People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXVII

No. 36

September 07, 2003

 ARIEL SHARON

 Profile Of A Zionist Killer

 N D Jayaprakash

 

ARIEL Sharon, prime minister of Israel and chairman of the fascist Likud Party, who is scheduled to visit India soon, has a notorious past (see Note 2). For more than 60 years of his life, the 75-year old Sharon has personally committed untold atrocities against the Palestinian people and his hands are smeared with their blood.

 

Sharon was born in 1928 in Palestine, into a family of Russian immigrants, with strong Zionist sympathies. In 1942, at the age of 14, he became a member of the Haganah, the terrorist wing of the Zionist movement. The Zionists, who were intent on establishing a separate homeland for “Jews” in Palestine, were desperate to drive away the Palestinians inhabiting that land through intimidation and terror, and to populate the seized land with “Jews” immigrating from Europe and elsewhere. As the scale of his brutalities increased with time, he became increasingly prominent in the vile movement.

 

QIBYA AND SINAI MASSACRES

            

During the forcible establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the then 20-year old Sharon headed an infantry company in one of the brigades of the Zionist Army ---a marauding force that eventually chased out an estimated 750,000 native Palestinians from their land by instilling the fear of death. Sharon gained notoriety in August 1953, when as a 25-year old he founded “Unit 101,” a secret death squad within the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). During the night of October 14-15, 1953, Sharon and his death squad slaughtered 69 innocent Palestinians, including women and children, by blowing up with explosives and machineguns the entire village of Qibiya in the West Bank comprising 45 houses. The senseless killing had caused quite a furore. Even the US department of state was forced to issue a statement on October 18, 1953, expressing its “deepest sympathy for the families of those who lost their lives” in the attack. The statement added that those responsible “should be brought to account and that effective measures should be taken to prevent such incidents in the future” (Department of State Bulletin, October. 26, 1953, p. 552).

 

Instead of being brought to account, Sharon was rewarded for his war crimes by having his “Unit 101” absorbed into the Israeli paratroop corps. By 1956, Sharon was appointed as paratroop brigade commander. During the 1956 joint British, Israeli, and French invasion of the Suez Canal, Sharon-led paratrooper units murdered and dumped into mass graves 273 Egyptian prisoners of war as well as Sudanese workers who had been captured in the Sinai desert. The story about the killings broke out nearly 40 years later in a paper on the Sinai campaign commissioned by the Israeli army’s military history division. They were described in graphic detail in newspaper and television interviews in Israel. But it was only after the London Daily Telegraph on August 16, 1995 carried an article entitled “Israelis Admit Massacre” by its Tel Aviv based reporter Ohad Gozani that the whole gory incident became widely known.

 

During the 1960s, Sharon’s military career advanced. Sharon participated in the 1967, Six-Day War as commander of an armoured division and in 1969 he was appointed Head of the Southern Command. In that capacity, he carried out a brutal policy of repression in Gaza Strip: blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee camps and imposing severe collective punishments. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed or unjustly imprisoned by him.

 

“GREATER ISRAEL”

 

Sharon resigned from the army in June 1972, but was recalled to active military service in the 1973 Yom Kippur war to command an armoured division. He was subsequently elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in December 1973, about the time that the Israeli government lifted the ban on private sales of West Bank land to Israelis. The decision to lift the ban was brought about through heavy lobbying by Sharon’s close associates. Sharon’s resignation from the IDF coincided with the launching of an ambitious enterprise of creating “Eretz Israel” or “Greater Israel.” The plan was to permanently annex all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights and to resettle these areas with Jewish immigrants after the Palestinians have been eliminated. In June 1974, Sharon personally led a group of settlers to establish an illegal outpost near the West Bank town of Nablus. It was the first of many such ventures that Sharon eventually sponsored.

 

Sharon resigned from the Knesset in 1975 to serve as security adviser to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. He was again elected to the Knesset in 1977. That same year, under the leadership of Menachem Begin, the Likud Party won the general election in Israel for the first time. Sharon joined Begin’s government as minister of agriculture in charge of settlements. In that capacity, Sharon launched a massive expansion of Jewish “agricultural settlements” throughout the West Bank and Gaza. During 1977-81, more than 25,000 new settlers--- mostly members of the Gush Emunim, the fanatical settler movement---moved into the occupied territories. The Gush Emunim settlers also formed into death squads explicitly modelled on Sharon’s old “Unit 101.” Sharon was also one of the co-founders of the organisation misnamed PEACE (Prevention of Emergence of another Arab Country in Eretz Israel) founded in1980 to press the issue of permanent Israeli annexation of the occupied territories.

 

INVASION OF LEBANON

 

In June 1981, his settlement campaign was one of the keys to Likud’s re-election, as he was credited with making swift and permanent progress in establishing a pervasive Israeli presence in the West Bank. Prime minister Begin then appointed Sharon as minister of defence, which presented him with new opportunities for unleashing his deadly skills. It did not take long for Sharon to order an Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, aimed at wiping out the vanguard of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which had established its base in Beirut. In the guise of protecting Israel’s northern borders, Sharon launched a military campaign called “Operation Peace in Galilee” killing no less than 18,000 Palestinians and Lebanese and wounding over 30,000 of them. Over 40,000 homes --- about one-fourth of all Beirut’s dwellings --- were also destroyed in the indiscriminate shelling by the IDF, (See US Library of Congress/ Country Studies).  

 

This was not all. “On the evening of September 16, 1982, the IDF, having surrounded the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, dispatched approximately 300 to 400 Christian militiamen [Phalangists] to the camps to rout what was believed to be the remnant of the Palestinian forces.... Over a period of two days, the Christian militiamen massacred some 700 to 800 Palestinian men, women, and children” (Ibid). Palestinian sources, however, claim that the death toll was over 3500.

 

Worldwide protests against the gruesome murders, including a massive 400,000-strong protest rally in Tel Aviv, forced the Israeli government to set up a commission of inquiry headed by the then president of the Israeli Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan, to investigate the massacre. The Kahan commission found Sharon guilty of complicity in the crimes and recommended his dismissal as defence minister. But Sharon, who was forced to resign his post on February 13, 1983, bounced back to power in no time, with the unflinching support of Israel’s dominant right-wing lobby.

 

EXPANSION OF SETTLEMENTS

 

The establishment of a Likud-Labour national unity government in 1984 saw Sharon being appointed as minister of trade and industry, a position he held until 1990. Meanwhile, due to the intolerable and oppressive policies being followed by the so-called “national-unity” government, the first Palestinian “intifada” (sustained protest) had broken out on December 9,1987. During 1990-1992, Sharon served as minister of construction and housing and as chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption. This post enabled him to massively expand settlements in the occupied territories, especially by luring Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

 

During 1977-1992, Sharon had not only been the patron of Gush Emunim and Kach, the “Jewish” terrorist organisations. He also reportedly played a secret role in the creation of Hamas, the fanatical Palestinian “Islamist” group, which was formally founded in 1988. Under the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, about 800 “licenses” were supposedly handed out to Palestinians, to create schools, infirmaries, food kitchens, and other social service programmes. Sharon is said to have made sure that most of these licenses went to “Islamists,” many of them would be Hamas founders, so as to help create a parallel structure that could supplant the PLO inside the occupied territories. There appears to be some truth in the story, for it is Hamas, that has been master-minding the senseless suicide-bomb attacks against innocent Israeli citizens, thereby discrediting the genuine struggle of the Palestinian people for justice.

 

MURDER OF RABIN

 

Soon after Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister of Israel in 1992, the former Sharon ally in the war on the Palestinians expressed his desire to reach a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. He entered into secret peace talks with the PLO chief Yassar Arafat, which culminated in the signing of the Oslo peace accords on September 13, 1993 in the presence of US president William Clinton at the White House. Earlier on September 10, 1993, the PLO and the government of Israel had exchanged letters of mutual recognition.  With the success of this notable diplomatic initiative, the five-year long Palestinian intifada also ended. However, Sharon chose to declare war on the Oslo accords and on prime minister Rabin.

 

Sharon rushed to the United States and embarked on a nationwide tour on November 14, 1993, in which he declared that the 150,000 Jewish settlers in West Bank and Gaza were the “only barrier to a Palestinian state.” Sharon was accompanied, throughout the tour, by Yechial Leiter, a leader of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. While in the United States, Sharon reportedly raised millions of dollars for the Kiryat Arba “resistance” movement. The orchestrated campaign against the Oslo peace accord, culminated in the assassination of prime minister Rabin on November 4, 1995 by a West Bank settler, Yigal Amir, who came from Sharon’s terror hub, Kiryat Arba. As to whether or not Sharon’s frenzied campaign against Rabin was the direct cause of his assassination is a matter of conjecture.

 

The Likud Party was back in power in 1996 with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. He immediately appointed Sharon as minister of national infrastructure. During 1996-98, under Sharon’s new tenure, the settler population in the occupied territories soared to nearly 400,000, including around 163,000 in East Jerusalem alone. By 1998, 62 per cent of the land in West Bank and 35 per cent in Gaza were confiscated to serve the Israeli settlers, while nearly 3,000,000 Palestinians were cramped into rest of the area. In 1998, Ariel Sharon was appointed foreign minister and headed the permanent status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, a step that effectively made sure that the Oslo process would be derailed. Netanyahu’s fall from power in 1999, and his replacement by a Labour government headed by the former IDF chief Ehud Barak, signalled that the Oslo peace process that Sharon was dedicated to destroying was back on the table. Soon, intense private negotiations between the Barak government and the Palestinian Authority took place in New York City, and later, at Taba in Egypt. It appeared that a final draft accord had been worked out in principle, which would have formed a just and viable basis for a peaceful settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But Sharon and his backers would have nothing of this.

 

PROVOCATIVE ACT

 

In September 2000, Sharon again visited New York City, where he met with his supporters and financiers. Immediately after he returned, in an audacious manner Sharon decided to trespass the third holiest site of Islam on al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem accompanied by 1,000 Israeli troops, as an assertion of permanent Israeli control over the sacred site. It is this impudent act which ignited the current crisis and provoked the second Palestinian intifada. In January 2001 the Barak government fell and on February 6, 2001 Sharon, who had taken over the Likud Party in September 1999, was elected prime minister of Israel, ready to launch his final drive for “Greater Israel.”

 

Sharon formed a broad-based government of national unity, but pursued a hard line with the Palestinians. As Sharon become more aggressive the IDF ventured to make small, temporary incursions into Palestinian controlled areas and gradually increase the pace of assassinations of selective Palestinian leaders. An event that escalated the crisis was the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa, head of the leftist PFLP---one of the key constituents of the PLO. In a targeted killing the IDF eliminated him by firing two missiles into his office in Ramallah on August 27, 2001. Shortly afterwards, on October 17, 2001, Rehavam Zeevi--- the most right-wing minister of the Israeli cabinet---was assassinated, for which the Israelis held the PFLP responsible. Zeevi’s murder could not have been the reason for Israel to step up its offensive.

 

Taking advantage of the 9/11 events, on October 5, 2001, in the guise of fighting “Palestinian terrorism,” Sharon had already sent in tanks and troops into areas that had been handed over to the Palestine Authority as per the Oslo accord of 1993. The fact was that Israel was merely looking for excuses for not complying with its obligations under the Oslo accord, especially concerning the rights of the Palestinian refugees and regarding withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the occupied territories.

 

By December 2001, violence escalated in both the occupied territories and in Israel. The spate of mindless suicide-bomb attacks by Palestinian youth---misguided by Hamas and other fanatical right-wing groups---enabled Sharon to divert the world’s attention away from the real issues underlying the conflict. Blaming the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of doing little to quell the violence, Sharon on March 29, 2002 launched what was called “Operation Defensive Wall” to methodically destroy the infrastructure of the PNA and to make it an ineffective body. He also stripped the powers of Arafat and put him in virtual house arrest in the town of Ramallah.

 

The intensity of the terror unleashed by the IDF in the town of Jenin and elsewhere in West Bank and Gaza during March-April 2002 only revived the bitter memories of the 1982 siege of Beirut and of the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The fact that Israel had refused to permit the UN fact finding mission from visiting the area is ample proof that it was desperate to cover up its despicable acts at Jenin. In the course of the past three years, violent confrontations have left nearly 3300 dead and over 28,000 thousand wounded--- many of them permanently disabled---including hundreds of children. Predictably, most of the casualties are Palestinians. From April 2002, Israel has been engaged in a cycle of deep incursions into specific Palestinian areas to wipe out marked individuals on the spacious plea that attacks against Israelis emanated from the targeted areas.

 

BLOODLESS TERROR

 

Resorting to use of low intensity terror like uprooting trees and destroying standing crop are also Sharon’s favourite forms of collective punishment, since most Palestinian peasants’ livelihoods are based on olive, date, almond, and citrus fruit orchards. Tens of thousands of trees and thousands of hectares of standing crop have been systematically destroyed since the time of the first intifada in 1987, something which has largely escaped the attention of the world’s media. Imposition of strict curfews in Palestinian towns and villages on a regular basis – leading to loss of thousands of working days---is yet another one of Sharon’s methods for wrecking the Palestinian economy. The effects these dreadful steps have on a subsistence economy may well be imagined!

 

Palestinian homes and establishments are routinely bulldozed in one area or the other area for the benefit of the Jewish settlers or are selectively blown up as a way of meting out exemplary punishment to relatives of suspected “terrorists.” Moreover, Palestinians are literally confined to some 190 islands, as travel within and between West Bank and Gaza Strip is severely restricted through a network of road-blocks and check-posts, which are set-up supposedly for the safety and convenience of the Jewish settlers in the 200 or more settlements across the occupied territories. Those who dare to protest against such unbearable humiliation are arrested and detained for an unspecified period of time so as to break their morale. In other cases, they are exiled or induced to immigrate and never allowed to return. Sharon’s latest project that is in progress is the building of an 8 metre high “security fence” (better known as “Apartheid Wall”) encircling West Bank, which is literally nothing but an attempt to cage the Palestinian people.

 

Under the circumstances, it is a matter of national shame that the Indian government is bestowing honour on Sharon by inviting him to India. Steps to promote better relations with the people of Israel are always welcome, but to turn a blind eye to Sharon’s misdeeds would amount to collusion with and abetment of the same. The BJP-led government’s attempt to foster commonality of interests with a war criminal Sharon and its bid to applaud his fascistic ideological pursuits is extremely dangerous and has very grave implications for the people of India, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere.

 

NOTES

 

1) This piece is based on inputs mainly from the Executive Intelligence Review, electronicintifada.com, indictsharon.com and the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Israel.

 

2) The Likud (“Unity”) Party emerged out of the erstwhile Tnuat Haherut (“Freedom”) Party in 1973.  The Freedom Party was headed by Menachem Begin and he went on to head the Likud Party as well. The character of the Freedom Party was best described by the noted scientist and humanist Albert Einstein and 28 other eminent intellectuals of Jewish origin in a letter to the New York Times on May 4, 1948. They wrote: “Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created State of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation in Palestine.... The Deir Yassin incident [the massacre of over 240 Palestinians in cold-blood on April 9, 1948] exemplifies the character of the Freedom Party…. The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.”