Sharon’s Legacy: Survival at All Costs

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From Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the funeral of Ariel Sharon today:

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…”

As a Jew – and as a human being of conscience – I submit that this myopic obsession with Jewish physical survival “before and above all else” has led the Jewish people down a very dark road indeed. In so many ways, Ariel Sharon represents the embodiment of this obsession – and I for one recoil at the suggestion that he might in any way be held up as a Jewish exemplar.

As the tributes of world leaders continue to roll in, please consider the life’s work of a man Joe Biden quite mistakenly claimed is “loved by the Jewish people:”

– In the early 1950s, as a young major in the Israeli army, Sharon led the infamous Unit 101, which carried out numerous cross-border “pre-emptive” and “retaliatory” attacks into the West Bank, deliberately killing and wounding Palestinian civilians.  In the most notorious incident involving Unit 101, between October 14 and 16, 1953, soldiers under Sharon’s command massacred 69 Palestinian civilians, most of them women and children, in the West Bank town of Qibya. Sharon’s orders included “total destruction of the village and maximum harm to the villagers, again forcing them to flee.”

– On October 29, 1956, Israel attacked Egypt, part of an invasion in conjunction with Britain and France. During the resulting hostilities, soldiers under Sharon’s command committed a series of massacres of POWs, including more than 100 civilians. In one incident, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 49 Egyptian prisoners of war, including civilians, after binding their hands and forcing them into a quarry. In another, 56 Egyptian civilians were murdered while sheltering in the back of a truck. In a third incident, some 50 Egyptian civilian workers were murdered by Israeli soldiers near the town of Ras Sudar.

– Following Israel’s surprise attack against Egypt in June 1967, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Egyptian Sinai peninsula, and Syrian Golan Heights, Ariel Sharon, by now a general responsible for Israel’s southern command, was tasked with “pacifying” Gaza. In his efforts to crush resistance, Sharon ordered his soldiers to execute without trial any Palestinians suspected of involvement in the resistance, resulting in the killing of more than 1000 Palestinians.

– On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a massive invasion of Lebanon, masterminded by then-Defense Minister Sharon. Between June and September, the Israeli army killed between 18,000 and 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, bombarding and laying siege to the western half of the capital of Beirut.

– On September 16, 1982, under Sharon’s direction, Israeli soldiers surrounded the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and sent in about 150 of their local Christian Phalangist militia allies, even though the long and bloody history between Palestinians and Phalangists in Lebanon was well known to the Israelis. Over the next three days, between 800 and 3500 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were butchered by the Phalangists, who sexually assaulted, tortured and mutilated many of their victims, in one of the worst atrocities in the modern history of the Middle East.

For more details on these facts – and other aspects of Sharon’s legacy that were likely not recounted at his funeral today, click here.


15 Comments on “Sharon’s Legacy: Survival at All Costs”

  1. Brad know this... says:

    We really should learn from the real modern day heroes of Israel like Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Arik Sharon, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu, Dov Gruner, Eli Cohen and Caroline Glick to name a few. Israel will forever be a great nation because of these people.

  2. gwpj says:

    Thank you, Rabbi Rosen, for this, which I have shared on Facebook and Twitter.

  3. Steve Hinman says:

    I had many mixed feelings about Sharon, to say the least. The posting ignores his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Is the hatred of all things Israel so severe that the withdrawal from Gaza is not even worth mentioning?

  4. Shirin says:

    You hit it out of the park again, Rabbi. Thank you!

  5. Mike Okrent says:

    It is amazing how clueless our “leaders” appear to be (not sure if I would give them by thinking them duplicitous instead). Also the press.

  6. Henry Lotsof says:

    Just a couple of things,

    I do not understand what is wrong with Jewish physical survival or even an obsession with Jewish physical survival. There are plenty of people and groups on this planet who wish to destroy the Jews, for being Jews.

    From reading your blog it appears you are not a particular fan of Sharon. He does have his admirers as well as his detractors. If you wish to paint him in a poor light I think you would have a much stronger case if you did not use such biased sources as Norman Finkelstein and Baruch Kimmerling.

    • Henry,

      I agree that there is nothing certainly wrong with advocating Jewish physical survival. However, I do believe that when any group advocates for its survival “above and beyond” all other considerations, it invariably comes to rationalize immoral and monstrous behavior. For me, Ariel Sharon is Exhibit A of this phenomenon.

      While there is certainly anti-Semitism in the world, I think your characterization of its threat to the security of the Jewish people is inaccurate and overblown. At the very least, we should be willing to consider whether or not the creation of a hyper-nationalist, over-militarized Jewish state in the Middle East is truly in the best interest of Jewish security.

      Regarding my post: though I did not directly quote Finklestein or Kimmerling, I think it is misguided to think there is any such thing as an “unbiased source.” We all have our biases, as well we should. Rather than counseling me on the “biases” of my sources, I think you would do far better to respond to the substance of my post.

      • Vicky says:

        Brant, have you read Melissa Raphael’s book ‘The Female Face of God in Auschwitz’? Hers was the first feminist work on post-Holocaust theology, and the dangers of militarism arising from a preoccupation with survival at any cost is a central theme in that book. Reading it was an eye-opener for me in many ways. She has some very sharp yet compassionate insights into the nature of historical trauma and the human responses to it. Sharon’s murderous policies couldn’t have gained the support they did if he hadn’t been dealing with a populace that carries such a historical burden – and this is part of what made my meeting with some young teenagers from Shatila camp so harrowing, as their own burden got so much heavier because of him. It’s vital to recognise that aggressive militarism isn’t an answer to the past, it just hurts people in the present.

  7. Ron Edwards says:

    Rabbi Brant, thanks for this great post. I hope it’s OK with you to post this excerpt from my book which juxtaposes the lives of Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat:
    http://adept-press.com/wordpress/wp-content/media/Shahida-excerpt-PR8.pdf

  8. Brad Asks... says:

    What do the Palestinians need to do to convince Israelis that having any kind of
    agreement won’t have a huge negative impact on their lives? And, why haven’t the Palestinians done it yet? Now, because of Israel’s unilateral movements survival is evolving to flourishing. And please, don’t wax poetically how BDS is gonna change the minds of Israelis.

    • Brad,

      None of this is about “convincing Israelis” of anything. This isn’t a battle for the of hearts and minds of Israelis. It is about ending their structural oppression of Palestinians.

      If history is any indication, Israelis themselves cannot and will not be the agents of just change in Israel/Palestine. In the end, it is a change that will have to be imposed upon them. When South African apartheid and Jim Crow fell, it wasn’t because Afrikaners or Southern whites were “convinced” of the error of their ways. Change came when large popular movements arose to challenge them.

      I simply don’t agree that Israel’s unilateral actions are leading to a “flourishing survival.” Many of us believe that it is sowing the seeds of greater Jewish insecurity. It’s well worth pointing out that Israel is the only place in the world where Jews live in a state of constant communal threat. And it’s disingenuous in the extreme to believe Israel’s unilateral actions have nothing to do with this.

      • brad respectfully replies... says:

        The argument of comparing the Israeli – Palestinian conflict to South African apartheid or Jim Crow laws in the United States doesn’t hold water. The world knows that this is the case. The cause and solution lies squarely on the Palestinian powers to act peaceably, to not teach or use anti Jewish hate speech and to act financially responsible. I think Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times knows what should be done. Please read his piece:http://www.suntimes.com/news/huntley/24796376-452/recognize-israel-to-achieve-peace.html Thanks for your reply to my comment.

      • Shirin says:

        The world knows…

        One cannot help wondering, Brad, what qualifies you to speak for the world.

  9. Thanks for speaking the truth, regardless how painful. I too shrink at the thought of becoming like those who have oppressed the Jews. When we adopt the tactics of those who have oppressed us, we have really lost. There has to be a better way.


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