By Mustafa Barghouthi
On Monday January 13th, the office of the special Envoy of the Quartet in Jerusalem, Mr. Tony Blair, circulated the eulogy [see below] he delivered at Ariel Sharon’s funeral, in the form of a Quartet statement. The full text of his eulogy, now accessible to the public, demonstrates why Mr. Blair has utterly failed in his role.
Mr. Blair is supposed to represent the international community in Jerusalem. He is supposed operate within the framework of international law, which includes ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and establishing a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian state. His speech showed no respect for the thousands of families who still mourn their loved ones, massacred in Qibya in 1953, in Sabra and Shatila in 1982, not to mention the 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese killed under Sharon’s orders during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the thousands killed during the second intifada or the hundreds of Egyptians prisoners of war who were brutally killed by his orders.
Ariel Sharon is gone, but his legacy remains with us. He is the ‘vision’ of bringing one million settlers to the occupied West Bank. He is the project of redeployment from Gaza and its isolation from the rest of Palestine in order to reshape Israel’s occupation and consolidate the annexation of vast areas of occupied Palestine.
Despite attempts to present himself as a ‘statesman’, Sharon will be remembered by many as the war criminal he was: The ‘Butcher of Beirut’, as he is known in the Arab world, who had an obsession with killing Yasser Arafat. Attempts to bring him to court failed, either due to protection afforded to him by State of Israel or due to his status as Prime Minister, as was the case when Belgian lawyers representing survivors from the Sabra and Shatila massacre tried to bring him to trial in 2002. Just like General Pinochet, Sharon died without standing trial for his crimes.
The death of any human being should never be a cause for celebration and this is not an exception. But farewell messages which completely dismiss Sharon’s history of criminal acts are an insult to the memory of thousands killed under his orders. Sharon has become a symbol of Israel’s wider impunity on the international stage. Yet Mr. Blair seems to be proud of his words. It is doubtful that even a member of the current Israeli government coalition, which includes many extremists, would have delivered a statement like the one Mr. Blair did. Though Mr. Blair supposedly represents the UK, the UN, EU and Russia, his speech did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians, nor the Israeli occupation, nor the two-state solution. It merely served as a public relations opportunity for someone who showed no sympathy for the thousands killed under Mr. Sharon’s orders.
When Yasser Arafat passed away in 2004, Sharon, by that time Israel’s Prime Minister, referred to him as a terrorist who created obstacles to peace. But even after President Abbas was elected, Sharon did not change his occupation or colonization policies. His vision was not one of negotiations but impositions, and this is part of his political legacy, today furthered by the current Israeli government.
Contrary to the ‘statesman’ Mr. Blair praised, Mr. Sharon never referred to peace, nor a two-state solution on the 1967 border, but to the annexation of Jerusalem and construction of more settlements. He singlehandedly destroyed the peace process in 2000 and provoked a second Palestinian intifada. As the Israeli Knesset speaker Mr. Edelstein, a settler himself, stressed during the burial, Mr. Sharon did everything possible to make Israeli settlements an irreversible enterprise. These policies, that led some to praise him for his ‘pragmatism’, could have easily been inherited from his colleague Menahem Begin, also responsible for several war crimes, and Israel’s PM in 1982. Today, PM Netanyahu has internalized these policies. Will he also be remembered as a man of peace?
Mr. Sharon understood only the language of force and power. He described himself as a warrior and not as a peacemaker. Today, Israel needs a different type of leader who can understand our message of nonviolent resistance when we say that we struggle not only to liberate ourselves from the oppression of Israeli occupation, apartheid and colonialism, but also to liberate the Israelis from this horrible situation. Israel needs leaders who can understand that security will not be achieved by segregation walls and brutal force but through a real, just peace, mutual respect and acceptance of the Palestinians as equal human beings.
Meanwhile, Mr. Blair’s eulogy simply demonstrated why he has failed as the Quartet envoy: He has made no effort to hold Israel accountable for its appalling actions. In fact, he has praised Israel and its leaders, leaders who continue to sabotage the prospects for two sovereign and democratic states to live side by side in peace and security.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is leader of the Palestine National Initiative, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council and the PLO Central Council, and a former presidential candidate. This Op-Ed was originally published on Haaretz