Arial Sharon – Coming and Going. Finally.
I stumbled across this on Open Culture today. It is long (53+ minutes) and the final version will be longer still. It is horrific to the point of emotional numbness. If you cannot watch it entirely, I understand, but I would suggest you at least try, if only as a respectful nod to the principal of Truth.
Perhaps my discovery today was coincidental to the death of Ariel Sharon, although such coincidences have been happening with uncomfortable frequency lately. I’m beginning to question the randomness of life.
Golda Meir’s remark that, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” at least displays a broad awareness of common humanity and rueful acknowledgement of necessity. Unfortunately, such awareness and ruefulness were not part of Ariel Sharon’s thinking. He was a racist butcher, plain and simple, even by the lenient standards of the Israeli military. Both as a military leader and a politician, he was a disaster for Israel and the Palestinians. And to the extent that the Israel/Palestine conflict crosses boundaries, he was a disaster for the rest of the Middle East.
War dehumanizes both the victors and the vanquished, for different reasons and in different ways, but win or lose, nobody escapes unscathed. We see the same thing happening wherever there is war and widespread violence. In our own house, we see our troops – our children and neighbors’ children and grandchildren – committing and/or witnessing atrocities, traumatizing others and being traumatized. I recall Albert Camus’ essay on capital punishment, in which he wonders how much violence capital punishment inspires, how it cheapens the value of life and makes violence more acceptable, particularly to borderline personalities. Any violence, individual or massive often has that effect on the survivors and the perpetuators alike.
On a trip to Israel some years ago, I visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial/Museum in Jerusalem. If you can go through that place without feeling like your guts have been ripped out, then I don’t want to know you – you’re not human as I recognize the term.
I am not Jewish, but it really wasn’t a question of Jew/non-Jew. It was a matter of human/non-human.
I expected the scope and enormity of the experience, – “The real tragedy was not that millions were murdered but that murder was committed millions of times” – but the overwhelming shock was how matter-of-fact the whole process was to the German apparatchiks and general population. There’s a scene in Lanzmann’s documentary, Shoah, in which the interviewer is accompanied by Simon Srebnik, a survivor of Chelmno as a teen. Polish villagers, neighbors of the camp, tell the interviewer they personally have nothing against Jews (some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish?) but when asked why they thought Jews had been targeted, all their latent bigotry surfaces as they start justifying the events. The camera pans to 50+ year old Srebnik and rather than confront or dispute them, he smiles ever-so-faintly, very sadly, very cynically – the equivalent of rolling his eyes, a mental shrug. “What else could one expect….?”
Just outside the entrance to Yad Vashem stands a memorial to the 1.5 million victims who were children. A wall of glass, revealing memorial candles scattered on glass shelves, surrounded by mirrors, an apparently unlimited number of flickering lights, each a life – extinguished. One automatically starts to count the lights – “let’s see, 30 wide x 20 high x 20 deep = 12000; no…50 x 30 x 30 = 45000; no…80 x 50…” until the mind finally surrenders to the realization that the number of flames/lives/deaths is, for all practical purposes, endless.
There is another holocaust museum, much smaller and consisting largely of what look like tombstones. They are geographic markers. Instead of an individual grave, each ‘tombstone’ once marked the boundary of a village or even a small town, now totally erased – literally wiped off the map – along with its usual complement of farms, houses,cats, dogs, old codgers, squalling babies and everyone in between.
The Holocaust was never the reason for Sharon’s racism, brutality and inhumanity, but he used it as an excuse. That Israel let him get away with it dishonors the memory of the victims of the pogroms and Holocaust as well as the survivors and their heirs. It allows the tragedy to continue to another generation.
It is unfortunate that his legacy cannot be buried with him.