What exactly does it take to disqualify a Palestinian from being canonized as a liberal human rights activist by the Guardian Left? This question came to mind when reading a Guardian obituary for Eyad Sarraj, who died recently at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem where he was being treated for cancer.
The obit was written by the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor Victoria Brittain, a Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron who recently penned a spirited defense at ‘Comment is Free’ of radical Islamist preacher (and suspected al-Qaeda operative) Abu Qatada.
Brittain begins by acknowledging the personal nature of her relationship with Sarraj:
My friend and mentor Eyad Sarraj, who has died aged 69 after suffering from multiple myeloma, was not only Gaza’s first and most distinguished psychiatrist, but also a tireless chronicler of pain and resilience in that tiny, crowded territory under occupation and Israeli firepower.
Brittain then engages in a bit of historical white washing:
Eyad [Sarraj] was born in Palestine under the British mandate, in Bir al-Saba, which became Beersheva after the establishment of Israel…Returning to Gaza, he lived through the violence of the Israeli military against the youthful defiance of the first intifada in 1988, which left a new generation traumatised
Of course, the intifada Brittain alludes to – which raged between 1987 and 1993 – included hundreds of terror attacks by Palestinians using weapons such as Molotov cocktails, hand grenades and assault rifles. Two hundred Israelis were killed, thousands injured, and countless more “traumatised” by such acts of “youthful defiance”.
Brittain adds the following:
In 1990, he founded the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme [GCMHP] and built a team of 40 specialists, many of them with the experience of Israeli prisons’ torture and forced collaborations. Every suffering family’s door was open to the GCMHP, which became a key part of Gaza’s ability to function against all the odds.
However, as head of GCMHP Sarraj cynically exploited his ‘expertise’ to “psychoanalyze” Israeli villainy, a record of demonizing rhetoric which included his allegation that “inside Israel there is an identification with the aggressor, the Nazi.”
Brittain then concludes her beatification:
He was a father figure in Gaza – foreign delegations always wanted to call on him, friends phoned him from around the world to get Gaza’s news, especially when it was bad. The texture of his life was in the assassinations, bombed homes, arrested fathers, attempted suicide bombings, and their consequences of trauma and dysfunction in GCMHP’s everyday work. His private strength was buttressed with quiet early morning walks on the beach, where he was greeted by fishermen and children going to school, and with evening talks with friends in his book-lined home.
From 2002 the occasional sharing of these walks and times with Eyad in Gaza, or in London, always meant new understanding and a renewal of optimism that against all odds Gaza’s exceptional people could transform the grimmest of times.
Eyad [Sarraj] received many honours including, in 1997, the Physicians for Human Rights award, and, in 1998, the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders. In 2010, he won the Olof Palme prize for his self-sacrificing struggle for the Palestinian people. He was a key witness to the Goldstone report on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.
However, in addition to the fact that Sarraj was on the Gaza Advisory Council of the international “pro-Hamas umbrella organization” called the Free Gaza Movement, there’s one especially relevant piece of history Brittain left out which would seem quite relevant in assessing his overall moral legacy.
In an interview with Tikkun in 2003, Sarraj said:
I’ve asked myself: ‘Are they evil by nature, these Jews? Or are they stupid, born mentally subnormal? Why are they doing this?’ It’s unbelievable. And I found after long, long thinking about it that they are not born evil. And they are not stupid. They are psycho-pathologically disturbed.”
As we’ve argued in previous posts, the most egregious problem at the Guardian is not explicitly Judeophobic commentary, but, rather, the moral cover the media group’s contributors often provide for Palestinians with well-documented records of engaging in anti-Jewish racism.
Victoria Brittain’s Guardian obituary for the Palestinian ‘activist’ represents yet another example of their ubiquitous antisemitic sins of omission.