On the announcement of his death, and since his death, much has been written about Ariel Sharon (1928-2014), not least about the Sabra and Shatila incident in September 1982 when Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias massacred more than 762 Palestinian and Lebanese Shi’ites. Sharon and Israel’s defence forces were heavily criticised for doing nothing to prevent the slaughter. Indeed Sharon himself was forced to resign from the post of Defence Minister after being found indirectly responsible. The Kahan Commission which had been tasked by Israel to examine the incident stated that he bore personal responsibility for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge.
Ever anxious to blight the memory of a great soldier of course, few writers had bothered to place the Sabra and Shatila Incident into its real context – that of yet another massacre and incident of revenge in a long line of such grisly events. These aren’t too difficult to find.
Read about Black Saturday which was a series of killings and armed clashes in Beirut ! After four Phalangists were found murdered in a car in December 1975, Phalangist militia in the city went into a frenzy and blamed the killings on the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) dominated by Moslems and Palestinians. Phalangists attacked Moslems throughout Christian-dominated East Beirut in an orgy of bloodletting and several hundred people were murdered in a few hours, most of them civilian. The number of victims range between 200 and 600.
Read about Karantina ! On 18 January 1976, around six weeks after Black Saturday, the Karantina Massacre took place. Karantina had been a predominantly Moslem slum district in Christian-dominated East Beirut, and was controlled by the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organisation). On the day in question, Karantina was overrun by the Lebanese Christian militias resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,000-1,500 people.
Read about Damour, a Christian town just south of Beirut ! The Damour Massacre took place a couple of days after Karantina on 20 January 1976. The town was attacked by PLO units aligned with the LNM. Part of its population died in battle or in the killings that followed, and the remainder were forced to flee. Twenty Phalangist militiamen were executed, and then Damour civilians were lined up against a wall and sprayed with machine-gun fire. An estimated 582 civilians died.
Read about the Tel al-Zaatar Massacre in August 1976 ! These killings at the UN administered Palestinian refugee camps on the ‘Hill of Thyme’ were the result of belligerency between the Lebanese and the Syrians on one side, and the PLO on the other. Some 1,000-1,500 Palestinians died.
And, as light follows day, so too did inter- and intra-communal violence in Lebanon throughout the late-1970s and into the 1980s, and indeed after Sabra and Shatila too. You can read about Sabra and Shatila everywhere but rarely is it placed in context. Some articles continue to blame the outrage on Israel’s armed forces rather than on the Lebanese Christian Phalangists. These pieces are invariably written by those with an anti-Israeli if not anti-Semitic agenda… and not always by those on the fascist-fringe. Often they are copied pieces, perpetuating initial biased reporting from the first few hours after the September 1982 events.
Another shaky area that few writers ever explore when writing about Sharon is the matter of what the other national soldiers in the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF) were doing on the day of the Phalangist outrage in 1982. Where were these other foreign forces that included Italian and British soldiers, the US Marines and US Navy SEALs, and elite units of the French forces? What had happened to their intelligence on the activities of the Lebanese groups?
Another event in the colourful life of Ariel Sharon was his visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 2000, a visit that has been described as outrageous and inflammatory, but a visit nonetheless to the holiest place in the world for Jews. Again though, few writers ever bother to ask why Ariel Sharon shouldn’t have visited the Temple Mount. The writer of this blog himself – a nominal Christian – visited the Temple Mount in the 1970s. So, why can’t a Jew? Why is it that Christians, Hindus, Moslems, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and those of no-religion at all can view visitors at the Jewish precinct at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem (ha-kotel ha-ma’aravi), but non-Moslems cannot even enter the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, let alone stroll the famous mosques and holy sites and precincts of these cities? Why shouldn’t Ariel Sharon have visited the Temple Mount? Why can’t a Jew go into the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque?