A career of terror: Sharon's dangerous designs

International Herald Tribune

5 April 2002

Ariel Sharon justifies the current Israeli military offensive on the
West Bank as a defensive action against Palestinian terrorism in general and suicide bombers in particular. Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. It is a technique of warfare that Sharon has often practised in the course of his violent and blood-soaked career. In October 1953 Major Sharon led a raid which reduced the Jordanian village of Qibya to rubble: 45 houses were demolished and 69 civilians, two thirds of them women and children, were killed. In September 1982, Defense Minister Sharon had command responsibility for the horrific massacre perpetrated by Christian militiamen in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. In the last week, it has been on Prime Minister Sharon's orders that the IDF has been waging against the Palestinian people a savage war which includes the occupation of cities, the bombardment of refugee camps, the demolition of houses, attacks on medical facilities, the rounding up of hundreds of suspects, and summary executions. 

The political objective behind this military escalation is to kill an ever larger number of Palestinians until they submit. In Sharon's own words: "They must be beaten. We have to cause them heavy casualties, and then they will know that they can not keep using terror and win political achievements." Sharon's broader political program is to sweep away the Oslo accords, to complete the reconquest of the territories, to topple the Palestinian Authority, to undermine and humiliate the Palestinian leadership, and to replace Yasser Arafat with a collaborationist leader. In short, the champion of violent solutions has unleashed a reign of terror in the territories not simply in order to suppress Palestinian terror but to arrest the march towards Palestinian self-government, independence, and statehood. The real agenda behind Sharon's "war on terror" is the old Likud design of Greater Israel.

As part of a systematic campaign to demonise the Palestinian Authority, Sharon has tried to portray it as a body that orchestrates the violence against Israeli civilians. In fact, the PA consists of a group of moderate members who joined Arafat in renouncing terror and in opting for the political path to progress. It is a government in the making, with an annual budget of a billion dollars, charged with providing essential services to the 3,300,000 inhabitants of the territories. Among its 150,000 employees are not just policemen and security men but civil servants, school teachers, welfare officers, doctors, and hospital workers. About 1,000,000 Palestinians depend for their livelihood on wages paid by the PA. Dismantling the PA would lead to chaos, instability, and endemic violence. This would not serve the interests of Israeli security but it may provide the pretext that Sharon is looking for to reoccupy the West Bank, to continue the process of creeping annexation, and to 'transfer' some of its inhabitants to the neighbouring Arab countries. 

It is not peace that Sharon seeks with the Palestinians but their surrender and expulsion. Oppression and brute force is the only language he knows. The notions of bargaining, accomodation, and compromise are alien to his whole way of thinking. For him Palestinian moderation poses a far greater threat than Palestinian extremism. His response to the signs of moderation displayed by the PLO in the early 1980s was the invasion of Lebanon. His principal aims were to destroy the PLO as a military and political force, to break the backbone of Palestinian nationalism, and to absorb the West Bank into Greater Israel. It was a war of deception that ended in disaster. But the architect of this war seems to have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the past. Today, as in 1982, Sharon is troubled by the moderation of the PA because it translates into international sympathy and support. He has even expressed regret that he did not have Yasser Arafat shot during the siege of Beirut and that he promised the Americans not to kill him in the current siege of his compound in Ramallah.

The same urge to dictate and to dominate has moulded Sharon's approach to the neighbouring Arab states throughout his career. He always beat the drums of war and he never lent his support to any peace initiative. He actually voted against the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979.The Saudi peace plan, which was endorsed by the 22 members of the Arab League at their summit meeting in Beirut last week, offered Israel peace and normal relations in return for withdrawal from the lands it occupied in 1967. Predictably, Sharon responded with a declaration of war. He sent his tanks into the West Bank not just to pound the Palestinians into submission but to scupper the Saudi peace plan.  

The Al-Aqsa intifada, which Ariel Sharon triggered by his provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif on 28 September 2000 has already claimed the lives of over 1,500 people. While visiting the most horrendous suffering upon the Palestinian people, this savage man of war is also endangering the security of his own people. He was elected on a ticket of peace with security. How many more lives will have to be sacrificed before Sharon understands that peace cannot be imposed, it can only be negotiated, and that without peace there can be no security?