19 Nov 2012

A call for the 'flattening of all Gaza'

In a time of conflict and trauma somewhere else in the world, many of us turn to the media in that area to search out public attitudes to what is happening. In Israel one turns to the Jerusalem Post for a mainstream conservative view. One turns to Haraatz for a minority more liberal view.

So it was, in the midst of the devastating bombardment of Gaza, that I found my way to a prominent front-page article by Gilad Sharon in the Jerusalem Post, and this extraordinary demand: “We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too”.

But who is Gilad Sharon? Is he a journalist, a pundit, a politician? He proves to be the son of the former hardline prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. Sharon is still alive six years after a massive stroke drove him from power to his present persistent vegetative state.

It was Sharon who was blamed indirectly by the official Israeli Kahan Commission for the massacre of between 800 and 3,500 Palestinian refugees (depending whose numbers you believe) in the Sabra and Shatila camps during the war with Lebanon in 1982. But it was Sharon too who forced the 9,500 Israeli settlers to leave Gaza.

Sharon remains a vast figure in Israel’s history. A warrior leader, he had a vision for Israel that consolidated the country behind its current borders,  eventually conceivably leaving the West Bank just as he had evacuated Gaza.

He was bitterly criticised and challenged by today’s prime minister Netanyahu. He has seen hundreds of thousands of new settlers set up home in the occupied West Bank over the last decade. These have resulted in settlements that have rendered the possibility of a ‘two state’ peace solution all but dead.

Sharon’s military record as a general from the 1948 war that led to the establishment of Israel, to Suez, and the Six Day War, still render him a national Israeli hero, even as he lies incommunicado.

Hence an utterance from his son, who claimed (in the New York Times in October 2011) to be able to “communicate” with his father, carries more weight than any old Gilad Sharon might carry. That the article appears in a mainstream Israeli newspaper like the Jerusalem Post gives it added weight.

Amid the continuing exchanges of violence, however ill-balanced, ultimately the international community that brought about the formal existence of Israel has let down Israelis and Palestinians alike. History will judge the Oslo process a period of time wasting.

The military and financial indulgence of factions across the Middle East by key international players has fueled extremism on all sides. The ingredients for a wider, even more devastating conflict are in place. An Israeli ground war, if it proceeds, is in danger of infecting every country in the region. Bloodied Syria, tottering Jordan, tense Lebanon, emerging Egypt, are all hugely vulnerable.

Hence what appears to be a mainstream tolerated call for the annihilation of an entire people is itself a grim warning as to just how far matters have gone.

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