The death of Ariel Sharon has brought to the fore an array of raw and
confounding emotions throughout the country, as many Israelis grapple with his
complex legacy. Indeed, it is hard to remember an Israeli leader who embodied so
many contradictions so profoundly.
In the course of his military and
political career, Sharon championed settlement of the land, yet ruthlessly
uprooted thousands of Jews from their homes in Yamit and Gush Katif.
subdued Palestinian terrorist groups, yet later turned territory over to their
control. As defense minister, he fought all the way to Beirut to distance our
enemies from our borders, but subsequently as prime minister he enabled them to
gain control over Gaza in our backyard.
Clearly, to view Sharon in two
dimensions is to do a great disservice to history. He simply doesn’t fit all
that easily into the simple, and often simplistic, categories with which we
Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Israel’s critics from
exploiting Sharon’s passing to vilify him and the Jewish state in a callous and
contemptible effort to score political points or garner a
Perhaps the worst offender in this regard is Human Rights Watch
(HRW), which chose to dance on Sharon’s freshly-dug grave even before he had
been laid to rest in it.
In a statement issued on January 11 under the
title, “Ariel Sharon’s troubled legacy,” and highlighted prominently on its
homepage, HRW accused Sharon of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as
though he were a Jewish Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein all rolled into
“Ariel Sharon,” HRW says in the opening paragraph, “died without
facing justice for his role in the massacres of hundreds and perhaps thousands
of civilians by Lebanese militias in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in
Lebanon in 1982.”
“The killings,” they write, “constituted war crimes and
crimes against humanity.”
As if that weren’t enough spittle to have
hurled at Sharon’s memory, the hypocritical humanitarians over at HRW went
further, bemoaning that “Sharon also escaped accountability for other alleged
abuses, such as his role expanding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, prosecutable as a war crime.”
And they summed up his
premiership by saying, “During Sharon’s term as prime minister, Israeli forces
killed more than 1,430 Palestinian civilians, while Palestinians killed 640
Israeli civilians,” failing to note the wave of Palestinian terror with which
Israel had to contend.
Moreover, there is not one word of respect, nor a
single expression of condolence to Sharon’s family or country to be found in the
organization’s 645-word statement.
Apparently, HRW sees no contradiction
between its stated goal of upholding human dignity and the scorn that it heaps
on the dead and their memory.
In fact, the only articulation of sorrow to
be found in HRW’s statement is the group’s regret that Sharon died without being
put on trial.
“It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without
facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses,” Sarah Leah
Whitson, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, is quoted as saying, adding
that, “His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for
rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any
What the witless Whitson and her clueless comrades at HRW fail
to grasp is that their one-sided and politically- driven vilification of Sharon
makes them no better than the Palestinians who celebrated his death in the
streets of Gaza by handing out candy to passersby.
Even the Associated
Press (January 11), took note of the resemblance between the two. After quoting
a Palestinian who lamented that Sharon had not stood trial, the AP said in a
story about the reaction to the former premier’s passing that “the international
group Human Rights Watch expressed a similar sentiment.”
tone and language, former Palestinian security official Jibril Rajoub labeled
Sharon a “criminal” and said he should have appeared before the International
Criminal Court in the Hague.
Similarly, Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil
also condemned Sharon as a “criminal,” adding, “We pray to Allah that Sharon and
all the Zionist leaders who committed massacres against our people to go to
Is this the kind of company that HRW likes to keep? When an
organization ostensibly dedicated to human rights so openly engages in human
wrongs, something is clearly amiss.
There is a basic decency and decorum
that one expects, particularly from those who position themselves as the
guardians of good in the world.
On this score, Human Rights Watch has
failed miserably, allowing its long-running anti-Israel bias to cloud its
judgment and poison its values.
The inescapable conclusion is clear: if
HRW is willing to show such disrespect for the dead, one cannot help but wonder
just how much they truly care for the living.
The writer is founder and
chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which assists lost tribes
and hidden Jewish communities to return to Israel and the Jewish people.