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January 29, 2014

Wikipedia's "Lion of God" Bites Journos

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Fittingly for a man with such a varied life, Ariel Sharon was known by many nicknames. The troops under his command in the Yom Kippur War famously dubbed him "Arik, King of Israel." Supporters and critics alike referred to Sharon as "the Bulldozer." Following the massacres by Lebanese Christian militia at Sabra and Shatilla, many in Arab world called him the "Butcher of Beirut."

But numerous recent news reports cited a nickname which appears to have no historical basis:

CNN:

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Sharon earned the nickname "The Lion of God" among Israelis for surrounding Egypt's Third Army and, defying orders, leading 200 tanks and 5,000 men across the Suez Canal -- roughly 100 miles from Cairo.

New York Post:

Dubbed the “Lion of God,” Sharon, 85, goes down in history as a maverick military leader

The Sunday Times:

On January 4, 2006 Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister of Israel, one of the founding fathers of the state and a warrior known as “the Lion of God”, suffered a massive stroke and cerebral haemorrhage that would have killed a weaker man.

BBC:

Such was his reputation as a military commander that some accounts of his army career say he was nicknamed the Lion of God after a particularly daring tactical parachute operation against Egypt in 1967 in the Sinai desert.

Al-Jazeera

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he earned the nickname ‘The Lion of God'

Lion of God is an unlikely nickname for a man whose Hebrew first name is Ariel. The name Ariel could and has been interpreted as meaning lion of God, (Ari=Lion El=God) though it is more commonly associated with Jerusalem. In other words, in Hebrew, Sharon's given name is indistinguishable from the supposed "Lion of God" nickname.

Moreover, comprehensive searches for historic references to Sharon as "Lion of God" did not turn up any results prior to 2012. Exhaustive online searches in Hebrew and English and in various biographies did not yield a single example of anyone ever having referred to him as the "Lion of God." Likewise, the head of Israel's state archives, a historian in his own right, had never heard of this moniker for Sharon.

The earliest known reference to "Lion of God" as a nickname for the late prime minister is Wikipedia's entry for "Ariel Sharon." According to the edit history, the reference to "Lion of God" was added on March 2, 2012:

Sharon was considered the greatest field commander in Israel's history, and one of the country's greatest military strategists.[2] After his assault of the Sinai in the Six-Day War and his encirclement of the Egyptian Third Army in the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli public nicknamed him "The King of Israel," and "The Lion of God",[2] a pun on his given name.

Wikipedia's supposed source for the nickname, a 1982 New York Magazine article on Sharon, does not at all mention "Lion of God." In response to CAMERA's query, the Wikipedia editor responsible for the "Lion of God" addition could not cite any other source. The Wikipedia page has yet to be corrected.

Whether or not Ariel Sharon was known as the "Lion of God" is of little historical consequence.

What is notable, however, is that all too many respectable media outlets (and Al-Jazeera) have apparently not drawn the necessary conclusions about relying on Wikipedia following the 2009 phony quote fiasco.

-- By Gidon Shaviv

Posted by TS at January 29, 2014 05:21 AM

Comments

I was in the IFF during the late 60's, in uniform & media during 10-1973, never once heard such rubbish, than, or later, all new to me, other than the hebrew similarities between Arik- which is really ARI, my lion or young lion, the k is added as a form of speaking to a child, my little Ari=Arik, or when fondly speaking of Ari-as Arik, but this other stuff is pure home made rubbish.

Posted by: Al Sheeber at January 29, 2014 02:49 PM

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