FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sharon’s Preemptive Zeal

No more than a month ago I sat with a friend drinking coffee at the Hillel Cafe in Jerusalem. Today it is a shattered edifice, with blood stains on the floor. Indeed, this was the first thought that crossed my mind after hearing the news about the horrific suicide attack that left another 7 Israelis dead and 45 wounded. “I could have been there,” I said to myself.

It is a frightening thought, one that has crossed the mind of many an Israeli, particularly since the eruption of the second Intifada in September 2000 — a period in which 244 suicide attacks have been carried out. Just as disturbing, though, is the thought that this bloody reality has been accepted by the Israeli public as part of their daily routine; so much so that the same people who are terrified to leave their homes now consider Israel’s gory mode of existence as their karma, as if the political realm were in some odd way predetermined.

But politics, as the great Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt repeatedly stated, is the realm of freedom, where humans actually have the opportunity to begin something new through speech and deed. Even “in the epochs of petrifaction and foreordained doom,” she claimed, the faculty of freedom, “which animates and inspires all human activities and is the hidden source of production of all great and beautiful things” usually remains intact.

What Israelis and Palestinians have been witnessing in the past few weeks is a concerted effort to destroy the road that might have led the two peoples out of a foreordained doom and into a new beginning. Notwithstanding the impression some people might have, this myopic effort has been led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not only by Hamas. His strategy is one of preemptive strikes.

Approximately two months ago, the different Palestinians factions decided to implement a houdna (ceasefire in Arabic) and to stop attacking Israeli targets. Despite the fact that numerous militant groups operate without a central command in the Occupied Territories, for almost a month and a half the houdna managed to hold up. While one assault was perpetrated in the West Bank by a small splinter group, the violence had subsided and it appeared as if serious negotiations would resume.

Then, suddenly, as if out of the blue, the Israeli military invaded Askar refugee camp, killing four Palestinians, including two members of Izzeddin Al-Qassam, Hamas’ military wing. The operation was a preemptive strike, the Israeli spokesman explained.

The Palestinians decided not to retaliate.

Less than a week later, on August 14, Israeli troops entered Hebron and killed a member of the Islamic Jihad. Another preemptive attack. Only this time the Palestinians did respond, and on August 19 a suicide bomber exploded inside a public bus. Israel, in turn, used its forces to carry out a series of extra-judicial executions, and now a month after the preemptive assault on Askar camp, the streets between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea are once again covered with blood.

The logic of preemptive strikes, however, does not merely inform Sharon’s policy of extra-judicial executions; it is the logic that has informed his actions throughout his military and political careers.

Three examples will have to suffice: the Jewish settlements, the Lebanon War, and the separation wall.

Sharon is considered by many to be the father of Israel’s unruly settlement project. He earned this title while serving as Minister of Agriculture during Menachem Begin’s first government. Sharon had hoped to become Defense Minister and was disappointed when Ezer Weizmann received the appointment, but minor details of this kind have never stopped him from pursuing his goals.

Weizmann opposed the settlement project and opined that Israel should withdraw from the territories within the framework of a peace accord. Sharon, on the other hand, believes in the Greater Israel, and, in order to preempt the possibility of any future agreement based on land for peace, he initiated, as the chair of the government’s Settlement Committee, a massive settlement enterprise. Whereas Israel built 20 settlements between 1967 and 1976, within less than four years Sharon managed to build close to 50 new settlements, totally changing the landscape of the West Bank.

In August 1981, Sharon became Defense Minister. Four years earlier, he had told an Israeli reporter that “the Arab states are swiftly preparing for war, and we are sitting on a barrel of explosives wasting our time on nonsense. The Arabs,” he continued, “will launch a war in the summer or the fall.” The war did not come, at least not until Sharon assumed office.

The story of how Sharon led Israel into Lebanon, hoping to establish a puppet government in order to preempt attacks from the north, is by now well known. When Israel finally withdrew its forces 20 years later, thousands of civilians and soldiers lay buried in the ground, hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced, and much of Lebanon was in shatters, but Sharon held on to the logic of the preemptive strike.

Not unlike the settlement project, Lebanon War, and extra-judicial executions, the separation wall should also be conceived as a preemptive attack. While Sharon declares that the wall is being built solely for security reasons, he neglects to say that it is not being erected on the 1967 borders, and is actually being used as an extremely effective mechanism to expropriate Palestinian land and create facts on the ground so as to preempt any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Its effect is not less violent than the assassinations and suicide bombings. Already in this early stage, the wall has infringed on the rights of more than 210,000 Palestinians, some of whom now live in ghettos between the wall and Israel.

The crux of the matter is that Sharon’s preemptive logic undercuts all form of dialogue and negotiations. Its rule of thumb is violence, and then more violence, whether it manifests itself as a military attack or as an aggressive act of dispossession. So while it may seem that the bloody routine is in some way preordained, it is actually Sharon’s preemptive zeal alongside Hamas’ and Islamic Jihad’s fundamentalism that has clouded the horizon and concealed, as Arendt might have said, the possibility for a better future.

NEVE GORDON teaches politics and human rights at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, and has written about the outsourcing technique within the Israeli context for the Journal of Human Rights. He can be reached at ngordon@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

 

More articles by:

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail