The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, April 16, 2002  

William F. Buckley on Ariel Sharon

William F. Buckley Jr.'s latest take on Ariel Sharon, "Sharon’s Contribution: What is he up to?," makes for excellent reading. [Ed.: Link subject to archiving.]

The criticism from Buckley, a long-time supporter of Israel, should be taken seriously. It represents perhaps the most significant change in tone regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by any of the conservative pro-Israel pundits since the Israeli Defense Force's latest assault on the West Bank began.

With any luck, it may be viewed by some of Buckley's colleagues as an indication that at least some aspects of the party line can be the subject of public debate. Maybe we're too optimistic. The American intelligentsia's enduring intolerance of any apostasy or heresy on the subject of Israeli foreign policy makes the Inquisition look like "Meet the Press."

Buckley doesn't mince words. Here are a few selections.

"My vote is that General Sharon's offensive is the stupidest campaign in recent memory. Defined here as a campaign that has: solved nothing, increased Israel's problems, intensified Palestinian hatred of Israel, estranged many Europeans and Americans, and fanned Islamic hostility. What is General Sharon up to?"

"Sharon's policy is scorched-earth. Under his command, the Israeli army has engaged not in isolating the infrastructure of the suicide terrorists. What he is engaged in is wanton damage."

"What Sharon has been doing is to give way to Israeli rage. The rage is hot, deserved, and purposive. But to proceed on the assumption that water and electricity lines and schools and hospitals are vital organs of terrorist excursions is untenable except on an understanding that General Sharon hasn't articulated."

"Sharon hasn't ordered his soldiers to mow down every Palestinian standing, but his artillery and air force haven't been discriminating — there is no way to be entirely discriminating in a military offensive designed to find something that can't be found, namely the fuse box that causes an 18-year-old Palestinian girl to arm herself with a bomb and detonate it in an Israeli mall."

"What has been done is to enhance and even legitimize Palestinian grievances. 'After four days of heavy fighting,' the [New York] Times [April 11] dispatch goes on, 'the Casbah, as the centuries-old warren of shops and homes at the center of this city [Nablus] is known, has been utterly destroyed.' How would we feel in analogous circumstances?"

"Sharon has wounded the State of Israel incalculably, causing ache and pain not only to Palestinians, but to his people, and to friends of Israel everywhere."

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