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Several Washington-based human rights groups are facing criticism for awarding two radical Egyptian Islamists who have endorsed terrorism and expressed hostility toward Israel.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) came under fire earlier this week after it selected Mona Seif, an Egyptian terrorist sympathizer who calls Israel the “real terrorist,” as a finalist for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.
Critics quickly accused HRW and the other nonprofits responsible for selecting Seif of perverting the award by selecting a radical figure who has preached terrorism against Israel.
Egyptian human rights activist Amr Bakly expressed shock on Twitter upon learning that Seif was a finalist for the human rights award.
“#Martin_Ennals_Award not for a terrorists supporters .. Mona Saif [sic] is a terrorist suppoerter [sic]!,” Bakly tweeted.
The watchdog group UN Watch additionally petitioned the Martin Ennals Foundation to take Seif out of the running for the honor.
“We urge you, as Chair of the Jury and Secretary of the Board, to immediately cancel Ms. Seif’s nomination on grounds of her public advocacy of violence against civilians, terrorism and war crimes, which is in gross breach of the Award criteria of ‘promotion and protection of human rights,’ the group wrote to foundation head Hans Thoolen.
Meanwhile, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) was criticized last month when it handed a “Leaders for Democracy” award to a former Muslim Brotherhood official who referred to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as “an act of protest against U.S. foreign policy.”
Middle East experts and critics maintain that it is hypocritical and dangerous for Western groups to champion such radical figures as agents of democracy.
“The fact that so many democracy awards are being given to people who do not embrace democratic values suggests that the very notion of ‘pro-democratic’ is being defined down,” said Eric Trager, an Egypt expert and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Most disturbingly, pro-democratic and human rights organizations, which should be at the forefront of advancing democratic ideals, are the ones overlooking these awardees’ blatantly violent views and thus contributing to this defining down,” Trager said.
UN Watch petitioned HRW to cancel Seif’s nomination in an April 30 letter to executive director Kenneth Roth.
“We are shocked to learn that Human Rights Watch has joined with others in naming Mona Seif of Egypt as one of three Final Nominees for the 2013 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders—termed by some ‘the Nobel for human rights’—on whose jury you play a key role,” the letter states.
“By rewarding a person with a pattern and practice of publicly inciting to violence against civilians, terrorism, and war crimes, you are dishonoring and indeed desecrating the memory and legacy of human rights activist Martin Ennals,” UN Watch wrote.
A HRW spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that they were still waiting on official comment about the controversy.
Seif has encouraged terrorist attacks against an Israeli fuel pipeline.
“People of [Sinai], Our gas is being pumped again to Israel, Plz do something about it,” Seif wrote in a July 2011 tweet that included that hash tag “Fuck Israel.”
She also promoted the Palestinian violence in a November 2012 tweet: “You don’t ask an occupied nation to stop their ‘Resistance’ to end violence!!! SHAME ON YOU!”
Seif criticized HRW watch after the group called on Palestinians to halt their deadly rocket attacks against Israel.
Seif has not retreated from her extremist stance, only doubling down in subsequent tweets in recent days.
“We support the resistance of the palestinian nation against Israel,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “I didn’t fool anyone or hide my thoughts.”
“i support a nation’s right to resist occupation!” she added in a follow up tweet. “Sending me tweets calling me a terrorist wont change the fact that real terrorist is Israel.”
Former Muslim Brotherhood official Ibrahim El-Houdaiby was dubbed a democratic agent for change by POMED during the groups annual awards reception on April 11 despite having a similarly controversial past.
POMED executive director Stephen McInerney did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment as to why El-Houdaiby was chosen for the honor.
El-Houdaiby cited the United States and Israel as the prime reasons for Arab animosity toward America in a 2011 article discussing the 9/11 attacks.
“The attacks are best understood as an act of protest against U.S. foreign policy,” he wrote. “The long support of Israel’s occupation, the heavy post-cold-war military presence in the Middle East and the exploitation of the region’s resources have all led to the rise of anti-Americanism.”
As an English-language spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Houdaiby attempted to soften the Islamist organization’s image and portray it as a force for democracy.
“Don’t fear the Islamists,” El-Houdaiby proclaimed in one 2011 article about the percolating protests in pre-revolution Egypt.
“While some of these concerns [about hardline extremists] are valid, they are largely exaggerated, and the significance of the demonstration has been over-estimated,” he wrote.
However, this has not been the case in post-revolution Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has ruled with an increasingly authoritarian hand.
Four senior Muslim Brotherhood officials quit their posts earlier this week, leading some to speculate that the Islamist government is growing unstable.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s top legal advisor also resigned last week, citing the regime’s authoritarian decision-making process.