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Sharon defamed?

In libel actions brought for political reasons, narrow points of law can obscure the vast issues of politics, as a hand held close to the eye will blot out the sun. The case of Ariel Sharon v. Time Inc. evoked crucial questions it could not resolve about the conceits of news-magazine journalism and the deceits of Israeli policy in Lebanon. About the former, the six-member jury was angry enough to compose a statement highly critical of Time's system of reportage, which lends itself to fanciful narrative, ideological innuendo and intellectual irresponsibility. Nobody asked for a second opinion, but the jury provided one--a paraphrase of Henry Youngman's memorable line "You're ugly!"

It might have been just as candid about the conduct of Israel, its politicians and its military commander in the invasion and occupation of Lebanon. Others, however, have been more forthcoming, and some of the sharpest criticisms have been heard in Israeli itself, where Sharon has also filed suit against Time, though not against any of the local media. It is instructive to contrast the opinions that have been expressed in Israel on the verdict, as well as on Sharon's conduct of the Lebanon war and on his political role, with the passage in Time's story that provoked the suit. The key words in the latter were: "Sharon also reportedly discussed with the Gemayels the need for the Phalangists to take revenge for the assassination of Bashir, but the details of the conversation are not known." If those words are actionable, one must conclude that Sharon's lawsuit has cast a darker shadow on the Bill of Rights than Time's erroneous story did on the general's reputation--which, as the following sampler of quotations shows, is none too good in certain Israeli circles.

You have proven that one sentence in one paragraph pertaining to one incident was a lie, but you have yet to prove that you know the meaning of the word "truth." For the truth and you are diametrically opposed. . . . You are not defending me, my country or my people by trying to discredit the system that keeps Israel democratic and those who have been entrusted with power honest. --Hirsh Goodman, The Jerusalem Post, January 25

[The verdict] cannot be interpreted, under any circumstances whatsoever, as a gain or purification of Minister Sharon himself from his legal and moral reponsibility for the massacre in Sabra and Shatila. --Moshe Negbi, Al Hamishmar, January 25

The trial was not about anti-Semitism. Ariel Sharon defended no one but himself. And if Times needed to be taken to task, Sharon was not the man to do it. For many Israelis Sharon represents the very anthithesis of what their country stands for--democracy, justice and equality. --Andrew Julien, Spectrum, January 28

Since the Defense Minister took over, a heavy screen of lack of credibility has descended upon the defense establishment. . . . We do not know what is correct and what is not correct, what is the truth and what is a lie. --Avraham Tal, Ha'aretz, February 10, 1983

A man who put a snake into a child's bed and says, "I'm sorry. I told the snake not to bite. I didn't know snakes were so dangerous." This man's a war criminal. --Amos Elon, on the Sabra and Shatila massacres, quoted in The New York Times, May 2, 1984

It is difficult to understand what right Sharon has to appear in public at all. This man should be placed on trial for extending a limited operation into a general war without Cabinet approval. . . . In contrast to former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the war's victims do not trouble Sharon's rest; indeed, he is using the war as an instrument to further his personal ambition. --Editorial, Ha'aretz, December 11, 1983

We have now reached our fifth war, the most brutal of our wars, the most wretched, the one most obscured by lies. The superfluous, monstrous war. What shall we call it? Its name is supposed to be "Peace for Galilee" but some sensible woman suggested it should be renamed "Glory for Sharon." --B. Michael, Ha'aretz, June 18, 1982

Arisk Sharon is one of the politicians in Israel whom I fear as a danger to the state. Sometimes I tremble at what he might do if he had the chance. --Then Deputy Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich, quoted in The Jerusalem Post, June 9, 1980
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Title Annotation:what the some of the Israeli press think of Ariel Sharon
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Feb 9, 1985
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