Sharon: An obituary in blood

By Ameen Izzadeen
Yet another Israeli leader dies and escapes from being tried for war crimes. Ariel Sharon could escape war crimes charges but in the world court of public opinion, he will remain a war criminal. Sharon is not alone, almost all Israeli leaders since that country’s creation in 1948 are war crimes suspects. Arab and Palestinian blood is on their hands. Yet they escape prosecution even though their war crimes are as grave as the worship of the golden calf by their ancestors in the time of Moses.
Sharon, who died last week after eight years in a coma, was a member of Haganah. Britain branded Haganah as a terrorist organisation in the 1930s and 1940s when European migrant Jews launched a violent campaign to set up a Jewish state in what was British mandate Palestine. More than half a century later, Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, described this member of the terrorist organistation as “a prime minister who took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace.”
In today’s Western political lexicon, Haganah is respectably referred to as a Jewish paramilitary group.
Haganah’s crimes included setting off bombs in civilian buses and ships, killing diplomats, causing the deaths of hundreds of people by bombing hotels including the King David Hotel where some 200 people were killed or wounded, sending letter bombs, blasting Arab homes, raiding Arab villages and uprooting more than 700,000 Palestinian villagers at gunpoint.
Sharon was in the thick of these attacks. Even after Israel was set up, Sharon’s terror continued, both openly and by way of deception. While the Palestinian freedom fighters were branded terrorists and painted black in the Zionist-controlled Western media, Israel won the sympathy of the West — with the Zionist entity projecting itself as a county under siege or a nation surrounded by hostile Arab states hell bent on its destruction.
The Institute of Middle East Understanding (IMEU) which offers journalists information about Palestine has published a long list of Sharon’s atrocities.
In the early 1950s, young Sharon, a major in the Israeli army, was in charge of the infamous Unit 101, which carried out numerous cross-border attacks into the West Bank. These attacks facilitated Israel’s land grab. One such attack was the raid on the West Bank village of Qibya in October 1953. Soldiers under Sharon’s command massacred 69 Palestinian civilians, most of them women and children. Sharon’s order was: “Total destruction of the village and maximum harm to the villagers, again forcing them to flee.”
In a report to the UN Security Council, Major General Vagn Bennike, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), wrote: “Bullet-ridden bodies near the doorways and multiple hits in the doors of the demolished homes indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside while their homes were blown up over them.”
Then again Soldiers under Sharon’s command killed hundreds of civilians and Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1956 Suez war. Though this was a war crime under international law, both Israel and Sharon drew no international condemnation, leave alone war crimes prosecution.
During the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Sharon, a general by then, was in charge of the Gaza Strip. More than 1,000 Palestinians were killed or executed and between 2,000 and 6,000 Palestinian homes were demolished by soldiers under his command.
If these were some of his crimes as a military officer, his crimes as a political leader were equally horrendous or worse.
As defence minister, Sharon masterminded the 1982 invasion of Lebanon with the intention of destroying the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which had its headquarters in Lebanon, and setting up a puppet regime in Beirut. Cheered on by Western leaders, especially US President Ronald Reagan, and encouraged by the sympathetic coverage in the Zionist-controlled western media, Sharon’s army walked into Beirut, killing up to 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians.
When the scale of Israeli atrocities reached a point where even Reagan found it difficult to support Sharon’s campaign, Israel made a tactical withdrawal to West Beirut, where the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were situated. With Israeli soldiers providing cover, Lebanon’s Phalangist militia raided the two camps and carried out what was regarded as one of the worst atrocities in the modern history of the Middle East.
Some accounts said about 3,500 Palestinian refugees were massacred during three days of carnage that took place despite assurances by the United Nations and the United States to the fleeing PLO leader Yasser Arafat when he raised concerns about the safety of the Palestinian refugees.
Later, an Israeli inquiry set up under international pressure ruled that Sharon was responsible for the massacre and recommended that he be removed from office. He quit his defence minister portfolio but remained in Menachem Begin’s cabinet as a minister without portfolio. Later, he held different portfolios between 1984 and 1999 before becoming leader of the Likud Party in 1999.
As housing minister, he strongly advocated the building of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestine and oversaw the largest expansion of Jewish settlements since the start of the occupation in 1967. While the Palestinians and Israelis were holding behind-the-scenes talks in Oslo in the 1990s, Sharon encouraged settlers to “grab every hilltop” in the West Bank to create what he called irreversible “facts on the ground” before a final peace agreement could be signed.
The settlement building process has expanded today even to East Jerusalem, the intended capital of the Palestinian state. The process seeks to alter East Jerusalem’s demography in favour of Jewish settlers and thus crush the Palestinian dream of a capital. Though Sharon is dead, the process continues regardless of US President Barack Obama’s call for a halt.
Sharon triggered the Palestinian intifada II when in 2000 he visited East Jerusalem and declared Israel’s sovereignty over it. When angry Palestinians armed only with stones fought Israeli soldiers and armed Jewish settlers, Sharon built what is today known as Israel’s apartheid wall, devastating Palestinians’ socio-economic life.
The wall has severed Palestinian population centres from one another, creating a number of easily-controllable Bantustans surrounded by Israeli colonies and Israeli-only roads, military bases, and checkpoints. President Obama and other world leaders who visit the West Bank have seen this injustice yet they lack the courage to punish Israel.
Following Sharon’s landslide election victory in 2001, the peace process came to a halt. With every passing day, Sharon tightened his hold on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of Palestinians, carrying out political assassinations (including that of Shiekh Ahmed Yassin, the wheel-chair-bound founder of the Hamas movement), mass demolition of Palestinian homes and incarcerating millions of Palestinians in the Gaza strip. His military operation, codenamed Defensive Shield, to crush the intifada saw more than 500 Palestinian deaths in the West Bank. He sent Israeli troops to Palestinian areas from where they had withdrawn under the Oslo deal, thus throwing the highly acclaimed peace agreement into the dustbin of history. Commenting on the military operation, Amnesty International in a report said:
“Bodies remained in the street as residents who ventured outside to collect or attend to the dead or injured were shot. Tanks travelling through narrow streets ruthlessly sliced off the outer walls of houses; much destruction of property by tanks was wanton and unnecessary. In one appalling and extensive operation, the IDF {Israeli Defence Force} demolished, destroyed by explosives, or flattened by army bulldozers, a large residential area of Jenin refugee camp, much of it after the fighting had apparently ended.”
Many Palestinians believe that Sharon had a role to play in the death of Palestinian leader Arafat. Although French and Russian scientists say that Arafat’s death was natural despite traces of radioactive polonium found in his body and clothes, the Palestinians, citing a Swiss report, insist he was poisoned, just as former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian agents in Britain.
Sharon’s hatred of Arafat was no secret and has been well documented. He once told the Bush administration that he was reneging on his promise not to eliminate Arafat. On another occasion, Sharon said he regretted not killing Arafat during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
No Israeli leader had shed so much Palestinian blood as Sharon has done. Yet, he was hailed as a dove in eulogies that poured in from Zionist-friendly world leaders. Many described Sharon’s move to withdraw Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2004 as a pre-emptive peace strike and expressed their belief that if the Israeli leader had not fallen into a coma, he would have carried out a similar withdrawal from the West Bank also.
Far from it, the Gaza withdrawal was largely tactical. The 8,000-odd Israeli settlers were removed from Gaza in a media stunt, but soon they were resettled in Palestinian territory in the West Bank. There was no altruism in Sharon’s move to pull out of Gaza. It came about because Sharon felt that Israeli forces would have to pay a heavy price in protecting the Jewish settlers in the face Hamas’ determination to fight to the end to end Israel’s occupation.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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