An old friend likes to refer to liberal-minded people as Lily Livered Leftists. I was kind of proud to be counted amongst those, although I’m not entirely sure what Lily Livered really means. But I kind of do. What Shakespear means when he uses the term in Macbeth is namby-pamby. Soft. Cowardly. Lacking in back-bone, not reliable, not realistic.
Ariel Sharon died on Saturday. In the past few days he has been endlessly mourned and partially scorned in Israeli media. Sharon was, in every possible sense, larger than life. A man who apparently had many positive traits, great personal charm, courage, vision, passion and dedication, he has certainly been called many less flattering things, but never lily livered. The legendary prime-minister of Israel, war-horse, hero of the Yom Kipur war, general of the first Lebanon War who was indicted for not preventing the mass killings of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee-camps by Lebanese Phalangs, father of the Jewish settlements in the Westbank and Gaza, and later the person who against all his previous convictions removed every last Jewish settlement from the Gaza area. Sharon was a man of the soil, a real farmer. Eight years ago he had a brain hemmorage which left him in hospital in a vegetative state. On Monday he was buried in a military ceremony, attended by dignitaries and representatives of foreign governments, past and present.
Because so much time has passed since he was an active part of life, the mourning had a different quality to it. Sharon has been out of the public eye for half a generation. Not alive, but not quite dead. Not a single photo of Sharon has been smuggled out from the hospital, so he really wasn’t in the publics mind unless there was some kind of medical update.
His last act as prime-minister, the one-sided withdrawal of 18,000 Jewish settlers, was highly controversial in Israel. For one, not only has it not stopped the shooting of rockets from Gaza into Israel but the shelling has increased many-fold. In addition the re-settlement and absorbtion of the settlers from Gaza in other parts of Israel turned out to be a complete farse, unless you’re one of the re-settled, in which case you may not find it that farsical. But that part had nothing to do with Sharon, by the time the re-settlement started he was already in a coma.
For all that he did for Israel, and he did a lot, he is not my hero. Yes, he won the Yom Kipur war. Yes, he removed the settlements from Gaza, which from my perspective was the right thing to do, even if the outcome has been less than brilliant. Yes, he brought many, many thousands of persecuted Jews from the former USSR and Ethiopia to Israel. And the list is long. But to me, he cared about results and not about how they were achieved. An old excersise motto says “no pain, no gain”. With all his achievments, Sharon also caused a lot of pain. I’m not refering to Sabra and Shatila, where Sharon’s fault was that he failed to prevent the bloodbath. However, the responsibility for the murder of thousands of Palestinians must be on the killers, the Lebanese Christian Phalange forces. No, what I object to in Sharon’s legacy is too much Arik – King of Israel, as his political followers liked to chant. Too much improvisation, political deals and maneuvering, too much one-man-show and not enough consistent ideology and process.
Actually, I’m really surprised by how many people seem to genuinely mourn his passing. Not only old allies and comrades-in-arm but also his political enemies of the right-wing , those who feel he let them down by abandoning the settlements. Still, many of them spoke of Arik with warmth and admiration, at least now that he is dead. I do not share that feeling. A leader should be a role-model. Sharon was a one-of-a-kind, a maverick dare-devil. Not a man to emulate and follow.