Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel has accused the militant Palestinian movement Hamas of child sacrifice for its practice of launching rockets against Israel from within heavily populated parts of Gaza during the recent month-long conflict.
In a full-page paid advertisement in Thursday's The Globe and Mail, Mr. Wiesel, 85, argues that Jews rejected the practice of child sacrifice 3,500 years ago; "now it's Hamas's turn." A similar ad has appeared in major U.S. newspapers. But a British version is causing controversy, with the London Times refusing to publish it.
More than 1,800 Palestinians were killed in the recent fighting between Israel and Gaza militants. Many of the fatalities were civilians, including 432 children ages 17 and under, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. Most victims died during heavy Israeli bombardment of several outlying Palestinian neighbourhoods.
In many cases, residents had been warned by the Israelis to leave the area ahead of the shelling, although Hamas frequently told the people to stay.
Israelis said they sought to destroy rocket launch sites and arsenals, both often concealed within populated areas. On three occasions, Hamas was found to have used United Nations schools to conceal armaments. This correspondent witnessed the launch of a pair of long-range rockets from a site in Jabaliya, very near a UN school filled with more than 1,000 people seeking refuge from Israeli shelling in their home neighbourhoods.
Mr. Wiesel, author of more than 40 books, including memoirs of his experience as an adolescent in Hitler's death camps, called on moderate people everywhere to "shift their criticism from Israeli soldiers," who fired on Gaza, "to the terrorists," who placed Gaza's children in harm's way.
"In my own lifetime," Mr. Wiesel said in the ad, "I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire. And now I have seen Muslim children used as human shields, in both cases, by worshippers of death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites," a reference to ancient Canaanites who sacrificed children to the god Moloch.
The ad, which ran in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, has been criticized by some for being extremist. In declining to publish it, The Times told the agency placing the ad "the opinion being expressed is too strong and too forcefully made and will cause concern amongst a significant number of Times readers."
Mr. Wiesel was unavailable for comment Wednesday, said spokespeople for his foundation and for the PR firm involved in the ad's publication.
The ad was produced and sponsored by This World: The Values Network, a not-for-profit organization founded by Shmuley Boteach, a U.S. Orthodox rabbi, perhaps best known as Michael Jackson's spiritual guide.
Rabbi Boteach was sharply critical of The Times' decision not to publish the ad. "Elie Wiesel is one of the most respected human beings alive, a Nobel Peace laureate, and is the living face of the [H]olocaust. No greater expert on genocide exists in the whole world," he said. He added that Mr. Wiesel's "call for the end of child sacrifice by Hamas … could only offend the sensibilities of the most die-hard anti-Israel haters and anti-Semites."
This ad is not the first time Mr. Wiesel and Rabbi Boteach have teamed up. In December, 2013, This World also sponsored a newspaper ad signed by Mr. Wiesel that called on U.S. President Barack Obama not to continue talks with Iran until Tehran dismantled completely its nuclear infrastructure and repudiated what he called its genocidal intent toward Israel.