For Lisa Goldman, the memory of Ariel Sharon evokes images of civilian massacres, suicide bombings, bloody curfews and a political shift in Israeli society to the right.
My earliest memory of Ariel Sharon involves vivid color photographs of corpses. I was just waking up to the world and intensely interested in current affairs, so I spent quite a bit of time in the library of my quiet, Canadian all girls’ school, thumbing through newsmagazines like Newsweek, Time and Life. Which is how I learned about the massacre of of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila and saw those gut-churning images of sprawled, bloated, bloody bodies — piles of them. Men and women. Children.
More than three decades later, it is those photographs that flicker automatically across my inner movie screen in response to any mention of Ariel Sharon’s name. Not the famous black-and-white photograph of General Sharon with his bandaged head after he was wounded on a Sinai battlefield during the 1973 war. And not the later image of the warrior turned farmer, with a sheep slung over his shoulders. For me he was primarily a war criminal. I do not celebrate his death, but I don’t mourn him either.
I was educated — at my Jewish elementary school, at summer camp and at synagogue — to think of the State of Israel as a special, better place. Sabra and Shatila forced me to question that perception. In a way, Ariel Sharon hovered over every watershed event in the evolution of my political views, from 1982 to 2005. That includes reading as an undergraduate about the Qibya Massacre that he led in 1953, when he and his soldiers killed 69 Palestinian villagers, primarily women and children.
At the Friday night dinner table in September 1982 my stepfather, who had a subscription to Commentary Magazine, told me sharply that it wasn’t the Israelis who killed the Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila. It was the Christian Lebanese. The subtext: Christians were killing Muslims and everyone was trying to blame the Jews, as usual. This was the received narrative, as far as I remember, among mainstream Jews in the...Read More