The Pressure to Feel

Israel’s Ariel Sharon is dying – and I feel an extraordinary pressure to try and find something positive to say. But I can’t. The man who countenanced and permitted the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982 which resulted in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Palestinians – is preparing to meet his maker, and I’m wondering what that encounter might look like.

The eulogies of course, are bound to be full of plaudits and revisionist history. His courage, his ability to seize victory from the jaws of defeat, his tenacity and his obstinacy.

Ever a man of strong convictions and contradictions, Ariel Sharon was loved by the Israeli right wing and loathed by Palestinians and most Arabs. His flamboyant displays of bravado, including the notorious visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September 2000 which arguably provoked the Second Intifada, resulting in the deaths of yet more Palestinians (over 2,000) and Israelis (over 1,000), were his signature.

After years of covering the Middle East and especially Israel and the Palestinians, I wish I could feel something as this divisive figure prepares to shuffle off his mortal coil. But I don’t. Not a thing. Just a realization that my ambivalence is probably my loudest shout. Or as Morales sings in “Chorus Line” —
I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And cried ’cause I felt nothing.”

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