Sharon - 'cancer of Mideast'

UK official dubs Sharon 'cancer of Mideast'

Jpost 010923 LONDON (September 23)

 - A diplomatic storm has erupted here over the depiction of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by an unnamed Foreign Office official as "the cancer at the center of the Middle East crisis."

The comment, by a "senior British Foreign Office source," was quoted in a front-page article by the Guardian, which has consistently put Israel in the frame when discussing the causes of this month's terrorist outrages in the United States.

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Jerusalem Post: "We totally dissociate ourselves from these unattributed remarks which in no way represent the views of the Foreign Office or the government. Whoever made them is not speaking for the government."

The official was unable to say, however, whether such views were held within the Foreign Office - "They were in no way authorized" - but he ruled out the possibility that the Guardian had made up the quotation, implying that the comments had indeed come from "a senior British Foreign Office source" of the newspaper.

The Israeli Embassy in London has protested the substance and the style of the remarks: "We're appalled that such comments could be made by a Foreign Office official about the democratically elected leader of a friendly state," said embassy spokesman D.J. Schneeweiss.

He told the Post that the embassy expects the Foreign Office to investigate the matter and take appropriate action against the official responsible.

"We have made clear at all levels that we are utterly dismayed and that we expect the matter to be dealt with in an appropriately firm manner," he said.

The Guardian article said US President George W. Bush had "forced" a cease-fire on Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, and it spoke of Bush using "America's enormous economic and political clout to bring Sharon in particular to heel" in order to avoid sabotaging the Arab and Muslim components of his evolving military coalition.

"As part of a total rethink of the Bush administration's foreign policy since the New York and Washington attacks," reported the Guardian, "the president is taking a tougher line with Israel in an attempt to secure a speedy end to a conflict that feeds Arab hatred of the United States."

After noting that the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire opened the way for negotiation between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Arafat, the newspaper noted: "In an indication of the extent to which patience with Sharon has ended, a senior British Foreign Office source described Mr Sharon as 'the cancer at the center of the Middle East crisis.'"

The Guardian, frequently antagonistic toward Israel, has persistently singled out Israel for blame in describing the hatred of America that led to last week's devastation.

On the morning after the attacks, former Israel correspondent Derek Brown noted in the Guardian that "contrary to the tawdry view which is peddled too often, the Arab and Islamic worlds are not teeming with crazed fanatics seeking holy martyrdom... They feel sullied and threatened by the startling success of Israel in colonizing part of their region, and they bitterly resent America's decisive role in that process.

"That is why they danced in the streets of occupied east Jerusalem. We all feel queasy when we see such jubilation in the wake of human calamity. We should also be made queasy by the view from the other side of the looking-glass: the grotesque caricaturing of Arabs and Muslims generally as bearded weirdos with nothing but evil in their hearts."

"When did we ever see a sympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Palestinians? When will there be a blockbuster novel about Zionism which doesn't assume that Israel represents all that is good and pure?"

British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain once used the columns of the Guardian to advocate Israel's destruction and to describe Israelis as "greedy usurpers."