Yisrael, Arik, King of Israel.
I have seen
crowds of Jews at meetings and in the streets during joyous Jewish
festivals here in New York City dancing and singing the praises
of the Prime Minister of Israel. While I did not join in, retiring
fellow that I am, I applauded the sentiment.
met General Ariel Sharon in Egypt over 30 years ago when I was
part of a Congressional delegation visiting Israel and wanting
to see the Israeli troops, who led by General Sharon, had crossed
the Suez Canal, surrounding the Egyptian Third Army. Israel turned
defeat into victory after the Egyptian troops under President
Anwar Sadat had unexpectedly crossed the Suez Canal going east
and breached the Bar Lev line of fortifications established prior
to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria were waging war against
Israel, seeking to annihilate it. All of this happening when Golda
Meir was Prime Minister and Moshe Dayan Chief of Staff of the
Israeli Defense Forces.
that during the crucial fighting along the Suez and on the Golan
Heights, the media reported that Israel was running out of war
materials, e.g., artillery shells and tanks, and asked the U.S.
to resupply it, and Congressional supporters of Israel were calling
the White House, State Department and the Pentagon every day asking
whether the arms were on the way. We were told “it takes
time, but it will happen.” Then, we heard the rumor that
either Henry Kissinger or James Schlesinger were blocking the
resupply so as not to injure Egypt too much, nor overly enhance
the capabilities of the Israelis too much. I recall that I, like
others, cried while pleading for the airlift, fearing at the worst
moments that we were witnessing the destruction of Israel. Moshe
Dayan is supposed to have said to Prime Minister Meir that he
feared “we were witnessing the destruction of the 3rd Temple"
-- a reference to the modern day state of Israel.
it was Kissinger or Schlesinger -- and I admire and like both
men -- who was really responsible for the delay and whether there
was a delay at all, I don’t know, but ultimately the arms
were shipped. The person who deserves full credit for ordering
the resupply is Richard Nixon, our reviled President. For me,
however, his saving Israel from destruction by the Arab states
is sufficient to forgive him for his political sins on earth to
the extent he doesn’t have to suffer in hell, but rather
have a place in purgatory where he can work his way up to heaven.
I am a secular Jew.
met Sharon in 1974 when I was part of a Congressional delegation
visiting Israel after the Yom Kippur War. I remember meeting Sharon
during a military briefing. I recall members of the IDF telling
us and I don’t know if it is true, but it was exciting to
hear, that in the 1967 war, the Israelis had also crossed the
Suez and when they built the Bar Lev line, made up of sand embankments
and forts along the east side canal, they marked areas which could
most easily be opened by the IDF in the future were it necessary
to re-cross the Suez. A nice James Bond touch.
directed the war against Lebanon in 1982 in response to repeated
terror attacks against Israel by the PLO led by Yassir Arafat,
he was ultimately denounced by many for going to the outskirts
of Beirut. There were those in Israel, primarily on the political
left, who joined in the criticism. The attacks on Sharon in world
opinion reached their zenith when Christian Arab militias entered
the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps filled with Muslim Palestinians
and butchered hundreds of them. This savagery among the Arabs
-- Christian and Muslim -- is age old with each side avenging
the last massacre committed by their opponents. In 1983, an Israeli
government commission found Sharon, as the military commander
in Lebanon, indirectly responsible for not preventing the slaughter.
He denied any prior knowledge of the event. Prime Minister Menachem
Begin summed it up best, saying, as I recall, “Goyim [Gentiles]
kill Goyim, and they come to hang the Jews.”
Time magazine for libel for reporting in 1987 that he
was aware of the plan to enter the camps. He established that
he was libeled, but was denied damages because of the Supreme
Court’s decision in New York Times vs. Sullivan which
held that a public person cannot be awarded damages even if libeled
unless the defendant acted maliciously which Time magazine
did not. The savagery of spirit of Arab fanatics was demonstrated
recently by al-Qaeda’s number two operative, Abu Musab Zarqawi,
who was quoted this week by former Secretary of Defense James
Schlesinger, as threatening the world saying, “Killing the
infidels is our religion. Slaughtering them is our religion until
they convert to Islam or pay us tribute.”
gone through a number of surgeries since his recent stroke to
relieve the hemorrhaging in his brain which we are told is extensive.
Even if he were to survive, in all probability, he will have permanent
brain damage and probably major motor and physical disabilities.
been a victim of a stroke in 1987, I remember how I prayed for
death if the stroke were to leave me brain damaged or physically
disabled. I did not want to be dependent on others, If Sharon
is capable cognitive actions, I have no doubt he is asking God
either to bring him to a state where he can adequately function
independently as the Prime Minister of Israel or take him to His
side. As I put it after my stroke, “Please God, no salami
tactics. If you take me, take me all at once.” God was good
to me and I recovered fully with no reduction of motor function,
no physical disability and I resumed my life and continued to
serve as mayor.
I fear that
Sharon will not be that fortunate. What comes to mind is the prescient
remarkable speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., the day before he
was assassinated. Dr. King said, “And He's allowed me to
go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the
promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to
know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not
fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of
Ariel Sharon is living
in the promised land which he helped to create and secure. The
promised land reference I have in mind is an ending of the Palestinian-Israeli
war, with accommodations on both sides. Whether Sharon lives or
dies, the promise of his newly-created party, moderate and secular,
Kadima, should not be denied. Those following him should press
forward with the pending Israeli elections and seek to enshrine
Sharon’s memory permanently in the pantheon of Israeli heroes
and martyrs by giving his party a majority in the Knesset. I believe
the Israeli voters are up to the task.
Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.