Doubting Muslims, Jews and Christians of the world may now exalt and ululate in their disparate tongues, for the laying low of the wall-eyed ethnic-cleanser known as Ariel Sharon suggests there may yet be a God progressive monotheists can get behind. Indeed, Sharon’s fate seems to fit neatly into ‘wrath of God’ framework in its details; there may be no more a fitting fate for Sharon than to exist in a permanent vegetative state. The Israeli maximalist, who grew fat on a diet of corruption and graft and lived on a ranch built on twice stolen property–stolen first from Palestinians and then from his own people via a little known homesteader law meant to induce low-income Israeli cannon fodder to populate the outer realms of the new apartheid experiment–will now waste away before the eyes of all of his supporters, much like, with any luck, their dreams of a greater Israel built on the ruins of Palestine.
So much for being honest. I am sure that many Israelis feel the same way about their Prime Minister, and his current position at death’s door has not likely altered the opinions of his opponents on the marginalized Israeli left. Sharon was once censured by his own government for participating, as Defense Minister, in the events that led to the slaughter of hundreds—possibly thousands—of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. At that time, protest crowds of tens of thousands chanted death to his name and public pressure against the invasion of Lebanon and Sharon himself, eventually led to motions for his removal from office, a fate he narrowly avoided by resigning. Indeed, Sharon enjoys no popular mandate; while he was elected in 2001 by 67% of voters, only 60% of the Israeli electorate turned out for the election; essentially, Sharon was supported by less than 40% of Israeli voters. Indeed, the Israeli election of 2001 had the lowest turnout in Israeli voter history, which mirrored the wide-spread disillusionment Israelis felt in their government, where doves and hawks varied only by degrees in their rhetoric and often not at all in their policies. Failed cynical final solutions, billed as peace plans and named after harmless sounding European capitals, have led only to further erosion of Israeli security with the added existential burden of guilt for the increased marginalization of the Palestinian people.
You’d never know any of this if it were left up to the our nation’s newspapers. The New York Times couldn’t find an Israeli with a negative comment about the man on the day he lapsed into a coma (Sharon in Critical Condition after Suffering “Extensive” Stroke, 1/05/06), though there is significant opposition to his policies and well-known corruption. News of Sharon’s imminent indictment for his malfeasant campaign finance shenanigans has also disappeared, though Sharon’s son Omri, a former Knesset member, has already been indicted on similar charges in the affair.
Despite Sharon’s illegal land grab in the form of the ‘security wall’, his human rights violations during several offensives in the West Bank and Gaza, his brazen rejection of the US’s watered-down ‘roadmap’ peace proposals and negotiations with his Palestinian Authority counterparts and his outspoken commitment to retaining major West Bank settlements in perpetuity, the Washington Post described Sharon’s break-away political party, Kadima, as supportive of ‘peace talks with Palestinians’ (1/4/05). The Post went a step further by referring to Sharon’s so-called Gaza withdrawal and his plan to annex West Bank settlements as “centrist” positions, though the paper admits that the moves were meant “to separate the fast-growing Palestinian population from Israel to ensure that Israel’s Jews remain the majority”, which would sound a lot like a scheme to institutionalize apartheid if we weren’t talking about the US’s favorite ethnically exclusive nation (1/6/05).
Likewise, the San Francisco Chronicle in a front page ‘news analysis’ marveled at Sharon’s peace “innovations”–the security wall and the Gaza disengagement–both thinly veiled land grabs which, instead of leading to a Palestinian state, can only lead to a morass of discontinuous cantons and the annexation of Israeli settlement areas. The paper acknowledges that Sharon founded the settler movement at the heart of the current conflict and that he also contributed to sparking the current military escalation by entering the Muslim-only Haraam Al Shareef with a contingent of hundreds of gun-toting security officers, but such acts are, apparently, to be ignored when evaluating the lineage of his policies. Viewed as a whole, however, Sharon’s legacy does, indeed appear to be that of a clever series of innovations. Sharon’s settler movement inserted Israeli citizens into Palestinian areas, recasting Israel’s occupation as a dispute over conflicting claims of sovereignty. The occupation allows Israel to shield its military bases with civilian communities and allows those civilian communities to arm themselves and operate as unaccountable paramilitary terror forces.
Clever provocations of Palestinians, such as Sharon’s blatant desecration of the Haraam al Shareef, foment retaliation which justify military operations that have been months or even years in planning–like those implemented since 2000, which have drastically changed the political map of the area. Such military plans, carried out with little substantive opposition from the international community, have laid the ground-work for the ingenious separation fence, which cleverly subsumes key areas of Palestinian land while shifting the battle for Palestinian land rights to a completely new level. Palestinians caught within the seam of the wall are now required to apply for semi-yearly permits simply to continue living in their houses and property; the Palestinian struggle for a just end to the occupation must also include the very immediate battle for those in the ‘seam’ to remain on their land in six months time. Sharon’s latest hat-trick, the Gaza disengagement, while inconveniencing a New York block’s worth of settlers, isolates Gaza politically and economically from the West Back and turns it into a perpetual Al Quadified ghetto on which to pin justifications for further unilateral actions.
Should Sharon die, however, it seems unlikely he will be remembered as a ruthless and insidious innovator of Israel’s proprietary brand of apartheid by mainstream media. No doubt, he will be eulogized in the obituary pages of our nation’s papers of record as a man of peace who made bold sacrifices to negotiate with reluctant Palestinians. Therefore, its better that he linger in coma for a few years, at least to delay the torture of his public canonization as yet another Israeli leader who devoted his life to the pursuit of peace.