The Butcher of Beirut, as he was long known, is no more. After eight years in a coma, during which the militaristic hard-right leader was re-branded a peacenik, Israeli General Ariel Sharon was finally pronounced dead.
The tributes poured in, including from Secretary of State John Kerry, who paid lip service to occasional disagreements with Sharon, but reassured Israel that “Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon’s memory.” For the rest of the world, of course, there is nothing – nothing – remotely honorable in the legacy of Israel’s perhaps most consistent war criminal.
As Israeli journalist Dimi Reider documents in 972mag.org, Sharon’s violence began early, in Israel’s pre-statehood period, when he
joined the Haganah in the mid 1940s, and first saw action in the run-up to the 1948 War, when his unit staged raids against Arab villages around Kfar Malal. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Latrun and temporarily left the army in 1949 to study at the Hebrew University. By personal order of David Ben-Gurion, however, Sharon was recalled to military service and asked to head the newly established Unit 101.
The unit was created specifically for the purpose of retaliatory raids against Palestinian refugee guerrillas, who operated across the Jordanian and Egyptian borders. As often as not, the attacks were against civilian civilian targets, including refugee camps and villages in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip and Jordanian-occupied West Bank.Attacks against Palestinians were a leit-motif of Sharon’s biography. In the 1970s, after Israel had occupied the Gaza Strip, he sent armored bulldozers into the crowded Jabaliya refugee camp to create new military control roads, demolishing hundreds of families’ homes along the way. It gave rise to one of his first nicknames, the Bulldozer of Gaza.