No, the title of this post isn’t some sort of joke. And, of course, Ariel Sharon has nothing whatsoever to say–nor (barring some extraordinary miracle) will he ever be saying anything again.
But in one of my many efforts at organizing my papers and tidying up in general, I recently found a stack of unread New Yorkers. I skimmed their “Contents” sections and threw them all out (actually, took them to the dump to recycle, like the environmentally concerned person that I am).
But in one of them, the January 23 and 30, 2006 issue, I found and read “The Samurai of Zionism,” a piece by Ari Shavit based on a series of interviews with Ariel Sharon over the last couple of years. Towards the end, Shavit quotes Sharon as having come to the following conclusions, which I reproduce here as food for thought in this particular crisis:
The conflict isn’t between us and the Palestinians. The conflict is between us and the Arab world. And the problem at the heart of the conflict is that the Arab world does not recognize the Jews’ inherent right to have a Jewish state in the land where the Jewish people began. This is the main problem. This also applies to Egypt, with which we have a cold peace. It also applies to Jordan, with which we have a very close strategic relationship, but this is a relationship between governments, not between peoples. The problem is not 1967. The problem is the profound nonrecognition by the Arab world of Israel’s birthright. The problem will not be solved by an agreement. It will not be solved by a speech. Anyone who promises that it’s possible to end the conflict within a year or two year or three is mistaken. Anyone who promises peace now is blind to the way things are. Even after the disengagement, we will not be able to rest on our laurels. We will not be able to sit under our fig tree and our vine….
The greatest danger is in signing some document and believing that as a result we will have peace. This is not going to happen…Instead, we have to build a process that will enable us to ascertain that indeed a change is taking place in the Arab world. It is necessary to teach all the teachers that Israel is a legitimate entity. And it is necessary to replace all the Palestinian textbooks. And this is beyond the elementary demand for the cessation of terror and the cessation of incitement and the implementation of reforms in the security organizations and the implementation of govermental reforms. It is necessary not to omit a single one of these steps. Under no circumstances should there be concessions. A situation must not develop in which Israel retreats and is chased by terror. Once you accept that, it will never end. Terror will keep chasing us.
Sobering words. I’m not sure he’s correct about everything–I still tend to believe that the population of Jordan, for example, is not set on the elimination of Israel.
But many of his points are spot on. And right now it’s more difficult than ever to see how the vision of the final paragraph could ever be implemented. And the phrase “a situation must not develop in which Israel retreats and is chased by terror” seem remarkably apropos to the current conflict.
I am reminded of an article I read back in my liberal Democrat days, during the early years of the 90s. I’ve searched for this article before, because I’d love to look at it again. I think it appeared in this very same periodical–the New Yorker–but I simply don’t know, and at this point I despair of ever finding it.
But nevertheless I remember the subject matter. The article appeared after Oslo, back when the peace process seemed to be going well and when many people, including myself, were hopeful that things were going in the right direction. The author had visited the areas under the control of the PLO and especially the schools, and what he (she?) found there was chilling beyond belief. The article described the teaching of a hatred so deep and so naked, a hatred involving not just Israelis but Jews in general, that my blood ran cold.
For days afterwards I had trouble shaking the conviction that, whatever we might think about the hope for progress that Oslo represented, when the generation that was being steeped and marinated in such hatred came of age in about ten years or less, something terrible would be happening, no matter what Israel tried to do, no matter how many concessions it made towards peace.
And events have certainly “progressed” that way. And not with just the Palestinians and even the Arab world, but the non-Arab government of Iran. We have in the Iranian leaders and Hezbollah, of course, an enemy that not only hates Israel and Jews, but that isn’t shy about saying so. And that enemy is playing to one of the oldest and deepest hatreds in the world–Jew-hatred–finding a harmonic resonance with all those who profess it, and using them for their own nefarious ends.