The butcher of Beirut is dead

Former prime minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, a man responsible for the murder of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese people, is dead.

As foreign minister in the 1990s Sharon was responsible for the acceleration of illegal settlement construction in the West Bank, calling for his followers to “run and grab as many (Palestinian) hilltops” as possible “because everything we take now will stay ours”.

In this same spirit Sharon marched into the al-Aqsa Mosque in September 2000, declaring that the land belonged to Israel. He dealt ruthlessly with the second Intifada that followed this provocative act.

Sharon joined a Zionist paramilitary gang when just 14 years old.

He made his name early, commanding Unit 101 which wiped out the West Bank village of Qibya in 1953. UN military observers reported that “the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them ... Israeli soldiers moved about in their village blowing up buildings, firing into doorways and windows with automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades”.

Not content with operations that killed dozens of Palestinians, Sharon sought bigger prizes. He gained a reputation for being a “rogue” commander in the 1956, 1967, and 1973 wars with the Arabs.

Shortly after becoming minister for war he instigated the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The invasion killed 20,000 people and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.

During the occupation he was found personally culpable – by an Israeli commission – for massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, where more than 3,000 Palestinians lost their lives in just two days.

While the killings themselves were carried out by Lebanese militias, Sharon’s troops were stationed outside the camps and gave them access and logistical support.

They even sent flares up at night to make sure that the killings could continue around the clock. Journalist Robert Fisk described the horrifying scenes the next day:

“Women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall.

“There were babies … tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whisky.”

Tellingly, Obama and other world leaders have paid tribute to this “controversial” man whom they describe as a seeker of compromise and peace.

For those of us with a shred of humanity, the death of “the Bulldozer” is a time for celebration. It should also remind us of the many crimes of Zionism and the need to continue to fight for Palestinian liberation.