FLASHBACK to November 1998
30 November 2004 - MiddleEast.Org - MER is Free
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MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 30 November 2004: In November of 1998, just a few years ago in overall history but it seems now so long ago for those living through it, MER published this article focusing specifically on Ariel Sharon of Israel. Clearly it was a foretaste not only of Sharon's past but of what was to come.


"Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians.
I had promised Arafat that his people would not get any harm.
Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely.
Sharon's word is worth nil."
Ambassador Philip Habib -
Ronald Reagan's Special Middle East Envoy*

MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 11/3/1998: History takes strange turns indeed. The very man who has been at the heart of Israel's campaign to massacre, disenfranchise, and push under the Palestinians is now Israel's Foreign Minister, in charge of negotiating the "final settlement". The very man who has championed Israel's settlements and masterminded the "by-pass roads" and apartheid-style "autonomy" is now mandated to "negotiate" with the Palestinians. The very man who set up his personal settlement in the Muslim Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, flying the Israeli flag and a Jewish Menorah on top of his building for all to see, this is the man the Israelis now thrust forward to finish off the Palestinians.

What a disgrace. What an abomination. What a disaster.

Sharon led the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 as Defense Minister. He bludgeoned, bombed, and lied his way, killing tens of thousands of civilians as he went, creating an Israeli as well as an international crisis as his forces laid siege to Beirut.

The youngest tank commander in Israel's history, Eli Geva, finally refused Sharon's orders and was allowed to resign from the army rather than face imprisonment. Desperate, though of course working in coordination with the Israelis, the Americans orchestrated the PLO's departure from Lebanon, Arafat and his men fleeing to Tunis.

A short time later, totally contrary to all assurances, Sharon personally orchestrated Israel's ally, the right-wing Lebanese Phalange, to slaughter thousands of defenseless Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. Israeli searchlights illuminated the camps, while Israeli army personnel watched through binoculars, as the death squads spread unchallenged through the camps.

Much of the world -- including many prominent Jews -- branded Sharon a genocidal war criminal. Even the Israelis themselves, after a partial white-wash investigative commission, publicly declared that Sharon has been "indirectly" responsible for the massacres and forced his removal as Defense Minister.

That was the overall context for Ambassador Philip Habib, Special Envoy of President Ronald Regain, calling Sharon an obsessed "killer".

The following commentary about Sharon's becoming Foreign Minister and his role at the Wye negotiations is from a recent column by Professor Edward Said published in Al-Ahram Weekly:

The latest outrage concerns a report published in the US press on Saturday 10 October. In reports of General Ariel Sharon's appointment as foreign minister of Israel, a leading Palestinian figure -- a minister, negotiator, and long-time spokesperson for Arafat -- was quoted as registering a quite remarkable reaction to Sharon: we are prepared, he said, "to forget history".

Remember that this Israeli military man was responsible (the Israeli court at the time said "indirectly") for the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, but for our leaders this is perhaps too long ago to count as an obstacle to dealing with the man. Sharon's record of crimes against Palestinian civilians in any case is a very long one. He was directly responsible for the "pacification" of Gaza in 1971, when numerous citizens were killed or unjustly imprisoned, their houses demolished and the whole area transformed into an Israeli jail. As the head of Force 101, as it was proudly called, he inherited (after having participated in creating it) the tradition of attacking Arab civilians, the massacre at Qibya being only one example. Sharon used to boast that Israel could invade and destroy any Arab country at will. His whole career was compiled out of regular assertions of Israeli arrogance, all of which ended up in exorbitant losses of Arab civilian life. Appointing him as foreign minister -- an act which seems to have shocked many Israelis for whom Sharon was a source of national shame as well as the author of a 1981 "peace plan" whose principal points seem to have been annexation and the creation of Bantustans: exactly the "peace" situation of today -- was Netanyahu's way of humiliating the Palestinians still further, forcing them to deal with a man first of all whose hands were literally dripping with Palestinian blood, second, whose intentions are known everywhere as radically hostile to Palestinians, and third, who persisted in regarding Arafat as a war criminal. He wouldn't shake Arafat's hand, he boasted.

By way of response, and forgetfulness, Arafat announced that he would in fact shake Sharon's hand. And then, as I said above, one of his closest aides went on record as being prepared "to forget history" and deal honestly and in good faith with Sharon.

Forget history: the phrase has a certain stink about it that emanates directly from the sty of corruption and dishonesty in which the Palestinian leadership from top to bottom now swims. Why this unholy zeal to forget the butcher of Sabra and Shatila? Of Gaza? Of Sinai? A man who directly supports' the settlers and who has planted himself and his gigantic belly in the middle of Arab Jerusalem, "his" house surrounded by a small brigade of guards, an Israeli flag waving disdainfully from its roof. A man whose hatred and contempt for Palestinians is unparalleled in Israel today. A man who not only wishes us no good at all, but who has in fact done us harm for three decades. Forget history, says the distinguished Palestinian minister. I realize that all I can do is to write these lines in disgust and protest, to record what is being forgotten and to mark what should not be erased from collective memory. But that we are driven to have not just correct but cordial relations with a proven war criminal simply outrages one's conscience beyond credibility.

Were this the only instance of Arab lack of dignity, it would be bad enough. But it isn't. Last winter, when I was in Palestine..., Sharon was sent to Jordan to meet with its leaders.

Our Israeli soundman, whose politics were liberal, told me that he was mystified as to why Arabs seem to respect this dreadful man. To many of us Israelis, he said to me, he's a war criminal. Why do the Arabs like him so much?

I must confess to having been tongue-tied, as I am again now. But merely forgetting about it can go too far, obviously. So it is our duty to remind these forgetful rulers of ours that there is no way that Sharon's crimes against humanity will be forgotten, despite the Palestinian Authority's forgiving spirit. The danger is, however, that, having already forgotten their own people, and certainly its right of return, as well as its rights of residence on its own land, the great keepers of the Palestinian revolution, as Fatah still refers to itself, will forget themselves too. Do you suppose it is impossible that they may I apologize to Sharon for Palestinian existence, ask his continued indulgence and beg him to let us live on a little longer? As it is, the deal that they have accepted of nine per cent withdrawal plus three per cent to be left as a nature reserve is misleadingly referred to as a gain, even though our leaders never point out that the 10 per cent contains only one or at most two per cent that will transfer land from the Israeli area C to Palestinian area A, plus some land from C to the jointly controlled area B. All in all, then, forgetfulness is a disastrous method of procedure, whose ultimate benefit is to the Authority's own survival under Israeli and US patronage.

* 9/28/1982

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