This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archives page.
Whether one thinks of Ariel Sharon as a warrior, thug or war criminal, one thing is indisputable. Sharon was a provocateur of atrocity.
In being a provocateur of atrocity, Sharon was a breeding ground for Jewish dissent. His Lebanon adventure precipitated the civil war within the Jewish community over Israel that continues to divide Jews. It was a main instigator for the new Israeli historians and the subversive narrative of Israel’s origins which is now accepted around the world.
The exodus from Israel of Israeli Jews of Conscience crystallized with Sharon’s Lebanon war in 1982. That exodus continues today.
In the long run, Sharon diminished support for a Jewish state even among mainstream Jews. That support will never be recovered.
Sharon precipitated the ever deepening isolation of Israel in the international community. He expanded Israel’s borders and built walls that permanently define Israeli Jews as a ghettoized, albeit, nuclearized community in the Middle East. Like the Jewish civil war, these borders and isolation are permanent. There is no going back.
Israel has gone so far on Sharon’s path rumor has it that even Germany is fed up and wants to normalize its relations with Israel. The days of repentant gifts of nuclear submarines and solemn references to the Holocaust will soon fade into the past.
Sharon was a provocateur of the Jewish prophetic.
More than Palestinians or the Arab countries, Sharon feared the intuitive depth of his own people. That, and not peace, guided Sharon in his last years. Sharon desperately wanted to define Israel’s expanded borders so that they could never be undone – by Jews who had awakened to justice.
But once awakened, Jews won’t go back either. You can’t normalize atrocity and expect deep Jewish commitment over time. Lip service, yes, at least for now. Like J Street’s pitiful commentary on Sharon’s passing. Such drivel is too obvious on the political level. It cannot remain over time.
With all the outsized publicity of Sharon’s death, Allison Deger correctly points out that Sharon’s funeral was sparsely attended and by low level dignitaries. When Joe Biden heads the American delegation you know there isn’t much at stake. Or the administration is trying to send a message.
In surveying the gathered mourners, Benjamin Netanyahu’s funeral must have flashed before his eyes. Whatever political victories Netanyahu has won, his legacy won’t be honored – by Jews or others. When the only thing you have is power, death seals your historical fate. Those who gravitate to power have other figures to cultivate.
Sharon was a provocateur of atrocity and the prophetic. He bet on atrocity winning the day. For Jews around the world, this is our true battleground.