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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "The Man on the Wall": Offensive

It is no accident that until now I have avoided reference in this blog to Ariel Sharon's passing. For me, it involves many conflicting emotions.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Man on the Wall" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/opinion/friedman-the-man-on-the-wall.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), Thomas Friedman compares Ariel Sharon with Marine Col. Nathan Jessep, as played by Jack Nicholson  in the Hollywood classic “A Few Good Men.” I find this comparison offensive.

I was no "fan" of Ariel Sharon, but then I am not a fan of anyone. People, both great and small, come with their virtues and foibles, and this was also true of Sharon. However, when remembering Sharon, no one can deny that he was a leader.

Friedman mentions that "Sharon was deemed by a 1983 Israeli commission of inquiry as 'indirectly responsible' for the horrible massacre of Palestinian civilians by Phalangists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps." Indeed, the disastrous mistake of allowing into the Palestinian camps the Christian Phalangists, who were hell-bent on revenge for the assassination of Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel, has always been a source of anguish for me.

On the other hand, Friedman also observes that Sharon was responsible for the 2005 unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. This withdrawal was necessary, notwithstanding the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that ensued, and only someone with the right wing credentials of Sharon could have obtained the broad backing that was necessary to undertake this difficult step.

But nowhere in his opinion piece does Friedman mention that Sharon saved Israel during the War of Atonement in 1973, when he punched across the Suez Canal and surrounded the Egyptian Third Army, turning defeat into victory.

Sharon, who was very short and suffered from a lisp, was a born leader, whose successes and failures - both come with leadership - shaped the Middle East. Had he not suffered a severe stroke in 2006, might he have been able make peace with the Palestinians? Maybe, although Sharon never really believed it was possible in his lifetime.

Although Friedman tells us that he interviewed Sharon for his high school newspaper (Who cares?), this remarkable man does not deserve to be compared by Tom Terrific with a fictional movie character.

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