Careful, Mr. Sharon

You'd have thought an invitation to Crawford Ranch would have included room and board at the president's place. But it seems Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had to settle for the Waco Hilton.

Ellen W. Horowitz

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You'd have thought an invitation to Crawford Ranch would have included room and board at the president's place. But it seems Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had to settle for the Waco Hilton.

Weird venue. You remember Waco. That's where FBI agents, back in 1993, botched up a six-week stand-off with members of the Branch Davidian sect. The end result was 83 dead (including a lot of women and children) in an inferno of gunfire and flames.

This week, Sharon was shootin' from the lip and spoutin' words of war in the Lone Star State. But he done got his enemies mixed up. He told an NBC interviewer: "The tension here, the atmosphere here, looks like the eve of civil war.

"All my life I was defending the life of Jews. Now, for the first time, I am taking steps to protect me from Jews," our premier told the Today show.

Imagine that ­ slanderin' your own people before the international media. Why is it that some pro-disengagement advocates seem to be salivating over the prospect of civil war? The media is yapping over reported dissension within settler ranks, and the security services are howling about doomsday scenarios.

In point of fact, a bloody civil war is not something the anti-disengagement crowd is plotting. What the government is currently facing, and will continue to face, is a nonviolent, popular movement of Zionist-oriented civil disobedience.

Yep, we plan to take the country back and keep it safe and secure for posterity (something Ariel Sharon has failed to do). The anger has to be and will be expressed, but our collective response is intended to be solid, unwavering, intensely passionate, creative, spirited, timely and wise. That would apply to our street protests, as well as our written and spoken presentations.

And that's how it should be for anyone who values the people, Torah and Land of Israel, and intends to lead this nation in the future.

I'll let you in on something else. We will be here in Eretz Israel long after Sharon, Shimon Peres, Mahmoud Abbas, George W. Bush and Kofi Annan have passed from the scene (that's a fact, not incitement). But we're going to resist Sharon's plan as if there were no tomorrow, knowing full well that, as Jews, we're immersed in an ongoing struggle.

It's the awareness that there will be a tomorrow ­ and the next day, and the next ­ that will give us the stamina to endure this struggle indefinitely; whereas, the rest of you will be all tuckered out. Our goal, as always, is to hold the ground we have while moving forward by choosing life and being active participants in evolving Jewish history.

Our challenge is to survive physically, mentally and spiritually, as individual Jews and as a collective Jewish people.

Now a word of warning to Mr. Sharon. Be careful about that civil war talk. I'm on record for being an extremist when it comes to nonviolence (so please don't drag this mama off for questioning ­ at least not until I clean my freezer for Pesach). Don't create mythical monsters in order to discredit legitimate opposition. And don't take the most productive and finest segment of the population, demonize them, push them into a corner and trample them.

Ten months ago, I penned an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post entitled "No to civil war among the Jews". I wrote: "Ariel Sharon is the second prime minister in a decade who has brought the Jewish nation to the brink by employing questionable, undemocratic and callous means to push forth a contentious agenda. The opportunity for civil debate has been frustrated due to corruption, lies and betrayal within the system.... The prime minister has chosen to use the security apparatus and media to orchestrate a direct confrontation with those adhering to Zionist values."

Now, it's alleged to be 10 weeks and counting to D-day. It is essential that anyone engaged in this struggle, as well as those opposed to our efforts, understand fully that we are fighting for our way of life. Moreover, many of the nation's top security experts have also questioned the prime minister's wisdom and plans. We have borne witness to the government's mistakes of the past and we citizens, as well as our soldiers, have paid a tremendous price in blood for those mistakes.

Violent civil strife is an offensive concept to the religious Zionist segment of the country, which was raised and nurtured on the values of unity and Ahavat Yisrael. We have all but exhausted the diplomatic, legislative, judicial, communicative and scholarly approach to avoiding civil disobedience. Yet, we have a prime minister who has scoffed at and dismissed our efforts and suggestions, and who has now used an inappropriate foreign venue and public forum to promote the fear of civil war in Israel.

I think that makes him a thoughtless and reckless leader. If there are any responsible members left in our Knesset, I implore them to strongly censure the prime minister upon his return, and seriously question his ability to continue to lead this nation.

[This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post on April 12, 2005.]