Ariel Sharon’s death this past week does not bring an end to the fanaticism, the war crimes or the war against peace and justice for Palestinians and Arabs, but it does move us a little further away from extremism.
Death is never a time for celebration. I wish no one ill-will and I oppose all forms of violence. But I do believe Ariel Sharon left this world before this world could hold him accountable for his actions.
Ariel Sharon was a war criminal and a foe of peace based on justice and fairness. Wearing an Israeli military uniform, Sharon commanded the massacre of 69 Palestinian civilians in 1953 in Qibya, and thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1982.
It was Sharon’s nature to be hateful. His policies only allowed him to see humanity for Jews and Israel, prompting him to declare in an interview with an Israeli newspaper after Sept. 11, 2001, that the terrorist attacks on America allowed Israel to declare the peace accords of Oslo and Taba to be “dead.”
Sharon’s violent history was overshadowed by one exaggerated move to withdraw Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005. But the motivation wasn’t peace. It was to re-align Israeli control over Gaza because the price of military occupation there was too high.
Sharon represented a moral contradiction for Israelis, one too many Israelis are willing to accept.
Israelis claim to want peace, but too many of them only want peace with the Arabs and not the Palestinians. These Israelis only want the land of Palestine and they want the Palestinians expelled. Prime Minister Menachem Begin was one of those who spoke about peace with Arabs, but not with Palestinians.
Ironically, Sharon can be called one of the most honest Israelis. He never disguised his hatred of Palestinians or hesitated to use violence against them.
Sharon led the vicious assault against the Palestinian revolutionary hero Yasser Arafat, the first Palestinian leader to extend a hand of true peace to Israel and to recognize Israel. Sharon declared he wanted to kill Arafat, but his real intention was to kill peace with the Palestinians.
Sharon was obsessed with Arafat, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who championed Palestinian rights and forced the world to recognize the Palestinians as a legitimate people with claims to Palestine. Arafat died on November 11, 2004. Sharon was hospitalized one year later in December 2005 and went into a coma on Jan. 4, 2006. He died eight years later on Jan. 11, 2014.
It was Sharon who helped kill the peace process, although in truth after Israeli fanatics murdered Arafat’s peace partner Yitzhak Rabin in 2005, months before Sharon’s illness, there were few Israeli leaders who followed who genuinely sought to end the conflict at the negotiating table.
In 2000, after Arafat had criticized the one-sided peace proposals of Prime Minister Ehud Barak and pro-Israel President Bill Clinton, Sharon put the nail in the coffin of hope by standing at the Dome of the Rock plaza, the Haram al-Ash Sharif, and declared Palestinians would never have a right to the Holy City.
Barak had said the same, but not in such an incendiary way. Barak was a political coward who wanted the accolades of peace but embraced the expansionist policies of rightwing Israeli popularity. And Barak lost the election to Sharon the following year.
Sharon intended to provoke Palestinians with his incendiary rhetoric, causing Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians to clash at the plaza and sparking the second Intifada. For Sharon, the Palestinian protests against Israeli extremism served as cover for Sharon’s policy of expanding the illegal, Jewish-only settlements in Palestine.
Most Israelis live a lie, and Ariel Sharon was their mentor. He represents the dark side of a nature Israelis often deny. Israelis claim they want peace, but too many of them really want a “peace” in which Palestinians have been made to disappear.
Sharon knew Israelis didn’t want to pay the high price of occupying the Gaza Strip, so he withdrew in order to strengthen his grip on their real goal, the West Bank, which many Israelis racistly refer to as “Judea and Samaria.” Calling the West Bank Judea and Samaria is no different than Arab fanatics who call Israel “the Zionist entity.”
Most of the mainstream American media avoided substantive references to Sharon’s crimes, fearing being labeled “anti-Semitic,” the charge most thrown at anyone who criticizes Israel’s anti-peace actions and violence.
Among Sharon’s true achievements was leading his IDF military unit into the Palestinian village of Qibya in the West Bank in October 1953, and killing 69 unarmed civilians, two-thirds of them women and children.
The village had been used as a staging ground for Palestinian resistance against Israel’s military assaults and murdering the civilians evoked an old American military policy used during the Vietnam War. The resistance and guerrillas would hide among civilians so the policy was to simply kill all the civilians rather than meet the guerrillas face-to-face.
I don’t believe we should celebrate death. I don’t believe we should wish anyone any harm or violence. I oppose the use of violence and that alone sets me apart from Ariel Sharon and many of his fans.
I do believe people like Sharon should be held accountable for their crimes. He never was. Even when he was rightly blamed for his role in the massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatilla, he was never imprisoned or punished. Instead, his barbarism elevated his stature among many Israelis.
(Photo: Surviving residents of Qibya return to their village following Sharon’s massacre there in 1953. Wikipedia.)
Being elected prime minister despite his violent past was not an achievement for Sharon. Israel has elected several war criminals as prime ministers. Menachem Begin, the leader of the terrorist organization the Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, the leader of the terrorist organization the Stern Gang, both became prime ministers. They mentored others who followed, including Rabin’s rival, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sharon’s death does not bring an end to pro-Israel violence or extremist provocation. The problem is too deeply embedded in Israeli politics.
Though many Palestinians expressed anger and glee at the news of Sharon’s death, most Palestinians hope that Israelis will turn away from violence and bring an end to the settlement expansion. We hope for an Israel that recognizes the sharing of Jerusalem with Palestinians is not just a concession in a peace agreement, but as the moral and right thing to do.