If it did, it wouldn’t have published this obituary of Ariel Sharon by professional anti-Israel agitator Max Blumenthal. I’m not a big Sharon fan, but it’s not the negative nature of the obituary that’s problematic. Rather, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more consistently dishonest appraisal of historical fact in the Arab-Israeli conflict, at least this side of Hamas-controlled media. There are so many distortions, exaggerations, and falsehoods that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just give one example. Referring to the massacre of Palestinian by Christian Lebanese militiamen, “Sharon and many of his officers were well aware of the Phalangists’ intention to murder as many women and children as they could.” Time Magazine made a similar allegation against Sharon, and, following a libel lawsuit by Sharon was found by New York jury to have lied. Israel’s Kahan investigative Commission held Sharon indirectly responsible “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge” and “not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed.” It also found that while Israeli forces had negligently failed to anticipate the massacre, and take proper measures to respond to initial reports of a massacre. That’s all bad enough, but not for Blumenthal, who apparently is privy to his own set of facts. (Again, this is of a piece with the rest of the obituary, which, and I can’t resist one more example, falsely claims that Sharon orchestrated the “comprehensive demolition of the Jenin refugee camp,” a claim that not even the Palestinian propaganda machine, which made phony allegations of massacres of hundreds by Israeli forces (in fact, only around fifty Palestinians, mostly gunmen, were killed in the battle, along with 23 Israeli soldiers) alleged at the time. UPDATE: Here are aerial photos taken after the Jenin battle showing the camp outside the combat zone intact).
The jury back in the ’80 found that Time had acted without malice, and therefore didn’t have to pay damages. The only thing protecting The Nation and Blumenthal from a libel suit, by contrast, is that a dead person’s estate can’t sue for libel. The Nation has always struck me as an awful magazine with little regard for the truth (consider its longstanding editorial line that neither Alger Hiss or Julius Rosenberg were Soviet spies, a line maintained against overwhelming contrary evidence), but this is a new low.
Bonus credibility gap: As NGO Monitor points out, my friends at Human Rights Watch, who said not a single harsh word when Yasser Arafat, slaughterer of hundreds of civilians and dictator of the Palestinian Authority, died, and who issued a rather tepid and ambiguous statement on Osama Bin Laden’s demise, have put a lengthy denunciation of Sharon on their website. I suppose we can take some solace in the fact that even HRW doesn’t claim that Sharon was “well aware” that a massacre was planned by Phalangist forces in 1982.