Since the Bush administration has articulated a Mideast policy predicated on
fighting terrorism, examining the pedigree of Ariel Sharon, Bush's "man of peace,"
is a task that requires some attention.
And what you find is a man drenched in blood.
Qibya is a small West Bank village not far from the Israeli border. In October,
1953, the Jewish state decided to attack Qibya in revenge for killings by infiltrators
whom the Israelis thought might have come from that hamlet. Sharon was chosen
to lead the mission.
Noted Israeli historian Benny Morris has unearthed the order Sharon gave his
troops: "maximal killing and damage to property."
And maximal killing is what Sharon and his commando unit brought to Qibya
on the night of October 14, 1953. Their attack left 70 dead.
The Arab Legion investigated and determined that the Israelis had moved from
house to house "systematically killing" the residents before blowing up their
homes. This account, Morris says, is corroborated by Israel Defense Forces
post-operational reports, which describe breaking into most of the houses and
"clearing them" with fire and grenades.
A United Nations report suggests an even more grisly sequence: "Bullet-riddled
bodies near the doorways and multiple bullet hits on the doors of the demolished
houses," the document says, "indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to
remain inside until their homes were blown up over them."
Commander E.H. Hutchison, a U.S. naval officer serving on the U.N. armistice
monitoring commission, investigated the slaughter. "Here and there from between
the rocks," he wrote, "you could see a tiny hand or foot protruding."
Every fall in Qibya during the olive harvesting season, the memory of the
attack is kept alive in a mourning ceremony. A memorial plaque behind the village
mosque honors Sharon's victims.
Sharon later claimed he thought the villagers had fled, leaving the houses
This isn't possible, historian Morris concludes. Rather, the Israeli troops
"in moving through the village, had indiscriminately thrown grenades through windows,
knocked down doors, and sprayed the interiors with automatic fire."
Maximal killing indeed.
Sharon later described his order for "maximal killing" as referring only to
the Jordanian military then controlling the West Bank. "Of course, this is misleading
nonsense," is Morris' retort. "The order was to kill as many Arabs as possible,
without any discrimination between civilians, National Guardsmen, and soldiers."
Morris observes that prior Israeli retaliatory strikes, like this one, were
explicitly designed to kill civilians.
Now, Benny Morris is no fan of the Palestinians. He's a committed Zionist
who lately has taken to co-authoring commentaries with former Israeli prime minister
And Qibya was no aberration for Ariel Sharon. A 1985 Israeli biography, Sharon:
An Israeli Caesar by Uzi Benziman, describes two earlier incidents in which
Sharon honed his murderous instincts.
He killed two women from the Arab village of Katama in order to induce a Jordanian
military response. Later, in a raid on the el-Burj refugee camp, his plan
called for trapping the Palestinians in a lethal crossfire between two groups
The plan worked: 15 refugees were killed.
Benziman, the biographer, describes Sharon's consistently sadistic behavior
toward Arabs: His men "witnessed him laughing as a junior officer tormented an
old Arab and then shot him at close range; they noted his composure as he planned
operations designed to kill as many civilians as possible; they carried out his
intricate plan to trap a peaceful Bedouin boy shepherding his flock."
On another occasion, Sharon censured a junior officer for failing to kill
two elderly Arabs encountered during a raid.
Such censure wasn't often necessary, though, because Sharon's soldiers--like
their leader--had come to view the Arabs, as a whole, as the enemy.
The culmination of Sharon's vision was Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon,
when he was Minister of Defense. Over 20,000 people--overwhelmingly civilians--died.
In the most gruesome episode of that ghastly affair, Israeli troops, having
encircled the West Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla, stood by as Lebanese
Phalangists spent 40 hours massacring the inhabitants.
Israel says 700-800 died, but an investigation by Israeli journalist Amnon
Kapeliouk suggests the toll was 3000-3500.
According to Benziman, Israeli army intelligence knew of the slaughter shortly
after it started. They didn't bother to stop the killing.
Ariel Sharon is a man defined by his contempt for the value of Arab life,
his absolute trust in military force, and his vision of peace through annihilation.
Robin Miller is a writer living in New Orleans. E-mail: mailto:Robin@RobinCMiller.com
1. Benny Morris, Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956, Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University
Press, 1993, p. 259. The Qibya affair is extensively discussed on pp. 257-276.
2. Morris, p. 261.
3. Morris, p. 262.
4. Morris, p. 261, note 91.
5. Morris, p. 261, note 91.
de Préneuf, "An Eye for an Eye," Salon.com, February 6, 2001.
7. Morris, p. 262.
8. Morris, p. 259, note 87.
9. Morris, p. 259, note 86.
10. See Benny
Morris, Camp David and After: An Exchange (An Interview with Ehud Barak), The
New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002; and Benny
Morris and Ehud Barak, Camp David and After--Continued, The New York Review of
Books, June 27, 2002.
11. London: Robson Books, 1987. First published in 1985 by Adam Publishers in
Tel Aviv. Benziman, who was then an editor at the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz,
writes, as does Morris, as a firm supporter of Israel.
12. Benziman, p. 39.
13. Benziman, p. 49.
14. Benziman, pp. 56-57.
15. Benziman, p. 73.
16. Benziman, p. 56.
17. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians,
Boston: South End Press, 1999 updated ed., p. 221 (as of late December, 19,085
had been killed, 84% of them civilians, according to Lebanese police). Since this
figure included only bodies that passed through hospitals and other centers, the
true total must be much higher. Chomsky, p. 223.
18. For extensive information, see the International
Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila.
19. See the report of Israel's Kahan
20. See Amnon Kapeliouk, Sabra and Shatila: Inquiry into a Massacre, Belmont,
MA: AAUG Inc., 1984.
21. Benziman, p. 264.