Another Tack: In the name of the father

What a tearjerker! What heartbreak! So much orchestrated media compassion for poor Omri on his entry into durance vile. Such orchestrated media angst about the new inmate’s quality of life behind bars. Such orchestrated media lamentations about the excessiveness of the sentence. Such orchestrated media downplay of the crime. Such orchestrated media insinuation about the blamelessness of this pitiable convict ex-Knesset member, former political master-manipulator and one-time “director-general of the state,” who accrued clout solely via the luck of lineage.

Omri is former premier Ariel Sharon’s son, his right-hand boy, his campaign manager, his dirty-tricks agent, his circumventer of legal inconveniences, and the hard-nosed imposer of the imperial family’s ruthless will.

Even cursory exposure to orchestrated media downpour of weepy sentimentality made it easy to forget what inordinate power this offender – escorted to jail by dozens of newsmen, camera crews and trendsetting well-wishers – once wielded without the electorate’s sanction.

Omri was a parliamentarian who never so much as proposed one subclause of legislation or bothered to debate any issue. Few ever heard his voice, as befits the shadowy behind-the-scenes puller of political strings.

When sympathetic media so decree, even a callous and calculating flimflammer’s felonies can be expediently minimized. Political correctness can make Omri appear as guiltless a pawn of an overzealous prosecution as Gerry Conlon – the ne’er-do-well Irish petty thief sentenced to a long stretch for a bombing he didn’t perpetrate.

Syrupy speculation about the rough reality Omri was to encounter on “the inside” (in the most minimal of minimum security facilities) called to mind images from In the Name of the Father, the movie classic which effectively (if inaccurately) immortalized Conlon’s ordeal. Played by no less than Daniel Day-Lewis, the lead character is stripped, hosed down with cold water, doused with delousing powder, issued a uniform, shoved into a cell and turned into a statistic. The process of dehumanization begins.

SUCH SHOCK, suggested endless and pointless media chatter, is what awaited Omri. The talking heads’ hearts went out to their celebrity martyr. They waxed indignant about the inequity that required him to do time. They omitted noting that he pled guilty to a slew of corruption, fraud and perjury charges. A panel of Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected his contention that he was overpunished and judged that what was meted out to him was hardly harsh considering the gravity of his offenses.

Omri got breaks no ordinary conmen – no matter how distressing their personal situations – would dream of. Sentenced to only nine months following a 2005 plea bargain, Omri later managed to trim two months off the already derisory term (with time off for good behavior, he’ll do 4.5 months). He then successfully postponed his incarceration and appealed to have his sentence commuted because he’s supposedly called upon to care for his comatose father at Sheba Hospital. The robust, self-sufficient 43-year-old further cited his mother’s death (eight years ago) as an extenuating circumstance and grounds for leniency.

Media-resonated mythology absolves orphan Omri of cynical self-interest and ascribes to him motives of near altruism. He only tried to replace his mother as Arik’s mainstay. However, it’s doubtful that the late Lily Sharon, much as she adulated and coddled her man, ever packed the Likud central committee with questionable outsiders to deliberately skew its democratic processes.

Omri himself called his rogue recruits “Indians,” counted on them as unthinking minions and dismissed them intellectually as inferior dark-skinned opportunists, out for whatever perks they could derive from their lucrative mercenary status. Much was made at the time of Omri’s low-esteem for his hirelings, but the “Indians,” fully realizing on which side their bread was buttered, refused to let go of their temporal advantage even for honor’s sake.

But that’s not why he was indicted. Indeed, his exploitation of “Indian” warriors in the sacred mission of imposing disengagement on the party (after it rejected the travesty in its referendum) convinced media hotshots to take a shine to Omri. Though beforehand opinion-molders viscerally reviled the Sharons, they conferred unreserved protection upon them as soon as father and sons claimed to perceive from their elevated perch what previously eluded them. Their new insight miraculously meshed with that of Peace Now’s agenda.

This ideological flip-flop was triggered by looming legal travails. In his 2000 report, the state comptroller revealed substantial financing irregularities in the elder Sharon’s 1999 primary campaign. These included receiving sums far exceeding anything the law allowed in contributions from home and abroad. Omri’s signature appears on documents transferring these illicit amounts to the essentially fabricated Annex Research polling firm.

Next, Omri’s elaborate cover-up plot spawned the Cyril Kern entanglement, the lethargic investigation into which was halted by Arik’s stroke. To endear themselves to Israel’s most influential judicial and journalistic cliques – and thereby secure de facto immunity – the Sharons made themselves the means to Peace Now’s ends and made 9,000 patriotic Israelis homeless.

THE TROUBLE for Omri personally, nevertheless, was that – while his dad and brother Gilad were spared – the political about-face came too late to stick spokes in every already-spinning prosecution wheel. The paper trail led indisputably to Omri, who had to serve as his family’s whipping boy.

His newfound patrons can now do little more than decry his fate and paint Omri as a hapless victim of a system that spared other political swindlers. True, Ehud Barak and his 1999 campaign manager Isaac Herzog escaped justice for undeniably greater transgressions (the comptroller in the same 2000 report called their network of bogus NGOs – masquerading as charities to funnel funds into Barak’s campaign coffers – “the greatest election scam ever”).

Quite possibly the Sharons willfully double-crossed their own voters in order to acquire the very same prosecutorial indulgence accorded darlings of the Left like Barak.

However, previous outrageous preferential treatment for the establishment’s favored sons doesn’t justify adding insult to injury. Little compares with the disastrous bottom-line consequences to national morale, security and deterrence of Omri’s sins, even if he took the fall “in the name of the father.”

Omri has nothing else in common with Gerry Conlon – certainly not wrongful imprisonment.

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