Dear Mr. Horton

Regarding “Eyad Rajab El-Sarraj” (Feb 15, 2014): Geoff Watts fails to acknowledge Sarraj’s problematic legacy, including his anti-Israel advocacy, particularly in conjunction with the NGO (non-governmental organization) he founded, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP).

Indeed, Sarraj exploited his professional credentials as a psychiatrist and the head of a human rights organization in order to promote his immoral anti-Israel agenda. Sarraj waged a political war against Israel through BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, and sometimes used antisemitic rhetoric. Sarraj blamed Israel entirely for harming Gaza civilians, and condemned Israeli self-defense measures, while neglecting to protest the unceasing Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, particularly those killing children of Sderot.

Furthermore, in a 2003 interview with Tikkun Magazine, Sarraj offensively asked, “Are they evil by nature, these Jews? Or are they stupid, born mentally subnormal?…They are psycho-pathologically disturbed….” In June 2009, Sarraj and another GCMHP staff member appeared before the biased, and later discredited, Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict. Sarraj’s testimony presented a stereotype that was entirely without any scientific or medical foundation: “…there is no restraint, no discipline within the army….even there’s an encouragement.” His testimony then went further; “…inside Israel there is an identification with the aggressor, the Nazi.”

Watts praises Sarraj’s “mixture of medicine and activism.” However, NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute, has demonstrated that this is often an unholy combination. NGOs and NGO officials that proclaim a mandate related to human rights are regularly shielded from scrutiny. This “halo effect” – an added degree of credibility, reflecting an undeserved perception of altruism and expertise – allows damaging political warfare to continue under the guise of humanitarianism and activism.

While Sarraj may have helped Palestinians deal with mental health problems, his problematic relationship with Israel and the Jewish people should also be remembered.

Rivka Hecht, Jerusalem

The author is a 2013-2014 Research Fellow at NGO Monitor