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Sharon Keeps His Avenging Sword Unsheathed

by Linda S Heard  (29 April 2004)

Yesterday was Holocaust Day, commemorated in Israel at the Yad Vashem Memorial when millions worldwide stood in silence. No decent person can recall the horrors perpetrated against six million Jews and millions of others without feeling sickened at man's inhumanity to man. Nobody with any compassion can learn of those men, women and children whose normal lives were cut short by a gang of thugs out to dominate Europe, if not the world.

Speaking at the ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reported by Ha'aretz as saying the State of Israel does not forget the acts of those who in the past have hated the people of Israel. He said it was for this reason that "we won't let the murderers of today and those of tomorrow hurt our people. Those who dare to do so will be harmed. Our face is toward peace, but the defending sword will not be returned to its sheath."

The problem is that Sharon's "defending sword" has become an avenging sword. He is so suffused with raw hatred that he cannot distinguish between enemy and potential friend. Not for him a process of forgiveness and reconciliation in the way that Nelson Mandela forgave the apartheid regime that took away 28 years of his life. Mandela must seem weak to Sharon, who instead would have emerged from incarceration breathing fire and brimstone.

Worse, Sharon's avenging sword is being indiscriminately cast about, steeped in the blood of women, children, and the elderly, people who were not even born at the time of the Holocaust. Even if he were to take the position that the sins of the fathers should be visited on their children, what did the Palestinian people have to do with herding Jews into gas chambers? At the time those crimes were being committed, they were on their land tending their flocks and their olive groves, their orange and lemon orchards, catching fish, carving olive wood. They were peaceful people who lived among their neighbors in harmony without distinguishing whether those neighbors were Muslims, Jews or Christians.

It was during and after the Holocaust that an ideology called Zionism led Jews fleeing from Europe to Palestine, their promised land. Most of them were secular Jews searching for a place of refuge, and initially the indigenous Palestinian people welcomed them in the belief that they came to live side-by-side with them. The rest is history. Today the persecuted have become the persecutors.

While some of us still shed a tear for those who died at the hand of the Nazis, who is crying for the Palestinians herded into Bantustans, open jails surrounded by barbed wire? Whose sword is at the ready to defend a defenseless people who are constantly subjected to humiliation and have no right to return? We know about these atrocities and yet we turn a blind eye, shrug our shoulders and often go along with the blatant lies being put out by Israeli leaders and their political masters in the White House.

We are deaf to the pleas of the Palestinians, most of whom are not seeking revenge but do need justice. Despite over half a century of disappointment and struggle, the Palestinian leadership asks for a negotiated settlement. They want their own viable state and in the interim want the international community so eager to come forward when it comes to the Balkans or Kuwait or to pursue a pre-emptive war against Iraq to step in and keep the peace. The Palestinian people want what we all do: a life free from violence, a place of work so that they can feed and educate their children and a house which they can truly call home, not one that can be demolished on a whim by armor plated troops. They are crying out for our help. As our screens fill with images of Israeli tanks rumbling into refugee camps, or Apache assassination-ships circling in search of their prey, we in climate-controlled safety say to ourselves: "Will this Middle East nonsense never stop?"

Israel has turned into an uncontrollable monster while we weren't looking or, rather, while we didn't bother to see. It is a law unto itself. It doesn't need weapons inspectors running around its nuclear, biological and chemical sites. It isn't chastised for the thousands of Palestinians who have lost their lives at its hand; the hundreds of thousands of injured or those who languish in its jails. Why? Because the US, with which it has a very special relationship as "the only democracy in the Middle East" shields it and funds it lavishly.

In this "democracy" with which US leaders say their country has "shared values", Arab citizens earn 44 percent less than Jewish workers doing the same job. In this democracy a Jew from anywhere in the world, even one with a single Jewish grandparent, can become a citizen, whereas a Christian or a Muslim whose family hailed from Haifa or Ashdod, Jaffa or Jerusalem is often banned from entering, let alone settling.

As Sharon's grin grew wider when he stood with Bush in the Rose Garden waving a piece of paper which gives him carte blanche to keep huge settlements on the West Bank and deny the Palestinians their legitimate right of return, those of us who cared knew that that letter was stained with yet more Palestinian and Israeli blood. The murder of Hamas leader Abdelaziz Al-Rantissi which followed with such conspicuous swiftness was just the beginning.

Bush, Sharon and even Britain's Blair called the signing away of Palestinian rights "a historic moment". Let history be the judge.

- The Palestine Chronicle

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revised 18 November 2005