Heathcote Williams: The long goodbye of Ariel Sharon
Hell's gates were too narrow / For his inflated body to pass through / He'd had to wait his turn. Poet Heathcote Williams on Israeli war criminal Ariel Sharon's lingering death.
There is a convention that you're not supposed to speak ill of the recently dead, which unfortunately imposes a kind of vow of silence, because there is nothing good to say. He [Ariel Sharon] was a brutal killer; he had one fixed idea in mind which drove him all his life: a greater Israel, as powerful as possible, as few Palestinians as possible."
- Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now, January 13, 2014
"It is not just Sabra and Shatila. He committed so many crimes against Arabs everywhere. … He is truly a butcher."
Adnan al-Mikdad, a Lebanese man who lost both his parents in the Beirut massacre, New York Daily News, January 11, 2014
"Sharon was the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying, 'If force does not work, try more force.'"
Uri Avnery, The Israeli Imperator, www.avnery-news.co.il January 17, 2014
"Sharon personified the most brutal, colonial, reactionary & racist trends in Zionism. A Jewish Rambo."
Avi Shlaim, Israel and Palestine, London: Verso, 2009, p. xiii
The long goodbye of Ariel Sharon
By Heathcote Williams
Like the wall he'd built
To divide two Semitic
Peoples, he was cut off.
Like the olive trees
On others' land which he'd uprooted,
He'd become barren.
After years without listening
To those he'd captured and throttled,
He now no longer spoke.
Having ordered triggers
To be squeezed for multiple
He was unable to move
A single finger.
Was halted by a strange coma
Lasting for eight years.
Then the eyes of Gaza
Lit up with joy when Ariel Sharon
Was at last shovelled into hell.
Since Hell's gates were too narrow
For his inflated body to pass through,
He'd had to wait his turn.
Had reached a million decibels,
But he could no longer register it.
He'd become deaf to the hatred that all
Killers attract – however
Right they think they've been –
But, if there's any justice, the sonic blast
From Gaza would have opened up hell's gates so that this vast corpse
Could be squeezed through at last.
And those Palestinians
Who were killed by Ariel Sharon
In the Sabra camp
And in Shatila,
While he floodlit their dwellings,
Could savour his being shoveled in.
Two thousand of them could watch,
Along with those killed in Qibya
Where forty-eight were mowed down
By Sharon's '101 Unit' death squad
With orders from Ben Gurion's Central Command
To "carry out destruction and cause maximum damage" –
Orders which Sharon carried out with pleasure.
Sabra, Shatila and Qibya's victims could now peer
From a distance and see his trapped soul,
And snarled up in tubes before being released to the nether world
Whilst others, who'd lived in Gaza,
And who'd had their houses knocked down by him,
And had been buried alive,
Could also watch his downward journey –
As could forty-nine Egyptian quarry workers
Taken prisoner in Israel's 1956 Sinai Campaign
And who'd had no role in the fighting.
One of Sharon's commanders, Arye Biro, testified to Sharon's overseeing
The quarry workers' massacre, motivated by race hatred.
Sharon's troops would then declare him "King of Israel."
Peace In Galilee' was to kill
Eighteen thousand more –
These too might be drawn to study their tormentor's
Final solution, along with the fifteen thousand
Whom he'd slaughtered in Lebanon.
As Sharon razed West Beirut to the ground
He'd leave the streets strewn with unburied corpses,
Prompting comparisons with Dresden's annihilation.
In August 1971, Sharon's troops
Destroyed 2,000 homes in the
And uprooted 16,000 people.
Ibrahim Ghanim, 70, a retired labourer remembers
Sharon's soldiers shouting
"'Yalla, yalla, yalla, yalla!'
"They threw everyone's belongings
into the street.
"Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and flattened the
"He did the whole lot, almost in one day.
"And the soldiers would beat
"Can you imagine? Soldiers with guns,
"Beating little kids?" 1
When Sharon laid claim to the al-Aqsa mosque, provoking an intifada,
He'd have his forces fire 1.3 million bullets
At demonstrators, mostly unarmed.
He'd follow through with the brutal demolition
Of the Jenin refugee camp. His purpose being to eliminate Palestine
And her indigenous peoples as a political entity.
To this end he built a wall to cut Palestine in half –
Cut Palestinians off from their land, from their water and from their olive trees;
Ghettoize them even further and destroy their life support.
He'd lay siege to Gaza again and again with his aide, Arnon Sofer,
Who'd describe Gaza's inhabitants as "animals", adding "if we want to remain alive,
We will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day." 2
When an Israeli pilot bombed an apartment block in Gaza,
And killed nine small children as well as Sharon's Hamas target,
Sharon described his atrocity as "a great success".
In the words of his own spokesman, Sharon's aim was to put any hope
Of a Palestinian state into "formaldehyde" but, with a deft irony,
Fate then enrolled him in the ranks of the living dead – Pickled in medical preservative to prevent his body breaking down.
Although Sharon was now an un-person in a coma,
Managing to breathe without help, it was otherwise clear
That there was no one indoors.
There has to be a price
When you've been turning someone
Into no one quite so often.
When Sharon was foreign minister in 1998,
He'd urged Jewish settlers to take over as much West Bank land as possible:
"Everyone there should move, should run, should grab more hills,
"Expand the territory. Everything that's grabbed will be in our hands,
Everything that we don't grab will be in their hands." 3
He wished to make Palestine impossible.
But then the godfather of settlement expansion
And the advocate of the Greater Israel
Of Messianic Zionists –
The eraser of the Palestinian citrus orchards
Was himself erased and forced to swallow
The bitterest bowl of fruit –
Cut down to size, with his imperial horns pulled in,
His territory was reduced to a hollowed out crater
In a bleakly isolated hospital mattress.
Boasting of his settlement strategy when in government
Sharon had said, "We'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them.
We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians,
And then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank,
So that in twenty-five years' time, neither the United Nations
Nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart." 4
Now he himself had become a bloated sandwich,
Reduced to little more than a slab of immobile flesh,
Trapped for eight years between two white sheets.
When Shimon Peres,
In late 2001,
Said that their ignoring
For a ceasefire had risked turning
"The US against us."
Sharon yelled at him
"Forget the Americans –
We control them all." 5
Yet in his coma Sharon could control no one.
His sleeping and his waking was to merge.
The pariah state's plotter-in-chief had lost the plot –
And karma had seen to it that his caging people
In Palestinian ghettoes had led to his being caged
In a living tomb.
After his death-squad campaigns
"To Judaize the territories" and his "drive for a Greater Israel"
He had driven himself into a wall.
Fate would see to it that Sharon – idiotically proclaimed
"A man of peace" by US President George W. Bush –
Was unable to kill anyone for eight years.
Having darkened so many indigenous lives –
Lives of those he considered to be his inferiors –
He condemned himself to an irreversible darkness
And then, eight years after his original stroke,
He was summoned from his impotent limbo
By Death's grim angel.
The judgment of an earthly court –
The International Criminal Court –
Had been dodged and its scrutiny avoided.
"Israel may have the right to put others on trial,"
Sharon once boasted, adding, "but certainly no one has the right
To put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial." 6
The obsequious cowardice of the international community
Had seen to it that this was the case. It saw that Sharon's revival of a racist state –
Long thought to have died out with Nazi Germany – was sacrosanct.
And, irony of ironies, Sharon would refuse to allow Israel to ratify
The Chemical Weapons Convention – Sharon insisted on retaining nerve gas
As his loaded, lawless option for dealing with the Arabs whom he reviled.
The Drone Ranger, Obama, said that he admired Sharon's "dedication"
And the UN's craven Ban-Ki moon described Sharon as "a hero", making you wonder
If they'd both have signed a condolence book when Hitler died.
Tellingly, several of the Living Dead's leftovers –
War criminals all – were drawn to Sharon's graveside –
Notably Blair who'd also forced someone else's country to die.
They'd both made fortunes from human suffering:
Sharon from building his illegal, thieving settlements
And Blair from his laughable missions
As a peace envoy
To the Middle East which, like Sharon,
He'd played such a part in destroying through lying.
This Laurel and Hardy
Of the Living Dead managed to make money,
Even in their sleep.
Tony Blair stood by Sharon's coffin
And bigged him up as "a giant of this land"
Taking the grotesque beyond parody.
Blair spoke of Sharon's "supreme love of country"
Omitting the psychotic hyper-nationalism
That spurred Sharon to build his mountain of corpses.
Not to be outdone, the UK Premier,
David Cameron, spoke of Sharon's "brave decisions
In pursuit of peace."
A gaggle of brain-damaged warlords
Use doublespeak in their routine attempts
To peddle war as peace.
The US Vice President Biden declared Sharon
"An historic leader" and the Israeli Minister
of Education said he was "Israel's Moses".
The Minister promises that Israeli schoolchildren
Will be required to study the new Moses' achievements
In their school curriculum. 7
What exactly the Minister expects the children to learn
From Sharon's triumphalism at his killing 20,000
During his invasion of Lebanon beggars belief.
"We will kill them," Sharon bragged to the US Envoy,
Morris Draper, during the Sabra and Shatila massacres.
"We will kill them." He was unopposed. 8
The first reporter to see Sharon's handiwork,
Janet Lee Stevens, described,
"Children with their throats slit,
"A pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open,
"Her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror;
"Countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart
"And who had been thrown into garbage piles. I saw dead women," she wrote,
"In their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart;
Dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an alley wall." 9
And what did the Minister of Education imagine schoolchildren
Could learn from the transformation of Gaza by the "Israeli Moses"
Into the largest open-air prison camp in all history?
Were they to be taught that, thanks to Sharon's evil antics,
The ancient commandment brought down from Mount Sinai by the first Moses,
Namely 'Thou shalt not kill', had now been superseded?
And what did the Minister think that children could learn
From the man who'd copied South Africa's Bantustans to create ghettoes
Where Israel could practise an even more cruel system of apartheid? 10
Paving the way for Knesset members such as Danny Danon and Miri Regev
To describe African refugees in Israel as "infiltrators" and "a cancer" 11
And for others to persecute them and to urge they be "rounded up." 12
Sharon's body is buried
In stolen land in the Negev,
But the Israeli coma continues:
Thanks to America's life-support
Its existence is prolonged with dollar drips
And transfusions of weaponry –
More US aid is given to this racist apology
For a democratic country, to whom child-killing is de rigueur,
Than to the whole of Africa.
And, in its comatose state, Israel persuades itself
That it owns another's country;
And that God is sympathetic to the 'security needs'
Of a nuclear-armed Mediterranean poacher –
Thus inviting the Furies to declare open season
On Israel's stiff-necked protagonists.
1) Jeffrey St Clair and Alexander Cockburn, 'A Career Drafted in Blood: Sharon the Terrorist', Counterpunch. January 17-19, 2014
2) Max Blumenthal 11 January 2014, 'The truth about Israeli war criminal Ariel Sharon that you won't hear from Obama, Cameron or the BBC', http://www.stopwar.org.uk/
4) Max Blumenthal, 'How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel's Destiny: In a bloody career that spanned decades, he destroyed entire cities and presided over the killing of countless civilians', The Nation, January 11, 2014
5) I.A.P. News, October 3, 2001, reporting Israel Radio, Kol Yisrael
6) March 25, 2001, BBC
7) Yarden Skop, 'Official Israeli curriculum likens Ariel Sharon to Moses: Study material following Sharon's death overlooks Lebanon War and other controversial chapters in life of late leader.' Haaretz, Jan. 14, 2014
8) Exchange with U.S. envoy Morris Draper on Sept. 17, 1982; cited by Rashid Khalidi, 'Call Off the Sainthood of Ariel Sharon: Why Israel's late leader was a war criminal not a peacemaker'.
Foreign Policy, Jan. 13, 2014
9) Franklin P. Lamb, International legal responsibility for the Sabra-Shatilla-massacre, France: Montreuil: Imp. Tipe, 1983,157 S. Ill., Kt.
10) Amira Hass, 'Still falling into the disengagement trap: Sharon conducted no 'revolution'; his policies were the natural extension of the aggressive Israeli strategy developed by his friends-rivals in the Labor Party', Haaretz, Jan. 16, 2014
11) Edgar Keretjan, 'Sometimes 'Nazi' Is the Right Word', New York Times, January, 17, 2014
12) Ari Simeon, 'The Rise of Anti-Black Racism In Israel', Political Blind Spot, October 21, 2013
Source: Stop the War Coalition