The legacy of Ariel Sharon
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The legacy of Ariel Sharon

February 5, 2001


This is a place of filth and blood which will forever be associated with Ariel Sharon. In Israel today, he may well be elected prime minister. Then he will be master of the most powerful nation in the Middle East; he will travel to America, he will visit the White House and shake hands with President George W Bush. But for everyone who stood in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut on 18 September 1982, his name is synonymous with butchery; with bloated corpses and disembowelled women and dead babies, with rape and pillage and murder...

By Robert Fisk

[The Independent, UK, 6 February 2001]: Even when I walk these fetid streets today, more than 18 years after what was - by Israel's own definition of that much-misused phrase - the worst single act of terrorism in modern Middle East history, the ghosts haunt me still. Over there, on the side of the road leading to the Sabra mosque, lay Mr Nouri, 90 years old, grey-bearded, in pyjamas with a small woollen hat still on his head and a stick by his side. I found him on a pile of garbage, on his back, fly-encrusted eyes staring at the blazing sun. Just up the lane, I came across two women sitting upright with their brains blown out, next to a cooking pot and a dead horse. One of the women appeared to have had her stomach slit open. A few metres away, I discovered the first babies, already black with decomposition, scattered across the road like rubbish.

Yes, those of us who got into Sabra and Chatila before the murderers left have our memories. The flies racing between the reeking bodies and our faces, between dried blood and reporter's notebook, the hands of watches still ticking on dead wrists. I clambered up a rampart of earth - an abandoned bulldozer stood guiltily nearby - only to find, once I was atop the mound, that it swayed beneath me. And I looked down to find faces, elbows, mouths, a woman's legs protruding through the soil. I had to hold on to these body parts to climb down the other side. Then there was the pretty girl, her head surrounded by a halo of clothes pegs, her blood still running from a hole in her back. We had burst into the yard of her home, desperate to avoid the Israeli-uniformed militiamen who still roamed the camp; coming in by back door, we had found her body as the murderers left by the front door.

And as I walked through the carnage on 18 September - the last day of the three-day massacre - with Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post, a fierce, tough, Colorado reporter, I remember how he stopped in shock and disgust. And then, with as much energy as his lungs could summon in the sweet, foul air, he shouted, "SHARON!" so loudly that the name echoed off the crumpled walls above the bodies. "He's responsible for this fucking mess," Jenkins roared. And that, just over four months later - in more diplomatic words and in a report in which the murderers were called "soldiers" - was what the Israeli commission of enquiry decided. Sharon, who was minister of defence, bore "personal responsibility", the Kahan commission stated, and recommended his removal from office. Sharon resigned.

And so today, in this fetid, awful place, where Lebanese Muslim militiamen were - three years later - to kill hundreds more Palestinians in a war which produced no official inquiries, where scarcely 20 per cent of the survivors still live, where brown mud and rubbish now covers the mass grave of 600 of the 1982 victims, the Palestinians wait to see if their tormentor will hold the highest office in the state of Israel.

"Ariel Sharon was responsible," a well-dressed young man shouted at us from an apartment balcony yesterday morning. And who could disagree? Israel had invaded Lebanon on 6 June 1982 with a plan - known to Sharon but not vouchsafed to his Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin - to advance all the way to Beirut and surround Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation guerrillas in the Lebanese capital. Officially named "Operation Peace for Galilee" (the real Israeli military codename was "Snowball"), the invasion was supposedly a response to PLO rocket attacks across the Israeli border.

But the rocket attacks had followed a series of Israeli air-raids on Lebanon which had ended a UN-brokered ceasefire and which were supposedly in "retaliation" for the attempted murder of the Israeli ambassador to London - though his would-be killers came from the Abu Nidal group which had nothing to do with the PLO and hated Arafat. But Sharon had anyway received an earlier American "green light" for his operation from Alexander Haig in the spring of 1982. After two months and almost 17,000 deaths, most of them civilians - the majority killed by Israeli gunfire and air attack - the PLO withdrew from Beirut under international protection, leaving their unarmed families behind. At which point Sharon announced that 2,000 "terrorists" remained in the Sabra and Chatila camps. These mythical "terrorists" prompted a small advance by Israeli tanks - contrary to an agreement with Washington - towards the Palestinian camps. A French UN officer who tried to photograph the advance was shot dead by an "unknown" sniper. Sharon repeated his extraordinary claim that "terrorists" remained in the camps. And it was then that the Christian Lebanese president-elect, Bashir Gemayel - the leader of the Phalange militia which had already murdered thousands of surrendering Palestinians in the Tel el-Zaatar camp in 1976 - was assassinated.

Sharon paid his condolences to Gemayel's father, Pierre. He must have known the old man's history. Pierre Gemayel had founded his party after being inspired by the Olympics in Nazi Germany in 1936 ("I liked their idea of order," he once confided to me). Not for nothing did Israel's militia allies use the fascist "Phalange" as their name. As the Christians prepared to bury their hero, Sharon - again contrary to assurances he had given the Americans - ordered the Israeli army into west Beirut to "restore order". The Israelis then asked the Christian Phalange - armed and uniformed by Israel and allied to Israel since 1976 - to enter the Israeli-surrounded camps to "liquidate" the "terrorists". Which is why, on Thursday 16 September, guided by signposts which the Israelis had laid across a Beirut airport runway, the Christian gunmen walked through the southern entrance of Chatila, some of them drunk, a number on drugs - all under the eyes of the Israelis - and embarked on a war crime.

Today, much scarred by later wars, the lanes of Chatila still follow the same paths I walked down 18 years ago. There are always survivors who have never told their stories to us before. Yesterday I wandered up an alleyway - rippling with water pipes and running with rain and sewage - to find a middle-aged woman buying tomatoes from a stall. I was 30 metres from the road where I discovered Mr Nouri's body almost two decades ago. She took me to her family home and introduced me to her daughter, Nadia Salameh. Nadia was only 12 when Ariel Sharon's soldiers watched the Phalangist militia slaughter their way through the camps.

"At the end of this alleyway outside our home, we were all shocked by what we saw," she told me, her voice slowly rising with the memory of horror. "I saw corpses there, seven deep, some decapitated, others with their throats slit. One of our neighbours was lying there, Um Ahmed Saad, and her body had grown big with the heat. Her hands had been chopped off at the wrists. She used to wear a lot of bracelets, a lot of gold. The Phalange obviously wanted the gold."

Each house I enter contains the faded photographs of young men killed in the war, some by Israel's allies, others by Shia Muslim gunmen in the later 1985 camps war. But their memories have not faded. Old Abdullah - he is 78 and pleaded with us not to use his family name - talks without looking at me, eyes staring at the wall. The ghosts are returning again. "The Phalange were led by Elie Hobeika," he said, "but who sent them into the camps? The Israelis. And who was the defence minister? Sharon. They put their tanks round the camp. I was part of a delegation that tried to negotiate with them. We carried a white flag. When we got near, there was a man's voice on a loudspeaker telling us to have our identity cards ready. But I didn't have my ID. So I went back home. And it turned out the loudspeaker was being used by a Phalangist. And they murdered all the men in the delegation. I was the only one to survive."

There was no doubt that the Israelis could see what the Lebanese Christian Phalange were doing. The Kahan commission was later to quote Lieutenant Avi Grabovski, deputy commander of an Israeli tank unit that was helping to encircle the camp: he watched the murder of five women and children and wanted to protest, but his battalion commander had replied to another soldier who complained that "we know, it's not to our liking, and don't interfere". Up to 2,000 Palestinians were murdered - two mass graves remain unexhumed in Beirut - and Sharon's reputation, already besmirched by the much earlier slaughter of more than 50 Palestinian civilians by his Commando Unit 101, seemed as buried as the Palestinian victims.

But like the garbage that has collected over the only known mass grave, the historical narrative - save for that of the survivors - has become overgrown. History moves on. Arafat recognised Israel and found himself trapped by an agreement that would give him neither a real "Palestine" nor secure the return of the refugees - including those in Sabra and Chatila - to what is now Israel. And the new leader of Israel is, within hours, likely to be the man who allowed the killers into the Beirut camps more than 18 years ago.

With power, of course, comes respect. CNN now calls Sharon "a barrel-framed veteran general who has built a reputation for flattening obstacles and reshaping Israel's landscape", while the BBC World Service on Sunday managed to avoid the fateful words Sabra and Chatila by referring only to his "chequered military career". As for Nadia Salameh, "Sharon's role here shows what he is capable of. If Sharon is elected, the whole peace process falls by the wayside because he doesn't want peace." It's a relief to recall that up to a million Israelis demonstrated their moral integrity in 1982 by protesting in Tel Aviv against the massacre. And equally chilling to reflect that some of those one million - if the polls are accurate - may well be voting for Mr Sharon today.

February 2001


(February 27, 2001)
Was it the Likud Party, or the Labor Party, that authorized more illegal settlements in the occupied territories since the Gulf War and the Madrid Peace Conference?

(February 26, 2001)
For those who still needed proof of the cravenness and duplicity of Israel's Labor Party, the party that spawned "Peace Now" and "Oslo" among other gross deceptions, it came today.

Defectors say Iraq tested Nuclear Bomb
(February 25, 2001)
When Iraq was more overtly building nuclear weapons, the Israelis struck in 1981 destroying the Osirak reactor near Baghdad that could have provided the crucial processed uranium fuel.

"Go back, we don't want you"
(February 24, 2001)
General Colin Powell, now combining even more closely than usual the Pentagon with the State Department, was afraid to go to Gaza; and rightly so.

The Hebron MASSACRE - 7 long years ago
(February 24, 2001)
Abraham's dysfunctional family has had unbelieveable historical ramifications for which the focal point today is Hebron, site of Abraham's burial place, a religious site to both Jews and Muslim alike who are today quite literally at each other's throats.

Council on foreign relations help legitimize Sharon
(February 23, 2001)
The Council on Foreign Relations, New York-power elite-based but in recent years integrating more with the Washington government and corporate elite, has been for quite some time, to put it bluntly, a rather tricky and chicanery Israeli-oriented Zionist center when it comes to matters relevant to Israel.

Iraq - The great Cover-Up
(February 23, 2001)
As terrible as what the Israelis, with their superpower American ally (and European connivance), are doing to the Palestinians, what has been and is being done to the Iraqis and the Chechnyans is also truly appauling.

Arab expulsion admitted by Sharon Ally
(February 22, 2001)
One day maybe Israel -- like South Africa and Chile before it -- will have some kind of "truth finding" commission to try to purge itself of the past.

Protests in Jordan
(February 22, 2001)
If it weren't for the Hashemite Regime in today's Jordan, yesterday's Transjordan, and before that the East Bank of Palestine, the Israelis would never have been able to vanquish the Palestinian people in days past and would never be able to do to the remaining Palestinians what is happening today.

Powell and Sharon - Street protests?
(February 21, 2001)
Clearly, the US is rushing to court unpopularity across the world, contrary to expectations that the Bush national security establishment would conduct itself with a degree of sophistication.

"This is only the beginning"
(February 21, 2001)
The crippling is not just physical. Psychologically, culturally, economically, and even morally, the Palestinian people are being twisted and tortured beyond all recognition of their former selves.

Gaza Ghetto, Gaza Concentration Camp, Gaza Prison
(February 19, 2001)
For four months, the Gaza Strip has been effectively isolated from the world. Over 1 million Palestinians are caged in an area of not more than 365km2.

Locked in an Orwellian eternal war
(February 19, 2001)
President Bush Jr didn't seem so confident the other day as he told the world of the newly increased bombing of Iraq. But he made it clear that "until the world is told otherwise" the Americans are convinced they run the world and it is up to them to decide whom to bomb, whom to favor, whom to take out, whom to reward.

Arafat collapsing
(February 16, 2001)
The Arafat Regime is collapsing. Here are some of the details, twisted somewhat of course because the reports are from Israel's best newspaper, Ha'aretz, in view of the fact that Palestinian and Arab news sources are unable and unwilling to provide such insights.

The realization, "perhaps the dream"
(February 16, 2001)
Out of the cycle of violence the gradual, hesitant understanding - perhaps the dream - will grow, that the only way is through a struggle to create a land of Israel/Palestine that is undivided in both physical and human terms, pluralistic and open; a land in which civilized relations, human touch, intimate coexistence and a link to a common homeland would be stronger than militant tribalism and the separation into national ghettoes.

"Collective suicide" or Zionism united?
(February 15, 2001)
If there is a national unity government, it will be evident that the differences between Labour as the main branch of the left and the Likud as the main branch of the right are not that big.

Death and assissination
(February 14, 2001)
It didn't take long for the Israelis, now Sharon-led, to start creating the escalating provocations that will then bring about still more Palestinian rage which will then give the Israelis the excuse they seek to pulverize the Palestinians still harder, possibly destroying the regime they earlier created, and possibly leading to another Palestinian "nakbah" (disaster).

Israelis strike, Palestinians without strategy
(February 13, 2001)
The Israelis have had a long-term strategy for a very long time; and they have pursued it regardless of what party was in power and who happened to be Prime Minister of the moment.

Dozens of Palestinians wounded
(February 12, 2001)
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank Monday as Israel's rightwing Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon sought to forge a unity government.

"Holy war" is forever
(February 12, 2001)
Fifty four years ago when an international commission of that day was hearing from Jews and Arabs about what the new U.N. should do about Palestine there was testimony from very credible and very establishment Jewish Zionist sources opposing creation of a "separatist Jewish State" precisely because it would bring about an unending conflict with the Palestinian Arab population.

War preparations continue
(February 11, 2001)
The Arafat Regime, the "Authority", is near collapse -- not just financially, but credibility wise as well. The Israeli government is near "unity" -- with General Sharon in charge.

The PA is about to collapse
(February 10, 2001)
How ironic history can be. After generations of struggle and such suffering the regime that rules the Palestinians is now in the hands of Ariel Sharon representing Israel, the U.S. Congress representing the financial levers of the American Empire, and the European governments which in this situation operate on the pretense that they are better than either of the above.

Rocking Israel to its Biblical core
(February 9, 2001)
Well if King David was a nebbish (modern translation might be "nerd"), one has to wonder how history will record Ariel Sharon, the man with such a past whom the Jews of Israel have just overwhelming elected their leader.

Sharon maneuvers for starting position
(February 9, 2001)
It's time for serious political confusion and disinformation now. As the armies prepare themselves for the clashes likely to come in one form or another, the politicians maneuver for new starting positions.

Clinton pardoned Mossad spy for Israelis
(February 9, 2001)
The Israelis adore Bill Clinton, as all the pollsters know. Deep down even the common everyday Israelis know he was their man in the White House.

The many crimes of Ariel Sharon
(February 8, 2001)
Some incorrigible optimists have suggested that only a right-wing extremist of the notoriety of Likud leader Ariel Sharon will have the credentials to broker any sort of lasting settlement with the Palestinians.

Sharon wastes no time - Arafat bows
(February 7, 2001)
We will give him the benefit of the doubt. If he comes with good ideas that will bring us closer to the peace process, why not? The world has seen many such situations before.

Holy war for Jerusalem
(February 7, 2001)
We're on the way now to a new and expanded struggle, maybe even a religious war, Jerusalem the focalpoint.

The cold logic of Sharon
(February 7, 2001)
Many Israelis just stayed home. Others cast a blank vote. But a considerable minority thrust Ariel Sharon into the greatest electoral landslide in that country's history -- obviously as well an overwhelming majority of those who did vote.

Sharon wins and Peres wants in
(February 6, 2001)
He may be a brutish thug, he may fit the definition of war criminal, he may be a Jewish racist -- but now he is also the Prime Minister-elect of Israel, overwhelmingly swept into power in a way few imagined possible just a year ago.

All sides now committed to escalation
(February 6, 2001)
Now the real craziness begins. The Palestinians are committed to heating things up to demonstrate their resolve and their capabilities. The Israelis are committed to "stopping the violence" which means clamping the boot down on the Palestinians even more harshly.

The legacy of Ariel Sharon
(February 5, 2001)
This is a place of filth and blood which will forever be associated with Ariel Sharon. In Israel today, he may well be elected prime minister.

BBC casts doubt of Pan AM convictions
(February 5, 2001)
In advance of whatever the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is going to produce as "evidence" of innocence today, the BBC has published the following story quoting the very Scottish law professor who arranged the trial in The Netherlands casting great doubt about the veracity of the verdict reached:

What's left of Israel's left
(February 5, 2001)
What's left of Israel's left is in a fractured and demoralized state of affairs. Not only is Ariel Sharon about to become Israel's Prime Minister, but in all likelihood he is to be swept into power tomorrow in a landslide unprecedented in Israel's history.

The Pan Am 103 Verdict
(February 3, 2001)
The papers are filled with pictures of happy relatives of the victims of the 1988 bombing of PanAm 103. A Libyan, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was just found guilty of the bombing by a Scottish court in the Hague, his co-defendant, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, being acquitted... What's wrong is that the evidence against Megrahi is thin to the point of transparency.

Rivers of blood
(February 2, 2001)
The bloodiness and racism of Sharon's past is fact. And these two articles help bring that past forward to the present.

Waiting for Sharon
(February 2, 2001)
They believe a Sharon victory will be a boon for their cause. 'He will expose the true face of Israel,' says an activist in Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement in Nablus, 'and force the world, including the US, to address its real responsibilities to the peace process...

Israeli Arabs boycott Barak, await Sharon
(February 1, 2001)
As the extreme right-wing revolution in Israel nears, as Ariel Sharon and friends prepare to take over political power, the "Israeli Arab vote" will not be enough to save Ehud Barak, and in fact it will not even be mobilized on his behalf this time, though Yasser Arafat and his friends have surely tried.

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