Sharansky’s Farcical NYT Op-Ed on Sakharov’s “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” | Blog#42

Sharansky’s Farcical NYT Op-Ed on Sakharov’s “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” | Blog#42

“A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,”

What a let-down Sharansky has turned out to be! After years of oppression at the hands of the Soviet regime for his activism on behalf of Russian Jews, acting as spokesman for Andrei Sakharov, and eventually being released in a dramatic exchange at Glienicke Bridge in East Berlin, Sharansky ended up living the very experience he decried for years as a refusenik.

Natan Sharansky fell in with those who turned Israel from an idealistic democracy into the brutal colonialist power it is now. Anatoly Sharansky went from refusenik and human rights activist,  to Natan Sharansky, Sheldon Adelson beneficiary and agent.  He is an owner of the devolvement of Israel as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic state, to the supremacist nation it just became with the passage, this week, of its Jewish nation state law.

In the unlikeliest of story arcs, Sharansky managed to make a career of oppressing others all the while agitating for the very human rights he violated as Minister Without a Portfolio, under cover of darkness, “chaired a secret committee that approved the confiscation of East Jerusalem property of West Bank Palestinians. This decision was reversed after an outcry from the Israeli left and the international community.”

How, from his beginnings as an activist Sharansky underwent such a radical transformation, defies comprehension. How, given what Sharansky presently stands for, he continues to clamor for human rights, is beyond belief. Why, at this juncture, given the current state of American-Israeli relations, he felt the need to write this kind of op-ed, is baffling. Post-Soviet era Sharansky is the antithesis of what Andrei Sakharov stood for and was. The powers that be at the New York Times published this mess of an op-ed of Sharansky’s, giving it top billing, but not opening it to public comment.

Using quotes by his mentor that describe authoritarian oppressors like Trump, Sharansky attempts to sully Barack Obama for supposedly turning a blind eye to Iranian human rights abuses. That’s rather breathtaking, given Sharansky’s own actions as an Israeli official. In his op-ed, Sharansky first makes baseless accusations against Obama and then uses them to construct a bridge from Obama to Trump, bizarrely connecting the two as leader and follower. Just like Donald Trump, Sharansky seems to suffer from his own strain of Obama derangement syndrome.

We’ve come full circle on the anniversary of one of the deepest essays in the past half-century. It truly is a shame that none of Jimmy Carter’s successors followed the ethic and message in Sakharov’s manifesto. Instead, they either engaged or continued hegemonic foreign and military policies.

The USSR came to an end. Gorbachev was succeeded by Yeltsin. Putin followed. Meanwhile, America’s great experiment with enlightenment and the New Deal has come to an end. America and Russia are now in sync. Both nations are led by authoritarian oligarchs. Putin, in 2005, portrayed the breakup of the USSR as a tragedy. He is now avenging it.

“Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.”

Vladimir Putin, April 2005

Barack Obama wasn’t perfect, but he is committed to human rights and, unlike his successor, informed by a rectitude borne out of deeply held principle. There is no comparing or mentioning him in the same breath as Trump. Trump is to progress what water is to fire. Trump is a philistine. He wouldn’t ever follow Obama’s lead. He is hard at work trying to obliterate Obama out of a jealous, racist rage.

Trump and his clan of oligarchs are a part of the very cabal that transmogrified Israel from the vibrant democratic jewel it used to be, to the brutally oppressive colonizer it is now. That clan, now in control of US-Israel policy, has undone decades of careful balancing.

Sharansky, unsurprisingly, aligned himself with the Israeli right after he made his way from East Berlin. Even though he carved his own path, through a political party he co-founded, he remained in lockstep and fully participated in the transformation of post-Arik Sharon, post-Gaza disengagement, into what is now Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud.

“Wealthy Jews have infected Israeli politics as well as American politics. Gone are the days when Jews, rich, poor, and anywhere along the middle, were united in agreement. As Israel has sunk lower into colonialist behavior at the egging of wealthy American Jews, American Jewry has been ripped apart. Statements from Bibi Netanyahu have reverberated here ever since his public falling out with President Obama. After Charlottesville, to hear this from Netanyahu’s son is, quite frankly, as shocking as it is disgusting:

“”The thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”””

Sharansky parlayed his 9-year martyrdom in Russia’s gulags to high-office as an oligarch’s foot soldier and destroyer of democracy and human rights. Instead of fulfilling the promise of his years as a human rights activist and martyr, Sharansky turned out to be the mirror image of a generation of selfish post-war leaders, selling out the three hard fought principles laid out in Sakharov’s famous 1968 essay for the patronage of an oligarch and a seat in the Israeli cabinet.

Since his exchange at Glienicke Bridge on February 11, 1986, Anatoly Borisovich Sharansky has worked to undermine “Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom.” What a complete waste of a life!

James Baldwin was right. In these times, living by this quote is a necessity:

“I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”

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