A Sept. 8 post on the pro-Israel blog Mere Rhetoric outed Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW), as an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia. The report, published by blogger Omri Ceren, accused Garlasco of being “Nazi-obsessed” and of holding “anti-Israeli biases.” HRW initially dismissed Ceren’s claims and threw its full support behind Garlasco, who has written articles critical of the Israel Defense Forces for the organization. But last Monday HRW suspended Garlasco without pay “pending an investigation.”
Garlasco is an avid collector of Third Reich articles. Mere Rhetoric quoted his zealous postings on collector sites, including, “The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” According to Ceren, Garlasco operated online under the handle “Flak 88”—a reference to the 88mm German anti-aircraft gun, or perhaps the Nazi rallying cry “Heil Hitler” (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet). Garlasco has also written a 400-plus-page book about Nazi-era medals, titled The Flak Badges of the Luftwaffe and Heer.
Garlasco insists he is being pilloried by the pro-Israel lobby, and that his interest in the far right is simply a product of his passion for wartime history. In a response on the Huffington Post, he explained that his fascination with war souvenirs was inspired by his German grandfather, who was conscripted to fight in the war. “I’m a military geek,” he wrote. “I’ve never hidden my hobby . . . precisely because it’s so obvious that the Nazis were evil.”
For HRW, the timing of the exposé could not be worse. The group has thrown its weight behind the UN-sponsored Goldstone report, which accuses both Israel and the Palestinians of committing war crimes in the Gaza strip earlier this year. Garlasco’s actions will surely lead many to question the group’s credibility: according to HRW Middle East advisory committee member Helena Cobban, “[HRW’s critics] have been given this deus ex machina gift about the discovery of Garlasco and his out-of-hours hobby.”