The late Israeli Prime Minister and Army Commander, Ariel Sharon was a formidable figure in Israel’s history from its 1948 foundation. Born Ariel Scheinerman in 1928 while Mandatory Palestine was under British Occupation, Sharon later joined the Haganah at the age of 14 in 1942. He participated in the 1948 War of Independence by leading an infantry company in the Alexandroni Brigade during which Israeli forces expelled approximately 300,000 Palestinians from their land, even resorting to massacring unarmed civilian populations.
In 1953, he founded the short-lived Unit 101 as a Special Forces offshoot from the Israeli Defense Forces by orders of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Unit 101 operations consisted of infiltrating the Gaza Strip and killing Arabs, an act heavily criticized by foreign and domestic representatives. This same unit was responsible for perpetrating the Qibya massacre in the northern West Bank as part of Operation Shoshana. At least sixty-nine Palestinian villagers were murdered with two-thirds of those victims being women and children. Sharon later wrote in his diary: ‘The orders were utterly clear: Qibya was to be an example for everyone.’ Ben Gurion attempted to cover up this attack by claiming Israeli civilians carried out the raid.
In 1956, Sharon collaborated with Rafael Eytan to perpetrate another wartime massacre: murdering unarmed Egyptian prisoners of war before dumping their bodies into mass graves. This story was uncovered forty years later and caused temporary strain in Egyptian-Israeli relations. In 1972, Meshulam Riklis, a right-wing Zionist with likely ties to organized crime in the United States persuaded Sharon to resign from the IDF and run for the Knesset. Hereafter, a working relationship between Sharon and organized crime syndicates involving Meyer Lansky and allied Jewish mafia figures from Israel and Russia was established.
One of his most infamous war crimes was permitting Lebanese Phalangist militia forces into the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila during the 1982 Lebanon War where they murdered at least 3000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. In June 2001, twenty-three survivors of the attacks filed a lawsuit resulting in war crimes prosecution for Sharon in a Belgian court to answer for his role in the massacres, only for the case to be dismissed a year later under pressure from Israel and the United States.
So with his extensive record in the establishing and expanding the state of Israel through brutal means, it seemed astounding for Ariel Sharon who was by then the Prime Minister of Israel, to enforce a disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip in 2004. This came after more than two decades of Sharon’s efforts to construct Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.
This disengagement plan was first proposed in 2003 by Prime Minister Sharon and was then formally approved by the Knesset in February 2005 as the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law. It stipulated for both settlers and Israeli army to withdraw from Gaza, giving any defiant settlers government compensation packages if they evacuated by August 15, 2005 or otherwise faced eviction. The Gaza Strip would be promptly returned to Palestinians according to the plan but of course, this was not without fierce opposition. It sparked a cabinet crisis, divided public opinion, and confused security protocol. So of course, with plenty of American taxpayer money amounting to billions in foreign aid a year to Israel, Israeli connections and support within American and Israeli mainstream media, Zionist connections to the Bush administration, and tens of thousands of right-wing settlers ready to rally by their side, one has to wonder why Likud founder Sharon would put forth such a plan to concede the same territory he helped conquer and maintain occupation over. Sharon and his supporters mentioned beginning the mass departure from Gaza in March 2005 and finishing by the end at that year.
Yasser Arafat offered his own reasonable suspicions: “It took Israel six hours to leave South Lebanon; why does Sharon need 17 months to leave the Gaza Strip?”
Opinions are divided on this matter depending on who is asked. From a practical viewpoint, Gaza’s land size amounted to twice the size of Washington D.C. yet accumulated a disproportionate amount of Israel’s military resources and financial budget. As for the West Bank – Judea and Samaria – which is an estimated 6 times larger than Gaza, Sharon can transfer this long-absorbed military and financial portion of Israel’s budget to focus on further annexing more of the West Bank. The design for this measure was to ultimately surround Palestinians in enclaves so as to isolate them from uniting against Israel’s onslaught.
Sharon’s senior advisor and disengagement plan contributor, Dov Weisglass, admitted in a 2004 interview that the withdrawal was intended to freeze the peace process:
“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process… And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.”
This blatant refusal to cooperate in a true peace process with Palestinians received the full backing of the United States through former US representative and convicted criminal Tom DeLay who sponsored the House Concurrent Resolution 460 (passed 407-9). The support from Congress and then-President Bush through his letter gave Sharon the green light to withdraw these illegal settlements from the Gaza Strip and simultaneously transfer these same settlements into the West Bank, thereby expanding it. For the Palestinians, this officially left them “with a series of non-contiguous and economically unviable cantons, each surrounded by Israeli territory, collectively constituting barely 10% of historic Palestine.”
In fact, this Bush letter wielded such overwhelming support by the House that it declared ‘the United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plans.’ The nine dissenters who voted against DeLay’s resolution certainly had reasonable grounds to oppose this extreme resolution and instead look to the three other separate disengagement plans Sharon offered. Of course, these faulty ‘withdrawal’ decisions carried a heavy price tag Sharon billed to American taxpayers never even asked by their so-called representatives whether this was in their interests.
Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) who served three terms in the Knesset, wrote his own take on Sharon’s true intentions behind the Gaza withdrawal, explaining that both the military and political leadership of Israel are planning to install a local warlord to rule the Gaza Strip under Israeli protection. Avnery predicted Israel would prefer Muhammad Dahlan, the former boss of the political police in the Strip and member of Fatah. This prediction proved correct as Dahlan reported negotiated with the US and Israel following the August 2005 disengagement plan on taking control of Gaza. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer testified before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in April 2002 that he offered control of the Gaza Strip to Dahlan. The deal was for Dahlan to keep the border quiet and Dahlan even drew up an official agreement with senior Israeli military and Shin Bet officials to contain Hamas stretching back to 1994.
More than 9,000 Israeli citizens in 25 settlements were evicted with each receiving roughly $200,000 to $300,000 in compensation. Of the remaining 1.5 million Palestinians which demographically outnumbered its Israeli counterparts in Gaza, 70% of them were refugees as a result of being violently uprooted from their land within Israel and relegated into one of the most densely populated tracts of land on earth without compensation.
Since then, alleged “terrorists” from the West Bank were regularly deported to Gaza alongside their families, surrounded by electric fences, its access to the sea controlled by the Israeli navy with Gaza being completed isolated from the rest of the world. Destroyed economic industries vital to Gaza’s survival and miserable living conditions tantamount to concentration camps have been a heavy reality for Palestinians in Gaza for years. In May 2004, the Israeli government had even approved a plan to expand a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt where Palestinian homes within the Rafah refugee camp were being demolished by the Israeli army. Even with cabinet opposition to this blatant destruction, Sharon’s Likud rejected a pull-out and approximately 1,600 Palestinians were left homeless after 10 days.
This renewed occupation was only going fuel the cycle of violence that already existed. Since the Israeli military would still retain the Strip’s sea and air space on the grounds of preventing terrorists and weapons smuggling in and out of Gaza, Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution noted this will only enable the already existent terrorist groups in Gaza to continue their attacks on Israel with their own justifications being that Israel had not really ended their occupation. This is one side of the two predictable outcomes emerging from the “disengagement plan” with the other as Uri Avnery surmised would be toppling the compromised warlord and shifting power into the hands of armed organizations to attack Israel. By then, the Israeli army would occupy the territory once again, repeating the cycle. Talk about a lose-lose situation! Sadly, Avnery’s prediction came true with the onset of Operation Summer Rains.
Also unhappy with these ordered withdrawals despite compensation were unsurprisingly Israeli settlers themselves. In fact, a group of right-wing activists led by Rabbi Yosef Dayan of the West Bank performed a kabbalistic ceremony called “Pulsa Dinura” to invoke a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by calling the “angels of destruction” to kill a person. This curse by the same group was summoned against the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated by hyper-nationalist Yigal Amir in 1995. Curse or not, merely months after the withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon suffered a massive stroke in January 2006 and was rendered comatose. He died eight years later at the age of 85.
For over a week now, Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank demonstrated just how fed up they are with occupation after Israeli security forces fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades at worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Asqa Mosque, considered the third holiest site in Islam. Tensions were already mounting as Palestinian families in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah faced eviction. Social media is vital at this moment so naturally, with government and corporate collaboration, Palestinian voices are censored. As western countries proclaim their solidarity with Israel, surrounding Arab nations pick the side of the Palestinians.
Who will you pick this day? More specifically, will you choose to help enable or dismantle the American empire and its lobby-heavy drivers of Middle Eastern conflict?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.