08/03/2009 08:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

WSJ In The Smear Business

Human Rights Watch is getting grief because of The Wall Street Journal's distorted reporting and actual untruths about an organization has bent over backwards to be both fair and accurate. It is a very sad thing when a professional journalism venture is unable to measure up to the standards of the group it criticises.

The issue is whether a delicate mission, aimed at achieving human rights advances in Saudi Arabia, was also a fund-raising effort to get money for Human Rights Watch to use in attacking pro-Israel groups.

Had this utterly outlandish charge been printed in a lowly blog somewhere, it would have died a deserved death. But WSJ has cache and so falsity gets a nice boost.

Here is the seminal critical piece that the Journal published on its web site on July 15:

Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia: Seeking Money to Counterbalance "Pro-Israel Pressure Groups"

The author is David Bernstein and his piece is a reprint from The Volkosh Conspiracy.

Not content with one false report, the Journal repeated the charge five days later, this time in its paper edition in its editorial section.

Double Standards and Human Rights Watch The organization displays a strong bias against Israel.

Published on July 20, the author is Noah Pollack who is identified as a graduate student in international relations at Yale.

The heading of the stories bites off quite a chunk for persons who might wish to be seen as fair critics and for a publication which, at least in its news section, is generally beyond reproach.

It does not take much reading of either piece to see that the false charge is simply an I-told-you-so to which is attached a skewering of Human Rights Watch for its objective effort to deal with an intractible conflict.

The conflict between Israel and her neighbors has led to profound irrationality on both sides. Once things go as far as they have gone, we are in which-side-are-you-on? territory. And you are damned if you say I am for both sides and for a fair solution.

Well damn me. And damn Human Rights Watch. But be aware that words matter. And false words on both sides are in some respects as culpable as the actual abuses they help foment.