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Ariel Sharon was a war criminal – not a peacemaker

This article is over 10 years, 3 months old
John Rose looks at the career of the former Israeli prime minister who was even found responsible for a massacre by his own government
Issue 2386

Ariel Sharon, who died at the weekend, built his political career by killing Arabs. 

Every Palestinian knows this. But this week we have been fed a ludicrous media diet that Sharon had somehow become a “pragmatist”, even a “peacemaker”. 

Still the BBC did have to remind us that at the Arab border village of Qibya in 1953, Israeli military intervention “ended in shame for Sharon. 

His men had been instructed to blow up ten homes in retaliation for a raid on Israel that had killed three people. They demolished 45 houses and killed 69 people. 

The BBC said, “The international furore forced Prime Minister Ben Gurion to publicly apologise.”

Even at the time Sharon’s action was seen as unacceptable. Qibya was “a prostitution of the Jewish religion in the interests of a…lust for power,” according to progressive Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

Sharon had been a military commander in 1948 participating in what the anti-Zionist Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe calls “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” 

Nearly a million Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for the new Israeli state. Palestinians know this event as Naqba—the Catastrophe. 

Much fuss was made this week about Sharon’s burial on “his family farm”. This site was originally the Palestinian village of Huj, obliterated in 1948.

Sharon rose in the ranks to become the Israeli army’s chief of staff. He then switched to politics and became Israel’s prime minister on several occasions. 


The claim that he became dove-like because he implemented Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza conceals a much nastier truth. 

All Israel’s major political parties were panicking during the 2006 election about the “demographic problem”. 

What they meant was the Palestinians were having far more children than Israelis and so Israelis might one day be outnumbered. 

Sharon wanted to get rid of Israeli control of Gaza because he wanted to get rid of Israel’s responsibility for its Palestinians.   

At the climax of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a military campaign led by Sharon, Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. 

Sharon then ordered them to allow Lebanese Christian Phalange fascists to enter the camps—well aware of the Phalange’s admiration for Hitler. 

The result was a massacre of over 2,000 unarmed men, women and children.

Once again Israel had to respond to international outrage. The resulting Israeli government-sponsored Kahan Commission was forced to accept Israeli responsibility for the massacre. 

Was Sharon brought to trial as a war criminal? No, he was demoted from Israel Minister of Defence to a minister without portfolio. 

The last word on Sharon should go to Israeli Holocaust survivor, Dr Shlomo Shmelzman. He went on hunger strike during the Lebanon invasion. 

In a letter of explanation, he wrote, “In my childhood I suffered fear, hunger and humiliation when I passed from the Warsaw Ghetto…to Buchenwald… I hear too many familiar sounds today. I hear ‘dirty Arabs’ and I remember ‘dirty Jews’. 

“I hear about ‘closed areas’ and I hear about ‘ghettoes’ and ‘camps’. I hear ‘two legged beasts’ and I remember ‘Untermenschen’ ‘Subhumans’.” 

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