Sharon, the Great Reformer?

by Uri Avnery

When the inhabitants of Bethlehem came out of their homes, after the long weeks during which Israeli soldiers shot at everything in town that moved, they discovered that the landscape had changed. While they were imprisoned in their homes, the army had been working day and night to separate them from the world by a trench two meters deep and a murderous wire fence, sharp as a razor, that could cause anyone entangled in it to bleed to death. The town and its suburbs (Bet-Jala, the Aida and other refugee camps) had become a big prison.

This week, members of the Palestinian parliament tried to get to the session that dealt with "reform". The trip to Ramallah, half an hour in ordinary times, took them four hours, including a series of humiliations at the many army checkpoints.

Bethlehem is a suburb if Jerusalem. Hundreds of threads tie it to the city. All these threads are cut now. Jerusalem is further from Bethlehem than the dark side of the moon.

This kind of fence is being erected now in many places around the country, cutting the Palestinian enclaves off not only from Israel, but from each other, too. The slogan is "separation", and that sounds good to Israeli ears. "We are here and they are there," as the lamentable Ehud Barak used to declare. The real situation is quite different: "We are here and we are there." Because the separation is not only unilateral, but also unidirectional. Palestinians are forbidden to cross into Israel, but the settlers and soldiers cross into Palestine.

Sharon’s war against the Palestinian people is continuing at full speed. The erection of the fences is only one of its operations. The second one is the settlement activity that has not stopped for a moment. Old settlements expand, new ones spring up and all over the occupied territories the building of bypass roads goes on, expropriating Palestinian lands and strangling Palestinian villages.

The third operation of the war bears the glorious title of "reform".

When Sharon declares that the reform of the Palestinian Authority is a condition for the resumption of the peace process, it is another device to prevent any negotiations. It also allows Sharon to climb on the bandwagon of Bush, who is demanding a democratic reform of the Authority (without, of course, demanding the same from countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and China.)

The slogan of reform also serves another of Sharon’s purposes: it attracts public attention, causes the Jenin events to be forgotten and the daily incursions and killings of the IDF in the Palestinian territories to be ignored.

But as the Great Reformer of Palestine, Sharon is following a much more important agenda. As a general in the army, he was famous as a commander who "reads the battlefield", meaning that he had the ability to grasp instinctively where the crucial spot in the enemy front is located. For example: long before the October 1973 war, Sharon had decided exactly were he would break through the Egyptian front and cross the Suez canal when the time arrived.

Sharon decided long ago that the crucial point in the Palestinian front is the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Many believe that Sharon’s efforts to eliminate the Palestinian leader spring from a personal vendetta, after Arafat slipped out of his hands in Beirut. But the matter is far more serious.

Sharon knows that if he succeeded in breaking Arafat, we would be breaking the backbone of the Palestinian people for many years to come–years in which he could finish the job of filling the territories with settlements and annexing them to Israel. Arafat is a strong and authoritative leader, who holds all the strands of the Palestinian people together, preventing a civil war between them and is the only one who can take courageous, historic decisions.

Many different parties are now speaking about reforming the Palestinian Authority, and each one of them has a different agenda. For Sharon, reform means doing away with Arafat and installing a group of Quislings (as he tried 20 years ago with the creation of the "village leagues".) For Bush, "reform" means appointing a Palestinian leadership that will follow his (and, indirectly, Israel’s) orders, in return for the creation of a Palestinian client-state like Puerto Rica or Andorra (as Netanyahu once said).

Among the Palestinians themselves, some see reform simply as a means to push their rivals out and take their place. I suspect that some of the reform-toting Palestinians work for the Mossad and/or the CIA. Hamas hopes that the reform will bring about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and clear the way for its own takeover. Other Palestinians are striving honestly for the immediate establishment of practices appropriate for an ordered state, quite ignoring the fact that the Palestinian people is still in the middle of a fight for its very existence, faced with the real danger of finally being driven out of its country.

Many Palestinians want a different reform: one that will cut out the parasitical elements, which have attached themselves to the Palestinian authority, and prepare the Palestinian people for the next, decisive stage of its struggle for liberation. Not reform instead of the struggle, but reform for the struggle. None of them intends to fulfill the dream of Sharon and Bush to liquidate Arafat or turn him into a Palestinian facsimile of Moshe Katzav, the figurehead President of Israel.

Uri Avnery has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation.


Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?