Ebrahim Moosa – Cii 20 November 2012
Even as he lies near motionless, hanging between life and death on his hospital bed and exacting a heavy financial toll on the Israeli taxpayer, the warmongering spirit kindled by Ariel Sharon appears to be alive and flourishing in Israel’s latest altercation with the Occupied Palestinians.
The former Israeli Prime Minister, who will soon be entering his seventh year of ‘custody’ in a vegetative state, was renowned for his hawkish pronouncements on the Palestinians. In statements attributed to the Kadima leader, he is recorded exhorting Israelis to grab Palestinian hilltops, expand illegal settlements and liquidate Palestinians.
For Israelis however, Sharon also represents the politician who took the “bold” step of disengaging from Gaza, and terminating Israel’s direct military presence on its soil.
This “courageous” move however has failed to reap the envisaged outcomes for the Zionist State years after its enactment. As Israel still maintains it occupation of Gaza through tight control of its borders, air and coast, it has inevitably found itself repeatedly on a collision course with its residents. Its desire to extinguish the democratic choice of the Palestinians has only exacerbated the situation.
Now weeks before another Israeli election, the Zionist military has decided once again to re-engage with Gaza. Ratcheting up approval ratings of 90% from the Israeli population for the war effort, the government has been emboldened to achieve the goals Operation Pillar of Defence, launching over 1000 air strikes on the besieged territory in less than a week, killing important resistance leaders, liquidating entire families and devastating its civilian infrastructure.
But even as international calls for a ceasefire mount, and evidence of possible war crimes again surface, many voices in Israel this time are baying for a “decisive conclusion” to the conflict. An outspoken custodian of the Sharon legacy, his son Gilad this week enumerated what exactly this critical measure required.
“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods 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. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,” Sharon wrote Monday in the right-wing Jerusalem Post.
Acknowledging the high cost such an operation would have on Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure, he wrote that “the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.”
Just like his father before him, the younger Sharon exhibited a logic that depicted the Palestinians as lesser beings. In his piece he justified military action against ordinary Gazans, forcefully asserting that civilians had to “pay the price” to guarantee Israel’s lasting security. “The desire to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.”
His sentiments found a resonance with many in the Israeli society and establishment. Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party exhorted soldiers to kill Palestinians without thought or mercy.”Beloved soldiers and commanders – preserve your lives! Don’t give a hoot about Goldstone! There are no innocents in Gaza…there are no righteous men, turn it into rubble. Paint it red!” the HaKol HaYehudi website quoted him saying.
A prominent Rabbi said the Israeli army should learn from the Syrians how to crush the enemy, whilst for his part Israeli Interior minister Eli Yishai said the goal of the current military operation was to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.
Observers cite this widespread prevalence of incitement as evidence of the alarming shift of Israeli society to the right. Politics aside, Palestinians under incessant Israeli barrage in Gaza are more wont to portend the consequences of such heartlessness.
As the echoes of Ariel Sharon become louder in Israel, they point to his near motionless body as evidence that the “decisive conclusion” of all oppressors is not a bang, but just a whimper. In the words of Gazan resident Maysam Yusuf: “
For me he(Ariel Sharon) 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.”
“May your children die, you dogs”: As Gaza burns, Israelis bay for blood in streets of Tel Aviv
“They don’t deserve to live, they need to die”
“May your children die, you dogs”
“Now we want to go back there [to Gaza] and kick out all the Arabs.”
“The people demand more shooting”
“Muhammad is dead”
These were some of the calls from a group of Israelis demonstrating in favor of Israel’s attack on Gaza in the streets of Tel Aviv last night.
Peaceful protests by Palestinian students at Israeli university were met with similar incitement.
In Tel Aviv, across the road, another group of Israelis protested against the assault. “We came here to say that we must end this war immediately,” Knesset member Dov Khenin of the communist Hadash party told the anti-war crowd, “every additional drop of blood is needless.”
The duelling demonstrations were filmed by David Sheen. While anti-war voices exist, there’s little doubt that much of the Israeli Jewish population stands behind Israel’s attack on Gaza, believing the government propaganda that Palestinians are firing rockets at Israel unprovoked while Israel seeks peace and quiet.
Among the pro-violence demonstrators was Baruch Marzel a notorious settler fanatic who frequently incites violence. “The enemy must be expelled and destroyed,” Marzel said, specifiying that Palestinians should be kicked out of Gaza so Israelis could re-settle there.
“You’re cross-dressers! You’re the Gay Pride March, that’s what you are,” shouted another war supporter at the peace demo, a call that was echoed by others.
One man warned fellow protestors, “They’re filming us, don’t curse” but that did not stop the violent calls. “Go to Gaza with the Muslims, you sons of b*****,” said one. “The people demand more shooting,” responding to calls for a ceasefire from the pro-violence demonstration across the road.
The calls for blood and violence in the streets echo incitement by Israeli government leaders. In recent days Israel’s “minister of home front defense” Avi Dichter called for Israel to “reformat” Gaza – wipe it clean – like a computer hard drive, except using bombs.
Israeli transport minister Israel Katz called for Israel to bomb Gaza so hard that the population would flee into Egypt, and for Israel to cut off water and electricity supplies.
“Death to the Arabs”: Incitement at Israeli universities
الطلاب العرب ينشدون موطني رداً على طلاب اليمين
Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel, students at several universities, turned out to protest the Israeli attack on Gaza, despite a heavy police presence on and around campus, reported Arabs 48, a website providing news on Palestinians in Israel.
At Tel Aviv University, some 150 Palestinian students gathered despite a heavy security presence, Arabs 48 reported, and there right-wing students from the Zionist group Im Tirzu confronted them shouting racist slogans including “Death to the Arabs.”
Similar scenes took place at Hebrew University, where right-wing students were held back by security forces from attacking Palestinians calling for an end to the violence.
“the most terrible thing I’ve seen in my life”
At Haifa University, Palestinian students held a moment of silence for victims of the Israeli attacks in Gaza, and were quickly confronted by Israeli Jewish students, according to Arabs 48.
“What happened today at the Haifa University was the most terrible thing I’ve seen in my life,” tweeted Israeli Twitter user @kesterica who witnessed what happened at Haifa, “Arab students were silently protesting against the war. They invited the Jews to join them.”
“In response,” @kesterica tweeted, “dozens of Jewish students attacked the Arabs, called them traitors, spread rumors that they were mourning [Jabari], sang [the anthem religious songs encouraging war].”
On Wednesday morning, Israel carried out the extrajudicial execution of Ahmad al-Jabari, the top Hamas military leader in Gaza, breaking a truce, and reigniting violence that left 19 Palestinians, including at least 6 children and a pregnant woman, and three Israelis dead since Wednesday, by Friday morning.
“The Jews sang: ‘he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.’ I don’t tend to cry fascism, fascism, but that’s what it was,” @kesterica tweeted.
“An Arab girl who stood there told me that she was asked why she was standing there, and she said she was against war and against casualties [deaths] and invited people to join her. It didn’t happen,” added @kesterica.
“I cannot say what each of the protesters thought, but she and quite a few of the folks standing there said they were just against war. To tell you the truth, me too,” she tweeted.
Palestinian students sang the Palestinian anthem “Mawtini” in response to the taunts, as the video above shows.
Violent and racist sentiments have also been widespread among Israelis on Facebook and other social media.
During Israel’s 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, journalist Patrick Cockburn observed:
Israeli society was always introverted but these days it reminds me more than ever of the Unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s or the Lebanese Christians in the 1970s. Like Israel, both were communities with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.
Much the same appears to be true today.