"I… demonstrate how the class struggle… created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part." Karl Marx, 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon'
On January 4, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was hospitalised in Hadasa hospital after suffering a stroke. This came after he had already been hospitalised between December 18 and 20 following his previous stroke. Sharon is in a bad condition and his doctors say that his life is in serious danger, and that even if he survives the stroke he probably will not recover his full mental capacities.
In actual fact, the seriousness of his state was obvious enough to anyone who saw Sharon in front of the cameras just after his previous stroke. Sharon looked very sick as he talked, and many could see there was something wrong. Although it was claimed that he was "joking with his doctors" (a common line in Israeli politics to cover up for a person's illness) no one was allowed to take pictures of him in his hospital room. Also, Sharon's medical file had been made public a while ago and it seems he was in terrible shape, in part because of his refusal to go on a diet, as his doctors had recommended.
Clearly, as socialists, we can feel no sympathy for Sharon. The man is a war criminal and a reactionary who made a career of deceiving and attacking both the Israeli and the Palestinian masses since the beginning of his military career, which was followed by a political career which was just as bloody.
In 1953, his Unit 101 carried out a pogrom in the village Qibya, killing 60 Palestinians. Sharon was called in to meet then Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who told him: "Let me tell you one thing: it doesn't matter what the world says of Israel, it doesn't matter what anyone says about us. The only thing that matters is that we can live here, in the land of our forefathers. Unless we show the Arabs that there's a price for killing Jews, we cannot survive."
A study by the Israeli military's history department describes how Sharon, frustrated with the government's indecision on the eve of the 1967 war, offered the General to carry out a military putsch: "I said that had we at some point got up and said, listen you, your decisions risk the state of Israel, and since the situation is grave, you are asked to go to the next room and wait here, and the General will send out a message on the radio. They'd feel relieved. That was my feeling."
In 1982, Sharon, then the Minister of Defence, allowed the forces of the fascist Falange in Lebanon to slaughter the people of the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, killing more than 328 Palestinians. The Cahen committee, set up following the slaughter, made it impossible for Sharon to hold the position of Minister of Defence again – but not that of any other Minister, or Prime Minister for that matter!
In 1973, Sharon joined the right-wing Likud party (after a brief tenure with his own Shlomzion party) and was known for years as the father of the messianic settler movement and as a generally aggressive right-winger.
We have no particular interest in Sharon's death. He should in reality be sentenced for his war crimes, something that given his health is probably not going to happen, but if he dies, another of his kind will simply replace him. Socialists do not wish for the death of any individual agent of capitalism – what they wish is for the overthrow of capitalism itself.
After the disengagement, which Sharon used to make the Israeli masses believe that he was trying to make peace with the Palestinians, his popularity was on the rise. The old right-wing Labour party leadership, which has since suffered quite a few defeats at the hands of its left wing, joined his government, and assisted in spreading these illusions and carrying out Sharon's economic programme, which was the most right-wing in Israeli history.
We must not forget Sharon's crimes. Israeli workers must not give in to the Israeli media's propaganda campaign. Sharon is/was one of the most formidable enemies of the working class and he must not be seen as anything else. No solution to the problems of the Israeli and Palestinian workers can come either from him or from his pseudo-party Kadima. The only real solution is a left-wing socialist government that will carry out a socialist policy and that will serve the workers and the poor, not the capitalists.
Sharon As A Political Tool
"For it cometh in vanity, and departeth in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness" ~ Ecclesiastes 6:4
Sharon's illness makes it quite clear that he is not going to be in any condition to return to active political involvement after he comes out of hospital. His party Kadima ("Forward") and its media cronies are in panic, understanding as much as anyone else that Kadima is a one man party, and that without Sharon, it will be difficult to hold it together and achieve the success in the polls they had been expecting, and so this new party of the capitalists will have a short life. It is an indication of the state of Israeli politics that everything rests on one man, the arbiter, the Bonaparte at the top of society!
So what are they to do? They are doing everything possible to create a link in the minds of the masses between Sharon and the party. An endless stream of speeches, crocodile tears, and semi-obituaries appear daily in the mass media, all acting as election propaganda for the party which has lost the only ace it had up its sleeve.
We are taught from very early on that the mass media is supposed to belong to everyone, that it is the “watchdog of democracy”. Well, in a certain sense it is the watchdog of democracy – but it doesn't watch over democracy in the sense they would like us to believe; its role is to keep up the pretence that bourgeois democracy is the rule of the people, when in reality it is the rule over the people. It is a “democracy” which allows a tiny minority to rule over all our lives, a “democracy” which keeps over a million and half Israelis in poverty.
The truth is that the media doesn't belong to us all. It is in the firm grip of the bourgeoisie. The Moses, Nimordi, Shoken, and other capitalist families own all the major newspapers, and can tell them what to write and what to promote. It is a fact that all newspapers are presently serving as propaganda machines for Kadima, the new party of the Israeli capitalists.
In the distant past, the Labour party was the main tool of the Israeli capitalists, since it had the authority to hold back the workers. After the weakening of the Labour party due to popular resentment against its policies, the ruling class shifted its base to the Likud, the main right-wing party at the time (until the creation of Kadima a couple of months ago). Sharon understood that the Likud was turning into an extreme right-wing party, which could lose many votes, and he also knew that after Peretz had been elected to chairman of Labour, the capitalists could not use this somewhat-renewed party. So the conditions for the setting up of Kadima were created, a party which has no other function than to try and stop the extreme polarization that is taking place in Israeli society – something which can only hold for a very short period of time – while of course providing nicely paid jobs for a handful of opportunists.
Kadima can of course use many media tricks. Recently it was even suggested that Sharon should be part of Kadima's list of candidates for the elections, despite his inability to participate in them, in order to get a couple more mandates exploiting the public's sympathy. But all this cannot last for long. Kadima is a party of decline from its very inception. If not in this election, then in the next its weakness will become clear to all. As for Sharon, one may pity the way he and his condition are used to further people's political careers, including that of his sons. However, Sharon put himself in this situation. Whoever bases his political career on lies and corruption, should not be surprised when this catches up with him.
- Ariel Sharon – myth and reality by Mordachai Peargut (January 17, 2006)
- Israel: As class struggle intensifies divisions open up in ruling class party by Alon Lessel in Israel and Fred Weston (October 20, 2005)
- Sharon bloodbath to win leadership of Likud by Yossi Schwartz (September 26, 2005)