In an address marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding on top of Palestinian lands before the Knesset in Occupied Jerusalem, George Bush stunned the Arab and Muslim world by acclaiming Ariel Sharon as ‘a man of peace’. Even the top Zionist hawks – Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert to name a few – would have felt a bit uneasy as this was like telling people it’s midnight when the sun is right above your head.
If Sharon can be viewed as a ‘man of peace’, the admirers of Adolf Hitler can claim that the Nazi dictator was a dove, holding an olive branch in his beak, who spent all his life preaching non-violence. German right-wingers can be forgiven for drawing parallels between Hitler and Gautam Buddha. Similarly, the backers of Mussoloni can compare the ruthless Italian leader to Mahatma Gandhi. And Milosevic’s supporters can claim that the unrepentant Serbian mass murderer was a reincarnation of Martin Luther King, ready to offer the other cheek if slapped on one. Advocates of Gen. Idi Amin can also assert that the former Ugandan dictator never killed an ant in his life and that thousands of his critics who were fed to crocodiles alive had in fact committed suicide. If Sharon is ‘a man of peace’, Bush can certainly be a hot favourite for 2009 peace Nobel. Sorry if you are holding a guffaw so tight that tears have welled in your eyes.
Let’s now study the peaceful life of the former Israeli prime minister, who has been in a coma since 2005. Students of the Middle East imbroglio know Sharon as a heartless military commander responsible for one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century. Sharon’s role in the Sabra and Chatilla massacre, carried out in September 1982 by the Christian Lebanese Forces militia group, is well known. Phalangist militiamen were permitted to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in an area under the Israeli army control. Sharon was the defence minister, who facilitated the carnage. The Lebanese Forces group stood under the direct command of Elie Hobeika. The last page of the official Israeli report held Sharon “personally responsible” for the pogrom. It was years later that Hobeika, the Israeli-trained commander, agreed to turn state’s evidence against Sharon at a Brussels court. The day after the Israeli attorney general declared Sharon’s defence a “state” matter, Hobeika was killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut. Israel denied responsibility but no marks for guessing who did that. The then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, rushed to Brussels and quietly threatened to withdraw Nato headquarters from Belgium if the country maintained its laws to punish war criminals from foreign nations. Is something still unclear in anyone’s mind as to why Sharon is a ‘man of peace’ in the eyes of neo-cons?
In September 2000, Sharon marched to the Muslim holy places accompanied by about a thousand armed Israeli guards. Within 24 hours, Israeli snipers opened fire on Palestinian protesters battling with police in the grounds of the seventh-century Dome of the Rock. At least four protesters were killed. It was a deliberate provocation on Sharon’s part and he knowingly took the step to incite the Arab youth. As a result the second intifada started, which left about 8,000 Palestinians murdered and thousands others maimed.
Sharon claimed that the popular Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a ‘Palestinian bin Laden.’ The Jewish state does not bother to refute charges that Sharon, with tacit approval from Washington, had Arafat liquidated. It has been revealed by longtime and now deceased Sharon confidant Uri Dan who published a book in France that may have been his 2006 one titled ‘Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait’. He accused Sharon of assassinating the president of the Palestinian Authority by poisoning him. Dan wrote Sharon got approval from Bush by phone early in 2004 to proceed with his plan after he told the US president he was no longer committed to ‘not’ liquidating the Palestinian leader. Arafat was under siege and practically incarcerated in what remained of his Ramallah compound – Muqata’a – most of which had already been destroyed by the Israelis in a lawless act of retribution against him.
During one vile attack, Israeli troops were just one room away from Arafat and the former Palestinian leader had to keep a loaded pistol to shoot back if attacked. A shameless Sharon later announced that Arafat could leave his besieged headquarters with a ‘one way ticket’. Sharon, it appears, used to get sadistic pleasures by humiliating the Palestinians and their leaders.
Only a few know Sharon was an outspoken critic of Nato’s war against Serbia in 1999, when he was Israeli foreign minister. Eleven years earlier he had sympathised with the political objective of Slobodan Milosevic: To prevent the establishment of an Albanian state in Kosovo. This, he said, would lead to “Greater Albania” and provide a haven for “Islamic terror”. In a Belgrade newspaper interview, Sharon said, “we stand together with you against the Islamic terror.” Milosevic was a war criminal directly responsible for the fall of Srebrenica leading to a mass murder of thousands of ethnic Albanians and systematic rapes of women in camps by Serb troops.
Bush’s ‘man of peace’ voted against the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. He voted against a withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1985. He opposed Israel’s participation in the Madrid peace conference in 1991. He opposed the Knesset plenum vote on the Oslo agreement in 1993. He abstained on a vote for peace with Jordan in 1994. He voted against the Hebron agreement in 1997. He condemned the manner of Israel’s retreat from Lebanon in 2000. By 2002, he had built 34 new Jewish colonies on Palestinian land. And yet, he is ‘a man of peace.’
It was Sharon who ordered the killing of the crippled and wheelchair-bound spiritual leader of the Hamas movement, Shaikh Ahmad Yassin. Yassin was taken out while returning from pre-dawn prayers. Sharon’s murderous zeal did not stop there. Three weeks later, he had Abdulaziz Rantissi, the next Hamas leader, assassinated in a cowardly aerial strike. The high-profile killings were meant to keep the Palestinian morale low as the Zionist state was planning to quit Gaza.
In his address, Bush did not utter a single word about the daily sufferings of Palestinians. He did not even mention the much-tomtommed Annapolis peace process. He deliberately avoided any talk of an impossible life the Gazans are faced with because of Israeli blockades. How can the world trust Bush on resolving the Middle East crisis by the year-end when he is openly biased in Israel’s favour? Is the Palestinian blood less thicker and redder than that of the Israelis?
When a nation is imprisoned in its own land, there can’t be peace. According to UN, there are now 621 Israeli army checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank alone. No wonder why a Palestinian joke sounds so apt here: “Is Sharon alive or is he dead?” “Neither, he is still going through the checkpoints.”