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Biden likens Sharon to — hold on to your hat — James Joyce

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James Joyce

James Joyce

Joe Biden’s too-long speech at the funeral of Ariel Sharon was amazingly over the top.

He said Sharon showed incredible physical and political courage, to protect Israel as “the ultimate refuge for Jews wherever they are in the world.” And Biden couldn’t stop about the Jews in the U.S. who are grieving Sharon, and the international Jewish people: “His North Star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided.” Max Blumenthal picked that up:


In only one paragraph did the veep acknowledge the controversy that Sharon generated, without getting specific.

And then the James Joyce blarney, near the end, likening a war criminal to one of the greatest writers of western civilization:

I’m reminded — my mother’s blessed memory, I’m reminded of — if you’ll forgive me — an Irish poet, an Irish writer.  I’m sure Prime Minister Blair will forgive me.  That Irish writer was James Joyce.  And he said, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”  I am absolutely sure the land of Israel, the Negev is etched in Arik Sharon’s soul as it was written on Joyce’s heart.

No, sorry, we won’t forgive you. Here’s the speech.

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at the State Funeral of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

The Knesset, Jerusalem

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  When a close-knit country like Israel, a country that has been tested as much as Israel, loses a man like Prime Minister Sharon, it doesn’t just feel like the loss of a leader, it feels like a death in the family.  And many of my fellow Americans, some of whom are here, feel that same sense of loss.

I say to Prime Minister Sharon’s beloved and devoted sons, Omri and Gilad, and the entire family, particularly the sons who spent so much time caring for their father in the last few years, it’s a great honor you’ve afforded me on behalf of my country to bring the sympathies of the President of the United States and the American people on this occasion.

To you, to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government of Israel, to President Peres, and to the grieving men and women of the nation of Israel, but most particularly to his beloved IDF, his fellow warriors, I fear an attempt to capture him and what he stood for is beyond my capabilities. I knew him for over 30 years.  He was not only a powerful man, he was a powerfully built man.  And as a young senator, when you first met him you could not help but understand, as they say in the military, this man had a command presence.  He filled the room.

The first time I was invited to his office, he said to me — and I remember thinking, is he serious? — he said, Senator, you are mostly welcome.  I didn’t know if it was a matter of something being lost in translation or whether he was pulling my leg, as we say in the States, until I spent a few moments with him and realized how incredible his hospitality was.  But when the topic of Israel’s security arose, which it always, always, always did in my many meetings over the years with him, you immediately understood how he acquired, as the speakers referenced, the nickname “Bulldozer.”  He was indomitable.

Like all historic leaders, Prime Minister Sharon was a complex man about whom, as you’ve already heard from his colleagues, who engendered strong opinions from everyone.  But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a North Star that guided him — a North Star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated.  His North Star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided.

In talking about his spiritual attachment to the land of Israel back in an interview in the late ‘90s, he said, and I quote, “Before and above all else, I am a Jew.  My thinking is dominated by the Jews’ future in 30 years, in 300 years, in a thousand years.  That’s what preoccupies and interests me first and foremost.”  And because he possessed such incredible physical courage — and I would add political courage — he never, never, never deviated from that preoccupation and interest, as he referred to it.  It was his life’s work that even someone on the shores hundreds of — thousands of miles from here could see, could smell, could taste, could feel, and when you were in his presence there was never, never any doubt about it.

The physical courage he had to lead men straight into enemy lines and deep behind them.  I remember, as a young senator, that iconic picture of him with that bandage around his head, standing there after a decisive victory, which seemed to symbolize, as Bibi — as the Prime Minister said, an Israel that had reclaimed its roots of standing up and fighting, needing no help, standing on its own.  The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza in order, from his perspective, to strengthen Israel.  I can’t think of much more controversial; as a student of the Jewish state, I can’t think of a much more difficult and controversial decision that’s been made.  But he believed it and he did it.

The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission, an unbreakable commitment to the future of Jews, whether 30 years or 300 years from now.  We have an expression in the States:  never in doubt.  Arik was never uncertain from my observation.  I don’t know him nearly as well as the Israeli people and his colleagues, but he seemed never in doubt.  But there were times when he acted, and those actions earned him controversy and even condemnation.  And in certain instances, American leaders — American Presidents — had profound differences with him, and they were never shy about stating them nor was he ever shy about stating his position.  As I said, from my observation he was a complex man, but to understand him better I think it’s important history will judge he also lived in complex times, in a very complex neighborhood.

Since he passed away, in the days ahead, there will be much written about the Prime Minister.  And it’s right for the Israeli people to reflect on all aspects of his life — the triumphs as well as the mistakes, taking full measure of the man, the arc of his life.  For I would argue the arc of his life traced the journey of the State of Israel.

And through it all, the United States whether we agreed or disagreed with a specific policy has been unflagging in its commitment to the State of Israel.  We have never stepped away.  We have never diminished our support.  We have never failed to make Israel’s case around the world.  We have never failed to defend Israel’s legitimacy.

And no one in any corner of this world has any doubt about where America stands with regard to Israeli security, the independent State of Israel that is the ultimate refuge for Jews wherever they are in the world.  And that will never change.

As President Obama said when he was here in Jerusalem last year, and I quote, “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above because Israel is not going anywhere.  So long as there is a United States of America, you are not alone.”

For his part, Arik Sharon greatly valued that close friendship between the United States and Israel, and particularly during his years as prime minister, he worked hard to deepen our relationship.

I find it fascinating, maybe it’s I’m getting older — I find it fascinating how some look at Israel today and say its success was inevitable.  Why didn’t everyone understand this was just inevitable?  But at the outset it was anything but inevitable.  It was the opposite of inevitable.  Israel’s very survival was against all odds.  But thankfully Israel was blessed with a founding generation that understood exactly what it took to overcome those odds.  So many of that generation, because of the people of the United States, I have the great honor of personally meeting and getting to know.  I did not know David Ben Gurion, but I knew all but one — every Prime Minister since that time.

President Peres, you and Prime Minister Sharon are part of one of the most remarkable founding generations in the history not of this nation, but of any nation.  Historians will look back and say, but for — but for — the rare and unique men and women at that moment, but for that it’s hard to see how we’d be standing here on this day — leaders like David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, the list goes on, and you, Mr. President, you all had one thing in common from an outside observer’s perspective, despite your political differences, it was that you knew in your bones, as one Israeli Prime Minister told me over 35 years ago when I was opining of the difficulty Israel faced surrounded by hostile neighbors at the time, looked at me and said, Senator, don’t worry.  We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle in the region.  We have nowhere else to go.

That realization, it seems to me, is what energized your entire generation of leadership.  I believe that’s one of the reasons by Arik Sharon and so many others fought so hard their whole lives.

Prime Minister Sharon was not only loved by the Jewish people, he not only loved them — the Jewish people — but he loved the land of Israel.  Not just the idea of it, but the actual land itself.  Born on a farm, about to be buried on a farm, a ranch, I remember one of the meetings I had with him.  It was a somewhat heated, and he had his maps.  And he spread them out in his office again.  And I somewhat irreverently said, Mr. Prime Minister — I said, do you want me to do it, or are you going to do it?  Because I had heard his presentation many times.  And in the midst of it, he looked at me, and he said, let me tell you about the new calf that I just got on my ranch.  And he started talking about a calf.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Book of Genesis says, “Arise and walk the length and breadth of the land.”  Arik Sharon did just that.  He tilled it as a farmer.  He fought for it as a soldier.  He knew every hilltop and valley — every inch of the land.  As I said, he loved his maps.  He used to come to the meetings with maps of the land rolled up under each arm.  They were always maps.

I’m reminded — my mother’s blessed memory, I’m reminded of — if you’ll forgive me — an Irish poet, an Irish writer.  I’m sure Prime Minister Blair will forgive me.  That Irish writer was James Joyce.  And he said, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”  I am absolutely sure the land of Israel, the Negev is etched in Arik Sharon’s soul as it was written on Joyce’s heart.

And the defining attributes of this great man’s character — passion for the Jewish people, physical and political courage, and love of this land — they have all played out on the canvas of the State of Israel’s historic trajectory.

Arik Sharon’s journey and the journey of the State of Israel are inseparable.  They are woven together, in war, in politics, in diplomacy.

Toward the end of his life, he said, I’ve been everywhere.  I’ve met kings, queens, presidents.  “I’ve been around the world. I have one thing that I would like to do:  to try to reach peace.”

We’ll never know what the ultimate arc of Arik Sharon’s life would have been had he been physically able to pursue his stated goal.  That will be for historians to speculate and debate.  But we do know this:  As prime minister, he surprised many.  I’ve been told that, in reflecting on the difference between how he viewed things as a general and as prime minister, he would paraphrase an Israeli song lyric that said, things you see from here, look different from over there.  What would have — what would they have looked like had he lived in good health and led those eight years?

He left us too soon, but the work of trying to reach peace continues.  And to quote Shakespeare:  He was a man, take him all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.

May the bond between Israel and the United States never, ever be broken.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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29 Responses

  1. Mike_Konrad
    January 13, 2014, 10:49 am

    I’m reminded — my mother’s blessed memory, I’m reminded of — if you’ll forgive me — an Irish poet, an Irish writer. I’m sure Prime Minister Blair will forgive me. That Irish writer was James Joyce. And he said, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.” I am absolutely sure the land of Israel, the Negev is etched in Arik Sharon’s soul as it was written on Joyce’s heart.

    Why would quoting an Irish poet require an apology to Blair?


    Whatever you do, don’t spill any alcohol on Sharon.

    • amigo
      January 13, 2014, 11:32 am

      “Why would quoting an Irish poet require an apology to Blair?”m conrad

      Better ask Beiden,s speech writer.It is probably a 5th columner zionist who thinks Ireland is still “British”.

      • libra
        January 13, 2014, 6:29 pm

        amigo: Better ask Biden’s speech writer.

        Neil Kinnock was unavailable for comment.

      • RoHa
        January 13, 2014, 9:34 pm

        For those who don’t remember, Biden plagiarized one of Kinnock’s speeches.

    • amigo
      January 13, 2014, 11:35 am

      “Whatever you do, don’t spill any alcohol on Sharon.” conrad

      Is it okay if it goes through my Kidneys first??.

      • Egbert
        January 13, 2014, 4:37 pm

        According to kassandra at MoA, Peres, in his eulogy for Sharon, got it exactly right finishing it with “May he rest in piss.”

    • Citizen
      January 13, 2014, 8:13 pm

      Beiden, the American Irishman, apologized for quoting a non-Jewish writer, an Irish writer, a writer of his own ethnicity, and so he was apologizing for being Irish, hence a non-Jew daring to speak of the Great Sharon, and he similarly, also apologized to Tony Blair because he was not-English royalty, but a mere Irishman, a mick quoting an Irishman. HIs rhetoric is so obsequious, it’s actually a mockery of being humble in the presence of the gods, so to speak. He’s like a walking, talking SNL skit, replete with hair plugs and extra white, big dentures.

  2. amigo
    January 13, 2014, 11:01 am

    “I am absolutely sure the land of Israel, the Negev is etched in Arik Sharon’s soul as it was written on Joyce’s heart.”Beiden

    I never knew Joyce was a zionist or had an interest in the Negev.I googled “James Joyce on the Negev” .Not one item , other than Beiden,s nonsense.

    He is obviously not aware that Joyce is considered an inveterate anti semite by many Jews.I suggest Beiden gets a new speech writer.

    • Mike_Konrad
      January 13, 2014, 11:32 am

      Joyce was NOT an anti-semite He spoke Hebrew and had a Jewish daughter-in-law

      The hero of his greatest novel was Leopold Bloom.

      What he did do was accurately describer the anti-semitism of his day through his characters.

      This was not anti-semitism

      • MHughes976
        January 13, 2014, 12:13 pm

        Frank O’Connor, famous Irish writer, said somewhere (I believe; don’t have chapter and verse) that Jewish literature was essentially ‘of townsmen’ and that Joyce ‘was the greatest Jew’, presumably because of the intense urbanism – portrayal of the pressures, pleasures, paradoxes of city life – of some of his writing. Whether Leopold Bloom is anything very like Ariel Sharon is another matter.

    • seafoid
      January 13, 2014, 1:56 pm

      The biden sentence was sloppy. He meant to say the negev was in sharon’s soul like dublin was in joyce’s heart. He didn’t say “Sharon’s heart” because the bastard was heartless. Joyce famously wrote about Dublin even though he only visited the city once after he left to work abroad.

    • RoHa
      January 13, 2014, 9:36 pm

      “I suggest Biden gets a new speech writer.”

      He’s got a speech writer? I thought he made up that drivel by himself.

  3. piotr
    January 13, 2014, 11:24 am

    “Like all historic leaders, Prime Minister Sharon was a complex man …”

    It is my observation that references to “complex man” are invariably more clear if you substitute them with “mean bastard”.

  4. Justpassingby
    January 13, 2014, 11:30 am

    And this is the U.S that lead the peacetalks…unbelievable.

    • eGuard
      January 14, 2014, 12:28 am

      The good new is, Biden promised: we shall not look upon his like again.

  5. lysias
    January 13, 2014, 11:32 am

    How does being single-minded about one goal make a man complex?

    • piotr
      January 13, 2014, 12:14 pm

      I really challenge you to find a cite of calling someone “complex person” when the person was not a mean bastard. Another euphemism with almost identical usage is “often misunderstood”. In a eulogy, it is a bit like saying “hard to tell if this is a joy of joy or sorrow”. In the context, which indeed translates to “stubborn as a mule”, my elucidation fits exactly.

  6. HarryLaw
    January 13, 2014, 11:49 am

    In 1982 the UNGA passed a Resolution 37/123 on the Sabra and Shatila massacre…
    1. Condemns in the strongest terms the large-scale massacre of
    Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps;
    2. Resolves that the massacre was an act of genocide.
    Yes votes 123, No votes 0, Abstentions 22
    The person responsible is now lauded by the “great and the good” the sight of Blair in the Marc Ellis article today, just fills me with rage.

    • Kathleen
      January 13, 2014, 2:26 pm

      Biden about Sharon “Toward the end of his life, he said, I’ve been everywhere. I’ve met kings, queens, presidents. “I’ve been around the world. I have one thing that I would like to do: to try to reach peace.”

      Bringing peace by entering ” the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000 with 1,000 guards. The Temple Mount, an area sacred to Jews, is located on the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, an area sacred to Muslims. Palestinian protestors, interpreting Sharon’s speech at the Temple Mount as an act of provocation surrounded the area and clashed with Israeli police. The militant group Hamas called for an Intifada, or armed uprising, against Israeli occupation of the region. Riots, suicide bombings and direct confrontation between Israeli and Palestinian forces characterized the conflict that would go on for nearly five years.”

      Sharon a real peace maker. Choke.

  7. American
    January 13, 2014, 12:52 pm

    Gag, gag, gag……almost hurled over Biden speech.
    If it doesnt scare us silly an idiot like Biden is one assassinated Obama away from the Presidency—-it should.

    • piotr
      January 13, 2014, 1:23 pm

      Having an unpredictable vice-President has some benefits.

  8. Edward Q
    Edward Q
    January 13, 2014, 3:53 pm

    This reminds me of the controversy over some praise of Strom Thurmond by fellow Republican Trent Lott which implied the U.S. would be better with segregation.

  9. seafoid
    January 13, 2014, 5:13 pm

    “Sharon is gone. Israel has suffered a terrible blow. May her current leaders remember the man and his legacy, and learn from his example.

    Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie served as president of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012. He is now a writer, lecturer and teacher, and lives with his family in Westfield, New Jersey. ”

    The capacity for Jewish stupidity is endless. Welcome to the human family. What is this chosen lark?

  10. Yitzgood
    January 13, 2014, 7:13 pm

    Biden compares Sharon’s devotion to Israel to Joyce’s devotion to Dublin. That would be a more accurate post title (and also wipe out the whole rationale for the post). Can I let go of my hat now?

    • thankgodimatheist
      January 13, 2014, 9:13 pm

      Agree with you here. Biden, a loathsome character he may be, didn’t liken individuals, Sharon to Joyce, only a statement taken from one to describe a feeling he could attribute to another. Far from being the same thing.

  11. crypticvalentin
    January 13, 2014, 10:27 pm

    in a surreal moment, Sharon’s son, Omni, a convicted felon, reads from communist poet Pablo Neruda to honor his fascist papa..

    • Citizen
      January 14, 2014, 2:20 am

      I wonder if the sons kept daddy on life support for eight years to get his pension and social security checks?

      • thankgodimatheist
        January 14, 2014, 2:36 am

        Indeed, as mentioned by Asa’d AbuKhalil from a private source yesterday.

        Imagine. A retired general pension, a politician’s ( whatever he was officially on the state’s payroll as) and the biggest of them all as a ex premier minister. Should make a handsome sum not to let go of.

  12. Citizen
    January 14, 2014, 2:22 am

    On another note, Phil was on the radio a few days ago, talking with Scott Horton about the I-P peace talks, and the Iran deal:

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