A new book, 'Blood Libel,'
written by a close friend of
Ariel Sharon, reads like a
campaign biography of the
controversial Israeli General.
Whether or not it constitutes
accurate history is certain
to be debated here and
JAMES DAVID BESSER
Special to The Jewish News
Friday, April 24, 1987
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
he e question has been around ever
since some people beg
historic things, like winning wars
and leading nations through troubled
times, and others started writing about
them: how do you convey the real feel of
historical events without first-hand in-
volvement? And if you are actually involv-
ed, how can you be objective enough to
separate fact from belief?
This eternal conundrum defines the
writing of Uri Dan, the Israeli journalist
and press attache to General Ariel Sharon
who is currently touring the United States
to promote his new book, Blood Libel.
In the book, which describes the com-
plex series of events culminating in the
Sabra and Shatilla massacres in Lebanon
in 1982, and Sharon's subsequent libel suit
against Time magazine, Dan attempts to
combine a highly personal perspective on
the meaning of these events with a jour-
nalistic sorting-out of the complex story.
And he carries one additional piece of
freight into the process: his fervent,
unswerving admiration of General Sharon,
his close friend and associate for more than
thirty years. The result is a book full of
detail, but also one in which Sharon is por-
trayed as the most heroic figure in Jewish
history since King David.
This unfailingly flattering portrayal is
unlikely to change any minds about the
terrible events of 1982, or the controversies
that have always swirled around Sharon.
With Sharon, there is no middle ground;
Israelis love him or despise him, but few
are ambivalent about him. Uri Dan does
not break with this tradition.
Dan dismisses the obvious question of
his objectivity in reporting this events.
"The question of 'objectivity' was invented
to discredit you," he said in an interview
with The Detroit Jewish News. "Not
even angels are objective. When journalists
have opinions, they sould express them —
very strongly. But when it comes to facts
— facts are facts. Now who knows better
the facts, the one who was there — or the
one who was objectively sitting in the
Washington Post or Time magazine? I'm
not editorializing. I'm telling a story. I
bring the facts the way I saw them."
But in the highly polarized rough-and-
tumble of Israeli politics — and in view of
Sharon's undeniable political ambitions,
which Dan attributes to a kind of destiny
rather than any personal drive for power
— the question of how these particular
facts are interpreted will stay on center
stage for years to come.
Dan's story begins in September, 1982,
in the wake of murder of the president-elect
of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel. Two months
earlier, Israel had launched its most con-
troversial war — the assault on PLO
strongholds in the chaotic, violence-filled
country of Lebanon. The outcome of that
war was now bound up in a complex set of
international negotiations, pressure from
the American government, and controver-
sy on the Israeli homefront.
This controversy exploded into a
worldwide furor on September 18, when it
was revealed that at least 460 people, in-
cluding women and children, were
massacred in the Palestinian refugee
camps of Sabra and Shatilla by Christian
Phalangist supporters of the slain
Gemayel. In the ensuing uproar, Israel's
Kahan Commission found Defense
Minister Sharon "indirectly responsible"
for the massacre for allowing the Phal-
angists into the camps despite apparent
warnings of their vengeful state of mind.
The crux of Sharon's battle with Time
came in a single paragraph in the
magazine's coverage of the Kahan Commis-
sion report. In this story, reporter David
Halevy, a native Israeli who worked in
Time's Jerusalem bureau, reported that
Sharon had met with the Gemayel family
after the murder of Bashir — and that he
had encouraged the Philangists to take
revenge for the killing of their leader.
The story, which was supposedly based
on information supplied by an unnamed
source with access to the secret "Appendix
B" to the Commission's findings, enraged
the now-former defense minister and his
supporters. Sharon filed suit in New York,
claiming that he had been maliciously
defamed. After a lengthy trial — and an
ongoing storm of controversy in both the
American and the Israeli media — the jury
delivered a divided judgment; Sharon, they
ruled, had been libeled by the magazine,
but there was no evidence of malicious
It is at this point that Uri Dan finds the
central theme of his book; he does not ac-
cept this last part of the verdict. Time's
libelous action was the result of a
deliberate lie, he charges, part of a broader
pattern of bias against Israel by Time and
an anti-Sharon vendetta by most of the
Israeli press. David Halevy, he insists
throughout the book, was not a careless or
overambitious reporter, as the jury im-
plied, but a "liar."
Dan makes his case on several different
levels. On one, he confirms what the jury
decided in the first part of its verdict: while
a meeting did take place between Sharon
and the survivors of the Gamayel family,
there was no evidence to suggest that the
meeting had anything to do with the
tragedy at Sabra and Shatilla.
Dan's credentials for making these
claims are strong; he was at Sharon's side
throughout the critical meeting at Bikfaya.
Dan provides a detailed account of what