Sharon : Biography



A summary of Ariel Sharon’s crimes before the 1982 massacre of Sabra and Chatila

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 in Switzerland.

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:

  • In August 1953, in El-Bureig refugee camp, located south of Gaza, Sharon led one of its first terror assaults against Palestinians civilians.

  • In 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 axis.

  • On 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 Staff.

    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. 552)

    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.

Because 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 Palestinian Territories

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.


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