Israel: The Butcher Prime Minister

Revolutionary Worker #1091, February 18, 2001, posted at

The state of Israel has chosen a new prime minister--Ariel Sharon. This is a man deeply hated by the Palestinians and other Arab people because of his long history of massacres and other atrocities. The following is a look at the background of the butcher that now heads Israel.

Mass Murderers of Unit 101

Sharon's bloody career began in the Haganah, the largest of the Zionist underground groups that attacked the Palestinian people around the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. In his early twenties at the time, Sharon led a commando unit that carried out terrorist operations against Palestinian communities aimed at forcing people out of their homes and land.

By the 1950s, Sharon was a major in the Israeli army and was given the command of an "elite" outfit called Unit 101. This group, which was nicknamed the "avengers," specialized in responding to Palestinian resistance with murderous retaliatory attacks on the people.

In August 1953, Unit 101 killed 50 Palestinians in the refugee camp of El-Bureij in the Gaza Strip. A UN official reported that Sharon's troops threw bombs "through the windows of huts in which the refugees were sleeping" and that as the refugees fled, "they were attacked by small arms and automatic weapons."

Two months later, on October 14, Unit 101 descended on the town of Kibya (Qibya) in the West Bank, which was then under Jordanian control. Sharon's unit, made up of more than 100 men, chased off the few Jordanian soldiers. Then, using 1,300 pounds of explosives, the troops blew up houses and town buildings.

In his autobiography, Sharon himself wrote: "The orders were clear. Kibya was to be a lesson. I was to inflict as many casualties as I could.... I was also to blow up every major building in town."

Israeli historian Avi Shalaim described the massacre: "His success in carrying out the order surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack. The village had been reduced to rubble: 45 houses had been blown up, and 69 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed."

Sharon claimed that he and his troops believed all residents had run away and that there was no one in the houses. But a UN observer who saw the scene contradicted Sharon's excuse: "One story was repeated time after time: the bullet-splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold--indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them."

Violent Expulsions

Sharon climbed steadily up the ranks in the Israeli military. After Israel's 1967 war of expansion (which resulted in seizures of large territory, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Sharon headed up operations to drive out 160,000 Palestinian residents from East Jerusalem. His orders included blowing up and bulldozing houses, imposing brutal "collective punishment," and imprisoning hundreds of youth suspected of being fighters.

In the early 1970s, Sharon became the head of the Israeli army's Southern Command and was in charge of "pacifying" the Gaza. At a refugee shantytown known as Beach Camp, Sharon's soldiers bulldozed hundreds of homes in order to replace narrow alleys with wide, straight streets. This allowed the Israeli troops in their heavy armored vehicles to move easily through the camp. A Palestinian man who lived at Beach Camp at that time recalled what happened: "They came at night and began marking the houses they wanted to demolish with red paint. In the morning they came back and ordered everyone to leave.... They threw everyone's belongings into the streets. Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and started flattening the street. He did the whole lot, almost in one day. And the soldiers would beat people. Can you imagine? Soldiers with guns, beating little kids!"

The operation at Beach Camp was one of many brutal actions. A recent report in the British newspaper Independent pointed out: "In August 1971 alone, troops under Mr. Sharon's command destroyed some 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 16,000 people for the second time in their lives. Hundreds of young Palestinian men were arrested and deported to Jordan and Lebanon. Six hundred relatives of suspected guerrillas were assassinated."

In the late 1970s, as the Minister of Agriculture and Settlements in the Israeli government, Sharon pushed the building of Zionist settlements in the West Bank. Sharon's policies touched off a "boom" in the building of the settlements--resulting in the takeover of more Palestinian land and destruction of more Palestinian homes. Today, the heavily armed settlements (and the "security roads" that connect the settlements to Israel) play an important military role for the Zionist state.

Invasion of Lebanon and Massacre in Beirut

Sharon became the Defense Minister in 1981. Among the overseas trips he made in this position was to Angola, where he met and advised forces from apartheid South Africa who backed the CIA puppet Joseph Savimbi.

As Defense Minister, Sharon was the main architect of Israel's massive invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Advancing Israeli forces inflicted savage destruction on population centers. The cities of Sidon and Tyre were mostly razed by tank and artillery shells. Ain Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, was totally destroyed. Within a few weeks the Israeli military had killed 14,000 Lebanese and Palestinians--over 90 percent of the casualties were unarmed civilians. Half a million people were made homeless.

The Israeli forces soon reached Beirut, Lebanon's capital, and laid siege to the city. The Israeli military carried out daily bombing and shelling of Beirut, until the PLO forces evacuated the city. The Israeli military occupied areas in and around Beirut, including positions encircling the large Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.

Before the invasion of Lebanon, Sharon had held meetings with the Phalange, a fascist Lebanese militia organization allied with Israel since the mid-1970s. Sharon and others in the Israeli government aimed to establish a Phalangist government in Lebanon that would be closely tied to Israel.

At six o'clock in the evening on September 16, 1982, Phalange militia members entered the Sabra and Shatilla camps. For the next 62 hours, the Phalange forces rampaged through the camps, massacring unarmed civilians. Whole families were murdered; many were tortured and raped before being killed. It's estimated that 2,000 people were killed at Sabra and Shatilla, although the exact number is not known because many bodies were loaded onto trucks and taken away or buried in mass graves.

A correspondent for the Independent who witnessed the aftermath wrote: "There were women lying in the houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were blackened babies' bodies tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded U.S. army ration tins and Israeli army equipment."

While the Phalange militia members actually carried out the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, the Israelis--and Sharon in particular--bears direct responsibility. The Israeli troops liaisoned with the Phalange, supplied them with weapons and supplies, and even forced fleeing victims back into the camps. The Israeli military observation post had a clear view of the camps while the massacre was going on--and did nothing to stop it.

The massacre at Sabra and Shatilla were on such a large scale that Israel could not just sweep it under the rug. An official tribunal was set up to conduct an investigation. The tribunal concluded that Sharon was "indirectly responsible" for what happened at Sabra and Shatilla.

Climbing Up in the Israeli Power Structure

The finding of the official tribunal was hardly the end of Sharon's government career, of course. Through the 1980s and 1990s, he held a series of high-profile ministerial positions. In 1998-99 this war criminal represented Israel internationally as the Foreign Minister. In 1999 he became the head of Likud, one of the main ruling parties in Israel along with the Labor Party. Sharon came to be one of the top representatives of what is called the "hard line" position in Israel's negotiations with Yasser Arafat: including total Israeli control over the city of Jerusalem, expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and no further "territorial concessions" to Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

In September of last year, Sharon--protected by a huge contingent of Israeli police--made a deliberately provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif, a compound in the center of the city of Jerusalem that is of major importance in Islamic religious beliefs. The visit was widely seen as an arrogant declaration of Israel's intention to keep control over all of Jerusalem. This calculated act was the spark that lit the upsurge of rage and protest throughout Palestine. The Israeli government has responded savagely, killing hundreds of Palestinians--many of them young protesters throwing rocks at Israeli police and troops. As the leader of the opposition bourgeois party, Sharon criticized the response of the Barak government as being too "soft."

Although Sharon was elected by a "landslide" over Barak, the February 8 election was marked by unprecedented levels of Israeli voter absenteeism. And there are sharp divisions within the Israeli power structure over how to proceed with the negotiations with Arafat and other questions.

But the fact that Sharon has been a top "statesman" in Israel for so long--and has now achieved the position of prime minister--reveals something deep. What kind of a state would choose such a brutal and sinister monster as its top leader? Sharon represents a blood-soaked state that has carried out crime after crime, massacre after massacre, against the Palestinians and other oppressed people.

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