Ariel Sharon leaves a legacy of violence and brutality, not courage

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died on Jan. 11 at the age of 85, after eight years in a coma. He worked in the Israeli government for a quarter of a century, serving five years as prime minister, and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Now that he’s dead, of course, an overwhelming number of talking heads, political pundits and op-ed writers are doing their level best to forget the person Sharon really was, and concentrate on selling the person they want us to remember. In the finest tradition of historic white-washing, they are effectively making a saint out of a serial killer.

In 1953, as a commander in the Israeli military, Ariel Sharon ordered the slaughter of 69 people in the Palestinian village of Qibya. Only one part of a blanket program of disproportionate retaliation against the Palestinians, the attack was condemned by the United Nations. But Sharon suffered no consequences for the order. Thirty years later, as Israel’s defense minister, Sharon was the man behind the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the infamous Sabra-Shatila massacre  — in which as many as two thousand Palestinians were murdered by a Lebanese Christian militia known as the Phalangists. Despite years of protestations that the IDF had no idea what the Phalangists were about to do, recent documents indicate that Sharon, at least, knew exactly what was going to happen in the camps.

In 2012, the New York Times published a transcript of a meeting that took place on Sept. 17, 1982. Sharon was there, as was America’s Middle East envoy, Morris Draper. Draper was concerned about Israel’s plans, as well as its image. “The hostile people will say, sure, the IDF is going to stay in West Beirut and they will let the Lebanese go in and kill the Palestinians in the camps,” he said.

“So, we’ll kill them,” Sharon replied. “They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism [sic].” When Draper assured him that the U.S. had no interest in saving the refugees, Sharon reiterated. “If you don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.”

Sharon was forced to step down as defense minister after the incident, and an Israeli inquiry recommended that he never again hold a ministry position. Sharon went on to serve as Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Minister of Housing and Construction, Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister.

Sharon’s most lasting atrocity, if not his bloodiest, was the creation of the Israeli settlement program that, to this day, sees Jewish homes illegally constructed on occupied territory while Palestinian homes are demolished. In 2005, however, Sharon ordered all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip to be evacuated. The Strip is, according to most, little more than a prison without a ceiling, completely controlled by Israel and kept in a continually impoverished state. Far from being a move toward peace, Sharon’s supposedly controversial decision merely strengthened Israel by dividing the occupied Palestinian territories and undermining any sense of Palestinian self-determination.

“Israel may have the right to put others on trial,” Sharon famously said, “but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the state of Israel on trial.” This essentially sums up the way the U.S. feels about Israel, as well. Sharon’s legacy is important for Americans to understand, because none of his crimes could have been committed without the unwavering support of the United States. These crimes, and our complicity in them, are still going on today.

Ariel Sharon was a warmonger, a merciless zealot on a quest for Israeli power, a brutal oppressor of the Palestinian people, a ruthless murderer and a man who should have been brought before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal. That’s not the eulogy he got, but it’s the one he deserved. Rest in peace, prime minister. Your victims are waiting for you.

Originally published in The Lumberjack (


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