August 8, 2004

The Demonization of Ariel Sharon

On Feb 14, 2001, HonestReporting released an article entitled The Demonization of Ariel Sharon which contains distortion, exaggeration and selective omission of facts. Even though this communique was published three and a half years ago, its topic is just as relevant today.

Sabra and Shatilla

During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israel's Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, arranged for the Lebanese Christian Phalang militia to enter the two refugee camps Sabra and Shatilla. After entering the camps, the Phalangists, whose leader had been assassinated just two days earlier, perpetrated a massacre on the mainly Palestinian population that lasted two and a half days.

In a section of their article accurately titled "Distortion of Facts", HonestReporting severely distorts the Kahan commission's findings by stating "In truth, Sharon was blamed by the Kahan commission for not having the foresight to realize that one group of Arabs would so brazenly massacre another group of Arabs."

The Kahan commission's report didn't blame Sharon for of any lack of foresight, but because he knew about the probability of a massacre and simply ignored it. They wrote that "it is impossible to justify the Minister of Defense's disregard of the danger of a massacre" and also that "concrete danger of acts of slaughter ... should have been in the consciousness of every knowledgeable person who was close to this subject, and certainly in the consciousness of the Defense Minister"(1)

The commission went on to state that Sharon "bears personal responsibility" for the massacre.(2) Their report recommended that he resign, and if he refuses, that the Prime Minister consider firing him.(3)

Later in their communique, HonestReporting makes the utterly ridiculous statement that "Sharon is calling for the release of all classified documents from the Kahan commission, insisting that he would be vindicated if they were released."

How on earth could one part of the commission's report state that Sharon "bears personal responsibility" for the massacre, and another part clear his name completely? Sharon knows he can safely make this absurd statement because Appendix B, the part of the report that hasn't been released, will most likely always remain private for reasons of Israel's national security.(4)

Additionally, HonestReporting describes the death toll in Sabra and Shatilla as "several hundred", despite the fact that the range of deaths is estimated between 460 (Lebanese government's figure) to 700-800 (Israel's figure) to 2,000 (Palestinian Red Crescent). Describing such a widely estimated range of deaths as only "several hundred" is not entirely accurate.

Qibya

In October 1953, Ariel Sharon led Israeli troops in an attack on the West Bank town of Qibya in retaliation for the killing of three Israelis near Tel Aviv two days before. The attack resulted in the near total destruction of the town and the deaths of 69 civilians. No Israeli soldiers were killed because the town was virtually undefended.

As shown above, HonestReporting describes between 460 and 2,000 Palestinians killed as "several hundred". In the section about Qibya, HonestReporting describes between 48 and 113 Israeli deaths as "Hundreds of Israeli civilians".(5)

In an attempt to justify the 69 Arab civilians killed in the attack on Qibya, HonestReporting states that it was in response to "deadly terrorist raids by "fedayeen" terrorists sponsored by neighboring Jordan and Egypt", however the first "fedayeen" attack didn't even occur until 1954, after the Qibya massacre had already taken place. (Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 270)

HonestReporting's main contention about Qibya is that all 69 civilian deaths were unintentional. HonestReporting claims that "No one knew that 69 civilians were hiding inside the homes. Their deaths were not deliberate."

Anyone claiming that the civilian deaths were not deliberate would have to explain why so many civilians died of gunshot wounds. Jordanian pathologists reported that "most of the dead had been killed by bullets and shrapnel rather than by falling masonry or explosions." (Morris, p. 278) The United Nations team that investigated the massacre stated that "Bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways and multiple bullet hits on the doors of the demolished houses indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them."

In addition, the claim that the deaths were not intentional simply doesn't even make sense.

The attack in Qibya lasted six hours. During that time, Israeli sappers went from house to house as they blew each of them up. In all, they demolished about 45 houses along with some other buildings in the town.

For anyone to believe HonestReporting's position that these deaths were not deliberate, that person would have to believe that no Israeli soldier heard anyone screaming or crying during the entire time they were blowing up houses and that all 69 people died violent deaths without uttering any sounds. That is simply not possible. In fact, an October 26, 1953 article about Qibya in Time magazine specifically stated that "The cries of the dying could be heard amid the explosions."

Such deliberate killing shouldn't surprise anybody, because the orders given to Sharon explicitly stated "destruction and maximum killing" in Qibya. (Morris, p. 278) (6)

It's shameful that even after 50 years, there are people still attempting to whitewash the crime that took place in Qibya.



(1) The fact that the danger of a massacre "should have been in the consciousness of every knowledgeable person" might explain Sharon's decision to hide from the Prime Minister the plan to send the Phalangists into the camps. The commission criticized Sharon for this, stating that "it is ostensibly puzzling that the Defense Minister did not in any way make the Prime Minister privy to the decision on having the Phalangists enter the camps." Sharon kept the Prime Minister in the dark for so long that the Prime Minister learned of the actual massacre only after listening to a BBC radio broadcast. The commission wrote that "It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister should receive his information about this from a foreign radio station."

(2) Nearly all articles on this subject incorrectly state that the commission found Sharon only "indirectly responsible".

(3) Here is the complete text of the Kahan commission's recommendation concerning Ariel Sharon:

We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister of Defense bears personal responsibility. In our opinion, it is fitting that the Minister of Defense draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office - and if necessary, that the Prime Minister consider whether he should exercise his authority under Section 21-A(a) of the Basic Law: the Government, according to which "the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office."

(4) The commission wrote, "non-publication of this material is essential in the interest of protecting the nation's security or foreign relations."

(5) The figure of 113 deaths was arrived at by using solely Israeli government figures. From June 1949 until the time of the Qibya massacre in Oct 1953, Israel claimed that 89 of its citizens had been killed by infiltrators from Jordan. Of those 89 deaths, the UN was able to verify 24 of them. This information is in Appendix I of the notes from UN Securtiy Council meeting of November 9, 1953. On the Gaza border through the end of 1953, Israeli statistics show approximately 24 Israelis killed by infiltrators. (Morris, p. 281)

(6) Many Israeli politicians at the time denounced this policy of massive, disproportionate attacks. Some simply objected to attacking civilian targets. Others, such as Israeli statesman Abba Eban wrote, "Sending regular armed forces across an international border, without the intention of triggering a full-scale war, is a step that distinguishes Israel from all other countries. No other state acts in this way. It was this, rather than the heavy casualties, that shocked the world." (Shlaim, The Iron Wall, p. 92)