Monday, January 09, 2006

Le Monde -- Sylvain Cypel on Ariel Sharon

Nur al-Cubicle, translator extraordinaire, presents us with another timely piece of work, a well-done sketch of Ariel Sharon (Arik Scheinerman) which appears in Le Monde. (There is a photo at the LeMonde site.)

Yes, Nur is probably a radical. Yes, she may have an agenda. And yes, LeMonde is not apt to be terribly sympathetic to Sharon. Having said that, I still say go read this piece.
It makes the man real in a way that nothing I have come across has done. He is not a simple person. And the European take on the man is important whether you like it or not.

The farming life in the Scheinerman family was Spartan. Tougher than in most other homes in the village: the father was authoritarian, even brutal, and literally anti-social due to the principle that brought him to Palestins —Jews must be self-reliant. Shmouel carved out a life for himself. Imbued with obsessive watchfulness involving everything touching his immediate circle, his home, his wife and his two children, Yehoudit and Ariel. He was disinterested in anything but a utilitarian relationships with others.

The Arabs of Palestine? A world which was in his eyes without culture, steeped in backwardness and filled with roguish and inscrutable liars whom he detested; they were progromists, the local equivalents of the muzhiks of his childhood who attacked the proliferating Jewish settlements. People whom he must defy, even beat into submission, because they only understand force.
Brutal? The stories are endless. They mostly concern the enemy, Arab and Palestinian. But one of those stories reached the ears of Israeli reporters. Minister Ezer Weizmann, who had founded Likud along with Sharon, a former air force chief of staff and future president, had lost a son. A fighter pilot who was wounded by mortar fire during the Yom Kippur war, the young man had gone beserk. His driving license had been revoked because of recklessness, but his father petitioned the Transport Minister to reinstate it. Shortly afterwards, the son died behind the wheel. Weizmann was wracked with guilt. Crushed, he was at a cabinet meeting, almost drooping. To the point that Ariel Sharon could not take it any longer. In front of the entire cabinet, he turned around to Weizmann: How much longer is this going to go on? Are you a wimp or what? I’ve lost a son, too. So what? Life goes on. Real or apocryphal, the anecdote is genuine for what it says about the passionate devotion which Sharon inspires in so many Israelis: A man hardened to fate, unwavering in adversity. It also explains the revulsion and hate which his "animal brutality" provokes in others.

With an unquenchable thirst for life, Ariel Sharon lived his entire life at a short distance from the recurring danger of death. Not only as a soldier. He lost his son by his first wife when the child picked up his loaded firearm. The child’s mother, Margalit, was killed in a road accident. Sharon then married her sister, Lili, with whom he had two sons. Lili, the love of his life, died in 2000. In his ranch along the edges of the Negev, he built her a private masoleum on the ruins of Kafr Houdj, a Palestinian village razed after 1948....

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