Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is regularly branded a ‘hardliner’ by the English-language press (even after showing considerable flexibility on, for example, the proposed Gaza withdrawl).

It’s telling to note where else in the world the major agencies use the term ‘hardliners’:

In Yemen, to describe fugitive terrorists, including al Qaeda operatives.

In Iran, to describe the radical Islamic forces that have rolled back women’s rights.

In India, to describe a ‘right-wing Hindu group’ that is ‘dedicated to creating an exclusive Hindu nation,’ and those who want to ban Valentine’s Day.

In Macedonia, to describe ‘ethnically divided’ war-mongers.

In Bahrain, to describe (in translation) Islamists who shut down an ‘immodest’ TV show and insist on ‘no champagne-spraying or scantilly clad women’ at an upcoming car race.

In Pakistan, to describe Taliban-supporting radical Islamists.

The implication is clear — these are bad folks, the whole lot of them, opposed to reconciliation and progress (and even love).

Is this fitting company for Sharon, the elected leader of a modern, pluralistic, truly democratic nation?