“éyou may be the cause of an eventual apocalyptic holocaust.” This warning was issued to Ariel Sharon by the renowned Italian journalist Oriana Failaci. At the time, September 1982, Sharon was the Israeli Defence Minister who led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon a few months earlier.
During that interview with Sharon, Fallaci covered a wide range of issues related to Sharon, including his image as a trigger-happy militarist and madman. Unknown to Failaci and the rest of the world at that time, Sharon and his Prime Minister. Menachem Begin had just conducted a top secret meeting with Lebanon’s new President- elect Bashir Gamayel.
Amongst numerous arrangements agreed to, they also decided to provide a more recognized role for Major Saad Haddad, the Christian Officer who had been bank-rolled by the Jewish State to create a militia in the Southern border areas of Lebanon. Bashir Gamayel, despite his reputation as a ruthless young man and his intense collusion with Mossad through the intelligence arm of Lebanese forces, appears to have hesitated in implementing Sharon’s demands.
Either his hesitancy or his plea for more time to accede to Sharon’s list of increased new demands, which now also called for Gemayel’s approval of an Israeli plan for the expulsion of 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, cost him his life. Two days after his assassination, which Sharon used as a pretext to occupy West Beirut, Israel took control of areas formerly held by the PLO.
But the worst was still to come.
48 hours later, the Lebanese Maronite militia was instructed by Sharon to move into the areas seized by Israel. The result: The massacre of over two thousand Palestinian civilians in a cinematic orgy of killing in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Israeli culpability was established well before the international outcry which followed the massacre that forced the Israelis to appoint a Knesset commission of inquiry, which admitted the same.
There were no arms in the camps and the Maronites entry into them did not follow combat. As such, this qualifies as premeditated massacre of innocent civilians. In an operation, which lasted over fifty-six hours, there was not one single act of mercy. People were tortured, particularly pregnant women carrying “unborn terrorists”, and the bodies of many victims were mutilated after they were shot.
Sharon’s Maronite troops seem to have derived particular pleasure from killing members of families in front each other. Bayonets were used to draw crosses on the bodies of the dead before they were shot. Sharon ensured that his Defence Force fired glares to guide the Maronites to their victims.
Today, almost two decades later, Sharon voted into office as Premier of Israel is once again directing his army, police and settlers in an orgy of premeditated slaying of Palestinians. An Arab proverb that says ‘he is insane who tries repeatedly in vain’ sums up Ariel Sharon. For he has during his entire military career, tried over and over to annihilate Palestinian people challenging their dispossession and the occupation of their country in vain.
Against this background it is encouraging therefore, that a Belgium court has initiated a process which hopefully will ensure that Sharon faces the full wrath of the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, in the not too distant future. After all, Sharon’s partner in crime, former Serbian President Slobadan Milosevic has already been hauled before the International court to face charges for war crimes and genocide.
As the world braces itself for the ‘apocalyptic holocaust’ which Sharon is carelessly and defiantly pushing towards with the full might of his awesome arsenal, including weapons of mass destruction, the new American team of Bush and Powell remains oblivious of Palestinian suffering. Indeed Bush rolled out the red carpet for Sharon during his recent visit to Washington.
During the same period, Thabo Mbeki was also in town. A greater contrast between two political leaders could not be imagined. As Edward Said described Nelson Mandela’s visit to Britain and contrasted his leadership with the former Zionist Premier of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mbeki represented not only the new South Africa, but also ‘the victory of political principles and moral reconciliation.’
Sharon on the other hand, represented a country engaged in merciless ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people and personally acknowledged as an architect of bloodbath. Yet to the dismay of many, Mbeki failed utterly and completely to advance the cause of justice for Palestine by not only agreeing to meet Sharon, but also to cave in to his demands that Zionism not be condemned as racism at next month’s World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban.
Even if Mbeki has surrendered the campaign against Zionism prematurely, South Africa must not forget that Palestine represents an ideal-very much like anti apartheid-of justice and a struggle for equality. Only the force of unyielding principle will succeed in delegitimising Zionist apartheid in Israel. The first casualty has to be Sharon.
(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)