With elections right around the corner, the Israeli public should realize that by electing Sharon, they are voting for a bloody war against the Palestinians, and peace may never be attainable within our lifetime.
The current conflict could escalate throughout the region and result in irreparable damage. Destruction and mayhem may reach unprecedented levels, and there will be losses on all sides.
Sharon's Bloody History
Sharon's bloodstained career started with his association with the underground terrorist group "Haganah". By the age of 22, he led commando units that attacked Palestinian civilians from behind the lines. In 1953, he formed an elite militia known as Unit 101, or "the avengers." This notorious unit operated without uniforms and carried out institutional terror in the Palestinian refugee camps and villages. One of Sharon's "achievements" with this unit was the attack on Qibya village, where he blew up 45 homes and slaughtered 69 civilians, over half of whom were women and children.
Following the 1967 war, Sharon was responsible for turning 160,000 residents of the East Jerusalem area into refugees. His brutal methods included blowing up houses, bulldozing refugee camps, imposing severe collective punishments, and imprisoning hundreds of young Palestinians suspected of being fighters.
Shortly afterwards, he was promoted to security chief in the Gaza area, where he suppressed Palestinian resistance with merciless repression and brutality. Sharon led massive manhunts for Palestinian Liberation Army members. These campaigns started with bulldozing Palestinian houses, including hundreds of homes in the Beach Camp, to create a grid of wide streets throughout the shantytown, thus facilitating his troops control and movement. Hundreds of resistance suspects were assassinated, and their families loaded into trucks and exiled to the Sinai Desert. Thousands of others were arrested and deported to Jordan and Lebanon. In August 1971 alone, Sharon's troops demolished over 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, displacing some 16,000 people for the second time in their lives.
Years later, when the Palestinians of Gaza heard about the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, few were surprised. "We knew what he was like long before that," one witness affirmed.
Sharon was first elected to the Knesset in 1974, and in 1977 was appointed by Manachem Begin as Minister of Agriculture and settlements. He handled his governmental duties with the same aggressiveness as the military, and quickly achieved a Jewish settlement boom in the West Bank and Gaza. His work included "Judaizing the Galilee" at the expense of Israeli Arab citizens, whom he considers foreigners. He encouraged takeovers of Arab properties in Jerusalem, and advocates that all Arabs should be expelled from the city.
The Invasion of Lebanon
As Defense Minister in 1982, Sharon was the principal architect of Israel's invasion of Lebanon. His tanks and artillery shells inflicted massive destruction on Palestinian population centers, especially the cities of Sidon and Tyre, most of which were leveled. Ain Hilweh (Sweet Spring), the largest Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon and home to 25,000 residents, was razed to the ground. Within a few weeks, 14,000 people had been killed, of which almost 13,000 were unarmed Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Approximately half a million people were made homeless.
Israeli forces soon reached Beirut and laid siege to it, shelling and bombing it relentlessly. In order to spare the capital from this daily indiscriminate Israeli bombardment, the PLO forces were requested to evacuate, and received explicit assurances that Israel would not invade West Beirut or harm their families (under the American negotiated "Habib" agreement). In spite of that, and within two days, Sharon had occupied West Beirut, including positions encircling the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.
The savage Phalangist militias, recruited, trained, armed and paid by Israel, were invited to enter the camps for a three-day killing spree. Whole families were exposed to horrific acts of torture, rape, dismemberment, and execution. Robert Fisk, of The Independent, witnessed the scene on the final day of the massacre, and reports that "there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn 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 US army ration tins and Israeli army equipment. I saw several Israeli flare canisters, still attached to their tiny parachutes. A dozen young men had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. Some had vivid crimson scars down the left side of their throats. On the other side of the main road, one child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain. One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman's stomach, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror."
The death toll of this human tragedy is estimated at 2,000-3,000, the majority of whom were women, children, and elderly people. Only 50 people survived, permanently traumatized.
Israeli troops had participated directly in this atrocity by liaising with the murderers, supplying them with weapons, rations, and illuminating nighttime flares, as well as forcing fleeing victims back into the carnage. The Israeli observation post had a clear view of the camps, and surviving witnesses claim to have seen Sharon watching.
An Israeli tribunal investigated, and found Sharon "indirectly responsible" for the massacre. Yet, this man remained in public affairs, rising to its highest ranks, including Foreign Minister during Netanyahu's term, and subsequently, leadership of the Likud party. This same criminal is now the Israeli people's favored choice for Prime Minister.
Sharon has described the Palestinians as "bugs," depicting them - in his autobiography, Warrior - as infantile, timorous, and untrustworthy. He represents the worst in Israel's past of Arab-hating statements and policies. According to a former U.S. official, "Sharon has the same condescending disregard for Arabs that Southern plantation-owners had for blacks." Sharon boasts that "The Arabs know me, and I know them."
Regarding the Palestinian occupied territories, Sharon's statements stress that these belong to the Jews exclusively, "The land of Israel is holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but it was promised by God only to the Jews." He also stated that "Judea and Samaria - the so-called 'Occupied Territories' are the cradle of the Jewish People" and "ours, ours, ours!"
Sharon has made it clear that he will not withdraw from any more than the areas already controlled by the Palestinian Authority (approx. 40% of the West Bank and Gaza), pledging that "Jewish towns, villages and communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as well as access roads leading to them, including sufficient security margins along them, will remain under full Israeli control... no nation or country on earth would give up territory and historical sites which are at the roots of its national existence." To summarize it bluntly, he said, "No more land." He criticized Barak for negotiating on Jerusalem's future, saying that he "crossed a red line no government ever did."
Yossi Sarid, a Knesset member from the Meretz Part,y says, "Regarding peacemaking, he is the minister of ruination." Peace, Sharon informed the New Yorker recently, "cannot be achieved."
Sharon's ideology is extremely racist and he believes in state terrorism more than basic human rights and dignity. He is impulsive, uncontrollable, dogmatic, and undoubtedly a dangerous warmonger. "Palestinian violence," he warns, would be defeated by "creative" military action.
"Beware - Israel is strong!"
Sharon recently sent a letter to American Congressmen stating that the Palestinian "war of attrition" nullifies the Oslo, Wye and Camp David agreements, and all commitments that Israel had made to the Palestinians. His response to the Intifada, he suggests, will include seizing full control over Area C, and the immediate deployment of IDF troops throughout the occupied territories.
Sharon reasons that the only way for Israel to achieve security is by military solutions, and that the Palestinian issue should be dealt with through unrestrained military force. He will not hesitate to unleash a massive level of violence, with heavier doses of lethal carnage.
Understandably, the thought of Sharon becoming Israel's Prime Minister brings the horror flooding back to Palestinian refugees. "Oh God, no, not Sharon," said one. "That means war - not only for the Palestinians but for all the Arabs."
In a region as inflammable as a powder keg, Sharon is the spark that can ignite it, and his threat of war, should be taken seriously indeed.
It is almost certain that Sharon will order the Israeli army to intensify its attacks against the Palestinian towns and villages, using all means, including the tanks, helicopter gunships, and snipers. He will encourage home confiscations in Jerusalem and land confiscations throughout the occupied territories. Sharon will order tighter sieges, mass home demolitions and increased tree uprooting. He will escalate the levels of repression and brutality in order to induce a mass transfer to Jordan, which is a solution he has been suggesting for a long time - "Jordan is Palestine."
The war against the Palestinians may be accompanied by pre-emptive strikes against Syria and Iraq and could easily escalate to a regional war. It is unfortunate, and frightening, that instead of facing a war crimes tribunal, Sharon is in a position to cause wide-scale regional devastation.
What needs to be done
As has been demonstrated during the past 4 months of Intifada, the world community is not expected to take any effective measures for the prevention of the destruction, mayhem, and potential genocide that may befall the defenseless Palestinian population. The Palestinian Authority does not have the means to confront Israel's powerful army, and would be easily crushed if it attempted to protect its citizens. The Arab nations will only give out the routine slogans, condemnations, and other worthless lip service. The rest of the Muslim world might engage in angry demonstrations, but their leaders may be less responsive. The EU's and UN's indifferent hands will remain tied by their superpower ally, which will dutifully justify Israel's actions as self-defense against "Palestinian terrorism."
Therefore, the salvation of the Palestinian people and the region's stability is in the hands of the Israeli public, conscientious activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause worldwide.
Activists and supporters of Palestine need to do the utmost to secure an international peacekeeping force capable of protecting the Palestinians from the potential carnage that Sharon can inflict. This may be achieved by massive demonstrations in world capitals, intensive lobbying, greater media involvement, and any other means. In addition, they need to provide the Palestinians in the occupied territories with financial and moral support, to alleviate their suffering and enable them to endure the escalated atrocities ag,ainst them.
Non-governmental organizations should prepare to redouble their efforts for humanitarian assistance, medical supplies, food, shelter, blood banks, and campaigning for their governments to take concrete action. They need to be on full alert for immediate aid in a likely catastrophe, and to develop contingency plans for a potential Israeli blockade of incoming aid.
Enough Palestinian blood has been spilled in the past 4 months - let us do everything in our power to prevent the potential human tragedy that Sharon could create.
God help us all.
Haithem El-Zabri is a Palestinian web designer and a writer for http://www.alaqsaintifada.org.