Ain el Helweh camp, Lebanon – It isn’t just the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine six decades after the Nakba; one can sense the carnivorous drooling from Tel Aviv to Amman, from Riyadh and the Gulf Kingdoms all the way to Washington DC and beyond—drooling and salivation over their project to promote tensions between the Palestinian Resistance and what is in some respects its historic offspring—Hezbollah.
The hostile forces gathered against the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah-Palestine Resistance alliance are reportedly hard at work on yet another scheme to weaken, and possibly destroy, all four. It won’t be easy, but it is a key game plan among those still seeking regime change in Syria.
Even as some of these governments deceptively play down their central goal of regime change in public, they appear to be fantasizing that by building up the Lebanese army—with a pledged $3 billion from Riyadh—that Lebanese troops can be induced to confront Hezbollah and its allies, this in what seems to be a “beat em or bleed em” strategy.
Patrick Cockburn, writing recently in the UK Independent and Counterpunch, gave a digest of anti-Shia hate propaganda being spread by Sunni religious figures, clerics financially backed by, and in some cases based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. Cockburn noted accurately that what is being painstaking laid is the groundwork for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world.
Efforts to egg on a confrontation between Palestinians and Hezbollah have increased over the past three months in Lebanon’s camps, stemming principally from some of the local Sunni and Christian power centers. Support is being seen for various “militia of the month” groups, those terrorizing the population of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Moreover, the Takfiri Al-Nusra Front leader Abou Mohammed al-Joulani insists his organization is active on Lebanese soil in order to help the Sunnis, including Palestinians, face the “injustice” of Shiite Hezbollah. “Lebanon’s Sunni are requesting that the mujahideen intervene to lift up the injustice they are suffering from at the hands of Hezbollah and similar militias,” he said recently in an interview on Al-Jazeera.
Shiite-populated areas across Lebanon have been the target of terror attacks even before Hezbollah entered the fighting on the side of the Syrian government in May 2013, but those terror attacks have intensified recently. Four car bombings have targeted southern Beirut in recent months, while a number of IED attacks have occurred in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
The head of the Islamic Jihadist Movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp voiced fears on January 8 of a possible armed sectarian confrontation between Hezbollah and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon if the party did not revise its policies at home and in Syria. Sheikh Jamal Khattab told the Daily Star that should fighting erupt between Palestinians and Hezbollah the conflict could be even worse than the “war of the camps” (read: massacres) of the 1980s, when that conflict was not considered particularly sectarian. Today, says Sheikh Khattab, it would be different. Today it would be a Sunni vs. Shia war, with regional and international consequences, given the poisonous sea-change in sectarian relations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In Ain al-Hilweh and other camps, posters of local men killed while fighting alongside Takfiri groups in Syria, or against U.S. troops in Iraq, are tacked up throughout the camp. Lebanese security sources claim that Palestinian Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh have all finalized preparations to for a possible conflict with the Hezbollah’s organized and trained “Resistance Brigades.” These organizations include Usbat al-Ansar, Jund al-Sham, Fatah al-Islam, and other Salafist groups, and supporters of the controversial fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, and rumors abound that some of these elements are being financed by certain of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as some Lebanese pro-Western March 14 parties. Apparently the consideration among such groups and their sponsors is that conditions in Lebanon are ripe for an expanded war against “Shia infidels,” and reportedly plans are now in place to bring it here, with several groups that are now fighting in Syria pledging to widen the Sunni-Shia war into Lebanon.
For their part, some pro-Hezbollah groups and many Lebanese citizens are suspicious of possible Palestinian involvement in recent terror attacks in Dahiyeh and the recent bombing of the Iranian Embassy. In point of fact, one of the two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian Embassy on November 17 was Mouin Abu Dahr, a known pro-Palestinian whose mother is a Shiite and his father a Sunni. Ain al-Hilweh of course has also been in the spotlight with the arrest of Majed al-Majed, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Majed is believed to have lived in the camp since 2012.
Clearly Israel and its new—as well as its longtime—allies seek a Sunni-Shia war, and the sooner the better. Also favored is a continuation of the Syria crisis for the reason that they consider Hezbollah to be squandering some of its best fighters and commanders and well as its weapons stores. Western Diplomats have spoken about US-Israeli hopes that Syria will be Hezbollah’s Achilles heel and Iran’s Vietnam, and Israeli media have commented on views by some officials that Hezbollah has shifted its attention toward Syria and away from the southern front with occupied Palestine.
Time will tell.
Hezbollah maintains it is using only five percent of its capacity to confront Israel, and according to one source close to the Resistance: Hezbollah has self-sufficiency when it comes to the missiles, strategic and non-strategic weapons. All these weapons are quite abundant. Any additional equipment will constitute a negative factor because there is no need for them. All the weapons that are manufactured by Iran or owned by Syria are also available for Hezbollah. The land forces and the Special Forces fighting in Syria have acquired a lot of practical and intelligence related experience and a force of maneuvering on the land. This experience will be used when the war with Israel begins again.
The Sunni and the Shia, just as with the Palestinians and Hezbollah, need each other for many reasons, including confronting growing Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate propaganda, and the deepening and broadening apartheid occupation of Palestine.
All must work to tamp down their differences publicly and privately while endeavoring to neutralize sectarian provocateurs, Sunni as well as Shia—domestic and regional as well as international—provocateurs that today are seeking internecine and sectarian violence in order to weaken both sects, and even all of Islam.
Ariel Sharon was a serial mass murderer, engaged in massacres of unarmed victims in four countries, of all ages and conditions. He was a “hero” for hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews who settled on land and in houses seized from Palestinians in the West Bank. He was praised by Western leaders at his funeral for his violent, lifelong opposition to Arab nationalist movements throughout the Middle East.
That he was a fanatical upholder of Jewish supremacist policies and practices did not go unnoticed by wealthy Zionist donors in the US. During his tenure as a senior official in numerous Israeli regimes, they contributed hundreds of millions of dollars for Greater Israel and extracted nearly a $100 billion more from the US Treasury. Israeli leaders praise of Sharon as a valiant, brilliant and legendary military leader is echoed in the US mass media and repeated by most Western leaders. He was, in the view of his US adulators, a powerful leader who defied world public opinion in his defense of Israel, who seized Palestinian and Syrian territory and who was willing to strike an independent policy even against Israel’s main benefactors in Europe and North America.
This essay does not simply recount Sharon’s lifelong criminal record. The story we will relate has more to do with (1) the crimes that continue to live after him; (2) the political and military context which allowed him to butcher non-Jewish populations with impunity; (3) the psychological core of Sharonist impudence and arrogance which is so deeply etched in the political psyche of all of Israel’s contemporary leaders.
This paper will critically address several issues regarding the Sharon cult (in Israel and abroad) which presents him as a fearless and successful military leader; a formidable world political statesman, who successfully imposed Israel’s will throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Genocide at the Service of Nationhood
Sharon’s record as a serial genocider is beyond dispute. As early as the ‘founding years’ of Israel in 1947 – 1948 Sharon was commander of the murderous Alexandroni and then the Golani Brigade which murdered, uprooted and terrorized thousands of lifelong Palestinian residents. He later was the commander of Unit 101, an Orwellian Death Squad, which reduced villages to rubble, blowing up homes, where mostly women and children were hiding. In October 1953, Sharon assaulted the Jordanian village of Qibya blowing up forty-five houses and killing sixty-nine civilians, the vast majority women and children. In the early 1950’s Sharon ruled over Palestinian settlements with an iron fist, murdering dissidents, arresting and torturing protestors on a mass scale. On October 29, 1956 Israeli, British and French troops invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal and recolonize the country. Colonel Sharon led the 202nd Paratroop Brigade which seized the Mitla Pass and covered himself with gore – murdering all the Egyptian military and civilian prisoners. The Israeli military advance was stopped cold despite its military alliance and supply from Britain and France. US President Eisenhower told the Israelis and their French and English allies to end their aggression and proceeded to cut off all military and economic aid to Israel; shut off IMF funding for England and France’s post WW II bankrupt economies. US Zionists used their leverage in the Democratic party especially over Lyndon Johnson, House Minority Leader, to block Eisenhower’s economic sanctions and to support Israel’s invasion. Eisenhower rejected Zionist pressure and went to the UN Security Council where his armistice and withdrawal proposal was vetoed by France and Britain. Eisenhower then called a special session of the General Assembly where he triumphed by a 12 to 1 margin. France, Britain and Israel were defeated and forced to retreat. No other President before or since Eisenhower ever took a forthright stand against Israeli colonial wars and territorial seizures.
During the Egyptian invasion, Sharon’s military leadership was severely questioned by his Israeli superiors. His troops suffered the highest casualties of any unit because of his order to attack heavily fortified Egyptian emplacements when Israeli air power could have done more with less.
During the so-called Six Day War (June 5 -10, 1967), Israel’s sneak attack on Jordan, Syria and Egypt, resulted in the seizure and occupation of vast areas and the conquest of millions of Palestinians. Sharon’s military achievements included the wholesale massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war. President Lyndon Johnson, totally under the thumb of his Zionist fundraisers, not only supported Israel’s war of aggression but acquiesced in Israel’s bombing of the US intelligence ship the Liberty and the killing and maiming of over 200 US sailors. In the 1973 Yom Kipper War, Sharon and the Israeli high command were on the verge of military defeat by the Egyptian and Syrian armed forces intent on liberating occupied territories, until Kissinger airlifted 22,395 tons of weapons to Israel, including scores of fighter planes, helicopters and transport planes to turn the tide.
From the Yon Kipper debacle onward, Israel never lacked for US military and political backing and diplomatic protection in its military invasions, colonial settlements and air assaults on Arab countries and inhabitants.
Upward Advance: Master of Massacres and Mediocrity
Sharon’s political career was aided by his leading role in massacring Palestinians in Lebanon and in the Occupied Territories. In Lebanon, Sharon slaughtered 2,000 women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp. He certainly did not rise to political power for his mediocre performance during the Suez crises and Yon Kippur war. In fact, when Sharon faced well-trained and well-armed military forces, as was the case during the Hezbollah war in 2006, he was even less than a mediocre commander. Only against civilians and poorly trained irregulars did he “succeed”. Only where he could murder and dispossess hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and settle Israeli Jews was he glorified as the “King of the Jews” by the Israeli settler population.
World leaders praise Sharon because of his power and usefulness in smashing nationalist Arab-dissent. Sharon’s ascent to the Pantheon of world statesman was greased by the western mass media, who to no small extent, sup at the table of his main Zionist benefactors. Sharon’s “legendary history” is media manufactured to fit the requirements of his western Zionist power brokers.
The Context of Sharon’s and Israeli Ascendancy
Israel cannot and does not wield power on the basis of its military capability or performance – it operates on borrowed power. When the US was ruled by a President who rejected Zionist influenced Congressional pressure and used available economic and political leverage, Israel retreated, surrendered captured territory and abided by UN sanctions. In other words, Israel’s war aims and its bellicose behavior, is dependent on the power of the Zionist power configuration in the US to turn Washington in its favor.
The Israeli leaders and most, especially Sharon, learned the lesson of the Eisenhower experience. The key to regional power lies in the capacity of American Zionists to control Washington’s decision-makers. In the blunt language of Sharon, in reply to Shimon Peres on Koi Yisrael radio (October 3, 2001) “Every time we do something, you (Peres) tell me, Americans will do this and that. I want to tell you something very clear. Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We the Jewish people control America and the Americans know it”.
In this, his comment on the relations of power between Israel and the United States, Sharon is also providing an insight into his own importance and influence. Sharon the “legendary military leader” is a complete artifact of the real power that the Zionists wield in the US on behalf of Israel.
Sharon is, in a sense, a “cardboard general” who has lost or nearly lost the most important battles in his career – beginning with Suez in 1956, Yom Kippur in 1973 and Lebanon in 2006. Israel has prospered economically and become a major military power largely through over $130 billion dollars transfered from the US Treasury over the past half century; plus tens of billions in favorable trade concessions; plus ‘imports’ of highly trained professionals from the US and Russia (educated by the tax payers of those countries); and more recently billions more in “venture capital” by overseas speculators. In other words, Israel is an artifact of the ‘power of extraction and transfer’ by its overseas acolytes embedded in the US political and economic power structure.
Without the influence and material privileges which have accumulated over four decades, Sharon would have ended his mediocre military career as a crabby second rate politician, barking “blood libels” at his adversaries in the Knesset.
But as circumstances dictated Sharon was not an insignificant figure. His brutal colonial policies reflected the Israel-Jewish political tradition and shaped what has become a dangerous ethno-supremacist ideology, which unfortunately has traversed across borders and entered into the consciousness of many Zionists.
It was one thing to joke, as many of us did in our university days, about the ghetto expression “Is it good for Jews?”. It is another for leaders in positions of power to apply this ethnocentric criteria to American foreign policy, personnel recruitment and professional appointments. That is the real legacy of Ariel Sharon: the legacy of an Israel -centered world built on ideology of ethno-religious supremacy which displays superiority and disdain for non-Jews. For the ethnic supremacists like Sharon, most Americans exist to pay tribute and fight wars for Israel and to keep a tight lip about it.
A Final Word on the Sharon Legacy
Let it be said, here and now, that Sharon’s presumption to speak for “the Jewish people” confused his rabid electoral supporters in Israel and blind adherents among US Zionist leaders, with a growing number of Jews and ex-Jews who detested him and scorn his legacy. His boast that “Jews control America” has dangerous implications, especially in the context of growing popular malaise in these United States. Sharon’s claim that Americans knowingly submit to a foreign tyranny, is very provocative especially if and when Americans begin to wake up— and it will be the majority of Jews, who neither abide by Sharon’s legacy nor share his naked contempt for non-Jews, who will pay a painful price.
The Sharon legacy lives on, among his epigones at the prestigious universities and with the billionaires who bankroll the Democratic Party. Sharon’s Israel First legacy lives on with the government officials who betray the trust of the American people and prostrate themselves before his present-day disciples (Klansmen with yarmulkes), the Avigdor Lieberman’s, Naftali Bennett’s and Netanyahu’s who execute the Sharon legacy of dispossession and assassination of unarmed Palestinian people. Ariel Sharon is dead but his crimes will not be buried. They live on in the policies of the Netanyahu regime but also in the collective memory of humanity in its struggle for freedom and self-determination.
PressTV Videos · January 21, 2014
Two car bombs have gone off in a southern neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, killing several people.
The explosions on Tuesday hit the Haret Hriek neighborhood in southern Beirut, which is considered as a stronghold of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah.
Reports say that at least four people have been killed and another 46 have been injured.
The al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front has claimed responsibility on its twitter page for the bombings.
Hezbollah’s al-Manar television channel said the bombings hit a busy commercial street.
The neighborhood was also targeted by a deadly car bombing on January 2.
Lebanon’s March 14 Christians are banding together in an attempt to pressure former Prime Minister Saad Hariri about the government. However, their game will be over very soon. According to March 14 sources, “March 14 Christians are used by Hariri to fuel his battles then sacrificed when a settlement is reached.”
The smile on Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s face was not enough to convince French presidential envoy Emmanuel Bon that the situation is well. Geagea stressed that Hariri would never join Hezbollah in one government. Yet no matter how hard Geagea attempts to show confidence in his relationship with Hariri, he will never manage to cover up their discords.
Geagea remarked, “We are still in the stage of deliberations and negotiations regarding the government,” perhaps not noticing that Hariri announced from The Hague his willingness to join Hezbollah in the government.
MP Sami Gemayel spoke to Geagea via telephone for 15 minutes, assuring him that Kataeb will boycott the government, even if Hariri participates. He expressed his support for Geagea’s position favoring a neutral cabinet. Sami later announced, “We are not concerned with the nature of the government. What matters is its agenda.” Perhaps Sami had heard about Hariri’s positive attitude before the rest of Lebanese, hence his taking a middle ground.
Former minister Boutros Harb seemed ready to overcome the tensions that emerged between the Lebanese Forces and March 14 independent figures following the debate over the infamous Orthodox Electoral Law. Due to Hariri’s “concessions,” Harb now sees his alliance with the Lebanese Forces as the only available option to confront Hariri’s waiving of March 14 demands, mainly Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria.
At the peak of the confrontation, Hariri left his allies blundering. According to leaked information, Hariri’s statements on the sidelines of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon show “he is holding negotiations with the opposite side while his allies are in a whole different place.” Some March 14 sources even stressed that Hariri is going to participate in the upcoming cabinet “even if his allies refuse to join him.”
Hariri is willing to drop his Christian-Muslim partnership, and “March 14 will no longer be united.” Sources confirmed that Hariri cannot be part of any compromise regarding the government unless he receives a Saudi order.
March 14 Christian sources said, “There has been no Saudi password. Riyadh left the decision to its people in Lebanon so they do what they deem suitable. Hence, Hariri is seeking his own interests, not those of his alliance! Despite all that, some in Geagea’s and Gemayel’s circles still believe that Hariri negotiators are trying to reach a compromise that would include the Baabda Declaration in the government statement and would omit the word ‘resistance’ in order to gain leverage against Hezbollah.”
The Christian wing of March 14 is counting on “Sunni politicians to continue what Maronite politicians started in their policies against Syrian and Iranian hegemonies,” said a source. They hope Hariri “will change his mind about joining a government with Hezbollah if the party doesn’t return to the state and comply with all conditions.”
Geagea didn’t make any “loud statement” concerning Hariri’s latest remarks, neither did Gemayel, Harb, or anyone who sees himself as future president. These politicians are seeking to “buy time and announce positions that they can concede to Hariri when the time comes.”
Some March 14 Christians are convinced that “Hariri is not very pleased with his alliance with Geagea and Gemayel. Even though they all shared a common political position in 2005, Hariri still believes that he naturally belongs alongside Nabih Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt, whom his father used to reach compromises with.”
The defense counsel of four Hezbollah members accused of planning the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri dismissed evidence presented by the prosecution over Thursday and Friday as unverifiable “observations.”
Prosecutors offered nothing new during their opening arguments, the defense team said at a press conference Friday evening after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) went to recess.
“There is nothing new in the presentation the prosecutor presented at the beginning of the trial,” Antoine Korkmaz, one of the defense lawyers for the suspects being tried in absentia, told reporters.
“We have not heard anything about the content of the conversations that the prosecutor claims were made between the defendants,” he added.
“The burden of proof lies with the prosecution,” and so far it has only provided circumstantial evidence that does not prove the suspects were behind the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others on February 14, 2005.
Nor did the prosecutor explain the motive behind the killing of Rafik Hariri, he added, saying that the billionaire maintained good relations with Hezbollah before his assassination.
“The evidence presented by the prosecutor is only theoretical,” defense lawyer Yasser Hassan added. “We have not seen anything new, and there is no court that could issue convictions on the basis of speculation.”
The defense will present their counter arguments when The Hague-based court resumes on Monday.
As Israel buried Ariel Sharon amid eulogies from world figures, Tony Blair, a Butcher of Baghdad, paid a tribute to the Butcher of Beirut which included the line that Sharon: “didn’t think of peace as a dreamer, but did dream of peace.” Also that: “ … he sought peace with the same iron determination” as he had fought (read slaughtered, across the Middle East.) Re-writing history does not come more blatant, but Blair was ever good at fantasy, think “weapons of mass destruction” and “forty five minutes.”
Surgeon, Dr Swee Chai Ang went to help the wounded of Beirut after the 1982 Israeli invasion and witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacre of unarmed men woman and children, Palestinian and Lebanese, between the 15th-18th September,1982.
In her book “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, she describes the reality:
“As I walked through the camp alleys looking at the shattered homes (many of these houses had just been rebuilt following earlier bombardments by Israel) I wanted to cry aloud, but was too exhausted emotionally even to do that. How could little children come back to live in the room where their relatives were tortured and then killed? If the Palestinian Red Crescent Society could not function legally, who was going to look after the widows and orphans?
“Suddenly, someone threw his arms around me. It was Mahmoud, a little child who had broken his wrist while trying to help his father rebuild their broken home. He had survived and his wrist had mended, but now his father was dead. Mahmoud cried, but he was glad I was alive because, from his hiding place during the massacre, he had seen the soldiers taking us away. He thought they had killed me.
“Soon I was surrounded by a whole lot of children. Kids without homes, without parents, without futures. But they were the children of Sabra and the children of Shatila. One of them spotted my pocket camera, and wanted a picture taken. Then they all stood together, wanting their pictures taken. “They wanted me to show their picture to the people of the world. Even if they were killed and the camps were demolished, the world would know that they were the children of Sabra and Shatila, and were not afraid. As I focused my camera, they all held up their hands and made victory signs, right in front of their destroyed homes, where many had been killed. Dear little friends, you taught me what courage and struggle are about.”
Dr Swee Chai Ang founded Medical Aid for Palestine as a result of her experiences in Beirut and Sabra and Shatila. On the eve of Ariel Sharon’s burial, she wrote the following. It is published with her permission:
The passing of Ariel Sharon brought back the memories of the horrors of the Sabra Shatilla massacre of September,’82. I arrived in August that year as a volunteer surgeon to help the war victims of Lebanon. The people in Lebanon were wounded, made homeless and lost precious friends and families as the result of ten weeks of ruthless bombardment. That was the “Operation Peace for Galilee”, launched by Sharon who was then the Defence Minister of Israel in June 1982.
No one knew how many were killed as the result of that offensive – the London newspapers estimated a thirty thousand with many times more made homeless. When a ceasefire was agreed with the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Sharon broke that ceasefire and drove tanks under air-cover launching a land invasion into Lebanon’s capitol Beirut. Part of the tanks sealed Sabra Shatilla and prevented the helpless civilian victims from escaping, while sending in Israel’s allies into the camps to carry out the most brutal massacre of defenceless women, children and old people under Israel’s watch. The blame was quickly and deliberately shifted to the Lebanese as perpetrators of the massacres, so that today no one can mention that massacre without blaming the Lebanese Phalange, yet forgetting the Israeli organisers of that event.
I worked in Gaza Hospital in Sabra Shatilla during the massacre trying to save the lives of a few dozen people, but outside the hospital hundreds were killed. My patients and I knew that Sharon and his officers were in control, and without them the massacre would not be possible. The residents of Sabra Shatilla could at least have escaped. Now more than 30 years later, we know that the killers were brought in by Israeli armoured cars and tanks, obeyed Israeli commands, their paths lit by Israeli military flares, and some of them also wore Israeli uniforms. The mutilated bodies of the victims were thrown into mass graves by Israeli bulldozers.
This Sharon continued on to be Israeli Prime Minister, and built the Wall which imprisoned the Palestinians in the West Bank. Sharon’s Wall cut through their lands, separating people from their homes, children from their schools, farmers from their orchards, patients from hospitals, husbands from wives, and children from parents. He marched into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem 2000 with fully armed Israeli soldiers and tried to have the West believe that his intention was for peace.
He was responsible for other massacres such as in Jenin, Qibya and Khan Yunis just to name a few. The older generation in Khan Yunis in Gaza remembers that he killed all the grown men in the massacre of 1956 and left only the women and children to bury the dead.
I thought these facts should be publicised. Those who eulogise Sharon in his role of building Israel should also remember that he built his nation over the dead bodies of the Palestinian people, and the continued dispossession of those who are still alive.
- Dr Ang Swee Chai is the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem, Published by International Librarie, Beirut12 January 2014.
- Felicity Arbuthnot. is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger’s award-winning documentary Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq.
The death of former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon enlivened US media’s interest in the legacy of a man considered by many a war criminal, and by some a hero. In fact, the supposed heroism of Sharon was at the heart of CNN coverage of his death on January 11.
Sharon spent his last eight years in a coma, but apparently not long enough for US corporate media to wake up from its own moral coma. CNN online’s coverage presented Sharon as a man of heroic stature, who was forced to make tough choices for the sake of his own people. “Throughout, he was called ‘The Bulldozer’, a fearless leader who got things done,” wrote Alan Duke.
In his article, “Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister, dead at 85″, Duke appeared to be confronting Sharon’s past head on. In reality, he cleverly whitewashed the man’s horrendous crimes, while finding every opportunity to recount his fictional virtue. “Many in the Arab world called Sharon ‘the Butcher of Beirut’ after he oversaw Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon while serving as defense minister,” Duke wrote.
Nevertheless, Sharon was not called the “The Bulldozer” for being “a fearless leader” nor do Arabs call him “the Butcher of Beirut” for simply “overseeing” the invasion of Lebanon. Duke is either ignorant or oblivious to the facts, but the blame is not his alone, since references to Sharon’s heroism was a staple in CNN’s coverage.
Sharon’s demise however, and the flood of robust eulogies will neither change the facts of his blood-soaked history, nor erase the “facts on the ground” – as in the many illegal colonies that Sharon so dedicatedly erected on occupied Palestinian land.
Following the Israeli occupation of Gaza along with the rest of Palestine in 1967, Sharon was entrusted with the bloody task of “pacifying” the headstrong Strip as he was the head of the southern command of the Israel Defense Forces. Sharon was dubbed the “Bulldozer” for he understood that pacifying Gaza would require heavy armored vehicles, and Gaza’s crowded neighborhoods and alleyways weaving through its destitute refugee camps were not suited for heavy machinery.
Therefore, he resolved to bulldoze thousands of homes, preparing the way for tanks and bulldozers to move in and topple even more homes. Modest estimates put the number of homes destroyed in August 1970 alone at 2,000. Over 16,000 Palestinians were made homeless and thousands were forced to relocate from one refugee camp into another.
The Beach Refugee Camp near Gaza City sustained most of the damage. Many fled for their lives, taking refuge in mosques and UN schools and tents. Sharon’s declared objective was targeting the terrorist infrastructure. What he in fact meant was targeting the very population that resisted and aided the resistance, for they indeed were the very infrastructure he harshly pounded for many days and weeks.
Sharon’s bloody sweep also resulted in the execution of 104 resistance fighters and the deportation of hundreds of others. Some were sent to Jordan, others to Lebanon, and the rest were simply left to rot in the Sinai desert.
Sharon’s violence was part of an equally disturbing logic. He believed that any strategic long-term plan to secure Israel must have at its heart a violent campaign aimed at disorienting Palestinians. He was quick to capitalize on the Allon plan, named after Yigal Allon, a former general and minister in the Israeli government, who took on the task of drawing an Israeli vision for the newly conquered Palestinian territories.
Sharon recounted standing on a dune near Gaza with cabinet ministers, explaining that along with military measures to control the Strip he wanted “fingers” of settlements separating its cities, chopping the region in four. Another “finger” would thrust through the edge of Sinai, helping create a “Jewish buffer zone between Gaza and Sinai to cut off the flow of weapons” and divide the two regions in case the rest of Sinai was ever returned to Egypt. That legacy disfigured and isolated Gaza, even years after Sharon implemented his policy of unilateral “disengagement” in 2005. He relocated the settlers to other illegal colonies in the West Bank and imposed a hermetic siege on the Strip, the consequences of which remain suffocating and deadly.
Sharon was keen on espousing or exploiting the division of his enemies. He moved against Lebanon in 1982, when the country was at its weakest point, exhausted by civil war. And when Israeli forces finally occupied Lebanon in 1982, as Palestine Liberation Organization fighters were shipped by sea to many countries around the Middle East, a triumphant Sharon permitted his Christian Phalangist allies to enter the defenseless Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps.
In the days between September 16-18, 1982, as Israeli troops completely besieged the camps, the Phalangists entered the area and carried out a massacre that gruesomely defined both the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion, killing thousands of Palestinian refugees, mostly butchered with knives, but also gunned down.
Although Sharon was partly discredited after his disastrous war in Lebanon, Israeli voters brought him back repeatedly, to lead the rightwing Likud party in May 1999 and as a prime minister of Israel in February 2001. The aim was to subdue rebelling Palestinians during the Second Intifada. In fact, it was Sharon’s provocative “visit” to one of Islam’s holiest shrines a few months earlier that sparked anger among Palestinians and, among other factors, started the uprising.
Sharon attempted to crush the uprising with the support and blessings of the US, but he failed. By the end of August 2001, 495 Palestinians and 154 Israelis were killed. International attempts at sending UN observer forces were thwarted by a US veto on March 27, thus paving the way for the Israeli army to thrash its way into Palestinian refugee camps and other areas formerly controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
In March and April 2002, Sharon ordered Operation “Defensive Wall”, which resulted in major military incursions into most West Bank cities, causing massive destruction and unprecedented bloodletting. The Israeli operation led to the killing of hundreds of Palestinians, the reoccupation of major Palestinian towns, the destruction of Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah, and the subsequent besiegement of the Palestinian leader in his barely standing office.
Sharon was no hero. It is time for US media to wake up from its own coma, and confront reality through commonsense and the most basic human rights values. It should not be looking through the prism of the most rightwing, if not fascist elements of Israeli society.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister, has passed on at the age of 85. After a lingering coma induced by a stroke in 2006, his body has finally shut down – and the curtain has fallen on what can only be described as a colorful, if not chequered career.
Although I never met him personally, Sharon’s presence appeared to haunt me wherever I went in the Middle East. Larger than life, his brazenness has seen him enjoying a career in which a bull in a china shop has seemed like a ballet dancer.
Indeed, no amount of apologetic obituaries will be able to wish away the fact that Ariel Sharon was one of Israel’s most belligerent political figures – the word “political architect” (as used by a US journalist) is certainly inflated language for a man whose solution in 2000 was to suggest the killing of arch foe Yasser Arafat.
Sentimental tributes written about him being an “avuncular figure”, a “warrior statesman” or a “complicated man” wrestling with the inevitability of a Palestinian settlement, are as authentic as Count Dracula being a teddy bear.
The truth is that the arrogantly imperial Sharon was never about peace. “Pragmatic” he may have been, but his chief business was ethnic separation between Israelis and Arabs. As a soldier this meant enforcement by the gun; and as a politician it meant concrete walls, razor wire and illegal settlements.
His response to Ehud Barak’s Camp David talks with PLO leader Yasser ‘Arafat is a typical example of his lack of subtlety. His Al-Aqsa mosque walkabout, accompanied by over 1,000 guards, lit the fires of the second Palestinian Intifada.
As I dig through old notebooks, Sharon’s name crops up time and again. Unit 101, a special “retaliation” force created by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion – of which Sharon was a 25-year old major – features as prominently as the Deir Yasin massacre.
For in August 1953, Unit 101 attacked the Gazan refugee camp of Al-Bureij, killing at least 20 refugees. This was followed by Sharon leading the Qibya massacre in Jordan two months later. This time there were 69 fatalities with the victims, mainly civilians, being dynamited whilst in their homes.
The Qibya attack was condemned by the UN and the US State Department, but no-one was ever held accountable.
Sharon’s trail of destruction did not end there. In Gaza in 1971, as head of the IDF southern command, he’d bulldozed 2,000 homes, rendered 16,000 people homeless and assassinated over 100 resistance fighters.
As a politician his hand was no less heavy. The Negev Bedouin do not have happy memories of him as Agriculture Minister. In 1979 he declared a 1,500 square kilometer area a “national park”, denying the Bedouin access to their ancestral land.
He created a para-military unit called the Green Patrol that uprooted 900 Bedouin encampments and almost saw the extinction of the black goat, whose wool provided material for traditional nomad tents.
But it was in Lebanon that Sharon, as Defense Minister, became a household name. Space does not permit more than a summary background to Israel’s 1982 invasion, essentially aimed at chasing Yasser Arafat’s PLO out of the Levant and neutralizing the Syrian presence.
Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Kata’ib Party, had been voted into power with the help of western intelligence. Unfortunately, one of his neighbors was a Syrian agent, who blew him up whilst addressing party members. Sharon’s response to the assassination was to blame the Palestinians.
The PLO had just withdrawn from Beirut and Kata’ib – or Phalangist – forces were in the vicinity of the Sabra and Shatila, which were now defenseless Palestinian neighborhoods. In violation of a ceasefire accord, the Israeli IDF had reoccupied the area, sealing off Sabra and Shatila.
According to reports, Ariel Sharon and IDF chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, met with Phalangist units, inviting them to enter Sabra and Shatila. Hours later about 1,500 militias under the command of Elie Hobeika moved in. Watched by Israeli forces, and aided by IDF flares, the raping, mutilation and killing began.
All in all, it’s believed that about 2,000 people were massacred by Phalangist forces whilst the IDF looked on. The UN General Assembly condemned the killings as “genocide” and Israel’s own Yitzhak Kahan Commission fingered Sharon. However, Prime Minister Menachim Begin refused to fire him.
I visited Sabra and Shatila some 15 years after the massacre to do research for a book. Although some buildings were still burnt out and pockmarked with bullets, most of the neighborhood had been rebuilt.
But in the dark and cramped alleys there was still a somber mood. Those who’d survived asked why nobody had protected them and – unsurprisingly – had emotional difficulty recounting events. In Shatila I discovered that the mosque floor had been dug up to bury the dead because of lack of space.
I visited the main graveyard of the massacre, an open, cold space devoid of tombstones. “Too many bodies,” said my translator, “too many bodies.”
But that was not the end of the story. People kept on talking about a secondary massacre, when hundreds of people had been detained and questioned at the sports stadium, some disappearing without trace.
“There are hundreds bodies under the Rihab Gas Station,” I was told.
This took me by surprise, for not even The Independent’s Robert Fisk – who had reported on the stadium events – had spoken about this particular graveyard. Were these yet more trampled ghosts of Sharon’s past? I do not have the answer.
But who exactly was Sharon? The acerbic Israeli commentator, Uri Avnery, describes Sharon as an “Israeli Napoleon”, the ultimate integration of personal and national egocentrism. What was good for Sharon was good for national interest – and whoever wanted to stop him had to get out the way for Sharon, and Sharon alone, could save Israel.
He thought he was well on his way to doing this via Kadima when he met his Waterloo, a debilitating stroke that saw his dream of an ethnically cleansed Israel – with Palestinians finally crammed into Jordan and Gaza – condemned to an inter-space of chronic comatose incapacity between life and death.
- Shafiq Morton is an award-winning Cape Town photojournalist and author.
An Iranian rights official says Saudi Arabia is a victim of US policies, urging Middle East countries not to support terrorists.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Monday conference in Tehran, Secretary-General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad-Javad Larijani said terrorist measures do not stem from the Middle East.
“Regional countries must know that by supporting terrorists they are only jeopardizing their own interests,” he added.
Regarding the recent bombings taking place in the region, Larijani said, “My position regarding these bombings is completely clear and I believe that the most part of their planning took place outside the region.”
He said Saudi Arabia is a victim of US policies and urged regional countries to stay away from American policies.
Larijani’s remarks come following a wave of terrorist bombings across the region, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, widely attributed to al-Qaeda-linked groups that are believed to be funded and supplied by Saudi Arabia.
Regional reports suggest al-Qaeda-linked terrorist and leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades Majed al-Majed, who was arrested in connection with the twin bombings near the Iranian embassy in Beirut on November 19, 2013 and later pronounced dead in a Lebanese military hospital- was a high-ranking official of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service.
Media reports said Riyadh had put pressure on Lebanon to extradite al-Majed before his death in detention.
The Saudi terrorist had extensive secret information as he had been active in various countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan and had direct cooperation or contact with mid- and high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders.
The burial of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah next to assassinated ex-premier Rafic al-Hariri in Beirut’s Muhammad al-Amin mosque was as striking and deliberate in symbolism as the towering structure itself.
Last Friday’s assassination of the Hariri family’s senior advisor and one-time U.S. ambassador was by similar method: a massive car bomb detonated under his convoy as it drove through the heart of Beirut’s upscale downtown district. As if to purposefully underscore the parallels and frame the post-assassination narrative, it also occurred just a few hundred yards from the site where the billionaire Hariri was murdered in February 2005.
Just as after Hariri’s killing, the calculated recriminations of the March 14 coalition, led by the Future Movement, came fast and furious. Blame was laid squarely at the feet of Hezbollah. March 14 supporters were quick to point out that the crime took place less than three weeks before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL; the U.N.-established court tasked with investigating the Hariri assassination) was set to open proceedings against four accused Hezbollah members.
The shoddy STL investigation, relying heavily on telecommunications data wholly compromised by Israeli intelligence and their captured agents, has been previously discussed.
Did the masterminds of the Shatah assassination hope the Lebanese population would turn against Hezbollah, already facing strong rebuke for its intervention in Syria by March 14 politicians (despite that the latter have implicitly lent support to radical takfiri elements involved in the Syrian conflict since its earliest days)?
As with all political upheavals in Lebanon, the question that must be asked is, “who benefits?” Does Hezbollah? Although Shatah was a stalwart March 14 operative who decried Hezbollah’s role in Syria, he was nevertheless regarded as a relative moderate. But the increasingly virulent sectarian discourse of those on the fringes of this political alliance (and many at its center) and the cover they have extended to extremists like fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, cannot be ignored. Beirut after all, is still reeling from recent twin suicide car bombings at the Iranian embassy followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of Hezbollah senior commander Hassan al-Lakkis. On Thursday, innocent Lebanese civilians were again victims of a car bomb detonated in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut’s Shia-majority southern suburbs, known as the dahiyeh.
“Moderate” Sunni politicians like Shatah are viewed as expendable, for their killing only serves to polarize the wider Sunni community by inciting sectarian hatred and thereby marginalize more reasoned voices. Even Lebanon’s Grand Mufti was not spared as he was accosted after mourners’ passions were stoked by Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari, the cleric who delivered the sermon at the funeral of a young man also killed in the assassination. As Al-Akhbar reports, “Omari attacked Hezbollah, describing it as the ‘party of the devil.’ He called on the Shia to ‘disown’ Hezbollah ‘if they are true believers,’ and stressed the ‘patience of the persecuted Sunni sect is running out.’”
Again, does Hezbollah achieve any gain, political or otherwise, with Shatah’s demise?
The irony is that the inflammatory rhetoric and policies of March 14 parliamentary bloc members have led to the exponential growth of radical forces in the country. One only has to recall how former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Bahia Hariri and others insinuated the Lebanese Army was responsible for provoking Salafist cleric al-Assir’s armed forces to launch an attack against them this past summer in Sidon, killing 18.
Son of the late prime minister and Future Movement head Saad Hariri also did not waste any time in essentially blaming the victims themselves for Thursday’s attack: “They are at the same time victims of [Hezbollah’s] involvement in foreign wars, particularly in the Syrian war.”
The northern city of Tripoli and the Ain al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon have provided extremist groups with safe refuge. Details have now emerged pointing to a possible link between those in the camp and recent events.
Just as in Iraq, moderate Sunni politicians have been singled out for assassination by takfiris who seek to exploit their spilled blood, provoke co-religionists into committing crimes against civilians and stir a simmering sectarian pot.
Who are the likely perpetrators behind Mohammed Shatah’s assassination and the dahiyeh bombing?
The very same ones the U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition have emboldened.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.
Twelve Editorial Staff Rules for the Great International Media When the News is from the Middle East
January 8, 2009
1) In the Middle East it is always the Arabs who attack first and always Israel that is defending themselves. This defense is called a reprisal.
2) The Arabs, Palestinian or Lebanese have no right to kill civilians. That is called “terrorism.”
3) Israel has the right to kill civilians. That is called “legitimate defense.”
4) When Israel kills civilians en masse, the western powers claim that it is more measured. This is called “reaction of the international community.”
5) The Palestinians and the Lebanese have no right to capture soldiers of Israel inside military installations with sentries and combat posts. This is called, “Kidnapping of defenseless people.”
6) Israel has the right to kidnap anytime and anywhere as many Lebanese and Palestinians as they want. Currently there are more than 10 thousand, 300 of whom are children and a thousand are women. No proof of guilt is needed. Israel has the right to keep kidnapped prisoners indefinitely, even if they are authorities democratically elected by the Palestinians. This is called “terrorist prisoners.”
7) When the word Hezbollah is mentioned, it is compulsory in the same sentence to contain the words “supported and financed by Syria and by Iran.”
8) When you mention “Israel” it is forbidden to make any mention of the words “supported and financed by the U.S.” This may give the impression that the conflict is uneven and that Israel’s existence is not in danger.
9) When referring to Israel, expressions that are prohibited: “Occupied Territories,” “UN resolutions,” “Violations of human rights” or “Geneva Convention.”
10) Both the Palestinians and the Lebanese are always “cowardly,” they are hidden among the civilian population, which does not want them. If they sleep in their homes, with their families, that gives them the name of “cowards.“ Israel has a right to destroy with bombs and missiles the neighborhoods where they are sleeping. This is called a “precision surgical action.”
11) The Israelis speak better English, French, Spanish or Portuguese than the Arabs. Therefore they and those who support them must be interviewed more and have more opportunities than the Arabs to explain the present Rules of the Editorial Staff (from 1 to 10) to the general public. That is called “journalistic neutrality.”
12) All those who are not in accordance with the Rules of Writing above are “highly dangerous anti-Semitic terrorists.”
(Text French, anonymous, from a reader of the Carta Maior blog)
The assassination of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah will open a dangerous chapter in Lebanon, a bit similar to the one that followed the assassination of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Shatah was no ordinary man in the region, and the attack occurred at a crucial moment in Lebanon and its neighborhood’s history. Here, escalated tensions and sedition will never let such a crime pass by without major repercussions. The killer knew it!
Hariri’s assassination in 2005 was a turning point for Hezbollah’s image in the Arab and Islamic world, and contributed to the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. These events weren’t just a result of local demands. Former US President George W. Bush and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac were also involved.
The Sunni-Shia strife that ripped Iraq apart after the American-British invasion was further consolidated when Hezbollah, with its large Shia base, was accused of murdering the new symbol of modern Sunnism in the region: Rafik Hariri. Back then, political accusation preceded all real investigations on the ground.
Now, what to expect after Shatah’s assassination?
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was brief, while Future bloc leader Fouad Siniora elaborated, hinting that the Syrian regime planned the crime, and its Lebanese allies, mainly Hezbollah, carried it out. In the March 14 statement, Siniora echoed the calls that followed Hariri’s murder, urging to take Shatah’s assassination to the international level, something we expect to hear quite often in the coming weeks amid international pressure on Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Head of the National Struggle Bloc MP Walid Jumblatt was alone in his call for reason and moderation. He knows quite well that some are seeking to exploit the assassination to achieve bigger political gains. He also understands that this assassination is apt to take the country from sectarian sedition to the battlefield.
The Shatah assassination occurred while Lebanon was at a crossroads. The future government and the current presidency are now up for grabs amid political bickering between Hezbollah and March 14. But behind both parties is a larger and deeper conflict taking place in Syria.
The assassination ought to increase pressure on the formation of a Lebanese government and a formula for a presidential agreement. Previously hesitant, the international community is now expected to support these solutions as the death of Shatah and the other martyrs raised the alarm about a bloody year awaiting Lebanon.
Shatah’s murder also paves the way for further assassinations, clashes, and blasts. Obviously there is a plan to transform Lebanon into an arena for a regional and international conflict that has not been settled in Syria.
What if a Hezbollah leader or ally is killed in the coming days? Will we hear that it is a retaliation for the Shatah murder? Who will break this vicious cycle?
Israel may also find an opportunity to conduct a military operation. It is reported that Hezbollah’s incursion in Syria and the widening rift with its former Sunni base offers Israel the right opportunity to strike. In Lebanon, Israel may redeem what it couldn’t achieve in Iran. At least that’s what the Israelis believe.
The assassination put the Syrian regime and Hezbollah in a raging storm of accusations at a critical time. The world is heading toward the Geneva II conference and an historic understanding with Iran. The international tribunal investigating Hariri’s murder will soon begin its sessions.
Martyr Mohammed Shatah was no ordinary man. Neither was martyr Wissam al-Hassan. Shatah, a man with hefty economic and political baggage, was, just like security man Hassan, standing on a pivotal local, regional, and international intersection. With such assassinations, it is easy to point figures, but it is hard to support accusations with evidence as political exploitation comes in smoothly.
A dark period of major transformation is awaiting Lebanon, but unfortunately the fierce battle ahead won’t yield any winners. What if a fait accompli government was imposed on Hezbollah and its allies? How will Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah put his words “don’t mess with us” into action? Those messing with him this time will have an international cover far larger than the one they had before the assassination.