Denis Staunton (Politics, 13 January 2014) manages to chart some of Ariel Sharon’s war crimes yet still retrieve him as a courageous statesman.
He claims for example, that Sharon’s “unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which involved the evacuation of all Israeli settlers from the strip, demonstrated that the colonisation of Palestinian territory by settlements must not be irreversible.” In fact, the reverse is true. This absurd theatrical public relations exercise by Israel, orchestrated primarily to show the world the difficulty of removing settlers in any future peace deal, was merely a ruse by Israel to camouflage the illegal settlement expansion within the West Bank. In any case Israel still terrorises Gaza by land, sea and air on a daily basis, in what is the largest open air prison in the world.
Sharon’s main legacy, apart from the awful memories of his obvious war crimes, is the permanent state of separation, lockdown and war against the people of Palestine that has attracted the worst forms of xenophobia, racism and hatred within Israel. His twin track approach of demolition and settlement, an open policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territories as part of his vision of a greater Israel, is now normalised and an everyday experience for Palestinians, and seems to be accepted by almost all western political leaders. For example, on 10th December last, 30 Palestinian homes were demolished in the Jordan valley resulting in the displacement of 41 people, including 24 children. Illegal settlements continue apace during the farcical peace talks. Where is the outcry? Instead we have the appalling sycophantic scenes of western leaders praising Sharon.
Sharon’s policy of separation and containment, of demolition and settlement have made the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state practically unachievable. His favourite weapon of war was the bulldozer and he revelled in the demolition of Palestinian homes as much as he enjoyed killing women and children. Presenting him as a courageous statesman is just not credible. The one regret about his passing is the fact that he died before being tried at an international criminal court for his crimes against the Palestinians. The way to counter his memory is to intensify the struggle of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against his awful legacy of what is now unquestionably an apartheid, racist state.