The myth-making started immediately. On 6 January, as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lay unconscious after suffering a massive stroke, the Sydney Morning Herald’s page-one headline read: ‘Peace hopes hang by a thread.’ The message was clear: Sharon’s passing would make the chances of a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians even more remote.
On the same day, the paper’s editorial spoke of a man ‘capable of driving his own nationalist side towards the compromise necessary for a peace settlement.’
Thanks to Bill Leak at the Australian
Haven’t we been here before? When PLO leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004, the Australian announced: ‘Death gives peace a chance.’
While Arafat’s death was heralded as the removal of the main impedient to peace, Sharon’s illness is said to be a major blow to the already moribund peace process.
In the days after Sharon’s stroke, Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy wrote that the ‘Sharon legacy’ – ‘a persona entirely different from the real person’ – had been born.
Sharon ‘blatantly ignored the Palestinians,’ wrote Levy. ‘In critical moves such as the [Gaza] disengagement or the construction of the separation fence, he ignored their existence, their needs and their desires. He did not attempt to achieve peace with them, because he did not for a moment believe it was possible.’
The Australian media’s coverage of Sharon’s demise reveals a predictable line. With notable dissenters such as Deakin University’s Scott Burchill – who explained to readers of the Australian that Sharon was in fact an unindicted war criminal – the media elite has preferred to echo the official US and Israeli line, namely, in the words of the Australian editorial on 6 January, that ‘Sharon offered hope to Israelis and Palestinians’.
A few days later, the paper’s Middle East correspondent, Martin Chulov, offered these nonsensical words: ‘The end of the line for Sharon has revealed a sign of the times. Stability has not been brought to the Middle East by Arab wise men, but a Jewish warrior.’ Perhaps the Zionist lobby had rewritten Chulov’s copy before going to print.
Sharon was a butcher. As Israeli Defence Minister in 1982 he led the fateful invasion into Lebanon and caused the needless death of untold thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. He was held ‘personally responsible’ by an Israeli commission for directing the murderous Phalange militias in their rampage through the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. I visited the site of these massacres in early 2005 and discovered a burning rage towards the leader George W Bush labelled a ‘man of peace.’
Robert Fisk reveals the true face of Sharon in his latest work, The Great War for Civilisation:
He voted against the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. He voted against a withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1985. He opposed Israel’s participation in the Madrid peace conference in 1991. He opposed the Knesset plenum vote on the Oslo agreement in 1993. He abstained on a vote for peace with Jordan in 1994. He voted against the Hebron agreement in 1997. He condemned the manner of Israel’s retreat from Lebanon in 2000. By 2002, he had built 34 new Jewish colonies on Palestinian land.
But he has changed in the past few years, we are told. He has realised the folly of his ways. Why else would he have withdrawn from Gaza – upsetting the settler movement in the process – left Likud and formed a new ‘centrist’ party, Kadima?
Quite simply, because he understood the demographic ‘threat’.
Jewish immigration to Israel is low compared to the massive Palestinian growth rate. In a matter of years, Palestinians will outnumber Jews, making Israel even more of an apartheid state. Sharon’s solution? Impose a unilateral move on the Palestinians and accept ongoing low-impact warfare.
Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, wrote recently in Salon:
Sharon, unlike the Likud, understood the threat these demographic trends posed to Israel, and so saw the future as one in which Israel stopped expanding in some directions, instead accepting a fixed territory. It would become a huge gated community, surrounded by seven or eight small enclaves. Each enclave might remain a bad neighbourhood, but gates, punitive raids and assassinations would keep the ghetto dwellers from storming the citadel. The ‘gates’ include checkpoints, highways and a wall that would have made the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi – who built his own Great Wall – proud. It would break up the Palestinian regions into isolated cantons and guarantee that they could never mobilise politically and would remain de facto stateless. It would also preserve the Jewish polity by keeping the Palestinians in their current limbo, prevented from claiming Israeli citizenship even as they are denied a viable state of their own.
It is essential to understand that Sharon had no desire to make true peace with the Palestinians. Zionist propaganda has convinced a weary world that there is ‘no partner’ on the Palestinian side, when, in reality, the opposite is true.
Israel, as it exists today, is unsustainable. Excessive largesse from the US – to the tune of US$3 to US$9 billion annually, including the latest military hardware – cannot continue forever. The Jewish state will soon have to make a decision: does it want to be a truly democratic state, offering full rights for all; or a racially exclusionary entity, giving Jews exclusive rights above all others? The current path suggests the latter.
Even during the past few years, as the world began to warm to Sharon’s apparent change of heart, the occupation has continued unabated. Settlements have expanded, Jewish-only roads been built and olive trees – the economic life-blood of many Palestinians – have been destroyed by zealous settlers, who are rarely prosecuted.
As a Jew, and an anti-Zionist, I will not miss Sharon. He has undoubtedly been a towering figure in the history of Israel and a pioneer of the true Zionist spirit. It is time for that period to be buried.
The likely success of Hamas in upcoming Palestinian elections presents a new challenge for the Jewish state. It will, eventually, be forced to accept the will of the Palestinians. No people deserve to be treated like ‘cockroaches in a bottle’, as former Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan once labelled the Palestinians, and a fresh approach is needed.
Until the Israelis accept that the Palestinians cannot be erased or transferred to a neighbouring Arab country, and the Palestinian leadership is able to take full control of its various factions, a virtually limitless war is inevitable.
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