Voltaire once said, "Men use thought only to justify their wrong-doings, and words only to conceal their thoughts." With former Israeli general and prime minister Ariel Sharon’s long-anticipated death, the Western media has gone to great lengths to paint him as the Buddha of the Middle East.
The whole world knows that he achieved his nirvana in Beirut in September 1982 at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps when Lebanese mercenaries backed by Israeli forces slaughtered thousands of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims.
Sharon, who was in a coma for eight years after suffering a stroke in January 2006 at the peak of his power, died on Saturday aged 85.
He was the man whose list of crimes against humanity equal, if not exceed, those of Adolph Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic. Sharon actually considers Milosevic his "soul-mate" and once said talking to a Belgrade newspaper that "the Israelis stand together with you against Islamic terrorism".
It was shocking to see how such an epicenter of evil and brutality was declared "a man of peace" not only by several Western leaders, but also by some of the most powerful world media outlets. Journalist after journalist, and commentator after commentator would manipulate their respective media to preach to audiences the world over how Sharon had metamorphosed from a scourge into a saint.
The primary reason they offered as proof of Sharon’s metamorphosis was how he, acting against the wishes of the Israelis, ended the Gaza occupation in August 2005. They stressed that he was going to be more successful in executing that type of disengagement operation in the occupied West Bank as well. They created the impression that he had undergone a complete change of heart in the last few months of his rule; it would have been far better, they implied, if he had stayed at the helm of state a bit longer so that peace could return to that most maligned land.
Of course, the power and influence of the Western media has been there all along but its manipulative powers once again became clear the moment Sharon's death was announced on January 11, 2014. The media used this opportunity to whitewash Sharon’s lifetime legacy. It simply displayed the worst kind of penchant to twist the facts and presented the carnivorous wolf as William Blake's little lamb.
In their bid to pay their last homage to Sharon, they went an extra mile to change the nature of his actions. Claiming his dirty deeds were taken only for the sake of Israel's self-interest, the media presented them as moves to create peace and harmony in the region – the most-trumpeted among them was his decision to discontinue Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. His policy to carry out the disengagement process was depicted as an epic struggle in which he emerged as a true hero.
No one bothered to inform the viewers that under the terms of the Oslo Accord signed between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel was supposed to vacate the West Bank and Gaza by April 13, 1999, not by August 22, 2005. On the contrary, Sharon had no intention of leaving the West Bank while he enjoyed America's support in this respect. In reality, the dimensions of the Gaza withdrawal plan ran counter to the spirit of all UN resolutions and peace plans, including the Oslo Accord and the April 2003 roadmap.
Under the Gaza plan, Israel intended to dismantle all settlements set up on land that for some 1400 years belonged to the Palestinians, not the Israelis. When Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, it evicted Palestinians by blowing up their homes, destroying their orchards and diverting water to Jewish kibbutzim (settlements). These settlements were illegal and a built-in violation of international law that forbids the occupying power from altering the occupied territories' demographic character.
Also at that time, the manipulation of visual media concealed the fact that those evicted from their settlements had occupied them illegally, in violation of international law and moved away only some thirty kilometers from their former Gaza homes to the West Bank and not to Israel. Moreover, they had been paid an average of $1.5 million per family as resettlement compensation.
Rather melodramatic scenes were shown over and over again on all major Western TV channels, but the spectacle of tears also exposed indirectly the hypocrisy of the entire media charade: if illegal Israeli settlers were feeling a bit miserable while leaving their illegally obtained homes, imagine how all those Palestinians who were rendered homeless in their own land by Israel 46 years ago must have felt. It also obscured the tragedy of 13,350 Palestinians who were thrown out of their houses by Sharon's policy of collective punishment by demolishing their houses for allegedly “harboring suspect Palestinian fighters” in them.
In the rounds of applause by media commentators for Sharon's "courageous and painful step", it was also forgotten that despite the Israeli pullout in 2005, the regime in Tel Aviv had retained control of Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters and border entry points. The movement of Palestinians and their contact with the outside was still controlled by Israel which maintained troops along the Egyptian and Gaza borders.
Gaza is cut off from the world. All three of its exits, subject to arbitrary closure, are controlled by Israel and Egypt. The restrictions on movements and closures have already led to a massive fall in the standard of living in Gaza, where per capita income for a Palestinian averages US$870 as against US$34,870 for an Israeli. Keeping in mind this monkeying by the Western media, one can only pay tribute to Dr. Joseph Goebbels who believed "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." No wonder that upon his death, Sharon – the Butcher of Beirut and the author of the Middle East bloodbath – has earned such encomiums from the his advocates.
Gul Jammas Hussain is a Pakistani journalist based in Tehran who was formerly a member of the staff of the Tehran Times.
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