Israeli premier Ariel Sharon beneath a photo of his mentor, Menachem Begin
September 28, 2003
Almost three years to the day of the beginning of the Second Intifada on September 28, 2000, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has told the daily Yediot Ahronot, that his country is determined to "remove" the elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.
He added that his previous personal and public commitment to guarantee the safety of Arafat has now been overridden by his cabinet's decision to declare the Palestinian leader persona non grata and quite brazenly declared that: "You have to keep in mind that it is very difficult to ensure that he (Arafat) won't be harmed if we seize him."
Whatever support Sharon may receive from Washington, and whatever the criticisms of Arafat's rule, the fact remains that Yasser Arafat is an elected representative of the Palestinian people and is still viewed by most of the world as such.
These remarkable comments so casually made to international outrage by one world leader alluding to the killing of another, serve to remind us that although history contains many lessons about Ariel Sharon, few are willing to learn from them.
A year and a half ago the world stood by and watched the Israeli Prime Minister run his tanks over Jenin refugee camp. His bulldozers continue to run over Palestinian houses and foreign peace activists. His special forces openly pursue a policy of assassination of Palestinian paramilitary activists. His soldiers fire upon children who only throw stones at their shields.
Washington, the voice Sharon heeds the most (for after all, $3 billion in aid is $3 billion in aid ), gave him space to murder in Jenin and now allows him to make this incredible threat in open violation of any notion of international law.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, while not overtly supporting the removal of Arafat, places the onus of solving the escalating violence squarely on his shoulders. The European Community, Israel's most important trade partner and thus not lacking in influence over Tel Aviv, grumbles a little and then sits back - as it did with Jenin - to see what will happen.
Who remembers the televised abomination of seeing a desperate, unarmed Palestinian father, Jamil al-Durra, try to protect his 12-year old son, Mohammed, from being deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers in a fire fight at this time three years ago? The terrified little boy, who was vainly hiding behind an oil drum with his father, was murdered in full view of the world. Did this move Colin Powell to hitch up his trousers and barge into Sharon's office to demand an end to the butchery as he now does with Arafat?
History, in the case of Ariel Sharon, offers us a clear and simple-to-understand lesson.
As Israeli Defense Minister in September 1982, he oversaw the massacre of up to 1,800 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatilla in South Lebanon.
A member of the underground Haganah organization in the 1940s, Sharon comes from a history of Zionist terrorism. The Prime Minister he served in 1982 was Menachem Begin, former leader of the terrorist organization Irgun - an offshoot of Haganah - and had practice in how to massacre Palestinian families in his 1948 killing of over 250 peaceful inhabitants of the village of Deir Yassin. The village was strategically important to the emerging Jewish State and so it was decided to occupy it and drive out its residents. A full third of its population was massacred to frighten off the others.
Begin's homicidal example served Sharon well with Sabra and Chatilla, except that he didn't have to personally sully his hands with Palestinian blood as had his boss. He just allowed the South Lebanese Army of Christian zealots to do the work for him.
Today he allows the Israeli Defense Force - a misnomer if ever there was one - to do his continued work of slaughtering Palestinians in his clear intention to continue a policy of eradication, which, considering his people's history makes his actions even more loathsome.
History also gives us these words spoken by Philip Habib who was US President Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East in 1982:
"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".
And in case this isn't enough to convince even the most stalwart of those in denial as to Sharon's intentions, you don't have to look very much further in history than his own words in an interview he gave to the Israeli newspaper Daval after Sabra and Chatilla and published on December 17th, 1982:
"You can call me anything you like. Call me a monster or a murderer... Better a live Judeo Nazi than a dead saint... Even if you prove to me that the present war in Lebanon is a dirty, immoral war, I don't care... We shall start another war, kill and destroy more and more until they have had enough... If anyone even raises his hand against us we will take away half his land and burn the other half... We might use nuclear arms... Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us... And I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me as a war criminal if you want... What you don't understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it".
Sharon was true to his word in the refugee camp of Jenin, and the fearsome truth of what more he has in store for Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people will one day become part of our own history if the world doesn't pay attention today to the simple lesson of what kind of a man history tells us is Ariel Sharon.