Is Ariel Sharon a war criminal?
Citics of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, especially those allied with Palestinian Arabs, claim that he is a war criminal. These claims are based on incidents in Sharon’s past, when he was an officer in the IDF, Israel’s military, or when he directed the military as Defense Minister. These claims are anti-Israel propaganda and can be easily understood as such when examined in context. Palestinian Arab lives were lost in the incidents, and Sharon was involved, but the context was a viscious war in which Israel was defending itself from inhuman terrorism. The two most commonly cited incidents are reviewed here.
1953: The Raid on Qibya
In 1953, Israeli forces attacked the Arab West Bank village of Qibya (also spelled Kibya, Quibya or Qibiya), east of Tel Aviv, in Samaria, then under Jordanian control. An Israeli Army anti-terrorism unit (Unit 101) commanded by 25 year old Ariel Sharon destroyed the village of Qibya during the night of October 14-15, 1953 killing 69 civilian inhabitants in the process because they were were hiding inside the homes unbeknownst to the Israeli soldiers.
Was this an accident or a war crime? As documented in the Palestine Facts topic page on Qibya, and the associated links, the deaths occurred during an Israeli raid on the base used by Palestinian Arab terrorists involved in attacks on Israeli civilians, especially a particularly vicious murder of a Jewish mother and her two infants the night before. The Arab civilian deaths were not deliberate; they were unfortunate casualties of the defensive action of the IDF responding to the terrorist attacks.
1982: Sabra and Shatila Massacres
As discussed on the Palestine Facts topic page on Sabra and Shatila, on September 16, 1982 the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia entered the Beruit refugee camps looking for PLO fighters. The Phalangist forces, allies of Israel and in an area controlled by the IDF, carried out a 62-hour rampage of rape and murder that left hundreds dead.
In 1983, an Israeli government commission of inquiry, known as the Kahane Commission, determined that Defense Minister Sharon was negligent and should have foreseen that permitting the Phalangist forces to enter the camps carried a potential for catastrophe. They charged that Sharon should have taken precautions against such a massacre. But the commission rejected the idea that Minister Sharon was directly responsible for the crime, an idea that was also rejected by the federal court in New York that heard Sharon's 1985 libel suit against Time magazine who repeated unfounded allegations about Sharon's role. Nonetheless, due to Israeli discomfort with the event, Sharon was forced to resign and face widespread public opprobrium that nearly ended his political career. The matter was therefore lawfully settled in Israeli and US courts with a reasonable conclusion and outcome.
For years, Mr. Sharon's political opponents, in Israel and abroad, along with a host of Arab leaders, have exploited Sabra and Shatila to score moral points against Israel -- even as Syria made an ally of Elie Hobeika, the Phalangist personally responsible for carrying out the massacres. They continue to accuse Sharon of crimes for which he has already been cleared.
On June 18, 2001, nineteen years after the event, a group of 28 Palestinian relatives of the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, motivated and financed by anti-Israel operatives, filed a civil claim under Belgium's "war crime" law, a 1993 law that allows Belgian magistrates to try war-crimes cases no matter where they were committed. The Belgians are embarrassed by this case: Foreign Minister Louis Michel has suggested that the law will have to change lest Belgian courtrooms become clogged with politically motivated "war-crimes" indictments. In June 2002, the Belgian court dismissed the case.