Sharon's willing accomplices
Bush and Blair will share in the historic guilt Israel will bear for the crimes of Sharon, writes Haim Bresheeth*
Like a ventriloquist dummy speaking the words of its master, we heard the world's most powerful man reciting a script written in Jerusalem by one responsible for bathing the Middle East in blood for decades. This most bizarre spectacle -- Bush unable to answer a simple question, repeating key phrases like a broken automaton -- was then followed by the even more bizarre suggestion by Blair that this was not a departure from what was policy in Washington and London for decades.
For those who were shocked by Bush's retreat from his own nonsense programme -- the celebrated roadmap -- let us recall the conditions that led to this creature's birth. It was Tony Blair who worked out that moving towards a political solution on Palestine may elicit Arab favour at a time most needed before the US and the UK went to war on Iraq. The plan worked. Now the roadmap is tossed like a rotten apple. Bush, reading from his new script, dubbed Sharon's plan "historic and courageous", presenting it as a fresh start in Middle East history.
In Sharon's book, Bush is just another pawn. Important as he is at the moment, he serves the master plan of ridding Palestine of its people -- a result to which Sharon has committed his life's work. American presidents come and go while Sharon stands firm for decades, defeating all obstacles in his tireless, barbaric mission. With the help he now gets from Bush and Blair, he may yet complete his mission.
Sharon was the one to pioneer collective punishment and mass murder in the early 1950s as the creator and commander of Israel's first notorious death squad, Unit 101. His early military career was spent in killing: not enemy soldiers but civilians in villages such as Kibyia. In Gaza during the early 1970s, he instigated a reign of terror, supposedly designed to end Palestinian resistance to the occupation. It was really another phase in his lifelong struggle to make as many Palestinians as possible flee their own homeland. He destroyed large parts of Beirut, and killed tens of thousands in his Lebanon war of 1982, in his obsessive hunt of Arafat and the PLO. As is well known, his campaigns have not been fully successful. Gaza has become the centre of Palestinian resistance and Arafat returned to Palestine after Oslo. But one of his other campaigns is about to mature: it is, of course, the grand project of settlements in the occupied territories.
If there is one man who can say he is responsible for the network of settlements, numbering hundreds and housing more than half a million Israelis, it is Ariel Sharon. As minister in whatever ministry he served, he only had one agenda and single-minded priority: to enlarge the settlements and strengthen them, surround all Palestinian towns and villages with roads which dissect their land yet are closed to them; with roadblocks cutting off village from village, farmers from their lands, workers from their jobs, water from habitations, children from schools and patients from hospitals. Four million Palestinians are living in total isolation in conditions that resemble more and more those experienced by Jews in ghettoes under Nazi control.
The constant battering of Arafat in Ramallah, the death sentence declared, now delivered, against all Palestinian leadership, the Apartheid wall, and now the Bush declaration where the settlements emerge fresh and clean-smelling, have all been phases in the Sharon project of closing all options for Palestinian life and existence. The aim here is not to get rid of the resistance to occupation, but to inflame the situation constantly, until a "final solution" to the Palestinian "problem" can be initiated. The continued resistance only fuels the Sharon fire: he will hit at the Palestinians come what may, but the resistance helps him to get Bush and Blair on board and to get credit for a plan which is against every tenet of international law.
In the sickening climate of fear that has now engulfed the US and the rest of the West, the damage that such moves will inflict on the rule of international law is not even being considered. Neither are comments by Arab or Palestinian voices. Both failures are signs of the political disease that took hold in the West, infecting its societies. The reign of terror and unreason hailed by Bin Laden has only been accepted and enhanced by Bush and Blair, not to mention Sharon.
The Bush move is likely to embolden Sharon further into ever-increasing attacks on Palestinian life, gradually but surely leading towards the goal to which he dedicated his life. The next stage for Sharon is the physical removal of most, if not all, Palestinians from their homeland. Currently, the unlawful military control of the territories occupied in 1967, made Kosher by Rabbi Bush, gives Israel over 90 per cent of Palestine. In that area lives just over five million Israeli Jews while four million Palestinians are consigned to a ghetto encompassing less than 10 per cent of their own country. But that achievement is not enough for Sharon. The next stage is "transfer" -- the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Bush and Blair's support for this man of blood brings such a moment closer. While Sharon is a master in breaking international law, he would have never got away with it without the backing and support of the most powerful nation on earth, with the UK holding its train slavishly. The responsibility for the blood, misery and global mayhem that Sharon is yet to cause will be shared by those who have enabled his criminal actions, and by those who stood by and let it happen.
* The writer is an Israeli academic working at the University of East London. He is the co- editor of The Gulf War and the New World Order , published by Zed Books.