Magazine article The Spectator

Extremism in the Defence of Liberty

Magazine article The Spectator

Extremism in the Defence of Liberty

Article excerpt

RECENTLY I was shown the text of an interview with General Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli premier, conducted in December 1982. The comments are worth considering because the problems stressed in this interview continue to plague the Israeli government and its people.

The interviewer, a self-proclaimed Israeli dove (and talented man of letters), Amos Oz, published these remarks by the then controversial Israeli defence minister in a pro-Labour daily, Davar. The impression of utter callousness that Oz intended to convey is in tune with the invectives directed against the present Israeli government encountered in the Guardian, Le Monde, and in speeches delivered by the European Union against Israeli aggression. Each time the Sharon government reacts against Palestinian suicide bombers by going after militantly anti-Israeli Palestinians, we are reminded of the general's lack of compassion and of his casual attitude to inflicting destruction on the other side.

Justified questions have been raised about whether Oz, given his professed hatred for Sharon, reported accurately what was said. And there are statements here that would cause Israeli sympathisers in the US to wince with embarrassment, such as Sharon's proud acceptance of the insult of being a Judaeo-Nazi, his totally unapologetic attitude towards the massacre of Palestinians in refugee camps at Sabra and Chatilla in 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and a savage contempt for anyone who speaks about public opinion or world conscience. Sharon teases `the Feinschmecker [sybaritic] Jews in Paris, London, New York, Frankfurt and Montreal' who entertain the illusion that `they can obtain cosmic respect by not wanting to hurt a fly, that they always prefer being slaughtered to fighting, that they have taken it upon themselves to teach the gentiles how to be good Christians by always turning the other cheek'.

Although it is not certain that Oz has not taken liberties with the text, or that Sharon is not trying to get his goat, one finds in the interview sentiments that fit descriptions of the general's attitudes and demeanour provided by his friends and enemies alike. Sharon announces quite matter-of-factly: `History teaches us that he who won't kill will be killed by others. That is an iron law.' Moreover, Sharon will destroy `anyone who will raise a hand against my children. I will destroy him and his children, with or without our famous purity of arms. I don't care if he is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or pagan.' His response to the outcry about the killing of Palestinians near Beirut, at the hands of Israel's Christian Phalangist allies, seems calculated to outrage. `We should have done it with our delicate hands, to get rid of the noxious belief that Jews are unique and a light upon the nations.' To make sure he has been thoroughly understood, Sharon goes on to underline his point: `No more uniqueness and no more sweetness and light. Good riddance!'

What strikes me about these remarks is that the speaker is utterly free of ideological cant. Never could one reasonably accuse Sharon of granting this interview to win a Nobel Prize for Peace or to ingratiate himself with the New York Times. But, even more importantly, Sharon was not trotting out the preferred platitudes of the American Israeli Political Action Committee and Wall Street Journal about how Israel is bringing human rights and global democracy to the Middle East. …

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