Ariel Sharon was born in Palestine in 1928. At the age of fourteen, he joined the Haganah, the Jewish underground military organization (1920-1948). During the War of Independence (1948), he commanded an infantry company. In 1953, he founded and led the special "commando 101" unit which carried out retaliatory operations. Sharon's unconventional methods cost a lot of lives. In 1956, he was appointed commander of a paratroop corps and in the Sinai Campaign, he commanded the conquest of the Mitla peak, which involved heavy losses. Officers under his command revolted against him. An investigation into the refusal to obey orders followed. In 1957, Sharon attended the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain.
From 1958 to 1962, he served as infantry brigade commander, later as infantry training academy commander and attended Law School at Tel Aviv University. In 1964, he was appointed head of the Northern Command Staff and, in 1966, head of the Army Training Department. In 1967, he commanded an armored division in the Six Day War, where he showed tactical brilliance. In 1969, he became head of the Southern Command Staff. In the 1970s, he submitted the Gaza Strip to Israeli military control with ruthless methods. Sharon resigned from the army in June 1972, but was recalled to active military service in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War when he commanded a tank division. His crossing of the Suez canal with his tank division proved decisive in the war. At an early point in time, he favored the civil administration of the Sinai by Egypt and employed himself to achieve good relations with Cairo. Sharon's frequent refusal to obey orders hindered him from rising to the top of the military.
In 1973, Sharon initiated the founding of the Likud block, composed by right-wing and center-right parties. In December 1973, he was elected to the Knesset and favored negotiations with the PLO. He objective was not to integrate the Palestinians into Israel, but to push them into Jordan in order to bring down the King's regime. In 1974, Sharon became a member of Menachem Begin's Cherut party. In 1975, Sharon served for a short time as Yitzhak Rabin's Security Adviser. In 1977, he was again elected to the Knesset for the Shlomzion Party, founded by him because of divergences with Rabin. Following the elections, he joined the Herut party and was appointed Minister of Agriculture by Prime Minister Begin. Sharon pushed for the settlement in Cisjordan, trying to hinder a later secession by the occupied territories. He had doubts regarding the peace process with Egypt but finally ordered the clearing of the city of Yamit and its return to Egypt. Today, Sharon considers this his most important error. Sharon was against the Camp David agreement of September 1978 which foresaw an autonomous status for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and opened up the road to the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979.
From 1981 to 1983, he served as Minister of Defense. In June 1982, Sharon started the War against Lebanon. He is said to have misled the entire cabinet more than once. He declared the clearing of a 40 km strip on the border his primary goal but secretly, he is said to have prepared a broad-based war against Lebanon with the objective of installing a pro-Israeli regime and chasing or destroying the PLO. In September 1982, one day after the assassination of Lebanon's newly elected President, Bashir Gemayel, Sharon gave Phalange access to the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila near Beirut. They were supposed to find alleged terrorists but committed a massacre in which between 700 and 2000 Palestinians were murdered. A commission in Israel investigated Sharon's role in these events. The judges accused him of an important wrong decision without holding him directly responsible for the massacre. Sharon had to leave his office and was declared unfit to ever hold the office of Minister of Defense again. But he remained a member of the cabinet without a portfolio. Even today, Sharon calls the War in Lebanon a justified invasion.
In 1984, Sharon became Minister of Trade and Industry in the government of national unity. In 1986, he moved into an apartment in the Muslim part of Jerusalem, one of the reasons for the outbreak of the first Intifada. In 1992, Sharon switched to the post of Minister of Housing and Construction, where he remained until 1992. In both positions, he pursued a protectionist policy which proved disastrous for the Israeli economy. He also opposed the recovery program instigated by Prime Minister Shimon Peres which freed Israel from hyperinflation. As Minister of Housing and Construction, he favored the construction of thousands of prefabricated houses for remote villages. They remained unoccupied and cost the state billions. In the 13th Knesset, Sharon served on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Sharon was one of those within the Likud who opposed Rabin's peace plan. In this heated climate, Rabin was finally assassinated. In the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon served as Minister of National Infrastructure from 1996 to 1998 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1998 to 1999, until Barak's electoral victory. In the position as Foreign Minister, Sharon favored relations with Russia to the detriment of the strategic alliance with the United States. He was re-elected into the 15th Knesset in May 1999 and serves as temporary chairman of the Likud party since the resignation of Netanyahu. Last September, he visited the Temple Mount which was the reason for the outbreak of the second Intifada. As one can easily understand, the widower with two sons, Ariel Sharon, is nicknamed "Bulldozer". He represents a current within Zionism which is in favor of building "Erez-Israel", a "Greater Israel" within biblical borders
As Israel's minister of defense and architect of that country's brutal invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Ariel Sharon's actions and failure to act facilitated the massacre of at least seven hundred to eight hundred -- and by some accounts as many as 3,000 -- Palestinian, Lebanese, and other civilians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in September 1982.
|Three decades earlier, as a young military officer, Ariel Sharon led an Israeli elite commando force, Unit 101, which carried out brutal raids against Palestinians. The massacre in the West Bank village of Qibya, on October 14, 1953, was perhaps the most notorious. Sharon's unit blew up 45 houses in the village, killing 69 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Israeli historian Avi Shlaim in his recent book The Iron Wall.|
The 1982 Sabra and
Shatilla Massacre [TOP]
The slaughter in the two contiguous camps at Sabra and Shatilla took place from 6:00 at night on September 16, 1982 until 8:00 in the morning on September 18, 1982, in an area until the control of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The perpetrators were members of the Phalange (Kata'eb, in Arabic) militia, the Lebanese force that was armed by and closely allied with Israel since the onset of Lebanon's civil war in 1975. The victims during the 62-hour rampage included infants, children, women (including pregnant women), and the elderly, some of whom were mutilated or disemboweled before or after they were killed.
To cite only one post-massacre eyewitness account, that of U.S. journalist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times: "Mostly I saw groups of young men in their twenties and thirties who had been lined up against walls, tied by their hands and feet, and then mowed down gangland- style with fusillades of machine-gun fire."
The Kahan Commission found that Ariel Sharon, among other Israelis, had responsibility for the massacre. The commission's report stated in pertinent part:
The Commission also concluded: "[I]n his
meeting with the Phalangist commanders, the Defense Minister made no attempt to point out
to them the gravity of the danger that their men would commit acts of slaughter....Had it
become clear to the Defense Minister that no real supervision could be exercised over the
Phalangist force that entered the camps with the IDF's assent, his duty would have been to
prevent their entry. The usefulness of the Phalangists' entry into the camps was wholly
disproportionate to the damage their entry could cause if it were uncontrolled." The
Commission further noted: "We shall remark here that it is ostensibly puzzling that
the Defense Minister did not in any way make the Prime Minister [Menachem Begin] privy to
the decision on having the Phalangists enter the camps."
The 1953 Massacre in
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 UN observer who inspected the scene 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.
On 14 October 1953 at 9:30 at night, he wrote, Israeli troops launched a battalion-scale attack on the village of Qibya in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (at the time the West Bank was annexed to Jordan). 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. At about 3 a.m., to cover their withdrawal, Israeli support troops had begun shelling the neighboring villages of Budrus and Shuqba from positions in Israel.
Maj. Gen. Bennike reported to the Security Council on 27 October 1953. He said that, following the receipt of a Jordan complaint that a raid on the village of Qibya had been carried out by Israeli military forces during the night of 14-15 October between 9:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., a United Nations investigation team had departed from Jerusalem for Qibya in the early morning of 15 October. On reaching the village, the Acting Chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission had found that between 30 and 40 buildings had been completely demolished. By the time the Acting Chairman left Qibya, 27 bodies had been dug from the rubble.
Witnesses had been uniform in describing their experience as a night of horror, during which Israeli soldiers had moved about in their village blowing up buildings, firing into doorways and windows with automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. A number of unexploded hand grenades, marked with Hebrew letters indicating recent Israel manufacture, and three bags of TNT had been found in and about the village.