Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Ariel Sharon is a war criminal, not a hero

Ariel Sharon’s recent illness and departure from the Israeli prime ministry raises many important questions not only for both Israelis and Palestinians, but also for world journalists and historians. Sharon has been a man of many titles throughout his career, including: colonel, defense minister, Likud Party head, Kadima Party founder, and even Israeli prime minister. But these lofty titles do little to define the man, his past, or his character. It would be more helpful to recall one of Sharon’s earlier titles to define his legacy. Sharon, defined by Bush as a “man of peace,” is better represented by his long-held nickname: The Bulldozer.

Sharon was said to have acquired his beloved moniker because of his preference for clearing Palestinians off their land through house demolitions and the like. Through the course of his destructive path, Sharon has managed to accumulate one of the most extensive, brutal and heinous records of war crimes in history. All of this has been obscured by recent American cooperation with Sharon and his policies, and American journalism’s neglect of Sharon’s true history of character.

The story of The Bulldozer centers quite ominously in 1982 with the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. While Sharon’s sympathizers have done their best to hide his actions in the massacres, historical records are unequivocal in condemning him. Few now are inclined to remember the 400,000 Israelis who gathered in Tel Aviv to protest his actions or the more than 1,400 Palestinian refugees who were murdered when Sharon sent his Lebanese Christian Phalangist allies into the camp. A more detailed glimpse into Sharon’s actions reveals even greater horror. Israeli forces surrounded the camps as the Phalange, with Israeli weaponry, killed every man, woman and child they found. Two Israeli reporters detailed the Phalangists as committing such acts as “hanging live grenades around victims’ necks” and countless tales of rape, even of “pregnant women raped and then having their fetuses cut out afterwards.” And just two days later, Sharon’s IDF met with the Phalange officers knowing quite well of the massacre. But the Bulldozer had been rolling for quite some time, and would continue even after his country forced him to resign as defense minister.

In 1953, Sharon’s infamous Unit 101 descended on the Jordanian village of Qibya, killing 69 civilians. Time magazine reported that Sharon’s soldiers shot “every man, woman, and child they could find.” Following the 1967 war, Sharon was given the task of “pacifying Gaza.” In 1971, Sharon began a major campaign to uproot Palestinians from their homes in the Gaza strip. Accounts detailed soldiers throwing entire families and their belongings into the street, followed by bulldozers flattening houses, and soldiers with guns beating young kids. All in all, this “man of peace” in his campaign of “pacification” destroyed 2,000 Palestinian homes and uprooted 16,000 people from their homes in the short span of a month. And The Bulldozer wasn’t finished. Over a span of two years (1980-’81), Sharon assisted Israeli forces in grabbing 31 percent of the West Bank and devoting it to 40 new and illegal Jewish settlements. And when the Intifada of 1987 began with a series of peaceful protests, one should recall Sharon’s advice for the said protesters: “Cut off their testicles.”

Attempts by Sharon to frame himself as a reformer have also failed. Even his “disengagement plan” serves only to, in the words of top advisor Dov Weisglass, freeze the peace process by acting as “the formaldehyde” for the current situation. By pulling out of Gaza, and still controlling borders, interstate commerce, transportation of goods and erecting a 15 meter wall out into the Mediterranean Sea, Sharon has kept Gaza what it always has been: an overcrowded jail of refugees with no hopes as a sustainable state. The only change is that Israel may deceivingly state that the Palestinians were given their own state and have been unable to function, regardless. The Bulldozer has taken even further steps toward crippling any hope of a peaceful solution. The construction of the apartheid wall has now left Palestinians to reside on only 11 percent of historic Palestine, usurping large pieces of the West Bank beyond the previously respected green line.

Quite unfortunately, when Sharon passes he’ll die peacefully, without having ever been brought to justice for the numerous acts of terror he has perpetrated. The American government, the mainstream media and the Israeli public will quietly pad over his past with the same praise that we’ve heard before. Instead, we’ll be reminded of Sharon by accounts that he was a “charming raconteur and a gentleman farmer with a love for classical music,” as the New York Times so eloquently stated in an article published only a few years ago.

Trent is a junior in Arts & Sciences.

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