An Israeli Milosevic
by Tait Graves
As has been widely reported, Israeli rightist Ariel Sharon's visit to
Jerusalem's Temple Mount provided the spark for the latest uprising by
Palestinians fighting for their independence. The timing of Barak's
resignation is plainly designed to keep Benjamin Netanyahu out of the
upcoming elections. So, Sharon, may well become the right-wing Likud
party's candidate and Israel's next Prime Minister.
For these reasons, it is important that Americans understand what kind of
man leads Israel's second largest political party. Sharon, who has been
called a 'serial arsonist' in the Israeli press was recently described by Deborah
Sontag of the New York Times as a 'conservative' politician. The Times
would like to pass him off as just another Israeli right-wing politician.
That is very far from the truth. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say
that Ariel Sharon has dedicated his life to the destruction of Palestinian life
and culture in a crusade to realize his expansionist vision of a Greater
Israel. He has been at it for almost fifty years and has left behind a
trail of repression and mayhem that rivals Milosovic's reign of terror.
As the leader of an Israeli commando group called Force 101 in the early
1950s, Sharon led assaults on two Arab villages where scores of civilians
were brutally murdered. In the infamous attack on the village of Qibya in
1953, Israeli troops set Palestinian homes on fire while women and
children cowered inside.
During the late 1960s, Sharon led Israeli units that battled Palestinians
resisting Israeli Military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.
Collective punishment was the order of the day. Any kind of individual acts of
resistance would result in the blowing up of a family residence. In the
1970s, he crushed Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip by bulldozing
a good part of Gaza City, one of the most densely populated cities in the
In the early 1970s, Sharon oversaw a violent campaign against Palestinians
in northern Israel. The openly stated goal of the campaign was to 'Judaize'
the Galillee by expropriating land from Israeli-Arab villagers to make way for
Jewish settlers. In the later 1970s, he was the architect of a
particularly vicious clampdown in the occupied West Bank. Under his command,
thousands of Palestinians were beaten, arrested and had their family homes
blown up as part of Israel's collective punishment policy. As always, Sharon was
involved in expropriating land from the native Palestinians for illegal
Sharon led the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a war in which Israeli
troops and bomber killed tens of thousands of civilians And while Israeli
troops stood nearby, their Phalangist allies massacred hundreds of
refugees at Sabra and Shatila. Even the Israeli government later found Sharon
indirectly responsible for this Milosevic-like atrocity.
Finally, in the 1990s, Sharon served as Israel's housing minister, a
position that he used to further expand Jewish settlement by building 'cheap'
housing to lure the kind of Israelis who was just escaping the high rent district
in Tel Aviv. This led to the expropriation of more Palestinian lands. His
goal, of course, was to create "facts on the ground," ;Jewish settlements that
would change the demographics of the ocoppied territory..
In short, Ariel Sharon is a violent and abusive man - one who, if he were
a Serb, would no doubt be wanted for war crimes by the United States and its
allies. But America has a different standard for Israel, one in which
Israel is regarded as one of our closest allies, and therefore seemingly has
permission to violate our egalitarian standards for human rights and
democracy. Perhaps a Sharon candidacy will finally wake awaken Americans
to stand up for the Palestinians just as we did last year for the Kosovars.