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Ariel Sharon and the good thing about mass murderers of history
[Posted 6 January 2006]

I was drinking with a bunch of Liberal Democrats in New York last night. Now, a lot of Jews are Democrats, and Jewish Democrats are usually pretty cool... Cool, that is, until the subject of Israel comes up.

As I was standing with a few men who looked like they may have been Jewish, I noticed that no one was talking about the obvious subject of the day -- Ariel Sharon on his deathbed, and what it would mean for Israel. Maybe people were afraid of bringing it up for fear of starting a fight, but I have a certain type of reporter's or writer's instinct, where I have to ask the pertinent questions even though I know in advance that I may disagree with the answer, or that the answer could provoke some sort of fight or controversy. The most interesting conversation we could have had last night was about Ariel Sharon's death, and what everyone thought it would mean for Israel. I remember someone looking shocked when I brought the subject up, but then they instantly recovered and ran with it. It turns out that ALL of the guys standing around me were at least part Jewish, and one had even discussed the situation with his mother that morning.

Their opinions were interesting but largely what I expected. You see, it's tough being politically correct in America when you're Jewish. Israel just keeps embarassing you. Your non-Jewish friends don't understand why Israel is always bombing and bulldozing Palestinian homes, ancient olive groves, and people -- even the white Americans there to protest, like Rachel Corrie. Israel's answer to everything is kill, kill, kill. And that killing is in addition to the white European Jews who originally came to the Middle East after WWII, killing or displacing the native brown Palestinians to take their land. But if you're Jewish, the Jewish community here in the U.S. will pressure you to support Israel verbally, even send them money. That's on top of the billions in "foreign aid" that all of our taxes here in the US pay Israel every year. So as an American Jew, you have the unpopular task of defending Israel's violence and other human rights abuses to your non-Jewish friends, while Israel picks everyone's pockets.

As a friend of so many American Jews, I'm tired of hearing the same old arguments. While defending Israel's modern-day actions, one of the standard arguments used by many American Jews is that "they killed us, therefore it's OK for us to kill them" (suicide bomber vs. massive air strike campaign). It's not said in such plain language, but that's the essence of what is said. Then if the issue of European Jews taking native land comes up as the reason for the natives' struggle to retake their land, the basic argument is that God told Jews the land was theirs to take, and anyway the Europeans were killing Jews, so it's OK for Jews to kill Arabs to avoid being killed by Europeans again. As usual, there's always flowery language to dress up the basic plot line, but it all boils down to "God said it's alright, so we're allowed to kill anyone we want."

Sometimes the issue of common ancestry comes up, even with blonde Slavic Jews claiming to have originated from the Middle East centuries ago, despite many European Jews actually only Jewish because of centuries-old mass conversions. They're not Arab at all. And anyway, the whole ethnicity argument doesn't fly with me. I mean, I'm half Italian, but nobody thinks it's OK for me to sail to Italy, gun down a farmer there, and take his farmhouse and land. I'm an American now, and if I want to live in Italy then I have to put up with the Italians, learn to speak Italian, and save up to buy a place there. No group of Italian-Americans are plotting to invade part of Italy and turn it into an English-speaking colony, exiling the native Italians to Sicily. That's just crazy.

Most Jewish Democrats know that Israel is really over the edge, and some don't bother making excuses. American Jews don't have to agree with anything Israel does, and many don't. [Note that one of the best journalists brave enough to regularly expose Israel's human rights abuses, Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!," has detailed her own Jewish heritage several times on her shows -- and it sounds as though her ancestors wouldn't have accepted human rights abuses, either.] Often times, those who feel obligated to stick to the standard religious arguments are just trying to save face for the Jewish community, as Israel seemingly does everything it can to HUMILIATE Jews everywhere with its pure brutality.

And if anyone has humiliated Israel and Jews everywhere, it's Ariel Sharon. You know it isn't good when a man has massacres on his resume. Yet now that the man is dying, people are a little concerned over who may come to power after his death. That's not to say that anyone seems to be terribly concerned with Ariel Sharon as a person. When you're a mass murderer of history, your personal welfare isn't exactly as much of a concern as the people you have killed or may kill in the future. And Sharon was in his 70s, over 300 lbs., only 5'7" tall, a picture of morbid obesity. No one really expected him to last this long anyway. Yet in that long, unhealthy, grotesque and violent life of his, Sharon managed to finally realize that tit-for-tat violence wasn't working for Israel, and finally gave up the Gaza strip to the Palestinians near the end of his life. It's pretty sad when a country is so violent that someone like Ariel Sharon is suddenly seen as a centrist, but a moderate he became. It only took him 60 years to realize that his strategy of hateful vendettas wasn't working.

His surrender of Gaza and subsequent stability have made even me concerned about the man's death. And this was a big discussion last night -- everyone felt the same way, that is, concern for the continued stability of Israel. No one wants someone worse to come to power, and that is a definite possibility in a place like Israel. One man said that only Ariel Sharon could have pulled out of Gaza, because he'd earned the respect of Jews by being such a hard-liner. My take on it was that he could pull out of Gaza because Israelis wouldn't dare challenge someone they already knew was so FREAKIN' CRAZY. "Sure, you can refuse to leave your nice home in Gaza... but just look what we did to Rachel Corrie. Don't think we'd do the same to you?"

Realistically though, the reason Sharon could pull out of Gaza is because most people wanted him to do that and much more. Almost everyone in Israel and America want PEACE in Israel, and a throwback like Sharon wasn't giving it to them, mostly because of a few violent Israeli hard-liners, in addition to Sharon's own personal refusal to compromise. I don't think Sharon had a change of heart with Gaza as much as finally having a willingness to accept at least some of the pressure for peace and human rights.

And this brings me to the best thing about Ariel Sharon. No matter how evil a man is, even mass murderers eventually die, just like the rest of us. We can be concerned about who will follow, that perhaps a successor will be even worse, but that's always a possibility even when the killer is still alive. All we know for sure is that after Sharon dies, he can't personally kill again. And when a person is that violent, there's a good possibility that someone better can be found to take his place. It isn't hard to be better than Ariel Sharon -- almost everyone in the world is much less violent, much more concerned for their fellow man. Sharon may have seemed to have changed in his later years, but I'm not really sure that he can't kill again, that he has truly reformed himself. Maybe it's better for the world if another mass murderer is finally laid to rest. More may rise to take his place, but at least we know that Ariel Sharon won't be back to add to anyone's misery again.

SPECIAL NOTE: This cartoon was done for my What Would Dick Cheney Look Like? rant, pointing out not only that newspapers publishing photos of Saddam in his underwear were a Geneva Conventions violation, but that our leadership would look MUCH WORSE than Saddam in THEIR underwear. Sharon was included in this cartoon because of his unshapely physique and close relationship to Bush-Cheney.
Copyright 2005 by Alan Groening (contact the artist for licensing)

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