Ebrahim Moosa – Cii Broadcasting (05-06-12
It is an axiom that has held true across the ages. Tyrants get the deaths they deserve. From the Quranic narratives of the liquidation of arrogant Pharoah and his ilk to the more contemporary spectacles involving dictators across the world, the endings have always proven to be mired with blood, regret and humiliation However, it doesn’t always take an assassination, lynching or supernatural occurance to guarantee an ignominious end. Many tyrants turn out to be the talented authors of their own destruction. Take the Soviet ruler Stalin, for instance. When the manic murderer of some 20 million Russians suffered a stroke in 1953, he lay in his own urine for more than 12 hours before his fearful guards decided to call a doctor. These too were in short supply, as he had only recently arrested dozens of physicians on suspicion of treason. As his daughter later observed, “the death agony was terrible. He literally choked to death as we watched.”
Many would argue that Ariel Sharon is facing a similar predicament. Yet, even taking a leaf out of the book of the tormentors of old, the case of the former Israeli leader is altogether more curious. It has been almost 6 long years now, since he transcended into a comatose state and there is still no apparent indication of a possible end to his ordeal.
I still recall the day in December 2005, when, as a young intern in the Cii Newsroom, I was tasked to record a soundbyte regarding the stroke just suffered by the then Prime Minister Sharon. Barely a month later, Sharon suffered a second – and far more serious – stroke that involved a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Numerous attempts were made to rehabilitate him, but the progress had been negligible. Within hours, he was declared incapable of discharging his leadership duties and on April 14, 2006 his term of office formally ended, making Ehud Olmert Israel’s new leader.
Today, just as then, the former Israeli strongman lies near-motionless in the long-term care ward of the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. Though there is much silence on his general condition, medical experts indicate that his cognitive abilities were destroyed by the stroke, and that he is in a persistent vegetative state with slim chances of regaining consciousness. In 2010, a hospital manager involved in Sharon’s care said that he had no chance of recovery, adding that it was instinct to “provide hope and say that because he is alive there is a chance he will wake up, but this is never going to happen.” The doctor stated that his brain was “the size of a grapefruit”, but that mysteriously, “the part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs,” was still intact. Beyond that though, he added, “there is nothing, just fluid.”
Since the 1980s, Sharon’s appetite and obesity had made him somewhat of a legend in Israel. He was suspected to suffer from chronic high blood pressure and high cholesterol and was reputed to weigh approximately 120kg. He was a daily consumer of cigars, luxury foods, and spirits. Numerous attempts were made by doctors, friends and staff to impose a balanced diet on him, but they never succeeded. These days, the 84 year old patient is fed through a tube and reportedly weighs a mere 50 kilograms.
Estimates convey that caring for Mr Sharon costs the State of Israel no less than $400,000 a year. As a precaution, he is fitted with an oxygen mask each night. A team of nurses keeps moving his body to prevent pressure sores, and an extra nurse is on duty 24 hours a day to monitor him. His sons say that sometimes his eyelids open suddenly, and can stay open for hours at a time. For them, it is a sign that rekindles the hope that he may still recover one day. For me though, it had my mind reeling back to a striking parallel I found in the chilling testimony of one Janet Stevens, an American journalist and researcher, who was among the first people to visit the camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982, a day after the occurance of an unspeakable massacre for which Ariel Sharon was later charged by an Israeli Commission to be “personally responsible.”
Writing at the time to her partner Dr. Franklin Lamb, she testified: “I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an alley wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles.” [Emphasis mine] Upto 3500 Palestinians were killed in the three day orgy of death by Christian Phalange militiamen acting with the consent and guidance of the Israeli military, under the command of then-Defense minister Ariel Sharon. No adjectives existed to describe the tragedy. Anger and shockwaves were felt worldwide. Though initially resistant, Sharon was soon forced to resign from his post, and it was recommended that he be barred for life from holding public office in Israel.
Victims of the Sabra and Shatila Massacres in 1982
Today, the events at Sabra and Shatila during September 15-18 1982 are considered the single bloodiest incident in decades of Israeli aggression. But for Ariel Sharon, the aggression was far from being an once-off occurance.
Since its inception, Ariel Sharon played a significant role in the annals of the State of Israel. He was a soldier and general who fought in every war and was no stranger to bloodshed. As early as 1953, he liquidated, in a most brutal fashion, the West Bank village of Kibya killing 69 Palestinians. Original documents from the time reveal that Sharon personally ordered his troops to achieve “maximal killing and damage to property.”
Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, he championed the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, overseeing the establishment of hundreds of these illegal outposts. He was once quoted as saying: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Judean) hilltops as they can to enlarge the (Jewish) settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”
One of the “bulldozer’s” most lethal moves was the provocative visit to Masjidul Aqsa, the third Holiest site in Islam, in September 2000 that was widely considered to be the trigger for the second Intifada. More than 5000 Palestinians lost their lives in the ensuing violence. Thanks to Ariel Sharon, Palestinian society also moved backwards and lost the ability to keep up with infrastructural and technological advancements.
In 2002, US President George W. Bush, already infamous for his own right-wing policies, hailed Sharon as a “man of peace.” Yet, in both action and words, Ariel Sharon has consistently spoken a different language.
In 2002, George W. Bush declared Ariel Sharon to be a “Man of Peace”
In his 1984 book, In the Land of Israel, Israeli writer Amos Oz reproduces revealing excerpts from interviews he conducted with an anonymous figure believed to be Sharon. Replicated below is only one of many such quotes which even had Oz feeling most uneasy.
“Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us, to pull the rug from underneath the feet of the Diaspora Jews, so that they will be forced to run to us crying. Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don’t care. And I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal.”
“Arik” may not have secured his date with the law, but he has been granted a rendezvous with his conscience instead. Maysam Yusef, a youth activist in Gaza says she remembers seeing many mothers, during the days of the Intifada, who were grieving over the loss of their loved ones, praying that a day might come in which Ariel Sharon suffers, to the extent that the only relief for him would be death- but that, that too would prove too elusive for him. “They wished that he stays hanging between life and death without being able to tell how much he’s suffering and never find any salvation.”
She continues. “For me he embodies the inevitable end of those who thought that their power would give them eternity. Those who thought that they can control and decide who would live and who would die. I have learned that history only remembers and glorifies those who devoted their lives for the sake of humanity according to the natural standards of reserving humans’ dignity and respect, although many of them did not get any power or material control over people or resources. But the ones whom during their life had obtained all kinds of powers and people sub-consciously come to a point where they actually thought that such people are God-like and will never come down or die. No one now mentions Ariel Sharon. No one actually remembers him after he was the man of the hour, the subject of all talks about greatness and ultimate leverage. Now even his own sons hardly visit him.”