Palestinians displaced from their homeland by the last kick of
mandate, should not make too strong a point about return and restitution. As hemoved up the military hierarchy, he became a highly valued hit-man for the Israelipolitical leadership, always willing to fulfil their deepest wishes, though without theformal instructions that would encumber them with moral responsibility. No suchconvenience was afforded him when the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982occurred under his watch as Defence Minister. Indicted by a commission of inquiryand compelled to serve a longish political exile, he managed a rehabilitation withoutreally seeming to seek one. He was just too integrally connected to the thuggish,terrorist personality of the state of Israel, to be too long in the wilderness. And oncehaving ascended to the office of Prime Minister, Sharon was not about to retreatfrom the path of bloodsoaked violence.
In September 2003, Ariel Sharon came calling in Delhi, in a visit touted as a historicfirst for an Israeli Prime Minister in India. The day before he was scheduled to land, a
commentator in India’s largest English language newspaper
acclaimed his visit as anoccasion to
“finally put behind us a dreary chapter in the history of our relations withthe outside world”.
refusal to do business with Israel, he said,might once have had a purpose
: it “took care” of India’s
for thousands o
f citizens in the Gulf, and “ke
the foreign exchange situation.But that was only part of the story. The other side, perhaps the decisive influence indetermining decades of estrangement between India and Israel, was moreunsavoury
: “dogmatic anti
-Americanism fanned by fellow-travelling academics,politicians and bureaucrats to ensure Soviet support for our foreign policy objectivesand the desperate need that avowedly secular parties felt to keep on the good side
of the Muslim electorate”. This “vote bank phenomenon”,
to build bridges with Israel” –
a “vibrant democracy” th
at it shared corevalues with -- and its willingness to be best friends intimate with
“tinpot dictators andsundry sheikhs”.
On the day of Sharon’s arrival, another major English
-language newspaper ran acommentary which purported to see amid all the apparent differences, certain key
points of convergence between India and Israel: “... two nations. One large and the
other so diminutive that it appears as a mere dot on the map. Both contain within
A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949-96
Faber and Faber, London, 1997, provides details of Sharon’s military exploits:
p 89 for Qibyamassacre; pp 34, 150 and 160 for his attempts at various times to put into action anexpulsion plan.
Dileep Padgaonkar, “Shalom! Ariel Sharon”,
The Times of India