"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
In one of the most incendiary op-eds on the current Gaza crisis, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Israel should “Flatten all of Gaza.”
Sharon, whose father ordered a withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, called for the blockaded Palestinian region to be annihilated or re-occupied by Israeli troops.
“There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire,” he wrote. “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”
Placing all blame for the current conflict on the people of Gaza, Sharon — a columnist for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and a major in the IDF reserves — suggests that Palestinians in the region chose and deserve a painful fate, essentially endorsing civilian deaths:
To prevent harm to innocent civilians in Gaza will ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel. The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.
Sharon’s opinion here stands in stark contrast to the analysis which sees Hamas’ rise to power in Gaza as having little to do with Palestinian “choice” in any sort of democratic sense. As Taghreed El-Khodary, a Palestinian journalist and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar, told me in 2010, “Hamas is the result of a failure of [Israel's] policies, and of the failure of the international community to impose a fair policy for the Palestinians.”
The violence of Sharon’s suggestions have brought criticism on the Jerusalem Post, even from supporters of Israel. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, decried Sharon’s article on Twitter:
Gilad Sharon has called on Israel to bomb Gaza to oblivion. I'm semi-surprised the Jerusalem Post published such dreck.— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) November 18, 2012
Anti-racism advocate Tim Jacob Wise commented that Sharon’s argument is unabashedly racist in that it explicitly values Jewish life above Arab life. He noted on Twitter, “Why did JPost publish Gilad Sharon’s horrible, racist call to kill innocent Arabs to protect ‘truly innocent’ Jews?”
The New Inquiry blogger Aarob Bady took note of the racism underpinning Sharon’s line urging Israel to project “A Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated.” In a previous essay written without the Gaza conflict in mind, Bady pointed out how Tarzan can be read as a colonial racist image — the “white-skinned Übermensch soaring above Africa” He noted that, coincidentally, Edgar Rice Burroughs started writing his first Tarzan novel a month after the first use of aerial bombardment against “primitive tribes” in North Africa. As such, Sharon’s invocation of Tarzan in his article is deeply, darkly appropriate.
Although Sharon has no role in Israeli policy making, his comments do not differ dramatically from those of Israel’s deputy P.M., Eli Yishai, who said on the weekend, according to Haaretz, that “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.”
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)