It was only once I understood Ariel Sharon that I understood Israel.

It was 2001 and he had recently been elected as prime minister of Israel. Some commentators in the British media were comparing him to Pol Pot.

I was horrified but I was also confused. I didn’t know much about Israel but I knew that no Jewish person I had ever met would elect a man worthy of comparison with Pol Pot. So I asked a Jewish colleague of mine to explain Sharon, and Israel, to me. He did so, helping me understand both man and nation’s darkest and finest hours.

It was a pivotal conversation that inspired me to visit Israel and then to start this blog.

The years since that conversation include Sharon’s painful decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. It was the final meaningful act of his life. As with the great Menachem Begin before him, a ‘right-wing hardliner’ had taken a painful step for peace.

Well, that’s my view of the disengagement anyway. Critics of Sharon claim it was a sneaky trick, designed to cement Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Indeed, after Sharon announced the withdrawal, some said it would never happen. ‘Wait and see,’ said B’Tselem founder Anat Biletski. ‘Something will come up. There will be an emergency. The withdrawal will never happen.’

But it did happen. Sharon said he had come to the conclusion that Israel’s presence in the contested territories could not ‘continue endlessly’. He argued: ‘To keep 3.5 million people under occupation is bad for us and bad for them. I want to say clearly that I have come to the conclusion that we have to reach an agreement.’

He was also, reportedly, planning a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.

Then the man they called ‘Arik Melech Yisrael’ suffered a stroke and fell into a coma, before losing his life today. It’s a sad moment.

Shalom haver.

Above is the dedication page of the book Julie Burchill and I wrote together. I’m sure many of you will know that the ‘Arik’ is Ariel Sharon, and the ‘Bibi’ Benjamin Netanyahu.

19 Responses to “Ariel Sharon: Shalom Haver”

  1. Danton Slingus says:

    You are a contemptible turd man.

  2. oyvagoy says:

    Incorrect. I am the egg man, I am the walrus

  3. Harold Tobin says:

    We will never know what would have happend if he had carried on. There is going to be some horrible things said about him. I’ve already heard David Mellor say “Yes he did free Gazza but left nothing there.” Never mind what was left was destroyed by Hammas

  4. Estel Beatriz says:

    Israeli people must thank Mr.Ariel Sharon eternally!!!.

  5. richard millett says:

    moving piece, chas.

  6. DK says:

    A poignant read on a grievous occasion

  7. Stephen Hoffman says:

    Sharon did also pull out of the Northern Western Bank and had plans which unfortunately were not allowed to go into fruition where he would have pulled out more of the West Bank.

    With Gaza- he actually left gardens, homes and farms etc, Hamas destroyed this turning it to a terrorist training camps and in my view robbing Palestinians of dreams, instead encouraging a climate of hate not peace.

  8. oyvagoy says:

    During the run-up to the withdrawal from Gaza, author Rich Cohen met a man called Pinchas Wallerstein, who represents Israeli settlers.

    Cohen asked Wallerstein what he thought of the planned withdrawal.

    He replied: “What do you think happens when we leave Gaza? Do you think that’s the end of it? That the attacks stop, the rockets stop? No. I will tell you what will happen. Right now, Hamas is firing into our settlements. These are on the fence. When we leave, Hamas will simply move its launchers into the ruins of our towns. Then, instead of hitting the settlements, they will hit towns inside Israel. Sderot. Ashkelon. What will you do then? Pull the people out of those towns too, retreat to Tel Aviv? Then they will start hitting Tel Aviv. What will you do then?”

  9. Ric says:

    Most people fail to understand that the withdrawal from Gaza was an experiment and a worked example: let’s give some territory we can do without to the Arabs and see what happens. We saw. If we’re too stupid to learn from that, more fool us. Bibi isn’t stupid. Better experiment with Gaza than with East Jerusalem.

    • Lynne T says:

      It was that, a test, but also a strategy, not unlike the call from the Arab High Command for the “Arabs” to evacuate from Israel so that the massed armies wouldn’t accidentally kill non-Jews. Sharon warned the Palestinians against using Gaza as a terror base and promised heavy penalties for doing so. He was also in the process of erecting the security barrier.

  10. Ric says:

    What better tribute to Ariel Sharon than this clip of him hanging out with the greatest singer-songwriter of the 20th and 21st century? Thanks to Norma Fares for the link.

  11. oyvagoy says:

    I have to say that as a leader I think Sharon puts Bibi, with his terminal indecisiveness, into the shade.

    Though obviously the Bibi story is still unfolding, so there might be a change.

  12. Alec says:

    What do you say about Ariel Sharon and Sabra and Shatilla Chas?

    • Whoever says:

      What do YOU say? the thing is with people who go against Israel is that they always have these slogans but when you get to the depth of things they realise they shouldn’t have said anything.

      It’s very easy to throw things in the air, but what do you really know?
      Do you know that Israel was the only one to help the Christian Lebanese people and rescued a lot of them and even brought them to Israel?

      The Shatila case was said to be Sharon’s responsibility. OK, Anelka is someone’s responsibility too in his football team- did they tell him to salute a neo nazi salute?

  13. oyvagoy says:

    I say it was a sickening atrocity.

    I wonder how many of those who so obsessively talk about Sharon’s relationship with it could tell us the name of a single one of the actual killers, or their victims.

    If they cannot name any of them, and prefer to just talk about Sharon, I would conclude their concern is insincere.

  14. dave says:

    So can you name us a few of then then Chas?

    Weird to see you parading the dedication of your awful book. I take it you’re still a massive Netanyahu fan too?

  15. oyvagoy says:

    I expect everyone’s faces light up when you walk into a room.

  16. Brian Goldfarb says:

    As a riposte to the nay-sayers re Sharon, who merely make non-comments, I would note that he was hardly my favourite Israeli politician. However, a surprisingly sympathetic obituary by Benny Morris, leftist of this (I was going to say parish, but perhaps not) community, can be found here:

    Before being rude about it, read it and then comment on Morris’s views.

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