neo-nazi websites held by fascists. People like Marilyn therefore have very little difference in their beliefs about Jews than neo-Nazis. The “left” truly has lost its moral compass.

  51. soral

    “you, like many other leftist modern antisemits, are fighting the wrong country…
    people like you are the modern version of julius streicher and josepf göbbels.”
    -Mehrdad, sep. 13 04:51pm
    As a leftist and staunch Israel supporter, I say this is a wildly inappropriate comparison. Helena is not Joseph Goebbels, and that idea is crazy because she is not a propagandist intent on encouraging mass murder. Such words hurt the political and moral position of the Israeli state and the IDF. On the other side, this comment is not exactly fit for lamination:
    “LIsten up – jews are not the only damn victims on the planet and this serial victimhood they indulge in has to be stopped.
    Hamas simply did not commit any war crimes, they couldn’t leave Gaza while Israel was blasting them to bits and that is the end of that fiction.”
    – marilyn, sep. 14 12:26pm
    To contradict Marylin, Jews have been among the most serially victimized ethnic groups on Earth, and there is no reason to cease indulging in such history because it is indelible. It is not possible to erase the effects of the past upon Jews, though many have tried. Further, Hamas committed war crimes during the fighting in gaza, as well as human rights violations before and since, irrespective of Israel and Egypt’s debilitating blockade.
    I believe Israel is held to a higher moral standard because it purports a higher moral standard as a nation – a policy I support. But I believe criticism of Israel is harsher, closer and more intense than criticism of any other nation engaged in a conflict the world over partially because of Jew hatred.
    Frankly, when one considers the ultimate practical aim of HRW – the actual end goal of improving the human rights situation of people around the world – it becomes clear that Garlasco’s involvement in this or any other investigation leaves a swastika-shaped taint on any document on which he signs his name. It doesn’t matter if Garlasco approves in his heart of the underlying philosophy behind that symbolism or not – the symbol speaks for itself.
    It must be possible for HRW to find another knowledgeable military analyst and expert who does not collect Nazi pins. Send that one to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  52. Howard

    @Donald
    You’re misunderstanding my point (for which maybe we should blame my communication skills – I apologize for them).
    It’s apparent from Kassandra’s vitriolic response that she believes that the Israelis’ INTENT in Gaza is to slaughter large numbers of civilians.
    My response should only be read in that context.
    As for your comment on the Israeli actions being fairly typical of western militaries, the empirical evidence is that the Israelis have made efforts that no other western military has made, including painstakingly building a geolocation-phone database that allows them to warn targets on a building by building basis of impending bombings (though errors do happen), the willingness to phone-warn even certain Hamas figures and the willingness to have a 3-hour ceasefire daily during a heated conflict to allow humanitarian supplies to be brought in. Has ANY American, NATO or British military force done ANY of these things during ANY armed conflict, large or small? Absolutely not.
    As for the “brutal sanctions regime,” the “brutal regime,” Gaza markets are packed with food and Gazans have ready access to electricity because Israel still provides reliable electricity and fuel to 2/3 of the Strip (the other 1/3 is supplied by Egypt). Israel allows humanitarian aid groups to send many different types of aid into Gaza, provided that the aid is checked for contraband such as explosives (which have been found before, in “humanitarian aid” going into Gaza).
    Gaza has adequate quantities of most of the things that Hamas pretends it lacks, and if Gaza lacks for anything, then Hamas should be smuggling THAT in through their tunnels instead of smuggling in more explosives, which it will shoot over the border into Israeli towns or to booby trap houses and other civilian buildings in Gaza itself.
    Israel allowed cement and metal pipes and the like until it turned out that Hamas was stealing them from humanitarian projects and using them to fortify installations and build rockets.
    Why is it that you slam Israeli sanctions, but you do not criticize Hamas’ decision to engage in a deliberate war against Israeli civilians, after Israel pulled out? There would be no conflict at all, no sanctions, no danger for anyone along the Gaza border if the terrorist factions in Gaza cared more about building a Palestinian state than they do about trying to murder Israeli school kids (Hamas appears to reserve their accurate Grad rockets for schools, synagogues and hospitals; Israelis have simply been lucky).
    Hamas could still declare, as they could have at any time since 2005, that their war is over in the west. The Gaza-Israel borders are the 1967 borders, which was supposedly the condition set by the Arab states for peace.
    If Hamas declared that it was done with the military phase in Gaza and was now going to dedicate itself, within the 1967 borders for a Palestinian state, to building an independent republic through entirely peaceful means, then most Israelis would likely accept that resolution, just as they accepted the de factor peace with Jordan for 24 years. Once Hamas is no longer peddling a genocidal ideology and lobbing flying bombs into Israeli towns, nobody wants to have to send their kids to risk death fighting in Gaza; it simply won’t happen.
    But Hamas DOESN’T do that, because for Hamas, the slaughter of Israel’s Jews is NOT just a means. It is an end.

  53. mehrdad

    @soral:
    there is a great definition from a germen jewish journalist about the methods of modern antisemits. they dont run around and shout “heil hitler”. the modern antisemits work different and all their methods are ecaxtly the ones which helena&co. use:
    -double stanndards on israel. just compare her obsession and the number of her publications against israel and compare them to the rest of her work and you understand what i mean.
    -delegitimation of israel by makeing it impossible to defend itself against a brutal and inhuman enemy who hides himself between civilians.
    -demonize israel by requesting israel to acept the human rights 150% while the other side can do what they want…because they are not jews.
    some leftists fulfil all this conditions. beside that, antisemitism is not a muslim or nazi speciality. leftists are not immun against this disease. one of the top advoisers of hugo chavez is a holocaustdenier.
    i also disagree with your “we have to expect more from israel then from other countries”.
    i am an iranian ex-muslim and i tell you: there is only ONE type of human right. its universal and should be valid for ALL humans. its simply wrong to divide the world in countries (israel) which are observed and requested to implement this rights 150% and countries (muslim countries) which are free to do what they want.

  54. Robert G. Lembke

    In regards to the embarrassing revelations re: Mr. Garlasco. I never see references to the strong linkages between PM Netanyahu and the WW II Fascists. Supposedly his father, who is 99, is his closest advisor. He was the secretary of the extremist leader Jabotinsky, and was a pall-bearer at his funeral. Jabotinsky’s group morphed into one of the post-war terrorist organizations (Igrun or the Stern Gang – I am not an expert here) who killed hundreds of Arab civilians and numbers of Brits and even Jews, and the Swedish UN Mediator Folke Bernadotte.
    But during the war the group had their military academy within one of Mussolini’s naval academies, they wore black shirts, and every morning at formation that sang the Fascist Anthem along with their own anthem. They had branches in, I believe, 14 countries, and reportedly (early in the 1930’s) the German branch was allowed to drill in uniform, something that the Nazis allowed few non-Nazi groups to so. And during the war the group wrote to the Nazis offering to cooperate against the British.
    It is said in the military that “the best defense is a good offense”. However, in this case I doubt that people will be so aggressive as to cite these sort of delightful details of Fascist (literally) activity by the father and closest advisor of the PM of Israel. There is a lot of irony here, however.
    Bob Lembke

  55. wordbyte

    How sad that you can play into the hands of the vicious Israeli right-wing regime, a puppet dancing to their tune. If anyone is betraying the horrific legacy of the Holocaust, it is the Israel Right, now in control of that country, along with its Israeli-Lobby minions in the US. The tragic anomaly that victims often imitate their victimizers has been vividly illustrated by the behavior of the present Israeli regime. The fact that Mr. Garlasco has documented the most recent Israeli war crimes, along with other crimes by others around the globe, has no connection whatever to his rather gruesome hobby, no more connection than the Franco-American author Jonathan Littell of the much acclaimed Les Bienveillantes would have to pro-Nazi sympathies because of his brilliant but equally gruesome recreaction of the life and thought of a Nazi death-camp officer. You should be deeply ashamed at being the dupe of an Israeli Right which unabashedly displays a kind of proto-Nazism of its own concoction.

  56. Pastaneta

    @soral
    You say “Helena is not Joseph Goebbels, and that idea is crazy because she is not a propagandist intent on encouraging mass murder.”
    Mostly, neither were for instance the intellectual communists who were dedicated to improve Russia in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. But they ended up condoning mass murder. They were the early supporters of Lenin and Stalin ( and if still alive became their victims too). So are the leftist of Helena’s ilk. They are just useless instruments of the real bad guys.
    In this case by approving the useless work of HRW she is trying to condine the mass murder of the Jews.

  57. Andrew

    Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. The man has said clearly and repeatedly that he finds Nazism repulsive and is happy that they lost the war.
    I am a historian, and I take some fascination in the Nazi intelligence services. This man took a similar fascination in Nazi military decorations. Yes, this can indicate a historian’s interest, and can contribute greatly to the work of historians–not least, to the work of historians who, like me, openly deplore the Nazis, and consider our historical research as possibly shedding light on that era, to PREVENT such a thing as Nazism recurring, not to encourage it.
    Before we jump in and declare that Mr. Garlasco’s hobby and writings cannot possibly make such a contribution, I would point out that not only was the iron cross on his shirt worn proudly by many a Jewish man, as others have said, but it was used by a Jewish World War One fighter in a poster, SPECIFICALLY TO REBUKE HITLER, as Hitler was coming to power; that is, as a statement that “I earned the Iron Cross as well, it is not yours alone.” Without examining the minutiae of this particular decoration, we would all be condemning Mr. Garlasco as a closet Nazi, on completely false grounds.
    It’s understandable that those who don’t think deeply about these things will do so, and that those with an ax to grind may use any smear they can get their hands on; but if it’s pointed out that he’s rebuked Nazism; that many legitimate historians are fascinated by such things, without being Nazi sympathizers; and that the Iron Cross did not belong to the Nazis, then why on earth would you conclude that his shirt still indicates closet Nazi sympathies?
    He may be a Nazi sympathizer, for all I know; but none of this shows that, yet. I bought a hat showing a Soviet symbol from one of the street vendors in East Berlin; Communism DISGUSTS me. It was for fun. One of my favorite history professors had huge sympathy for the Communists; yet, as a former military man, he was fascinated by Nazi military hardware as well. Leave it to the unthinking, or those who care nothing and know nothing about the study of history, to declare “ewwww! Weeeeird!” That’s far more juvenile and destructive than the collection of these items.

  58. Andrew

    Also, as far as “88” representing the words “heil Hitler,” it is true that it does, among American neo-Nazi groups. However, in the case of Marc Garlasco, it is clear that he is referring to something else. An “88” is short for “flak cannon,” which is what Garlasco studies. From the introduction to his book:
    –He (Garlasco’s Grandfather) began as a range-finder (Entfernungsmesser) operator on 88s preparing for sea-lion,
    …that is, on 88 flak cannons, preparing for the invasion of England.
    It is also true that the Stern Gang, mentioned above, which I think became Irgun, and was linked with many leading Israeli figures, accommodated the Nazis quite happily, and carried out many acts of terror targeting the English, because they felt that the British were the true enemy of Israel.
    If the animus against Marc Garlasco issues from suspicion that his anti-Israel bias is because of a pro-Nazi bias, with his keen (obsessive! Juvenile! Weird!, if you prefer) collecting of Nazi memorablia as “proof,” I think all of the above shows that this is a non-starter. If you want to take issue with his positions on Israel, better to try to clearly attack his logic. We’ve had eight years of George Bush and Karl Rove. We know what a smear campaign looks like.

  59. Eurosabra

    Because neo-Nazi groups in Germany display the WWI Naval Ensign and the Iron Cross in their rallies to circumvent the prohibition on display of Nazi-era symbols and the swastika.
    Garlasco made a mistake analogous to that of an American Israel-lobbyist being photographed at Baruch Goldstein’s grave on a tourist visit, being seen as a supporter of someone who carried out ideologically-based genocidal murder. Since his position is dependent on moral suasion, this may make his message unacceptable to people who care about the moral dimension of the conflict. From a purely utilitarian perspective, he has fatally undermined his message by introducing a moral debate about his motivations, as well as giving Israel an opportunity to permanently deny him entry to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza under the “Nazi and Collaborators Law” of the 1950s.

  60. Eurosabra

    Bob Lemke,
    You are conflating Beitar, the Revisionist naval cadets’ exchange with Italy, the Irgun, and the Stern Gang. LEHI (the “Stern Gang”) and ETZEL (“Irgun”) were separate organizations, on totally different scales and with different methods. The Muslim Brotherhood’s and SS-Handjar-Division filiation to Hamas is a lot clearer and more direct and historians (well, except for Künzel and Pipes) hedge their statements on the development of the fascist element in modern Islamism with qualifications and exceptions as it is. At least read the history and learn to make the fine distinctions that mainstream Israeli historians do between the myriad Palestinian organizations.

  61. APS

    Collecting pictures of nude children, for “artistic” purposes, is legal too. And those who do it always claim its innocent.
    But would anyone let someone with that sort of “hobby” look after their children? I think not.
    So, on this account, Ms. Cobban’s point is well taken.
    Mr. Garlasco may have been wrong about Russia, and likewise, his research was no better when it came to demonizing Israel. Only now we know why.

  62. Andrew

    Actually, I just returned from a trip to Paris, and the military history museum at the site of Napoleon’s tomb contains a number of Nazi artifacts, even including things that belonged to Hitler.
    The Imperial War Museum in London contains a uniform and baton that belonged to Hermann Goering.
    The Heeresgeschichtlichesmuseum in Vienna also contains artifacts from the Nazi era. So does the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
    Plainly, these two museums are run by a whole bunch of Nazi sympathizers! They claim to be keeping these items for their supposed interest as items of “historical research,” but we know that collecting Nazi memorabilia for their historical interest is just a smokescreen. Even if someone writes a book exploring the history of these items, like Marc Garlasco did, stating clearly that he hated Nazism, that’s obviously just a pretense.
    Close the museums now!

  63. Andrew

    This idea that having a fascination with some historical phenomenon is equal to supporting that phenomenon is completely unfounded. People take an interest in all kinds of historical phenomena, many, many of them brutal or objectionable. People may even become fascinated by these things for childish reasons. None of this means that they are closet supporters of the phenomenon. By this (il)logic, everyone who studies colonialism, or the Irish famine, must be in favor of these things; and everyone who is fascinated by the Civil War must be a closet racist and would-be slaveowner, even when they say clearly and explicitly, “slave ownership was detestable and I’m glad the South lost the war.” Ridiculous. And Marc Garlasco said exactly these things about Nazi Germany.
    The only people swayed by these arguments, that collecting historical memorabilia means supporting the phenomena represented by them, are those who have no knowledge of historical scholarship, and are the sorts of simplistic thinkers who believe that Hitler was devoutly religious since he allowed his soldiers to keep the old “Gott Mit Uns!” legend on their belt buckles.
    And just because the simple-minded are too uninformed to address these questions intelligently, it doesn’t mean that our debate about Human Rights Watch should hinge on the political sway of these simple-minded people. We should leave such questions to those with some logic and intelligence.
    I’m disappointed that this is even being debated here.

  64. EWWWW

    People can collect many things, including nazi memorabilia. It is when they start wearing the stuff that crosses the line from a hobby to a potential belief system. There cannot be a shred of doubt whether the leader of HRW is a nazi sympathizer.

  65. Andrew

    @ewwww
    Um… unless, as repeatedly mentioned, the item he was wearing was not such an item, but was the Iron Cross, which, for the hard of hearing, was worn by dozens of Jewish men in each Prussian or German war for 200 years, except only World War II.
    If you’d like to pretend not to have heard that, then by all means, you may declare that there is no shred of doubt that Marc Garlasco–he’s really the head of HRW?–is a nazi sympathizer.
    Otherwise, the other arguments here represent the most basic logical fallacy imaginable, familiar to anyone who takes even one class in logic: “because SOME of group A are also in group B, therefore ALL of group A MUST be part of group B.” Because some collectors of German military memorabilia are Nazi sympathizers, therefore all such collectors must be. This is a logical fallacy, and does not follow.

  66. Andrew

    As to Helena’s disgusted reference to “Marc Garlasco’s little ‘hobby'”, and her statement that she’d be alarmed if her son took a keen–sorry, “obsessive”–interest in such things, let me offer this:
    A while ago, a rich amateur historian started collecting “distasteful” memorabilia from a country with historic animus to Israel and the Jews, which had many times gone to war against the latter, even using the Jews for slave labor when they conquered them. The memorabilia this man collected included the disemboweled corpses preserved in this country’s religious cult, some, though not all, from EXACTLY THE ERA OF THE JEWS’ ENSLAVEMENT, which I would think far more distasteful than simple military medals.
    The country, of course, was Egypt. The collection of mummies and other Egyptian funerary items grew into a museum collection, and the museum is now one of the foremost tourist sites in Silicon Valley. Important scholars find it an informative place to visit. The man’s amateur Egyptology was an unmitigated good.
    I’m glad this man was not Helena’s son–Helena’s Historians’ Protocol clearly dictates that 1) only professional historians, never amateurs, may collect such things; 2) too much attention to detail is to be avoided as “obsessive”; and 3) those with a fascination for a certain country’s history can never become advocates for human rights, as too much attention to historical details someone might judge “distasteful” will show evidence of bias.
    And, really–someone purporting to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just suggested, seriously, that LESS attention to historical detail is what is needed in human rights workers there? I don’t want you anywhere NEAR the Mideast question, if anyone who minutely examines distasteful histories is to be purged by you as “obsessive.” You’d better believe that these histories mean something to the people there, and you’d better learn to be MORE obsessive, and a better self-teacher of history, if you intend to help solve these conflicts.
    Marc Garlasco may well have shown bias, and if so, he is wrong; contrary to what everyone says so confidently, neither one side nor the other is pristine and free from crimes here. Few are capable of being honest and truthful about it. But MORE minute attention to detail in history is what is required, not less, if we are ever to be truthful about this history.

  67. Andrew

    In the interest of being anal, I should amend the above to read: the Iron Cross was awarded to many Jewish men in every war from the Napoleonic wars through World War II. In the post-war era, although it decorates German tanks, it is no longer awarded as a decoration.

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