I shall mourn Ariel Sharon's life, not his death

Sharon deliberately deceived his Cabinet. He devastated Beirut, leaving 300 dead in a day and looked on approvingly as fascist militias entered refugee camps to rape, murder and torture thousands of Palestinians

Share
Related Topics

In February 1983, a judge-led Commission of Inquiry found Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli defence minister, “indirectly responsible” for the massacre and brutalisation of thousands of women, children and old men in two Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon.

It was then that I heard my mother say, in a flat matter-of fact tone, that if Sharon ever became Prime Minister she would commit suicide. I was shocked, not just by what she said but that she said it at all.

My mother never showed any interest in politics and was certainly not a drama queen.  But there was something about the emerging horrors of the events in Sabra and Shatila which struck a terrible chord.

Born in Poland, she grew up in Cracow and left as a 21-year-old in 1935 to marry my father, who was already in Palestine, having fled Nazi Berlin two years earlier. She only learned the fate of her family in 1946 when she found that, with the exception of her brother Romek who survived by working for Schindler, her entire family had been wiped out by the Germans.

She hardly ever spoke of it, but the pain never went away. So when, 35 years after the creation of the Jewish state, she saw its own leaders allowing terrible atrocities to be carried out on helpless innocents, she cracked.

Back then, of course, it seemed an idle threat. The Kahan Commission found that Sharon had deliberately deceived the Cabinet the previous June. Calling it “Operation Peace for Galilee”, he sent Israeli tanks rumbling towards Beirut - well beyond the 20km he was authorised to go. He proceeded to devastate Beirut, including a seven-hour bombardment one day in August which left over 300 dead. He then encouraged Lebanon’s fascist Maronite militias to enter two refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, and looked on approvingly as they raped, tortured and murdered thousands of Palestinian civilians who had nowhere to flee.

When the Kahan Commission condemned his complicity and demanded his resignation, he stormed into the Prime Minister’s office, shouting and bullying, which was his normal behaviour in the absence of television cameras. He called the Kahan findings “a mark of Cain on all of us for generations,” and adamantly refused to resign. Former Stern Gang leader Yitchak Shamir, who had taken over from Begin as PM, was cowed into allowing him to stay in his cabinet, where he bided his time.

In 2001 he was elected Prime Minister. There followed a wave of suicide bombings across Israel which were met by Sharon’s “reprisals” – a policy of disproportionate military revenge attacks not on the perpetrators themselves but on their families, villages and homes. Sharon would have known this was futile, as it had been his policy since 1953, when, following a lethal Palestinian assault on an Israeli kibbutz, he led his men into the West Bank town of Qibya in an operation at the end of which  69 civilians—mostly Palestinian women and children—lay dead. It didn’t end the Palestinian terror attacks: on the contrary, it fuelled them. But the promise of fire and brimstone “reprisals” always plays well with the electorate as Benyamin Netanyahu knows all too well.

I was in Israel in 2006, when Sharon suffered the stroke which put him into the coma from which he never woke, as I was earlier this month when his body began to give up on him and the media began a non-stop Sharon-fest of verbiage and nostalgia. But I cannot for the life of me understand those who insist on describing this consummate warrior as a “peacemaker”. The withdrawal from Gaza, which was itself brutal and unilateral, is widely thought to have been carried out to prevent his being indicted on various corruption charges he was being investigated for.

My mother died quietly in 1995. Sharon will be buried tomorrow, lessons of his failures all unlearnt and peace more elusive than ever.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Lib Dem MPs have criticised David Cameron's decision to ask the retail tycoon Sir Philip Green (above) to lead a spending review when his Arcadia company is registered in the name of his Monaco-based wife  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat