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Ariel Sharon Dies After Eight Years in a Coma

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Avi Shlaim, (shown at left below) professor emeritus of international relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, is the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations  and The Iron Wall He remembers Sharon this way in The Guardian:


"President George W Bush famously described Sharon as 'a man of peace.' For the last 40 years the Arab-Israeli conflict has been my main research interest, and I have not come across a scintilla of evidence to support this view. Sharon was a man of war through and through, an Arab-hater, and a pugnacious proponent of the doctrine of permanent conflict. Following his rise to power Sharon therefore remained what he had always been -- the champion of violent solutions.

"The dominant preoccupation of Sharon's premiership was the 'war on terror' against militant Palestinian groups. No peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority took place between 2001 and 2006, and Sharon regarded this as something to be proud of. To his way of thinking negotiations necessarily involve compromise, and he consequently avoided them like the plague. ...

"His enduring legacy has been to empower and embolden some of the most racist, xenophobic, expansionist, and intransigent elements in Israel's dysfunctional political system."

Sharon's legacy will long be a topic of "controversy."  The question remains, however, as to why Sharon was kept on life support for eight years and one week. That is a societal and finally, a theological, question, which every society needs to face.

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Time's posting by Alice Park is appropriately entitled Life vs. Living: Lessons from Sharon's Last Years in a Coma.  It provides background for that discussion:

"Traditionally, [in Israel] the concept of brain death didn't exist, as death is considered the simultaneous shutting down of the body's primary functions -- from the pumping of blood to breathing and thinking. But with the introduction of technology to keep some body systems working -- such as the heart and lungs -- the need to redefine death became critical.

"And the idea of brain death -- similar to a death caused by a heart that stopped beating or lungs that stopped breathing -- seeped into the culture and legal system as Sharon hung on. In 2009, the Israeli government passed the Brain-Respiratory Death Law that addressed religious concerns about defining the line between life and death and the latest medical knowledge.

"It required that several brain scans and other techniques would have to verify an irreversible lack of brain activity in order to declare the patient brain dead. The law was an attempt to encourage organ donation from patients whose bodies were otherwise healthy, but whose brains had all be ceased to function.

"Even with the new medical criteria, however, some Israelis found it hard to relinquish religious concepts of life and death, and continued to find any life, even in a vegetative state, worth preserving."

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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