Originally published on The Settler blog in the Jewish Journal.
1. Immediately after Ariel Sharon’s death, criticism was muted out of respect for his accomplishments. Critics of his actions, from the Left or Right, were castigated for insensitivity, especially as Palestinians celebrated his death. The nation of Israel so desperately needs heroic, mythical figures, especially in the midst of such delegitimization, that people are often discouraged from questioning Israeli icons. This follows a trend of putting the prestige of the State of Israel above the voice of the people.
2. His legacy is mixed, at best, but he is forgiven for many of his moral and strategic failures because of his outstanding military accomplishments in Israel’s major wars. In addition, the Left forgives his anti-Arab actions because of his retreat from Gaza. The Right forgives the Gaza withdrawal because of his role in the settlement enterprise. Israel’s simple survival is often placed above moral nuance in the actions and make-up of the Israeli government.
3. Pro-Israel organizations will defend Sharon from slander (for his role in Sabra and Shatila and the second intifada) all the while desperately trying to demonstrate how he made painful sacrifices for peace. The Gaza Disengagement was disguised as peace, but it was ultimately an act of appeasement and strategic retreat. The results speak for themselves.
4. Sharon was a master of the use of force. This makes for a brave warrior, but not always for an ethical thinker and politician.
5. He led the settlement movement with a measure of political force and abandoned it with force against the people of Gush Katif who were dragged out of their homes, synagogues, and graves, left homeless, jobless, and hopeless. While pro-settlers resent him for destroying Gush Katif, Sharon sent them to settle the areas as servants of the State, not as masters of their own lives. Thus, if they are sent for the State, people think they can be thrown out for the sake of the State.
6. Ariel Sharon is credited for leading the settlement movement. Ultimately, Ariel Sharon removed the shackles preventing Jews from their right to make their homes peacefully in the historic heartland. Sharon was a public servant who, at his best, implemented the will of the people. The pioneers are the ones who built up the land and sent their kids to die for all they loved and for the country.
7. Obituaries will mention Gush Katif as a footnote in his military career. The country and the IDF conducted little, if any, introspection of this traumatic and unpleasant event that redefined the borders of the Middle East. Now, as negotiations are underway, the Gaza evacuation will likely be interpreted to justify evacuations from Judea and Samaria/the West Bank. Politicians and pundits will spin his legacy for encouraging the creation of a Palestinian state.
8. As with many Israeli leaders, Ariel Sharon had a tendency towards Jewish dictatorship. He trampled upon the democratic process when he went against the vote of his party and his constituency to evacuate Jews from Gush Katif. He fired ministers who did not go along with his decision, summarily arrested protesters, and psychologically trained an army to harm its civilian population.
9. International leaders who normally loathe Ariel Sharon praise him for one act: the destruction of 9,000 Jewish lives in Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. The adjectives they used to describe him are neutral: “influential,” “significant,” “dedicated.” Israel is still internationally condemned for the situation in Gaza.
10. More than ever, robust, fearless, even unpleasant discussion must be had about Israel’s leaders and the ethical premises of the Jewish state and its actions. Politicians are public servants. The people do not serve them.
Thus, as people awaited my follow-up to my Miley Cyrus parody, “Jews Can’t Stop,” I didn’t imagine that Ariel Sharon would die right before the release of “Gaza Wrecking Ball.” But it’s the perfect time to make sure the Gaza failure is discussed critically and that free speech will be one of the major values that Ariel Sharon, in his victories, failures, life and death, kept intact.