Gilad Sharon, Fascist

by Benjamin Studebaker

Recently, Gilad Sharon, son to the former prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, published an op-ed in the Jersualem PostIn this op-ed, he makes a fascist argument. I mean this completely without hyperbole. I want it understood that I am, quite literally, under no uncertain terms, accusing Gilad Sharon of being a fascist, and equating him with the right wing nationalist movements of Hitler, Mussolini, and Milosevic. A bold claim deserves a bold argument, and that is what follows.

In the op-ed, Sharon advocates for a “decisive conclusion”. Similarities to the expression “final solution” aside, here is the only explicit statement as to what Sharon says a “decisive conclusion” entails:

We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.

This is accompanied by vague, ominous language (emphasis not added):

A strong opening isn’t enough, you also have to know how to finish – and finish decisively. If it isn’t clear whether the ball crossed the goal-line or not, the goal isn’t decisive. The ball needs to hit the net, visible to all. What does a decisive victory sound like? A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated. To accomplish this, you need to achieve what the other side can’t bear, can’t live with, and our initial bombing campaign isn’t it. THE DESIRE to prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.

The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

What Sharon is suggesting here the deliberate targeting of civilians in the Gaza strip. While he avoids calling explicitly calling for the Palestinians to be exterminated, he does explicitly call for all of the neighbourhoods to be flattened, which is saying the same thing using different words. He compares the policy he envisages to a nuclear attack, and has the flippancy to simultaneously compare it to a game of football.

What is Sharon’s justification for this? He claims that Gaza is a state:

The Gaza Strip functions as a state – it has a government and conducts foreign relations, there are schools, medical facilities, there are armed forces and all the other trappings of statehood. We have no territorial conflict with “Gaza State,” and it is not under Israeli siege – it shares a border with Egypt. Despite this, it fires on our citizens without restraint. Why do our citizens have to live with rocket fire from Gaza while we fight with our hands tied? Why are the citizens of Gaza immune? If the Syrians were to open fire on our towns, would we not attack Damascus? If the Cubans were to fire at Miami, wouldn’t Havana suffer the consequences? That’s what’s called “deterrence” – if you shoot at me, I’ll shoot at you.

There are two things I want to talk about here, the notion that Gaza is a state and the notion that what Israel is doing is normal deterrence.

First of all, Gaza is not a state. Why is it not a state?

  1. It is not recognised as a state by any nations or international organisations.
  2. It is cut off from trade and economic growth by the Israeli blockade, which makes independent effective economic policy impossible.
  3. It is not economically viable and is politically and culturally deeply connected to the West Bank, which remains an Israeli occupied territory and would be an essential part of any functioning, viable Palestinian state.
  4. Israel itself denies constantly any efforts to recognise any part of Palestine as a state.

But even leaving aside Gaza’s clear non-statehood (the issue of Palestinian statehood is at the very centre of the dispute, for Sharon to declare it resolved when it is presently debated is ridiculous), it is not acceptable for one state to deliberately destroy the civilian population of another state on the basis of “they elected that government, so they’re fair game”.

This is tantamount to saying that because Hitler was elected, every single German citizen could be treated as a combatant, that they could be shot on sight or have their homes raised to the ground. “Deterrence” does not mean “a para-military group of extremists shoots rockets into your country and kills 3 people, you have the license to raise the entire territory from which the rockets were launched to the ground”. Deterrence is a policy that can only be applied to unified, rational state actors. You cannot deter terrorists and extremists because they are irrational, disunited, non-state actors with no unifying command structure and no responsibility to the people as a whole. Why are they not responsible to the Palestinian people as a whole? Because they are not a state, because they do not legitimately represent the views of the Palestinian people as embodied by a legitimate state. A small group of terrorists cannot be treated as politically equal to Israel, it cannot be treated as a state apparatus which can be deterred. One cannot hold an entire nation of people responsible for what one of many individual militant political organisations does. We would not permit one country to hold civilians responsible for a government in this sort of manner, why on earth would we permit a country to hold civilians responsible for what a non-state actor does?

The phrase “hold civilians responsible” is quite possibly too vague–what we are really talking about here is “deliberately exterminating civilians”.

This is an expression of a militant, nationalist desire to destroy and remove a nation from existence. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does it, it’s fascism. When Milosevic did it, it was fascism. When Hitler did it, it was fascism. Yet when westerners criticise the policies of the Israeli government and the views of Israeli nationalists and Jewish fundamentalists, we are accused of “anti-Semitism” or of “siding with the terrorists”. And then, of course, the holocaust is brought up as a defence of Israeli policy. How dare any person use the holocaust politically to justify the advocacy of a fascist genocide against Palestinians? I suppose for these people “never again” means only “never again to us”.

And Sharon is not alone in his fascism. The Israeli government includes in its coalition the Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman, a man who advocates for the racist expulsion of non-Jewish Israelis from Israel. Not only that, but Netanyahu plans to virtually fuse his party with Lieberman’s and run candidates on the same slate in the next election. Make no mistake–this is the same kind of fascism we saw in Yugoslavia.

A few days ago, I wrote an article about possible ways peace might be achieved between Israel and Palestine. In this article, I noted how some Israelis do not want a one-state or a two-state solution at all, but a victory for the Israelis over the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims of the region. This sort of talk merely serves to confirm the suspicion. In the past, moderate Muslims have been called to stand up and denounce terrorism. Today, I make the same call to moderate Israelis–stand up and condemn these policies, which work against peace and promulgate fascism.

I’d like to close with one more quote from Sharon:

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.

Imagine if it were the nineties and it said this instead:

There is no middle path here–either the Bosnians and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy Bosnia-Herzegovina. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time–we must achieve victory quickly. The Milosevic government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start–and millions of civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly–with a bang, not a whimper.

Does that sound out of place for the Yugoslav wars? And if not, how is what Sharon is arguing for any different?