Neier, Aryeh 1937-
NEIER, Aryeh 1937-
PERSONAL: Born April 22, 1937, in Berlin, Germany; naturalized U.S. citizen; son of Wolf (a teacher) and Gitla (Bendzinska) Neier; married Yvette Celton (a merchandiser), June 22, 1958; children: David. Education: Cornell University, B.S., 1958.
CAREER: League for Industrial Democracy, New York, NY, executive director, 1958-60; Current magazine, associate magazine editor, 1960-63; American Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY, field development officer, 1963-64, executive director, 1965-70, became national director, 1970-78; 20th Century Fund Project on Litigation and Social Policy, director, 1978-81; Human Rights Watch, New York, NY, executive director, 1981-93; Soros Foundations Network, New York, NY, president, 1993—; Open Society Institute, New York, NY, executive director, 1993—. Adjunct professor at New York University, 1978.
AWARDS, HONORS: Humanitarian award, K.P. Club, l967; Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 1974; Honorary LL.D., Hofstra University, 1975, Hamilton College, 1979, State University of New York, Binghamton, 1988.
Dossier: The Secret Files They Keep on You, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1975.
Crime and Punishment: A Radical Solution, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1976.
Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the SkokieCase, and the Risks of Freedom, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.
Only Judgment: The Limits of Litigation in SocialChange, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1982.
July 19, 1983, Third Supplement to the Report on Human Rights in El Salvador, Americas Watch Committee (New York, NY), 1983.
Draining the Sea, Americas Watch Committee (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Holly Burkhalter) Managing the Facts: How theAdministration Deals with Reports of Human Rights Abuses in El Salvador, Americas Watch Committee (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Jemera Rone and Anne Nelson) Settling intoRoutine: Human Rights Abuses in Duarte's Second Year, Americas Watch Committee (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Jemera Rone and Anne Manuel) Violations of the Laws of War by Both Sides in Nicaragua in 1987, Americas Watch Committee (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Juan E. Mendez) The Killings in Northern Nicaragua, Human Rights Watch (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Robert Kushen) Conflict in the Soviet Union:Black January in Azerbaidzhan, Human Rights Watch (New York, NY), 1991.
Prison Conditions in India, Human Rights Watch (New York, NY), 1991.
War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror, and theStruggle for Justice, Times Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle forRights (memoir), Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2003.
(Author of introduction) Lost Liberties: Ashcroft and the Assault on Personal Freedom (essays), edited by Cynthia Brown, New Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to books, including Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1985. Columnist for Nation. Contributor to periodicals, including Civil Liberties Review, Crime and Delinquency, New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Village Voice, and New York Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Aryeh Neier has made a name for himself as a social activist. During a career that has spanned almost four decades, he has been a force within such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch, the Soros Foundation, and the Open Society Institute (OSI). In the process of disseminating his various messages, Neier has written some dozen books, numerous op-ed pieces and other articles for periodicals and law journals, and contributed a regular column to the Nation. He has also appeared on television shows, including Nightline, the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, and the Today Show. While some have argued that Neier's strong liberal politics perhaps negatively influenced his humanitarian efforts, Lara LaMarche wrote in Social Policy: "He has assumed the classic stance of civil libertarian, and done it as well as anyone. . . . But another theme of Neier's career—in my view his unique and visionary contribution—has been to promote the rights of those most marginalized by society."
Born in Nazi Germany in 1937, Neier and his middle-class Jewish parents fled to England in August of 1939, shortly before the Anschluss. Eight years later the Neier family immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City, where he became a naturalized citizen and attended Stuyvesant High School. While earning his bachelor's degree at Cornell University, Neier developed a keen interest in politics. He became involved with political organizations, including the League for Industrial Democracy and Students for a Democratic Society, but neither organization fit with Neier's beliefs. Finally he went to work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the most prominent of several such organizations into which he has channeled his energy.
In the course of his activist work, Neier wrote articles and books about human rights abuses in Central America, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Among these works is War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror, and the Struggle for Justice, an examination of crimes against humanity and a plea for legal recourse for victims. "I firmly believe in naming names of those who have committed grave abuses and, if possible, holding them accountable," Neier begins. The book surveys the efforts of the international community and individual governments to rectify political injustices in such countries as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Argentina, Communist Eastern Europe, Bosnia, and Rwanda. Neier then proposes a system of international law—an International Criminal Court—to deal with crimes against humanity.
War Crimes elicited a variety of critical comments. Among its enthusiasts were Booklist's Vanessa Bush, who called the book "powerful," and Library Journal's Zachary T. Irwin, who remarked that Neier has "done a good job of discussing the legal and moral significance" of the crimes under investigation. Providing a political perspective, John R. Bolton maintained in Foreign Affairs that Neier's proposal is really an attempt to "assert the primacy of 'international law' over the nation-state, and of criminal prosecution over alternative methods of dealing with the worst offenders." Bolton found Neier's system problematic, particularly because, as the critic contended, Neier makes no clear determination of whether or not "international law trumps the Constitution, or vice versa." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Gary J. Bass found merit in War Crimes: "Neier is at his best when he is not just weighing good against evil but thinking through complicated humanitarian predicaments where one kind of good is pitted against another." "There may be no definitive answers to these kinds of questions," Bass added, concluding: "Neier has put close to the best possible face on a humanrights purist position. War Crimes is not just wide ranging and serious: it is judicious."
For fifteen years Neier worked his way to the top of the ALCU ladder. As that organization's director, he broadened its civil-rights agenda, a controversial move that he writes in the memoir Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights was designed "to reach classes of people previously excluded from constitutional protection," such as the mentally ill and other marginalized people. The mixed reviews received by Taking Liberties reflected the controversy regarding Neier's tenure at the ACLU. Although Commentary contributor Jacob Heilbrunn noted that "in recounting his efforts on behalf of civil and human rights over the past decades, Neier presents an attractive portrait," the critic added that "one is also struck by the gap between the picture drawn by Neier and the reality of recent history. Unfortunately, Taking Liberties takes quite a few liberties with the facts." Heilbrunn asserted that throughout his career Neier used whatever organization he headed to promote his own left-wing agenda.
Viewing Taking Liberties in a different light, Nation contributor Scott L. Malcomson commented: "Neier emerges, almost despite himself, as a fascinating man. The story of his achievements is itself interesting and takes up the bulk of his pages." "Basically all Americans and many non-Americans should shake Aryeh Neier's hand and say, Thank you," Malcomson continued. "He has made us freer. He didn't have to do that." Eugene R. Fidell in the New York Times Book Review noted: "Most autobiographers probably hope they'll end up being loved. It's not clear how many readers of Taking Liberties will love Aryeh Neier—but there's little question that they'll admire him." Interestingly, Malcomson found Neier's "failures . . . interesting to read about perhaps because they interest him more than his successes. . . . It's this spirit, and the frank, open empathy he shows for suffering, that makes Neier come through these pages as fascinating rather than simply admirable, and passionate as well as good." Other enthusiasts of the work include Brian Urquhart of the New York Review of Books, who praised Neier's presentation of a "vivid picture of the patience and ingenuity required to translate noble principles and good intentions into practical reality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Best Sellers, January, 1977, review of Crime andPunishment: A Radical Solution, p. 337; May, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom, p. 62.
Booklist, February 15, 1979, review of Defending MyEnemy, p. 895; August, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror, and the Struggle for Justice, p. 1935.
Choice, December, 1976, review of Crime and Punishment, p. 1365; September, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 916; May, 1983, p. 1367; January, 1994, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 677; January, 1999, review of War Crimes, p. 967.
Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 23, 2003, review of Taking Liberties, p. 30.
Commentary, April, 2003, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights, pp. 70-73.
Economist, October 17, 1998, review of War Crimes, pp. 8+.
Foreign Affairs, January, 1999, John R. Bolton, review of War Crimes, p. 157.
Harvard Law Review, March, 1983, review of OnlyJudgment, p. 1167.
Journalism Quarterly, fall, 1979, review of DefendingMy Enemy, p. 651.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1976, review of Crime andPunishment, p. 574; June 1, 1976, review of Crime and Punishment, p. 646; December 15, 1978, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 1404; July 1, 1998, review of War Crimes, p. 953; December 1, 2002, review of Taking Liberties, pp. 1754-1755.
Library Journal, June 15, 1976, review of Crime andPunishment, p. 1440; February 1, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 391; January 1, 1983, review of Only Judgment: The Limits of Litigation in Social Change, p. 62; September 15, 1998, Zachary T. Irwin, review of War Crimes, p. 99. Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 16, 1998, review of War Crimes, p. 8.
Nation, March 31, 1979, review of Defending MyEnemy, p. 344; October 20, 2003, Scott L. Malcomson, review of Taking Liberties, p. 28.
National Review, March 2, 1979, review of DefendingMy Enemy, p. 308; June 8, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 748.
New Republic, March 17, 1979, review of DefendingMy Enemy, p. 37.
New York Review of Books, May 20, 1999, review of War Crimes, p. 58; May 15, 2003, Brian Urquhart, review of Taking Liberties, pp. 39-41.
New York Times Book Review, April 1, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 16; September 6, 1998, Gary J. Bass, review of War Crimes, section 7, p. 26; May 11, 2003, Eugene R. Fidell, review of Taking Liberties, p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, January 1, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 51; July 13, 1998, review of War Crimes, p. 71.
Social Policy, winter, 1999, Lara LaMarche, "Aryeh Neier," p. 27.
Wall Street Journal, March 1, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. p. 18.
Washington Monthly, February, 1979, review of Defending My Enemy, p. 78.
Washington Post Book World, September 13, 1998, review of War Crimes, p. 4; March 9, 2003, review of Taking Liberties.
Open Society Institute Web site,http://www.soros.org/ (January 8, 2003).*
"Neier, Aryeh 1937-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/neier-aryeh-1937
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