The Butcher Sharon

Revolutionary Worker #1147, April 21, 2002, posted at

Millions around the world are reacting to Israel's brutal invasion of the West Bank with shock, horror and outrage. The leader of this bloody rampage, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has a history filled with war crimes and atrocities against Palestinians and other peoples of the Middle East. The U.S. media often labels Sharon an extremist in Israeli politics. In reality, tracing this butcher's history traces the key moments in the history of the Zionist state, which is based on the systematic murder, expropriation, and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

Sharon's career began in the Haganah, the largest of the Zionist underground groups that attacked the Palestinian people around the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Sharon led a commando unit that carried out terrorist operations against Palestinian communities aimed at forcing people out of their homes and land.

By the 1950s, Sharon was a major in the Israeli army and commanded an "elite" outfit called Unit 101. Nicknamed the "avengers," Unit 101 specialized in responding to Palestinian resistance with murderous retaliatory attacks on the people.

In August 1953, Unit 101 killed 50 Palestinians in the refugee camp of El-Bureij in the Gaza Strip. A UN official reported that Sharon's troops threw bombs "through the windows of huts in which the refugees were sleeping" and that as the refugees fled, "they were attacked by small arms and automatic weapons."

Two months later, on October 14, Unit 101 descended on the town of Kibya (Qibya) in the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. Sharon's unit, made up of more than 100 men, chased off the few Jordanian soldiers. Then, using 1,300 pounds of explosives, the troops blew up houses and town buildings.

In his autobiography, Sharon wrote: "The orders were clear. Kibya was to be a lesson. I was to inflict as many casualties as I could.... I was also to blow up every major building in town."

Israeli historian Avi Shalaim described the massacre: "[Sharon's] success in carry-ing out the order surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack. The village had been reduced to rubble: 45 houses had been blown up, and 69 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed."

Violent Expulsions

Sharon climbed steadily up the ranks in the Israeli military. He commanded a military division during Israel's 1967 war of expansion, when it seized the West Bank and Gaza (along with Syria's Golan Heights). Afterward, Sharon headed up operations to drive out 160,000 Palestinian residents from East Jerusalem. His orders included blowing up and bulldozing houses, imposing brutal "collective punishment" and imprisoning hundreds of youth suspected of being fighters.

In the early 1970s, Sharon became the head of the Israeli army's Southern Command and was in charge of "pacifying" the Gaza. At a refugee shantytown known as Beach Camp, Sharon's soldiers bulldozed hundreds of homes in order to replace narrow alleys with wide, straight streets. This allowed the Israeli troops in their heavy armored vehicles to move easily through the camp. A Palestinian man who lived at Beach Camp at that time recalled what happened: "They came at night and began marking the houses they wanted to demolish with red paint. In the morning they came back and ordered everyone to leave.... They threw everyone's belongings into the streets. Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and started flattening the street. He did the whole lot, almost in one day. And the soldiers would beat people. Can you imagine? Soldiers with guns, beating little kids!"

The operation at Beach Camp was one of many brutal actions. The British newspaper Independent pointed out: "In August 1971 alone, troops under Mr. Sharon's command destroyed some 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 16,000 people for the second time in their lives. Hundreds of young Palestinian men were arrested and deported to Jordan and Lebanon. Six hundred relatives of suspected guerrillas were assassinated."

In the late 1970s, as Israel's minister of agriculture and settlements, Sharon pushed the building of Zionist settlements in the West Bank. Sharon's policies touched off a "boom" in the building of the settlements--resulting in the takeover of more Palestinian land and destruction of more Palestinian homes.

Invasion of Lebanon

Sharon became the defense minister in 1981. Among the overseas trips he made in this position was one to Angola, where he met and advised forces from apartheid South Africa who backed the CIA puppet Jonas Savimbi.

Sharon was the main architect of Israel's massive invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Advancing Israeli forces inflicted savage destruction on population centers. The cities of Sidon and Tyre were mostly razed by tank and artillery shells. Ain Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, was totally destroyed. Within a few weeks the Israeli military had killed 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians-- 80% of them civilians--made 6,000 children orphans, and left over 100,000 people homeless.

When Israeli forces reached Lebanon's capital Beirut, they laid siege to the city, carrying out daily bombing and shelling until PLO forces evacuated. The Israeli military occupied areas in and around Beirut, including positions encircling the large Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.

At six o'clock in the evening on September 16, 1982, the fascist, Israeli-backed Phalange entered Sabra and Shatilla. For the next 62 hours, the Phalange forces rampaged through the camps, massacring unarmed civilians. Whole families were murdered; many were tortured and raped before being killed. It's estimated that 2,000 people were killed at Sabra and Shatilla, although the exact number is not known because many bodies were loaded onto trucks and taken away or buried in mass graves.

A correspondent for the Independent who witnessed the aftermath wrote: "There were women lying in the houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were blackened babies' bodies tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded U.S. army ration tins and Israeli army equipment."

While the Phalange militia members actually carried out the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, the Israelis--and Sharon in particular--bear direct responsibility. The Israeli troops liaisoned with the Phalange supplied them with weapons and supplies, and even forced fleeing victims back into the camps. The Israeli military observation post had a clear view of the camps while the massacre was going on--and did nothing to stop it.

The massacre at Sabra and Shatilla created such a global outcry that Israel was forced to conduct an official investigation which concluded that Sharon was "indirectly responsible" for the massacres. In June 2001, survivors of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre filed lawsuits in Belgium charging Sharon with crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes under international law. This past fall, a key Lebanese Phalangist was assassinated the day before he was scheduled to testify on the survivors' behalf.

Sabra and Shatilla hardly ended Sharon's government career. He was minister of trade and industry from 1984-1990; minister of construction and housing from 1990-1992; minister of national infrastructure from 1996-1998; foreign minister in 1998-1999; head of the Likud, one of Israel's main ruling parties along with the Labor Party, in 1999.

In the 1990s Sharon became a leader of the so-called "hard line" in Israel's negotiations with Yasser Arafat under the U.S.-directed Oslo "peace process": total Israeli control over Jerusalem, expansion of Israeli settlements, no further "territorial concessions" to Arafat's Palestinian Authority, and no right of return to historic Palestine for the 4 million Palestinian refugees now living in camps in neighboring countries. Many suspected that Sharon's real agenda was the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the incorporation of the West Bank and Gaza into a "Greater Israel."

The heavily armed settlements cham-pioned by Sharon serve as military outposts for Israel. The settlements, and the "security roads" that connect them, divide the Palestinian areas into small enclaves that can be easily surrounded and invaded. As the Oslo negotiations dragged on through the 1990s, the Israeli settler population doubled to 400,000.

Since 1987 Sharon has kept a heavily guarded residence, draped with a huge Israeli flag, in the midst of Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter. Palestinians consider Jerusalem the historic capital of their nation, so Sharon's house in East Jerusalem was a deliberate provocation.

The Butcher as Prime Minister

In September 2000, Sharon made an even more blatantly provocative move in Jerusalem. Protected by a huge contingent of Israeli soldiers, Sharon made a visit to Haram al-Sharif, considered one of the key sites in Islamic religion. Sharon's move was an arrogant declaration of Israel's intention to keep control over all of Jerusalem. Frustrated by years of bitter disappointments with the Oslo peace process and outraged by Sharon's arrogance, Palestinians rose up in resistance and protest. In response, the Israeli government gunned down 90 youth who were throwing stones and attacked Palestinian areas with tanks, helicopters, and missiles.

The political fallout from these events propelled Sharon into power when he became Israel's prime minister in February 2001. As the head of government, Sharon has steadily intensified the level and scope of Israeli military attacks against the Palestinian people and the whole political and civilian infrastructure of Palestinian society--leading to the massive offensive currently underway which began on March 29.

Sharon proceeded with these escalations with a green light from Israel's main imperialist backer, the U.S. In 1998, when he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush went to Israel and met Sharon--the two reportedly "hit it off" right away. Since Bush became president, Sharon has come to Washington several times to talk with Bush.

The fact that Sharon has been a top "statesman" in Israel for so long and is now its prime minister --reveals much about the nature of Israel. What kind of a state would choose such a brutal and sinister monster as its top leader? Sharon represents a blood-soaked state that has carried out crime after crime, massacre after massacre, against the Palestinians and other oppressed people, and continues to do so today.

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