Ariel Sharon: International War Criminal Remembered
The eulogies for Ariel Sharon in the Western press are comparable to their eulogies of Nelson Mandela. In the US, people on the left and on the right competed to shower praise on the symbol of Israel’s terrorist right. Israeli terrorism and brutality is portrayed as “strength” and “might,” and CNN invited the Israeli ambassador in the US to write an ostensibly objective eulogy for the man. Ethan Bronner, the former bureau chief of the New York Times in Israel and a former foreign editor of the paper, wrote a long eulogy that can easily be classified within the genre of “love poetry.”
But the picture of Sharon in the Arab world is a different one. He is uniformly portrayed as a butcher (in the mouthpiece of Prince Khalid bin Sultan, the word was put between quotation marks), killer, war criminal, and an outright terrorist commander. The image of Sharon between the West (especially in the US) and the Arab world – nay in the rest of the world – is an indication that the US looks at the Middle East from Israeli right-wing eyes.
But the Arab world may have fallen victim to deliberate Israeli propaganda claims. Israeli intelligence has always presented the Arabs with the propaganda version of Bad Cop versus Worst Cop. The image of the out-of-control Ariel Sharon was deliberately and carefully cultivated by the Israeli media and government in order to instil fear among the Arabs. Even the stories of the terrorist adventures of Unit 101 served to present Sharon as a danger far worse than the “regular” danger of the Israeli terrorist army. And just as Menachem Begin took pride in the results the massacre of Dayr Yasin in his book, The Revolt, when he said unapologetically:
“The enemy propaganda was designed to besmirch our name. In the result, it helped us. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel. Kolonia village, which had previously repulsed every attack of the Haganah, was evacuated overnight and fell without further fighting. Beit-Iksa was also evacuated. Those two places overlooked the main road; and their fall, together with the capture of Kastal by the Haganah, made it possible to keep the road open to Jerusalem. In the rest of the country, too, the Arabs began to flee in terror, even before they clashed with Jewish forces.”
Similarly, Ariel Sharon spoke about the Qibya massacre (Ethan Bronner called it a “battle” in his love poem about Sharon) in similar “pragmatic” terms in Warrior:
“But while the civilian deaths were a tragedy, the Qibya raid was also a turning point. After so many defeats and demoralizing failures it was now clear that Israeli forces were again capable of finding and hitting targets far behind enemy lines. What this meant to army morale can hardly be exaggerated … But with Qibya a new sense of confidence began to take root.”
In other words, the terrorism of the Zionist movement (and later of the Israeli state) was part and parcel of the policies and strategy of the government and was never incidental or accidental. Conversely, the terrorism of Palestinian or Arab groups was incidental or often accidental (although the use of car bombs or bombs in crowded areas – a practice that was pioneered and perfected by Zionist gangs in the 1930s and 1940s – can be said to be deliberate and purposeful in the targeting of civilians).
So while Ariel Sharon deserves all the scorn and loathing that Arabs heap on him, one must be careful to not fall victim into the trap of Israeli Mossad propaganda where Sharon’s murders are presented as accidental or marginal or a side-story to the Zionist narrative. Sharon was not an anomaly and Israeli leaders from Ben Gurion to Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres are in no way less bad or less terrorist or war criminal than Sharon. Israeli war crimes and massacres have been planned and agreed upon by a collective Zionist leadership.
The discussion of the role of Ariel Sharon, and his so-called “leaving the cabinet in the dark” regarding his objectives from the 1982 Israeli invasion should be treated with skepticism, and they remind one of the notion that Ronald Reagan did not know about the arming of the Contras in Nicaragua. Those are politically self-serving accounts peddled by political leaders in trouble. Sharon may have disagreed with Begin about the geographical scope of the Israeli invasion of 1982, but the two never disagreed on the moral necessity of killing some 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, mostly civilians in a few months time. But the scale of mass killing, indiscriminate bombardment (even Thomas Friedman, who was then a correspondent in Beirut had to admit that because he was in the receiving end’s area), the use of car bombs on regular basis in Beirut, along with torturing children and adults were never subject to contestation in the Israeli government.
On the reckless and mass killing of Arabs, the Israeli government always enjoys a solid consensus. As for what is comically called the “Israeli left,” which is politically and electorally insignificant, it sometimes complains if the scale of killing continues for long periods of time – the “left” worries that prolonged violence may cause “anguish” among the killers, and that it may also cause a PR problem for Israel.
Ariel Sharon’s bloody career is littered with the corpses of innocent Arabs from different walks of life. Yet, the image of Sharon was changed by one public declaration by George W. Bush who dubbed him “a man of peace.” Eulogies of Sharon in the Western press refer to his “unilateral” withdrawal from Gaza, as if the withdrawal of an occupation force from occupied lands – and for reasons that have to do with the political and financial calculations of the occupier – signifies a peaceful impulse. As if the US withdrew from Vietnam because Nixon was a man of peace, or as if the Israeli occupation force withdrew humiliatingly from South Lebanon in 2000 for reasons that are not related to the effectiveness of Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation and terrorism.
The US is now in a zone of its own: No matter what Israel does by way of war crimes, and no matter how much the BDS movement grows, even within the US, and no matter how much world public opinion has shifted over the decades in favor of the Palestinian people, the American government, media, and public remain solidly fanatically in favor of Israel and all of its war crimes. But the Arab world has a different view, they have been (in their homes and refugee camps) on the receiving ends of the indiscriminate bombs of Ben-Gurion, Sharett, Meir, Rabin, Peres, Begin, Shamir, Sharon, Netanyahu, and Barak. The shifts in the political preferences of Israelis mean nothing to Arabs. Sharon was a notorious war criminal, and no amount of fawning coverage in the US press would change that.
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