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January 15, 2014

Ariel Sharon in the Middle East Media: Reviled In Death As In Life

Just as former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was demonized in the Arab and Muslim media throughout his life, so it is following his death.  Following Sharon’s death on January 11, newspapers and websites across the Middle East were flooded with articles, opinion pieces and cartoons depicting him as a “killer,” “butcher,” “terrorist,” and “war criminal.”

In their look back at Sharon’s life, most opinion writers have focused on what they consider to be his direct responsibility for the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon. Others have accused him of being responsible for the US-led war in Iraq and for masterminding an alleged assassination of Yasser Arafat.

Jihad Al-Khazin wrote in the London-based Al-Hayat, “….I hear he died and I hear that he is about to die, and I say ‘God, don’t send him back.’ He paid the price of his crimes on earth, and when he leaves he will be firewood for hell.”

Ironically, while the view from the street and the media is uniformly negative, many Arab leaders – quietly – are said to have had great respect for Sharon. While they may have disagreed with his policies, many have said that they trusted his credibility and viewed him as a leader who would always stand by his word.

Perhaps more than other Israeli leader, Sharon was vilified in the Arab media throughout his life. While op-eds frequently assigned to Sharon the worst human attributes, it was through the more visual – and visceral – editorial cartoons where the former Prime Minister was portrayed as a demonic figure that was the embodiment of human evil.

As highlighted in ADL’s 2010 publication, Personalizing the Conflict: A Decade of Assault on Israel’s Premiers in the Arab Media, depictions of Sharon in cartoons included rivers of blood, images of the angel of death, various monsters and animals with demonic features, Nazi comparisons, and classical anti-Semitic themes like allegations of blood libels.

A favorite caricature of Sharon was of him eating Palestinian children, drinking their blood and slaughtering them.  Even following Sharon’s debilitating stroke in January 2006, Arab newspapers portrayed him on his sick bed, intimidating the angel of death, who is afraid to take him.

After his death, the cartoons appearing in the Arab and Iranian media repeat these long-time images of Sharon as a devil, now eagerly awaited in hell.

 

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