- It is surprising that so many commentators and observers
outside the Middle East have been taken aback by Israel's use of overwhelming
military firepower on the West Bank and in Jenin Refugee Camp in particular
or that it has so easily resorted to the assassination of Palestinian leaders.
Israel has been one of the leading proponents of the use of deadly force
against those who dare oppose it for many years, indeed the state of Israel
was born out of Jewish terrorism both against the British and the Palestinians.
The bombing of the British occupied King David Hotel went hand in hand
with the massacre of Arab civilians at Deir Yassin.
During the 1950's Israel pursued assassination as a tool of counter-terrorism,
a policy that has regularly proved highly successful for Jerusalem ever
since. In July 1956 for instance Israeli agents murdered two highly influential
Colonels in Egyptian Military Intelligence, Hafaz and Mustafa who were
believed to control Palestinian Fedayeen groups in Egypt and Jordan, by
using terrorist-style parcel bombs. Another example followed hard on the
Lod airport terrorist attack when Mossad officers in Beirut booby-trapped
the car of poet and author Ghassan Kanafani who it was claimed was a member
of the PFLP's Central Command and one of the planners behind the Lod massacre,
he was killed along with his 17 year old niece.
These are but a tiny reminder of a policy followed by successive Israeli
Governments of what amounts to state controlled terrorist operations carried
out in response to state sponsored Arab terrorism. Such attacks are not
declared Israeli policy, but have formed an important and integral part
of Israel's defence for 50 years. Many high-ranking Israeli Military and
Political leaders have openly advocated assassination of their Arab enemies,
not just in the Middle East but all over the world, as witnessed by the
bungled Mossad operation in Norway some years ago.
Sharon condemned by Israeli commission for Beirut massacre
The present Israeli Prime Minister, the former and highly controversial
General, 'Arik' Sharon has been in the forefront and his views often appear
to go well beyond a hatred of the Arabs merely because of their terrorist
activities. While Officer Commanding (OC) IDF Southern Command he went
so far as to advocate the formation of a special military command under
direct General Staff control to eradicate Palestinian opponents of Israel
throughout the world. Sharon had amply proved his ferocious anti-Palestinian
credentials as Commander of the special Unit-101 and during his tenure
as OC Southern Command when his violent and unorthodox military actions
proved effective against an Arab insurgency.
Much later he was to be held responsible for the massacre of over 1500
Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatilla camps in Beirut by Israel's
Lebanese Christian allies. Sharon, Minister of Defence at the time was
accused of negligence by Israel's own Kahan commission into the events
during the invasion of the Lebanon in 1982, for not using the Israeli
troops surrounding the camp to prevent the massacre. However, many expert
observers are much less charitable towards Sharon and lay the blame squarely
at his feet, some would even argue that he deliberately encouraged the
massacre, but though the suspicion remains no conclusive evidence that
might prove him guilty of this war crime has been forthcoming. A former
Lebanese warlord Elie Hobeika was reportedly intending to tell a Belgian
court that Ariel Sharon was behind the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees,
but was conveniently killed in January 2002 when his booby-trapped car
exploded, making it even less likely that Sharon need concern himself with
Ambassador Habib "Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians"
Ambassador Philip Habib was President Ronald Reagan's Special Middle East
Envoy in 1982 and he gave a frightening estimation of Sharon's character
that should be remembered when Colin Powell or any other US envoy is negotiating
with him "Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians.
I had promised Arafat that his people would not get any harm. Sharon,
however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon's word is worth nil."
The warnings were posted as long ago as March 2001 that Sharon had not
changed his views on becoming Prime Minister, when on returning from talks
with President Bush in Washington he made it clear that any proposed US
plans to build a new Arab coalition to confront Iraq could not be achieved
at Israel's expense. Sharon indicated his forces would continue to target
Palestinian militants for killing, a policy that has come under fire from
the US and that Israel might be prepared to be flexible, but not "when
it comes to the lives of Israeli citizens and their security."
The appalling crimes committed against Israel and many Western countries
by Arab terrorists over the years are rightly condemned and such terrorist
groups must be destroyed. Israel as a profound friend of the West and
the only liberal democracy in the Middle East deserves both respect and
support, but its reputation has been severely tarnished by the actions
of a violent and prejudiced leader. Israel's offensive against a largely
defenceless Palestinian population has been rightly condemned by much
of the international community and the IDF's actions in the Jenin refugee
camp so reminiscent of a small scale version of the Nazi destruction of
the Warsaw Ghetto has been castigated by human rights groups worldwide.
Just how long a people with a tradition of both justice and compassion,
and particularly with centuries of experience of prejudice and oppression
can condone the rule of a man such as Sharon is questionable.