Events in the Middle East are reaching saturation point. Within the past week, hardline supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have unleashed a barrage of disparaging remarks calling for the murder and deportation of the Palestinian people.
On January 31st, Sharon declared that he regretted not having killed Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Commenting to the Israeli daily, Maariv, Sharon goes on record to say he was “sorry he didn’t liquidate him [Arafat]”. Arafat, incidentally, was elected by his people in elections monitored by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
The fact that 30, 000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians died in the invasion of Lebanon with Sharon’s direct role in the butchering of more than 2,000 Palestinian men, women, and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps is ominously ignored. Instead, we are told that Sharon is benevolent and under vicious siege from the Palestinians.
For his part, Arafat laughingly shrugged it off. In a speech televised on CNN, Arafat spoke directly to Sharon: “You had your tanks surrounding us in Lebanon and we did not shudder; now that you have your tanks around us in our own land of Palestine, do you think we will shudder? No way, no way, no way.”
(Israeli tanks are currently positioned about 70 meters from the compound where Arafat remains under virtual house-arrest in the West Bank city of Ramallah)
While Sharon’s remarks were greeted with barely a whimper in the White House (‘Sharon’s remarks are not helpful’) and North American media, European Union diplomats expressed outrage.
“If the remarks correspond to what Prime Minister Sharon has said, I must say that I deplore them and of course they deserve our rejection,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
A day later, despite international criticism of Sharon’s statements, Sharon’s political advisor and spokesperson Raanan Gissin called for the hanging and murder of an Arab lawmaker and member of the Knesset who demanded equality between Jews and non-Jews in Israel. Gissin, who is comfortably visible on CNN, told Maariv newspaper “Ahmed Teibi wants a dialogue at the eye-level. Well, he will get a dialogue as such when you see him suspending by the neckéthen and only then will there be a dialogue at eye-level.”
Teibi had addressed Sharon earlier; “From now on, we shall not accept subordination, subservience and the logic of the victor versus the defeated. We insist on a dialogue of the equals, a dialogue at the eye-level”.
In the North America, a man who calls for equality is labeled a hero and may have a commemorative holiday in his honor. In Palestine, if an Arab calls for equality the reward is a publicized lynching.
Hardly the reactions one expects of a so-called democratic state. Calling for racial equality, it seems, is a capital crime in Israel. North American media played mum; no outcry, no criticism é only the delusional rhetoric that democratic Israel is under siege.
In a related incident, Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon, leader of the ultranationalist Moledet (homeland) party, threatened to forcefully remove Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.
“We must not fear bringing up again the idea of a transfer and of open discussion of the various possibilities that it offers. The Palestinians must know that if they continue their attacks, they will lose their houses and will have to leave, as was the case in 1948,” Elon yelped on public radio.
Elon’s proposal of ethnic cleansing went unnoticed in North American media where the Palestinian people were once again branded the aggressor.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Muslim Canadian journalist living on the Pacific Coast.