Saturday, December 8, 2007

Prisoner Of Zion

“Though I knew my human rights activities could lead to my arrest,” Natan Sharansky said recently, “I also was convinced that the free world would stand by my side.” And as it happens the first public speech I ever gave was in his defense—in 1971, a graduate student warming-up an audience of thousands for Claude Ryan, the open-spirited editor of Montreal’s liberal daily, Le Devoir.

But since coming to Israel in 1986, and riding his refusenik celebrity to political power, Sharansky has stood for transcendent Jewish sovereignty in Greater Israel and particularly over Greater Jerusalem. He’s made common cause with theocrats, settlers, and people who believe Israel’s Arab citizens should be disenfranchised, if not expelled. He has justified the abuses of occupation—land grabs, house demolitions, preemptive fatal force, etc.—warning of an apocalyptic struggle against terror. He has never stood up for a single Palestinian protesting abuses of his human rights.

"Above all, Jerusalem is the base of our identity," Sharansky said more recently, giving a whole new meaning to the term, prisoner of Zion. He is now leading efforts to foil the Annapolis process. He offers more than 300,000 Palestinians, residents of the eastern parts of the city, nothing of citizenship; his lectures on democracy to Americans never quite get to the consent of the governed. "The problem is that there are many people who want to get rid of their identity," Sharansky added. He should know.

It is adolescent, no doubt, to be angered by hypocrisy. But then, I was pretty much an adolescent when I admired him.