An Arab's View of Sharon
He was brutal, he was ugly, he was criminal, of the kind associated with war. He was known as the bulldozer, not only because he weighed as much as one, but because for decades he strutted around our homeland acting like one. And indeed what size stroke would he have suffered last week other than a massive one, a stroke that, by deadline Sunday, still left him alive but with permanent damage to areas of the brain that control speech, faculty of analysis and motor response, producing huge odds against his survival, let alone his ability to function again as a political leader.
You cannot overstate how much Palestinians loathe the man. His life-long war against them began with dreadful massacres, proceeded on to land grabs, and ended with a fraudulent disengagement plan designed to put their dream of independence, as one of his top advisers called it, in “formaldehyde.”
Among the many massacres, raids and “mopping up” operations Sharon mounted against the people of Palestine, the one inscribed in their collective memory — on a par with Deir Yassein — none matches the one in the village of Qibya in the West Bank, perpetrated by Israel’s Unit 101, which he commanded, on the night of Oct. 15, 1953.
Presumably as a reprisal against the killing of three Israelis by Palestinian refugees enraged at seeing their own land across the border being tilled by European immigrants, Unit 101 entered the village and blew up 45 houses with their inhabitants inside. Sixty-seven men, women and children perished. And Israel’s occupation of the two small remnants of the Palestinian people’s homeland left them after 1948 had not even started yet.
But soon after it did, Sharon was soon there to demonstrate his savagery. Between 1967 and 1970, after the resistance began to show its first stirrings in Gaza, Sharon, as commander of the Southern Front, mounted one of the most brutal campaigns in modern history to stamp it out. In August 1970, after entering Gaza, he moved his troops from street to street, neighborhood to neighborhood, refugee camp to refugee camp, orange grove to orange grove where, using their commander’s weapon of choice, the bulldozer, they demolished thousands of homes and uprooted large portions of the Strip’s groves, the region’s only crop.
Orders were given to shoot “terrorist suspects” without questions being asked. Over a thousand people were executed.
Clearly such collective punishments perpetrated against a helpless people under occupation contravened the Geneva Conventions, and the extra-judicial killings of civilians were strictly forbidden by international law, which defines them as war crimes.
But the man got away with it and went on to become Israel’s defense minister in 1982, when he launched the devastating invasion of Lebanon that year, which concluded with the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla — massacres that he was held “indirectly” responsible for by an Israeli court of inquiry. As to what the term means precisely, well, search me.
In June 1974, outside Nablus, a group of fanatic settlers, hell-bent on establishing another illegal settlement on Palestinian land, were resisting soldiers who had been ordered by Yitzhak Rabin’s centrist government to evict them.
Then who would stroll into the midst of this screaming, kicking and chanting mob other than the ex-general and now newly-elected Knesset member, Ariel Sharon, who proceeded to urge the soldiers to “Resist orders! Resist orders!”
After the right wrested control of the government in 1977, and the expansionist Menachem Begin was appointed prime minister, Sharon truly came into his own as the architect of Israel’s settlement policy.
He never wavered in his pursuit of that policy, despite his crafty withdrawal from Gaza late last year, which was intended to consolidate his grip on the West Bank and block the emergence of a future Palestinian state.
After all these years, after all these massacres he has committed, after all the grief he has caused, after all his attempts to subdue the people of Palestine, Sharon has failed. And failed miserably.
He leaves the scene with his dream of a Greater Israel in tatters, a joke, a lunatically improbable goal in the first place. The international community, along with many people in the US — but excluding dorks like the Evangelist Pat Robertson and his equally dorky followers — has turned against Israel much because of his actions.
Sharon’s problem was that he did not understand history and its implacable laws, the most important one of which is that you can colonize, subjugate or dehumanize a human community for so long, but then a tipping point comes where they will revolt.
And once they do that, there’s no going back. No one knew that more astutely than the 19th century French commentator, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his commentary on the French revolution, when he wrote: “Endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.”
“Now, it appears, Ariel Sharon is leaving the stage of politics,” said Gershom Gorenberg, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post last Friday. “Those who follow him should understand his tragic flaws.” Never mind that one would be hard put to use an adjective like “tragic” to describe anything about Sharon’s life and career. But it is good advice nevertheless.
A more eloquent way of putting it was what Baruch Kimmerling had to say in the conclusion to book “Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians.” “If both sides make or remake the painful compromises they find unthinkable at present, but which are needed to effect a mutual reconciliation, they may not only cease being enemies but may find that their common interests lead them to become allies as well,” he wrote.
“Without a reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, the contemporary Jewish state will become a mere footnote in world history.”
This from the Religion of Peace.