Kudos and a Klop for Mr. Sharansky

Natan Sharansky is a good, honest and humble man - the flip-side of the archetypal political personality - and he's remained true to form in spite of his exposure to the wiles of politics, power and fame. Well, almost...

Ellen W. Horowitz

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A good number of Israelis, as well as Diaspora Jews - religious and secular alike - harbor a common fantasy. Some day, when the world is a better place, we'd like to see Natan Sharanksy as prime minister. It would be the ultimate in poetic justice if the former Soviet Prisoner of Zion who one-upped the KGB, made aliyah and became a member of parliament, would rise to the very top of Israel's political echelons. Heaven, not Hollywood, owns the exclusive intellectual property rights on scripts like that.

But it's not just the romantic in me that craves such a scenario. It's also the simple fact that Natan Sharansky is a good, honest and humble man - the flip-side of the archetypal political personality - and he's remained true to form in spite of his exposure to the wiles of politics, power and fame. Well, almost...

While I am thrilled over Sharansky's moral stand against Disengagement, and his intentions to lobby on behalf of the endangered Jewish communities of Gaza and the Shomron, I am less than happy with the arguments and logic he used when presenting his letter of resignation. The democratic double-speak didn't quite make the grade, and indeed, both the international and local press were happily confused and used Sharansky's mixed messages to dilute the impact that his resignation should have had.

The international press didn't bother getting past the first half-dozen paragraphs of a resignation letter heavily padded with democratic dialectic. They never got to the heart of the matter because Sharansky was overly concerned about protecting his democratic guru status. By and large, the press summed up the primary cause of Mr. Sharansky's angst as being caused by the following dilemma: "He isn't against an eventual pullout from occupied Palestinian lands in Gaza and the West Bank, but he said he can't support a plan that asks nothing from the Palestinians." (Canada's Globe and Mail)

On the other extreme, Yahad Knesset Member Roman Bronfman (who more than lives up to his first name) was so brutal and hateful in his exposure of Sharansky's supposed true intentions, that the following comments were rightfully dismissed in disgust: "A human rights activist who fought against the Soviets has become a warmonger for the occupation.... He [Sharansky] only represented the interests of the settlers and his resignation unmasks the face of his true priorities."

Sharansky's biggest concern that everyone seems to have missed appeared more than halfway through his letter and reads as follows: "Alongside my concerns about the danger entailed in a unilateral disengagement from Gaza, I am even more concerned about how the government's approach to disengagement is dividing Israeli society. We are heading towards a terrible rift in the nation and, to my great chagrin, I feel that the government is making no serious effort to prevent it."

He was even more forthcoming as to the real agenda in his heart when interviewed by Israel National Radio:

"We are speaking about three generations of Jews that were sent on an important mission by the Israeli government and made an empty desert into a blossoming garden. Now we will just destroy all these beautiful communities, with their unique agriculture and incredible Judaism - for what?" Sharansky asked.

"For nothing," he added, "as a reward for terrorism."

Sharansky's resignation was a moral decision from a man who stands for integrity. His muddled presentation is indicative of a man who is grappling with the conflicting interests of both mind and heart. He should not feel obligated to fit his just stance into the outline of his best-selling book in order to please President Bush or to remain true to the image he's fashioned for himself. We Jews need to learn that it's perfectly correct to stand up for what we feel is right and to step down or remove ourselves from something that we feel is wrong. We don't need to candy-coat our positions with politically correct, in-vogue or intellectual jargon. Nor do we need to soften our stance in an attempt to please the untenable demands of a world that rejects our legitimacy.

Why is Israel willing to sacrifice her security, ideology and founding principles for second-rate respect and a rather pitiful place among the nations? Plain and simple, disengagement from Gaza poses an existential threat to Israel. Our destroying of Jewish communities is morally wrong and Biblically prohibited. Our sanctioning of the creation of a criminal state of terrorists is criminal in and of itself.

I believe Mr. Sharansky is a little too beholden to the forces of democracy, which were instrumental in his rescue from behind the iron bars of the Iron Curtain. He can't quite shake the image of the untarnished white knight called the "free world". He does his best to polish any grimy build-up that clings to his glistening democratic model. But it seems that economics and a very harsh reality has put Sharansky's democratic idols in bed with the likes of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt, and caused them to turn a blind eye to Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. And now, just this week, is was reported by Reuters that the Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with Sudan. The same Sudan which played host to Osama Bin-Laden and is now perpetrating something along the lines of genocide against a segment of their population.

With a very popular Hamas prepping for elections, the harsh lesson that a lot of us - including Natan Sharansky - is beginning to learn is that the creation of any democratic nation bereft of moral foundations will evolve into a populist, supported and endorsed tyranny. And it becomes a lot harder to deal with populist-fueled evil than with dictatorial tyrants or isolated terrorist groups. Force-fed democracy is a dangerous oxymoron.

It seems the time is not yet ripe for the likes of Sharansky. Perhaps he's just too good and naive, while the times are just too bad. Or maybe this recent shedding of his parliamentary skin will allow him to emerge as a true leader.

Mr. Sharansky may be comfortable as Mr. Democracy, but the democratic world is currently in the midst of a morality crisis. Perhaps he could do himself and all of us a favor by exposing himself as the Mr. Morality that we know he is. Although small in stature and far from good-looking in the classic sense, Sharansky's looking very good to a lot of us Israelis. His moral stature puts him heads above the rest - both here and abroad. He need not diminish himself with democratic double-speak, because he'll paint himself into a hypocritical corner. No need to qualify or make excuses for choosing to do the right thing. Keep it clear and simple.