Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Animated Life and Death of Ariel Sharon

Not perhaps since the death of Joseph Stalin has the world reaction to the passing of a notable international figure been so dynamic.  On the one hand, Israeli and especially the Israeli diaspora opinion of Sharon is solidified as a man who made hard decisions to protect his people.  For Palestinians, he was a bully, a murderer, and a thief.
This sort of dynamic offers a unique opportunity to discuss the notions of identity and reality.  Taking one more notable example of the contrast between the Zionism of Udi Aloni and Noam Chomsky as opposed to the Zionism of Sharon, the critical inquiry again reveals itself: So what is the Jewish State?  Is it a crass and exploitative customer of the American weapon industry?  Is it a pawn in the ongoing petro geo-politics?  Or is Judaism's core defined by the contributions of Einstein, Marx, and Freud, whose respect for the nature of God, democracy, and the mind introduced man to the open nature of secular government?

The alternative, the theory of Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, Sharon, and Netanyahu, is exclusion, discrimination, and outright crime.  It is unconscionable, it is opposed to basic international law, and it violates the coordinates around which the UN founded the State itself.
Perhaps the most interesting point to explore is the image of Sharon in WALTZ WITH BASHIR.  In the film, his placement is meant to lay blame for Sabra and Shatila.  By invoking his image, it helps relieve the film maker, Ari Folman, of his own guilt because, well, he was following orders.  In this fashion, he becomes a Jewish scapegoat for a collective social guilt that Marx himself would have diagnosed easily.  The failure of the media analysis around Sharon is not that he was good or bad, but that there were millions of votes behind everything in his career.  The reality is he was the exemplar of the Israeli Founding Generation, despite the efforts of figures like Chomsky.  His ascent was merely symptomatic of a larger social phenomenon centered around the British control of the former Ottoman provinces.  Maybe the most ironic moment that foretold his birth was Lenin's release to the world press of all the secret treaties of the Allies regarding the post-war settlement, including the Sykes-Picot Agreement.  The simple geographical and economic realities of the agreement perhaps shaped the entire life of Ariel Sharon, ten years before his birth.  This also reveals a certain anti-Semitism against both Jews and Palestinians, which cannot be disregarded because it indeed was an impulse that fed the Zionist program.  In the forthcoming weeks, how the Sharon legacy is discussed will certainly affect ideas in America about John Kerry's ongoing peace mission.  In a recent interview with New Left Project, Norman Finklestein has said:
The whole thing is diabolical. The Israelis—with, of course, active and critical US connivance—have managed to completely shift the debate and shape the agenda. The only issues now being discussed are the Jewish state and the Jordan Valley, which, in terms of the international consensus for resolving the conflict, never figured at all. (Even in prior bilateral negotiations presided over by the US, such as at Annapolis, these were at most peripheral issues.) The key issue (apart from the refugees), in terms of the international consensus and in prior bilateral negotiations, has been the extent of the land swap along the border: Will Israel be allowed to annex the major settlement blocs and consequently abort a Palestinian state? But the debate has completely shifted, because annexing the settlement blocs is a done deal.

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