Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sarah Honig in JPost: Sleep no more

Jerusalem Post, March 11, 2004

It came to me while trying to avoid decking myself out in a full-blown Purim costume for a party we were invited to. Why not go as a replica of myself, my own impostor? So I drew and cut out a giant lapel-label in the shape of a seedpod and imprinted a bold "snatched body" inscription across it.

My humble homage to the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a sci-fi cult classic about human doubles hatched from mysterious pods, became an unexpected attention-grabber and conversation-sparker. In no time, the chitchat gravitated to current affairs and speculation about which leading politico's body may have been replaced.

By the end of the evening there was unanimity among the merrymakers. Though Ariel Sharon may look, sound, and move like his old self, he's no Arik. We hypothesized elaborate scenarios about his alien abduction, takeover by a mind-controlling physical look-alike, eventual altering of his life-force, and erasure of all emotions and ideals that had moved him previously.

Then someone quipped that "it's as good an explanation as any" for Sharon's bizarre behavior and disquieting surprises, which no longer shock the desensitized population.

Why indeed search for an elusive psychoanalytical diagnosis to account for the settlement champion's out-of-the-blue resort to the term "occupation"? Why construct fanciful concoctions to account for the "constriction minister's" submission to an outsider's road-map-to-ruin? Why burrow for clues to account for the super-hawk's sudden penchant for cowering behind a fence with very mutable lines? Why beat our tired brains trying to account for the quintessential warrior's quizzical propensity for retreat?

We don't need to conjure undying devotion between the PM and his erstwhile produce marketer, who was also the erstwhile father-in-law of Elhanan Tannenbaum, to account for the hardliner's suddenly turning soft on Hizbullah and submitting to its extortionist ransom demands.

THE BODY-SNATCHING theory is as valid as any convoluted cerebral contortion to make sense of the strange goings-on around the national control-board. In fact, it probably makes better sense. The bottom line is that the Sharon currently in the prime minister's office isn't the Arik we once loved or feared, each according to his/her political predilection.

Someone inhabiting Arik's exact likeness is behaving in ways diametrically opposed to Arik's. Thus the very notion that Sharon today can regret Begin's refusal to allow the Egyptian army into Sinai boggles the mind. The whole idea was to make the Sinai vastness a buffer, military movement into which would tip Israel off in time to counter any offensive. The basic logic was to keep the still-menacing Egyptian military machine away from Gaza, the historic highway for numerous invasions of Eretz Yisrael. The rationale was to prevent a re-enactment of 1948, when attacking Egyptian forces endangered Tel Aviv.

Equally mind-blowing is the notion of these chillingly unfriendly Egyptians curtailing weapons smuggling into Gaza. Who's Arik kidding? These are the very Egyptians who at present aid and abet such illicit arms-supplies. They honestly caution that they've no intention of becoming our guardians, so why should we delude ourselves otherwise and not take their word for it?

We already tried to entrust our fragile defense into enemy hands (the Oslo fiasco), and see where that brilliant stroke got us. Who's to guarantee that the latest gamble would pay off, while its predecessor literally keeps exploding in our faces?

How do we know we can now trust Sharon's professed omniscient wisdom any more than we could safely swallow his assurances on the eve of the swap that brought Tannenbaum back? That deal, which only risked returning terrorists to their training bases, was finally exposed as a folly at best. Sharon's grander schemes could risk lots more.

Even his words erode our position. Only the concessions remain, none of the compensations. In the Tannenbaum affair, we didn't rescue a tortured compatriot. Israel's 14 road-map reservations are forgotten. The security fence's beyond-the-Green-Line bulges are fast disappearing, and the mooted annexations in return for a Gaza withdrawal are ephemeral red herrings.

Only dupes would put their trust in anything Sharon advocates or extraterrestrial duplicates.

Maybe Sharon isn't the only leading Likud light snatched. That would explain not only his increasing strangeness but also the lack of resistance from his party's cabinet contingent. Perhaps the Likud ministers too aren't who they claim to be. Their reactions also appear eerily modified. They don't seem to be themselves. That's what comes of prevaricating, acquiescing, letting one's guard down, shutting the eyes.

Indeed, in the relentlessly haunting flick, zombie-like aliens propagate only when folks sleep, when they aren't vigilant. The dormant victim is replaced by an emotionless drone. Eventually the entire town is possessed by pod changelings, and everything is threatened.

The B-picture's original name was Sleep No More. A message for us?