Sharon, feted in death by Western colonial powers, was a killer whose distinction among all of Zionism’s criminals was simply being brazen about his deeds, writes Salman Abu Sitta.
The death of Sharon this week was a reminder of the massacre he orchestrated in 1982 in the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila. My close encounter with Ariel Sharon came unexpectedly in the summer of 1955. In August 1955, I was packing my bag at my family's home in Khan Younis, preparing to return to my Cairo school after the summer holiday, when huge explosions shattered the evening silence. They were heard in the direction of Khan Younis police station, only 300 metres away. An exchange of fire followed and the sky was lit with flashes of explosions and bullets. We were mesmerised in our home, not knowing where this deadly noise came from and how long it would take to reach us.
Soon the shrieks of women and the cries of men were heard in the aftermath. In the morning, when the attacking force retreated, we saw the rubble of the police station building. People dug in the rubble to find the bodies of 72 Palestinian policemen and retrieved 17 wounded. One of them, my cousin Hassan, miraculously emerged alive but he was devastated to find so many of his friends dead. The devastation was complete and the smell of death was everywhere.
Years later, in London, I found a Hebrew booklet describing that raid in glowing terms. Three Israeli paratrooper companies attacked the police station, which housed Palestinian policemen who are barely armed with rifles. The booklet had sketches of the vehicles, their order of progress and their occupants. The name of their leader was Sharon. With the building rubble, strewn bodies and bleeding wounded, he charted his chapter in the history of Zionism.
Two years earlier, almost on the same day of the month, on 20 August 1953, Sharon had struck, but I was not there. I knew this when my mother's younger sister came to seek relative security in our home in Khan Younis. She lived in Bureij refugee camp. On that moonless summer night, the Israelis infiltrated the Gaza Strip and killed 30 refugees in their beds and wounded dozens of others.
Qibya was the next victim of Israeli attacks. Qibya is a small village in what is known today as the West Bank, close to the fragile Armistice Line of 1949. On the night of 14-15 October 1953, the Israelis attacked the village and destroyed 45 houses, a school and a mosque. They planted explosives around the houses in which 69 Palestinians–two-thirds of which were women and children–were buried under the rubble.
Similar atrocities were carried out in Idna, Surif, Wadi Fukin, Falameh, Rantis, on Jerusalem's outskirts, Budrus and Beit Liqya. The killer squad went on a rampage, establishing a modus operandi that continues until today in the Israeli army.
Why did Israelis do this, after they conquered 78 per cent of Palestine? The refugees refused to accept the loss of their homes and started to return after the open hostilities ceased. The Israelis called them “infiltrators” and killed everyone who tried to return. The irony is that the killer is the "infiltrator" to the shores of Palestine, while the so-called "infiltrator" is a Palestinian returning home.
When I looked at the archives, the name Sharon came up repeatedly as the ruthless savage bent on killing without any remorse or regret. He was the leader of Unit 101 that committed all these atrocities. What is the origin of Unit 101 and how did it come about?
Sharon's German sounding name, Scheinerman, brought to my attention the book by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, entitled Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Goldhagen describes how the Nazis set up a special battalion, Battalion 101, with the purpose of hunting the Jews anywhere, killing them, looting and destroying their property. Battalion 101 had no restraining orders, no discipline and plenty of arms, ammunition and alcohol. They were free to do what they liked, as long as they achieved the required result. Unit 101 headed by Sharon shared identical tasks, but this time the hunted people were Palestinians in Palestine, not Jews in Germany, and the criminals not Nazis but Zionists. It is a sad reflection on the human spirit that tragedy creates in evil minds the desire to replicate it–on the innocent, not on the guilty.
But this is the cardinal principle of Zionism that had been initiated by Jabotinsky in 1923 and applied faithfully by Ben Gurion, Sharon and Netanyahu. Jabotinsky was very clear; Israel’s creation will only be imposed by brute force and will be shielded by an iron wall. He stated: "Their [the Arabs] voluntary agreement is out of the question... Zionist colonisation, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonisation can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population–an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs".
As early as 1956, Sharon told General Ouze Merham in an interview, retrieved recently by Philip Weiss on Mondowiess website: "I vow that if I was just an Israeli citizen and I met a Palestinian I would burn him and I would make him suffer before killing him. With one hit I’ve killed 750 Palestinians (in Rafah in 1956)... I don’t know something called International Principles. I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and child are more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian child existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger".
In another interview with Amos Oz in 1982, Sharon said: "I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremburg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. What you don't understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished".
Just before the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, Sharon told the American representative in Beirut, Draper: "We will kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them". Ambassador Phillip Habib, President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy stated in 1982 that Sharon was "a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians. I had promised Arafat that his people would not come to any harm. Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon's word is worth nil".
Even in his death, Sharon is committing a crime against Palestinians. He is buried in his farm named "Sycamore Ranch". Ironically, Sycamore is a very common Palestinian tree–Jummaiza in Arabic. This ranch is built on stolen land of the village of Huj. The 7,000 refugees from Huj village have been languishing in a Gaza Strip refugee camp for 65 years.
The hypocritical "dignitaries" attending the funeral from the Western colonial powers heaped praise on Sharon as a man of peace while standing on stolen land whose dispossessed owners are only a short distance away.
It will be facile to assign blame to Sharon alone. He is a true disciple of Zionism. All the other Zionist leaders–from the time they were classified as terrorists by the British Mandate to the time they were received with rolled red carpets in Western capitals as distinguished generals–did the same evil deeds. Sharon did not hide his crimes.
The trail of blood of victims in about 70 massacres in 1948 committed by these "distinguished" generals has been fully documented, even by Israeli historians. After 1948, the same Israeli generals killed Egyptian POWs, shot down a Libyan passenger plane, and assassinated Palestinian leaders all over the world. They chased, raided and bombed refugee camps from Rafah to Jenin and Sabra and Shatila, over 65 years, to eliminate the live evidence of ethnic cleansing–the refugees who insisted on returning home. Without this terrorism, Zionism would not be itself.
Now with all the information available to anyone who seeks it, it will be unforgiveable for any one of those Western commentators to try to put powder and a smile on Sharon’s face in his deathbed, creating out of him a brave soldier, or possibly a controversial figure, or a misunderstood politician.
If Sharon escaped worldly justice in The Hague, perhaps he will be confronted in the next world with tens of thousands of his–and Zionism's–victims demanding eternal justice.