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Violence and the Middle East

Sebastian Di Tella defends his position on Sharon:

"The government is not all powerful in most occidental democracies (like Israel). You cannot prosecute someone just because you don't like what he did or what he said. He must violate a law in order to stand trial, and even then he can only be tried for the crime he committed. So the problem is that Ariel Sharon did not, that I know of, violate any law. I don't mean to say he isn't responsible for all of this, or that he doesn't deserve paying for this he did. However, republican principles must be respected, otherwise you will end up justifying the good dictator, who knows what the people want more than the people themselves (or so he claims ) . On the other hand, the rioters did violate a law, and so the government can do something to stop them. The government does not have the power or the right, under a democratic system, to prosecute Ariel Sharon, while they can and must try to control the rioters.

Your comparison with the KKK in a black neighborhood does not apply, because demonstrations must be approved, so the government has the right to stop it. The Israeli government can prohibit Ariel Sharon from getting near to the Temple Mount, but while it doesn't, he doesn't need to ask permission beforehand, while the KKK must.

Ariel Sharon should pay for what he did, but in political consequences. If something good can be taken from this, the weakening of the hawkish right in Israel could be it. However, we must also remember how much the Israelis have already given in negotiations. An excessive weakening of the right in Israel could be bad in the long term, if it is not accompanied by a symmetrical weakening of the extremist factions in Arab politics."

My comment: This does not excuse the connivance between Barak and Sharon. In most countries there is a law against incentives to riot.I assume there is a law covering shouting "Firs!" in a crowded theater. Apparently the UN Security Council thought it had a good legal case against Sharon. What about excessive use of force? In the Skokie case, the ACLU argued that the KKK had the right to parade through a black neighborhood. Of course, the law varies from country to country.

Ronald Hilton - 10/09/00