Monday, August 07, 2006

The Irate Codger mulls the fate of Ariel Sharon

My mind reeling from all the madness let loose by some Gazans snatching Corporal Shalit in late June, I was caught off guard by a bulletin the other day concerning the state of Ariel Sharon. It was like a flashback from another time. "Gee, that's right," I thought, "the old boy's still alive, isn't he?" It seemed from the news brief that there had been worrisome signs of organ impairment; the liver, I think it was. Think of it, it's been eight months since he suffered a massive stroke that sent him into an almost certainly irreversible coma. Doctors at the receiving hospital confided at the time that if the victim had been anyone but Sharon, they'd have let him go. The chances of his ever recovering, they said, were remote indeed.

You'd think that long ago, his widow--sorry, wife--would have said, "Please, let my husband depart in peace." Or that his sons would say, "Unplug Dad, OK? He'd have wanted it that way." One thing is certain: Sharon did not leave a living will.

Isn't this rather looking like emperor worship? His thousands of fanatical supporters among West Bank settlers when he was housing minister did acclaim him "Arik, King of the Jews," didn't they? I begin to think that if the doctors can keep him alive long enough, Israel might carve out of the living rock at Yad Vashem a gloom-shrouded Sharon Memorial lit by candlelight but with one strong ceiling beacon shining upon Sharon lying in a glass enclosed bed in a permanent vegetative state---a sort of combination of Lenin's Tomb and a Terri Schiavo vigil-- white-garbed doctors twiddling knobs of life-support systems and gravely studying dials while endless streams of Jews and visiting gentile dignitaries silently pass by, paying their respects between 10 AM and 5 PM daily, forever and ever.

Resolution 1559.

Before Israel began bombing Beirut three weeks ago, who had ever heard of UN Security Council Resolution 1559? As we have been endlessly reminded ever since, it was passed in 2004 and requires the disarming of Hezbollah. As I understand it, France had sponsored a resolution calling for the departure from Lebanon of Syrian military forces, and the United States--that would be then ambassador John Negroponte--urged the addition of language requiring the disarming of all non-state Lebanese militias, meaning, of course, Hezbollah, and the resolution was duly adopted.

Now you never hear the end of 1559. Just today, Bush mentioned it three times as being absolutely mandatory. It's a solemn responsibility of the international community to enforce it. It cannot be shirked. Not just Bush, but Martin Peretz and his Israeli claque at the New Republic, the Israelis, and every neocon in sight, have been shouting "1559!" That is to say, all those pro-Israeli voices who in the past expressed bottomless contempt for the UN, Kofi Annan, the Secretariat, and every damned Security Council resolution to restrain Israeli territorial aggrandizement ever passed. (And, of course, those forty resolutions since 1970 that failed because of a US veto, all of them "one-sided.") I wonder, has Bush ever mentioned 242 or 338 (that is, land for peace and a negotiated withdrawal by Israel from the Golan)? Well, he did allude to 242 a couple of years ago, calling it "unrealistic." These resolutions have been there since 1967 and 1973. Why are those damned Syrians being so mulish?

My Linda Gradstein problem and ours.

It will be wondered why the Irate Codger has been obsessed for so long by NPR's lady correspondent in Jerusalem. A week ago I said she was bone lazy, seldom produced any news pieces at all, and completely blew off the Palestinians. As if to disprove the first charge, Gradstein last week produced no fewer than three pieces, which must be a record for her. Here they are:

Lat Monday, she did four or five minutes on "Day by Day" about the striking differences between the Israeli public's response to Sharon's Operation Peace in Galilee in 1982 and its feelings about the current Lebanon war. In 1982, there were huge divisions. Tens of thousands protested the invasion and condemned the massacre of Palestinians in the Shia and Shatillah refugee camps in south Beirut by Israel's proxy Falange militia. Now, however, there is almost universal support for Israel's war (except, presumably, among Israeli Arabs). Why? Three prominent Israeli political scientists and military historians explained that it was because this time Israel's very survival is at stake, and the public grasps this fact. There was a fourth voice at the end, that of Gershon Gorenberg of the American Prospect and Mother Jones, who said that Israelis hadn't begun to think through the implications of this invasion.

On Tueday, on Morning Edition, she produced a story on the economic effects of the war. She talked to an American couple who ran a bed and breakfast resort in the northern Galilean town of Nazareth (not the one in which Jesus is said to have been born, but the other, which is still a Christian shrine destination with an ancient Orthodox church---I read about this in a recent issue of Archeology). The couple said summer was usually their most profitable season, but this year, thanks to the rockets, business was almost down to zero. But so far for all of Israel, Gradstein said reassuringly, the economic impact had been quite manageable.

For her third story, on Thursday, on All Things Considered, she took a tape recorder to a shopping mall and asked passers-by if they supported the war. All did.

Pretty hard-hitting stuff, eh?

Friday on All Things Considered, there was a report on the "forgotten war" in Gaza, not by Gradstein, of course, but by Anne Garrels. It was horrible. Since the abduction of Corporal Shalit and the beginning of "Operation Summer Rain," the Israeli rampage through Gaza, about 190 Gazans had been killed (and one Israeli: a soldier killed by friendly fire). All the crossing points out of Gaza have been closed since June, there is no power or light, no refrigeration, produce rots, and the Israeli navy prevents Gazan fishermen from going out to where there are fish. One man told of receiving a call on his cell phone in the middle of the night--the Israeli caller used his nickname--telling him to clear his family out of his house because it would be destroyed in ten minutes. It was. Others said they had received similar calls, fled their homes, and then...nothing happened. But they were afraid to venture back in and were sleeping out of doors. Gritty, resolute, heroic Anne. Not the same as taking your tape recorder to a shopping mall, is it?

So why didn't NPR fire the useless Gradstein years ago? I think I know why. Remember Kenneth Tomlinson, the Bush zealot who was compelled to resign as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting last November for his crazed overreaching in seeking to bring PBS firmly into the Bush camp? He cracked down on Bill Moyers, promoted a "Wall Street Journal Editors' Report," charged "Frontline" with being a fount of anti-Bush propaganda, and even said that the News Hour with Jim Lehrer was left wing. (While compelled to resign from the CPB, Tomlinson continues to chair the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs the Voice of America.) Well, one of his charges was that NPR was biased against Israel and pro-Palestinian.

As a firewall against such assaults, who better than Linda Gradstein? She's NPR's hole card. "We're pro-Palestinian? Don't you know our correspondent in Jerusalem for the last seventeen years has been Linda Gradstein? When she occasionally lectures on US campuses, it's under the sponsorship of Hillel! She is clearly described in the literature as a Zionist! Check out her history and see if you can find anything biased toward the Palestinians." (Actually, years ago, Richard Pipes--or was it Daniel Pipes, I get them confused--did so charge Gradstein, but that would apply to anyone left of Yitzak Shamir.)

Nor is it just the Bush administration and the right. If Gradstein were fired, imagine the shit storm that AIPAC, the ADL, and Democrats like James Wexler, Jerrold Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Berman might churn up.

All this being so, perhaps it's for the best that this woman continue to enjoy her sinecure.