Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey– and what does that tell you

Israel/Palestine
on 13 Comments
Sharon

Sharon

There is a social taboo on cursing the dead. But in the case of Ariel Sharon, there is a general consensus that he was a brutal thug and people are saying that openly. I struggle to say something about the man without betraying my utter disgust with his legacy of warmongering and power grabbing. “Brutal thug” is the nicest descriptive I find in the kindness of my heart to fling at the man in parting. I look at the cherubic smile on his bulldog face in this picture and wonder what makes it evoke such revulsion deep in my soul.

The man had a physical presence that was difficult to dismiss, a corpulence of bovine proportions that lent credence to the Palestinian mothers’ usage of his name to threaten their misbehaving babies. I never met Sharon in person. Yet every time I saw him on TV I had the urge to use the standard Boy Scout trick when threatened by a wild boar or an angry bear: to project an expanded body image myself by spreading my arms up with a sheet or a coat hanging from them while banging vigorously on a pot to intimidate the wild animal and drive it back from me.

Then I get an inkling of a rationale for my hateful attitude: Sharon nearly tricked me into choosing to abandon my native home. My wife, an American citizen, and I had another option to living in Israel. With his rapid climb to prominence in Israel’s political life we made a well thought-out plan, or so we thought at the time: If and when Sharon gets to lead Israel, we would leave, we promised ourselves. When the time came and the man’s inevitable rise to Israel’s premiership materialized we sat and reassessed our commitment again. Quickly, we concluded that in making our previous calculations we had evidenced undeserved trust in the Israeli electorate. Israel as a whole was becoming a sinister collective and it was a mistake to have placed our trust in it. In weighing our steps we had made a mistake in giving the reins of decision-making on our future to a society that defined itself as exclusive of us in the first place. We were not Jews and the vast majority of Israel’s citizens saw the state of Israel and its society as Jewish and understood that to exclude the likes of us. Whichever way we looked at it and hard as we tried it was impossible to balance the contradiction of a “democratic and Jewish state.” It just was too heavy at the base for us to balance it on its head so that we would fit in it. It left us out in the cold. So how had we dared put our future in the hands of an apartheid society mired deeper by the day in the violence, blood and slime of occupation of our brothers and sisters. The sweetest recurrent wet dream of Zionism had always been to dislodge me off of my native land. And here I was putting the decision on my sacred right to live on my land in the hands of Sharon and his fascist fans. What an illogical decision had my wife and I made! We reversed that decision on the spot and set ourselves a much more challenging goal: to help expose the falsity of Israeli democracy to the world and to challenge the world to meet its moral responsibility vis-à-vis the lie.

It can be said in Sharon’s defense that he was innocent of any sense of right or wrong. His acts of violence seemed to be like those of an unthinking being, not unlike a slug’s unawareness of what its actions might do to others. Or even like those of an inanimate object, an independent robot programmed to do harm. Not only that the concept of right and wrong didn’t count in calculating the outcome of its actions but that such concept wasn’t there in the first place. It gave the man a certain appearance of innocence, almost like a child’s. Except that a child displays readiness to learn, a quality that invites lecturing, reprimand and punishment. Here there was a self-evident uselessness of such interventions. The man did what he did because violence and harming others was in his nature not because he willed it.

sharon-massacreBlood didn’t seem to soil Sharon’s hands. His hands were always that way; it was part of his constituency. Very early in his military career, the grand master of Israel’s independence saw through Sharon clearly and advised him to abandon his studies and to pursue his natural bent for killing. Sharon never forgot or changed the track that Ben Gurion set him on. He went on from Qibya to Gaza to Sabra and Shatilla to Jenin, When his murderous legacy clashed with accepted international standards of behavior, the world had to adjust itself to his reality: Israel’s Labor government under Barak sent a thousand policemen and fired 1.3 million bullets in October of 2000 to guard him on his provocative visit to Al-Aqsa grounds. Belgium changed its laws to get him off the hook of Sabra and Shatilla war crime. And president George W. Bush praised him as a “man of peace.” Sharon just took it all in his stride and continued killing Palestinians and Arabs. His admirers saw all of this in a positive light. To them he was not a scary beast but a step beyond in lacking blame: To them he was a machine: They called him “The Bulldozer.” In my imagination the apt simile took hold when he, in the form of a D-9 Caterpillar, went over Rachel Corrie with the blade once, then reversed to verify the kill.

Clearly, the man lacked a conscience. But what does that say about all the world leaders and media commentators who continue to pile accolades on the dead war criminal? Perhaps it just shows how low the world had sunk in its efforts to observe proper diplomatic protocol. But what does it say about Israel as the country that had chosen him as its leader and that continues to follow in his path to this day? After all, Netanyahu and Lieberman are practicing what Sharon had preached. Except that Sharon’s style of random violence is now being codified as Israeli law and adopted as mainstream policy.

All in all, John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, summed up the man’s legacy accurately: “Ariel Sharon’s journey was Israel’s Journey.” With America, as personified in its current president for example, spouting off its automotive mantra of “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has the right to defend itself,” Sharon’s journey has become America’s journey as well. It is on its way to becoming the world’s journey.

About Hatim Kanaaneh

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel. His collection of short stories entitled "Chief Complaint" will be published in the spring of 2015.

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13 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    January 19, 2014, 12:41 pm

    So how had we dared put our future in the hands of an apartheid society mired deeper by the day in the violence, blood and slime of occupation of our brothers and sisters. The sweetest recurrent wet dream of Zionism had always been to dislodge me off of my native land.

    i love the way you write hatim.

  2. eljay
    January 19, 2014, 1:30 pm

    >> It can be said in Sharon’s defense that he was innocent of any sense of right or wrong.

    That’s a rather generous defence. Are you certain the absolution is warranted?

    • Stephen Shenfield
      January 19, 2014, 1:46 pm

      There is another possibility, you know — one that is even more frightening. Perhaps Sharon did have a clear sense of right and wrong — only what he considered right and wrong was very far removed from what people like us consider right and wrong.

      • Citizen
        January 20, 2014, 7:44 am

        @ Stephen Shenfield
        Nothing’s unclear about Sharon’s sense of right and wrong. He was willing to do anything, anything at all to anyone to literally demolish them if he felt they might or did work against the interest of Jewish survival on this planet. You can think of him as the Curtis LeMay of Israel. See: link to en.wikiquote.org

  3. Ron Edwards
    January 19, 2014, 2:09 pm

    I think you have it exactly. I’ve gone ’round and ’round too and come to the conclusion that he was a driven killer. Why, and exactly what degree of sociopathy might be diagnosed, isn’t too interesting to me. Every single policy he enacted, invented, or promoted can be summarized as either killing, or setting up for a grander kill. I specifically include the removal of settlements from Gaza, which at the time was flatly sinister to me, and post-Cast Lead, I cannot believe is ever referred to in any other context.

  4. seafoid
    January 19, 2014, 2:14 pm

    “Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey”

    A person who would have spent most of his life in jail in any other OECD country ended up as king of the bots.

    A sadist, a deeply disturbed human being, rose to the highest office and some compared him to Moses.

    link to youtube.com

  5. Shuki
    January 19, 2014, 3:10 pm

    Still a little bitter about that embarrassment you suffered in 1973 when you tried to whipe us out on Yom Kippur?

    • Kris
      January 19, 2014, 3:29 pm

      I’ll just refer you to Ron Edwards’ excellent comment:

      Ron Edwards says:
      January 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm
      Pish posh on Israel winning wars.
      1948-49: Soviet-supplied planes and AK’s vs. a rabble armed with WWI leftovers who had no discernible strategy (I’m talking about the “Arab armies”)
      1956: stood down by direct joint order from the U.S. and U.S.S.R. administrations
      1967: gratuitous strike (resembling the attack on Pearl Harbor more than the actual attack on Pearl Harbor did), followed by equally gratuitous destruction during the alleged cease-fire
      1973: balls thoroughly kicked; bailed out by U.S. airlift and diplomatic intervention – again, inflicting the most damage while the opponents obeyed the internationally-declared cease-fire (note that the attackers sought to liberate areas seized in 1967, not to “destroy Israel,” so it’s not like the IDF even successfully defended it)
      1978: invaded and occupied a nation with no military to speak of – perhaps it’s worth noting that “successfully” invading Lebanon is no more than driving tanks through indefensible territory (same for Syria)
      1982: invaded as above, besieged and bombed Beirut with complicity of Lebanon’s elites, spent almost two years saying “no, you do it” back and forth with them regarding actually fighting the PLO, culminating by engineering the slaughter of 2000-3000 old people, mothers, and children
      1983-1990-2000: steadily being beaten by Hezbollah, whining about it constantly
      2006: balls thoroughly kicked by Hezbollah
      Real tough, Mahane. The only things the IDF can do effectively are bomb stuff and immiserate a captive, mainly helpless population. Actually fighting is beyond it. (Astonishing how U.S. and Israeli military culture gets such a boner from the Nazi blitzkrieg and hasn’t ceased to copy it – despite it being a dead-last loser in terms of any actual imaginable goal.)

    • Cliff
      January 19, 2014, 4:06 pm

      @Snooki,

      Who are you referring to as ‘us’?

      What does ‘whipe’ means?

    • Bumblebye
      January 19, 2014, 4:11 pm

      Dr Kanaaneh is Palestinian-Israeli. How did he try to “whipe us out ” in 1973?
      Or does your feeble zio-brain immediately conflate any and all Arabs anywhere, and hold them all responsible for whatever you decide?

  6. Parity
    January 19, 2014, 4:44 pm

    I am reading right now Dr. Kanaaneh’s book “A Doctor in Galilee” and would recommend it to all who want to understand what it’s like to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel. The same things happened to them that are happening to the Palestinians in the West Bank–land theft, house demolitions, killings, etc.–designed to get the Palestinians to leave.

  7. seafoid
    January 20, 2014, 11:38 pm

    Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey

    That kind of formulation works with white people and as long as the non white people were sidelined it was fine if they didn’t agree.

    link to rte.ie

    “(English soccer team West Bromwich Albion) Club sponsor Zoopla announced it would not be renewing its shirt sponsorship deal after the furore surrounding the Frenchman’s ‘quenelle’ gesture at West Ham last month, which has been branded anti-Semitic and racist by many observers.There were reports the company, co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterton, had requested that Anelka be left out of the side and also he should wear a shirt which did not bear their name.
    Neither happened, with West Brom awaiting a decision from the Football Association, whose investigation into the 34-year-old’s actions is likely to be concluded this week and possibly as early as Tuesday.
    Anelka, who has promised to not to repeat the gesture and denied he was being anti-Semitic or racist by celebrating in such a way, claiming he did it in support of controversial anti-establishment comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, could face a five-match ban if he is charged and found guilty”

    link to theguardian.com
    “In truth, Albion are likely to be far more concerned about the prospect of losing Anelka for an extended spell, as opposed to the need to recruit a new shirt sponsor for the start of next season. After a lengthy investigation that involved the appointment of an independent academic expert, with intimate knowledge of French politics and society, the FA is expected to announce on Tuesdaythat Anelka has been charged with making an antisemitic gesture. If found guilty, Anelka will be banned for a minimum of five matches under new anti-racism rules, ruling him out until March.

    The worry for Albion will be that the punishment could be more severe. How Anelka’s defence – he claims the quenelle, which involves one arm pointing downwards and the other across the chest, was a “special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné” – stands up in front of an independent FA commission remains to be seen but the omens are not promising for the 34-year-old striker.
    Part of the reason for the investigation taking so long is that the FA wanted to ensure it had a watertight case in the event of any legal challenge from Albion and Anelka. It is, in short, difficult to believe that the FA would bring charges without strong enough evidence to support a conviction, as was the case in recent seasons with the Liverpool striker Luis Suárez, who was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, and Chelsea’s John Terry, who was banned for four matches for a similar offence.”

  8. just
    January 21, 2014, 5:58 am

    A searingly accurate epitaph for Sharon.

    “I never met Sharon in person. Yet every time I saw him on TV I had the urge to use the standard Boy Scout trick when threatened by a wild boar or an angry bear: to project an expanded body image myself by spreading my arms up with a sheet or a coat hanging from them while banging vigorously on a pot to intimidate the wild animal and drive it back from me.”

    Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh– you write very beautifully and descriptively. As a MD who has spent his life saving lives, the brutality of Sharon and the blood that he spilled so cruelly and deliberately must surely cause you much agony. He was a murderer, now lauded by too many, for his legendary crimes against humanity– “a wild animal”, indeed.

    “Sharon’s journey has become America’s journey as well.” Ergo, my devotion to ending the criminal, apartheid mess that we have enabled. I have a responsibility, as a human being in America, to end the brutal Occupation, the murders, and the harassment of the Palestinian people.

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