Scott Burchill: Sharon's Eulogists Ignore The Blood On His Hands

Roundup: Talking About History

Presentism -- overemphasising the significance of current events and denying historical perspectives -- reached epidemic proportions after September 11, 2001, as Western governments scrambled to deny that Islamists acted out of any sense of legitimate grievance.

According to Prime Minister John Howard, the West was targeted by extremists ''because of who we are, not because of what we have done''. There is no cause for self-examination because our enemies are driven by a ''detestation of Western values''.

Alternative explanations such as the CIA's ''blowback'' thesis, which argued that the US is reaping the unintended consequences of earlier interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia, were dismissed as condoning terrorism. There were no root causes of Islamist terror nor any need to consider the consequences of Washington's support for brutal and corrupt dictatorships in the Gulf, let alone its financial and military support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

According to Howard: ''Convoluted argument[s] about the alleged dispossession or prolonged disputes in other parts of the world'' constituted ''obscene rationalisations that the apologists for terrorists have engaged in''. Thus, Palestinian terrorism could be condemned without mentioning its cause: the Israeli occupation.

If the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 can be reduced to a mere allegation by Australia's Prime Minister, it's no surprise that historical events are also being effaced from Ariel Sharon's political obituaries.

Current orthodoxy paints Sharon as a ''warrior statesman'' who courageously returned the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians and was preparing to make further ''painful and generous concessions'' on the West Bank before being cut down by a stroke. Dubbed ''a man of peace'' by President George W. Bush, it is said Sharon moved from the hard Right to the political centre, creating a new political party that, after winning elections scheduled for March, would oversee a peace settlement that delivered a Palestinian state.

None of this is even remotely true.

A cursory examination reveals Sharon to be more an unindicted war criminal than a peacemaker. His bloody record has been extensively documented by British journalist David Hirst, Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, and several others. However, rather than being placed in the dock at the International Criminal Court, Sharon is now receiving effusive praise from Western elites for his commitment to peace.

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