summary of Ariel Sharon’s crimes before the 1982 massacre of Sabra
Ariel Sharon (Arik Scheinerman) was born in British-ruled Palestine
in 1929 from Russian immigrants and during his teen years, joined
the Labor Youth Movement. Sharon’s father, Samuel Scheinerman, led
the Zionist movement, the "workers of Zion", keeping the tradition
of his father, who had been a delegate to the World Zionist Congress
After completing a course for instructors, Ariel Sharon became an
instructor at Gadna, a para-military high school organization. Faced
with mounting pressures with the British, Ariel Sharon joined the
infantry in the Haganah, the underground military organization of
Israel in its pre-state days, and abandoned his role as an instructor
in the Gadna. He was place in charge of a squad assigned to lay
traps against the Abu Kishak tribe. The Haganah unit commanded by
Ariel Sharon was reconstituted as a platoon in the Alexandroni Brigade
of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
In 1952, Sharon was responsible for the killing of two women of
the village of Katama, on their way to the well for water, apparently
crossing the border in violation of Israel’s "territorial sovereignty"
(Benziman Uzi, Sharon: an Israeli Caesar, 1985, page 39).
1. Sharon, commander of Unit 101
In June 1953, Ariel Sharon was asked to undertake a reprisal raid
against village of Nabi Samuel, home of a well-known Palestinian
leader Mustafa Samueli. He was asked to establish a "special forces
unit that would operate behind the armistice lines in reprisal and
preemptive strikes against the Arabs" (Benziman Uzi, Sharon: an
Israeli Caesar, 1985, p. 42). This marks the official green light
to set up a well-trained shock troop, the Unit 101. Sharon was eager
to create the unit as he was frustrated with the military establishment,
the IDF, which he thought was lacking initiatives and too predictable.
In reality, Unit 101’s secret mission was to spread terror and murderous
violence among the Palestinian population to force them to flee
from their homes and land. It carried out a series of terror raids
across the Israeli borders into refugee camps, villages and Bedouin
encampments. The Unit had no more than 50 men and was in action
for five months only. Ariel Sharon was in charge of the military
training as well as the psychological and ideological indoctrination
of the troops.
Sharon conducted a series of attacks with its Unit 101:
August 1953, in El-Bureig refugee camp, located south of Gaza,
Sharon led one of its first terror assaults against Palestinians
September 1953, Sharon escorted Unit 101 in an attack on Bedouins
in demilitarised Al Auja (a 145 square km juncture at the western
Negev-Sinai frontier), killing an unknown number. Al-Auja was
declared a demilitarized zone in the 1949 armistice between Egypt
and Israel because it was a major invasion route along the Cairo-Beersheva-Jerusalem
October 14, 1953, Sharon led the Unit into an attack on the village
of Qibya, a West Bank village then under Jordanian control. The
attack was in "reprisal" for the killing of a mother and two children
in an Israeli village. Jordan had condemned the murders and offered
its cooperation to track down the criminals. The murderers had
no known or suspected connection with Qibya. Under his command,
Israeli soldiers moved about in the village blowing up buildings,
firing into doorways and windows with automatic weapons and throwing
hand grenades, killing 69 civilians (mostly women and children).
1300 pounds of explosive were carried in the vehicles and Sharon
went along with his personal strategy, blewing up several Palestinian
houses, and ignoring the plan of the military establishment requesting
to destroy public buildings only. As it was often the case, Ariel
Sharon made his own interpretation of orders issued by the General
Qibya attack was condemned, but was lauded as a major achievement
in the official Israeli history of the paratroopers, which states
that "it washed away the stain" of earlier defeats that the IDF
had sustained in "reprisal operations".
Israeli historian Avi Shlaim wrote this about the massacre: "Sharon's
order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses and inflict heavy
casualties on its inhabitants. His success in carrying out the
order surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story of
what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after
the attack. The village had been reduced to rubble: forty-five
houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two thirds
of them women and children, had been killed. Sharon and his men
claimed that they believed that all the inhabitants had run away
and that they had no idea that anyone was hiding inside the houses"
(The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World since 1948, New York:
W. W. Norton & Company, 1999, page 91).
The UN observer who inspected the scene, Major General Vagn Bennike,
chief of staff of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization reached
a different conclusion: "One story was repeated time after time:
the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold,
indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire
to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them. Benziman
Uzi writes that "the check for civilians had been superficial:
a soldier entered a building, shout and called out. If no one
answered, it was assumed that the building was empty. The soldiers
and officers claimed that it would have been impossible to check
the buildings thoroughly if they were to complete their mission
and return before dawn" (Benziman Uzi, Sharon: an Israeli Caesar,
1985, page 53).
The slaughter in Qibya was described contemporaneously in a letter
to the president of the United Nations Security Council dated
16 October 1953 (S/3113) from the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary of Jordan to the United States. According to the
diplomat's account, Israeli forces had entered the village and
systematically murdered all occupants of houses, using automatic
weapons, grenades and incendiaries. On 14 October, the bodies
of 42 Arab civilians had been recovered; several more bodies had
been still under the wreckage. Forty houses, the village school
and a reservoir had been destroyed. Quantities of unused explosives,
bearing Israel army markings in Hebrew, had been found in the
village. To cover their withdrawal, Israeli support troops had
begun shelling the neighbouring villages of Budrus and Shuqba
from positions in Israel.
The U.S. Department of State issued a statement on 18 October
1953, expressing its "deepest sympathy for the families of those
who lost their lives" in the Qibya attack as well as the conviction
that those responsible "should be brought to account and that
effective measures should be taken to prevent such incidents in
the future." (Department of State Bulletin, Oct. 26, 1953, p.
An emergency meeting of the Mixed Armistice Commission had been
held in the afternoon of 15 October and a resolution condemning
the regular Israel army for its attack on Qibya, as a breach of
article III, paragraph 2,62/ of the Israel-Jordan General Armistice
Agreement, had been adopted by a majority vote.
Security Council Resolution 101, adopted on 24 November
1953 (with Lebanon and the USSR abstaining) found the retaliatory
action at Qibya by Israeli forces a violation of the cease-fire
provisions of Security Council Resolution 54 (1948) and inconsistent
with the parties' obligations under the General Armistice Agreement
between Israel and Jordan and the Charter of the U.N., and expressed
"the strongest censure of that action." The resolution also called
on the governments of Israel and Jordan to prevent all acts of
violence on either side of the demarcation line, but did not call
on Israel to hold accountable and bring to justice those who carried
out the massacre.
of the extreme training given by Sharon to its men, some of the
paratroopers undertook a number of unofficial raids against Palestinian
civilians. In 1955, Sharon was reprimanded for giving logistical
support to four young Israelis who took random blood revenge on
Bedouins for Arab attacks on Israeli settlements.
During the 1956 Suez crisis, Sharon, then commander of a parachute
brigade, sent his paratroopers into the Mitla Pass in the Sinai
desert. Four of his junior officers accused him of sending men
to their deaths for his own glory; he incurred the displeasure
of Moshe Dayan and was suspended for breach of discipline.
2. The "Pacification" of Gaza
In the early 1970s, Ariel Sharon was the head of the Israeli Defense
Forces southern command charged with the task of "pacifying" the
recalcitrant Gaza Strip after the 1967 war. Under the euphemistic
title the "Pacification of Gaza," Sharon imposed a brutal policy
of repression, blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee
camps, imposing severe collective punishments and imprisoning
hundreds of young Palestinians. Numerous civilians were killed
or unjustly imprisoned, their houses demolished and the whole
area was effectively transformed into a jail.
Uzi Benziman recalls that "Sharon’s plan called for isolating
the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula, severing the continuity
of the Palestinian population within Gaza by introducing Jewish
settlements in its midst, and thinning out the population of the
refugee camps. (…). He justified this action on the basis of national
security: the imperative to isolate the Gaza Palestinian from
their sources of arms in the Sinai" (Benziman Uzi, Sharon: an
Israeli Caesar, 1985, page 119).
3. Sharon: Leading the expansion of Jewish settlements in Occupied
In 1973, the Labor Party approved the "Galili Protocols",
which called for extensive additional rural and urban settlements
and commercial and industrial development in the territories,
including the Golan, the West Bank, Gaza and Northeastern Sinai,
where the city of Yamit was to be established. In the Fateful
Triangle, Noam Chomsky recalls "after initial expropriation in
1969, military forces commanded by General Ariel Sharon, in January
1972, "drove off some ten thousand farmers and Bedouins, bulldozed
or dynamited their houses, pulled down their tents, destroyed
their crops and filled in their wells" to prepare the ground for
the establishment of six kibbutzim, 9 villages and the city of
Yamit", (Noam Chomsky, The fateful triangle: the United States,
Israel and the Palestinians, 1983, page 105).
In 1972, Sharon resigned from the army, but after helping to form
the Likud party in 1973, he was recalled to the army for the October
1973 war, during which he led a strike across the Suez Canal,
behind Egyptian lines. In December he was elected to Knesset,
but resigned his seat the following year.
In 1977, the Likud party won the general election under Begin.
Sharon joined Menachem Begin’s first administration as Minister
of Agriculture in charge of settlements; a supporter of the religious
Gush Emunim movement he was one of the main facilitators of a
settlement boom aimed at preventing the establishment of a Palestinian
state in the occupied territories.
In June 1981, his settlement campaign was one of the keys to Likud’s
re-election, as he was credited with making swift and permanent
progress in establishing a pervasive Israeli presence in the West
Bank. Begin then appointed Sharon Minister of Defense.