Bronner whitewashes Sharon’s atrocities

With the recent reports of Ariel Sharon’s deteriorating condition, I was looking forward to his ultimate demise, but not out of morbid anticipation of seeing the end of a truly evil man.  Sharon left this world years ago in a most undeserved manner when he fell into a coma at a reasonably old age without ever facing genuine punishment for his long list of murderous crimes.  At least Pinochet suffered the indignity of house arrest in London for more than a year and an aborted criminal prosecution when he returned to Chile.

Sharon’s effective death in 2006 notwithstanding, his long vegetative state delayed his obituaries for years, and I was most anxious to see how his death would be covered in mainstream outlets like the New York Times.  I expected the Times to embellish his “courageous” 2005 Gaza “withdrawal,” but how would the Times treat the “highlights” of Sharon’s mass murdering terrorism, such as Qibya in 1953 and the 1982 Lebanon War?  As it turns out, Ethan Bronner’s Times obit was worse than I could have imagined.

sharonobit

Let’s take Qibya, about which much has been written since Sharon’s death.  Sharon led a unit of Israeli soldiers in a “reprisal raid,” also known as mass murder, in revenge for an attack that killed an Israeli mother and her two children in Tel Aviv.  Rather than make any attempt to track down the actual perpetrators, Ben-Gurion opted for random lethal violence. When Sharon’s unit massacred 69 civilians in Qibya, earning condemnation from all corners of the globe, including the US, Ben-Gurion falsely denied any involvement of IDF troops, invoking, you guessed it – the Holocaust – to justify the mass murder.  He claimed it was Israeli civilians, many of whom were “survivors from the Nazi concentration camps,” who understandably wreaked revenge on Qibya after enduring cross-border raids.  Sharon added the lie that he thought the destroyed houses were empty and was shocked to learn afterward that people had been killed. According to Wikipedia, Israeli historian Benny Morris reported that contemporaneous documents reveal that Sharon personally ordered his troops to achieve “maximal killing and damage to property”, and there were post-operational reports of clearing houses with grenades and gunfire.

Bronner, in his Sharon obit, whitewashes this atrocity, actually referring to it as “the battle of Qibya.” Where did he come up with that?  There isn’t even a dispute about whether this was a “battle” rather than a massacre.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if Bronner gullibly believed Sharon’s claim that his intent was to teach the Arabs a lesson by blowing up empty buildings, but to describe an army’s slaughter of civilians as a “battle” is gratuitously perverse.

As an aside, Sharon’s lame excuse should sound familiar.  When Sharon as PM in 2002 ordered that a one-ton bomb be dropped on a Gaza building to kill Selah Shehadeh of Hamas, the bomb predictably killed 14 others, including eight children, who also happened to be sleeping in the building.  Sharon initially expressed no remorse, calling the operation “one of our greatest successes.” After international outcry at the collateral damage (what a horrendous phrase!), Sharon allowed that if he had known about the children sleeping in their own home, he would have “postponed” the assassination.  I guess he “checked” the building for other occupants just like he checked the 40-plus houses in Qibya.

As for the 1982 Lebanon War, Sharon was slapped on the wrist for his role in the Sabra/Shatila massacre (Ethan Bronner – was it the Battle of Sabra and Shatila?), but earlier that summer Sharon’s army relentlessly pummeled Beirut in an act of premeditated mass murder that indiscriminately slaughtered untold numbers of civilians.  Bronner’s sole reference to this terror-bombing speaks of “saturation bombing of Beirut neighborhoods”–a five-word phrase in a much longer sentence not about Sharon’s brutality, but the Reagan Administration’s disenchantment with Sharon and Israel.

What a whitewash!  There is a word that is commonly used for indiscriminate attacks against civilians to make a political point.  It’s called “terrorism.”  In fact, it is impossible to fashion a coherent definition of the word that would not include the Qibya massacre, the shelling of Beirut, and any other number of Sharon’s crimes.  Of course, there is not a single reference even to an allegation of Sharon’s “terrorism” in the Bronner piece.  (The only use of the word is when Bronner says:  “And there were many episodes of Palestinian terrorism inside Israel.”) It’s not as though the Times has a policy of refraining from use of the word because it necessarily breaches some code of objectivity.  In her 2004 NYT obit for Yasser Arafat, the not-yet-disgraced Judith Miller used “terror”-related words at least 11 times, all in descriptions, hers or others’, of the actions of Arafat and Palestinians. (And now Miller eulogizes Sharon as a “lion”).

Bronner descends into outright historical fiction when he claims that in October, 1973, there was “a shocking invasion by Egypt and Syria.” Invasion?  Of Israel?  Not quite.  Egypt and Syria did launch this attack, but it was upon Israeli troops located in occupied Egyptian and Syrian territory. It was not an invasion of Israel.  The distinction is not a mere technicality.  Sadat had famously offered to discuss a land for peace agreement with Golda Meir, who rejected the idea out of hand.  The Yom Kippur War to regain the territory lost six years earlier in ’67 was the result.  Bronner was similarly sloppy a few years ago, when his Times article stated that Israel launched its 2006 invasion/bombing campaign against Lebanon after “an Iranian-backed Islamist group was lobbing deadly rockets into Israel with apparent impunity.”  That, too, was completely untrue.  These are important mistakes about the causes of wars that should not be made, and it is hardly surprising that Bronner’s mistakes are all in the same direction.

Bronner refers to Sharon’s role in constructing the “security barrier” in the West Bank, giving it high marks on two grounds:  “It not only reduced infiltration by militants into Israel but also provided the outline of a border with a future Palestinian state, albeit one he envisioned as having limited sovereignty.”  The barrier’s role in “reducing infiltration” is extremely dubious at best, but how could Bronner laud the achievement of “providing an outline of a border with a future Palestinian state”?  The barrier cuts deeply into land universally recognized by almost every country on Earth to be Palestinian, not Israeli.  To the extent that it provides a future border, it is an act of naked aggression and brazen land theft.

As expected, Bronner praises Sharon’s withdrawal of settlers and troops from Gaza as a “Nixon-to-China” move.  But Sharon’s top aide, Dov Weissglas, famously explained:

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. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.  The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.

This revealing quote has been repeated over and over again through the years.  Is Bronner really unfamiliar with it?  Or did he think it not relevant to put Sharon’s Gaza “withdrawal” in context?

Relatedly, Bronner has nothing but glowing praise for Sharon’s transformation from warrior to statesman and the legacy that was cut short by his stroke.  However, it is clear to him who would have been at fault had Sharon not been felled.  It would not have been Sharon himself, whose record in opposition to negotiation was matched by only by his love of brute force.  No, according to Bronner, it would have been Arabs and Persians who would have posed obstacles to Sharon’s peace-making:

“But even if he had stayed healthy, his plans might have been interrupted by the rise of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, the 2006 conflict with the militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and increased concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.”

Of course, it would have been shocking to read an all-out condemnation of Sharon in the Times obit. But Bronner owed his readers, and Sharon’s victims, a more accurate assessment of the accusations against him and better attention to historical truth.

Finally, let me quote Alan Dershowitz.  He loves to make the “joke” that Arafat’s death was “untimely”:  “If not for Arafat’s untimely death — I say untimely because if he’d only died four years earlier, there might be peace today in the Middle East and there might be a Palestinian state.”  LOL, Alan.  It would be just as tasteless to talk about Sharon’s untimely death – untimely because if he’d only died 68 years earlier, many thousands of ordinary citizens might have lived out their normal life spans, and perhaps tens of thousands of their descendants would be alive today.  At least that statement would have the virtue of being arguably true, as opposed to the nonsense about Arafat.

About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Media, Occupation, US Politics

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  1. Donald says:

    Good post. That “battle of Qibya” thing really stuck out and I wrote to the public editor, for whatever negligible good that would do. Imagine a Palestinian terrorist foray into Israel, where they get into a brief firefight with some defenders and one Palestinian is wounded (wikipedia says 1 Israeli soldier was wounded at Qibya). Then 69 Israelis are killed, the majority of them women and children in dozens of homes deliberately blown up by the Palestinians.

    Show of hands–how many people think the NYT would describe that hypothetical attack as a “battle”? I think they would describe this imaginary incident as the worst single terrorist attack in Israel’s history if it had actually happened.

    • Sumud says:

      Now Donald don’t be like that.

      I’m sure Bronner would have no objection to a neo-nazi referring to the shoah as a battle between jews and aryans – with the aryans displaying superior skill and bravery, and consequently winning.

      • seafoid says:

        Israel is on very thin ice with a lot of non white folks and it’s time people started to join the dots.

        The quenelle story in France deserves more attention. Israel can’t whine anti-Semitism and simultaneously worship mass murderers.

        link to ft.com

        “The French government has vowed to pursue its campaign against a comic accused of anti-Semitism on to the internet after winning legal backing for its action to ban his live shows.
        In the latest move in an affair that has escalated into a major national controversy, Manuel Valls, the interior minister, said “the law must be able to act” against the online publication of what he called the “racist and anti-Semitic speech” of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.
        “We cannot let this speech spread. We must discuss this with [internet] operators,” he said, although he acknowledged this was “not simple, legally”.
        The government’s aggressive pursuit of Dieudonné, as he is known, has been broadly supported by anti-racist campaigners and politicians of both mainstream left and right, especially mayors of towns and cities where the comedian has booked tour dates over the coming weeks.
        But the unleashing of the full force of the state against a figure relatively low-profile until the past two weeks has prompted concern that the government has overreacted, fuelling support for the comic.
        On Thursday night, about 6,000 mainly young people who had bought tickets for Dieudonné’s opening tour date in the western city of Nantes loudly cheered their support for him after the show was cancelled at the last minute following a ruling by the Council of State, the highest administrative court.
        Dozens were shown on live television making the quenelle salute, a straight-arm gesture invented by Dieudonné that his detractors say is a deliberate inverse Nazi salute.
        The rightwing Le Figaro newspaper commented that the court decision was a “fragile victory” for Mr Valls.
        “In the eyes of many, this odious man has become a martyr,” it said in an editorial. “The pariah has acquired the status of the champion of free speech. It is extraordinary.”
        Dieudonné, whose father is an immigrant from Cameroon and whose mother is French, has a long record of convictions for anti-Semitism. His stage show contains jokes about Jews and a song called “Shoananas”, a play on the Hebrew word for the Nazi holocaust and the French word for pineapple.

        But he denies he is anti-Semitic and he has become for some a symbol of a broader dissent, especially among the young.

        Israel is going to drag Judaism down with it unless some adults take over.

        • American says:

          seafoid says:
          January 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm
          Israel is on very thin ice with a lot of non white folks and it’s time people started to join the dots.
          >>>>>>

          I was just yesterday invited to a black church to hear a special visiting pastor’s sermon on Feb 8th and I’m going. The fellow who invited me represented the local black community in working on the campaign of our current town mayor who I supported so I think this would be a possible outreach point politically and for the I/P issue.

    • David Samel says:

      Donald, I agree with your hypothetical that even if the town did have armed guards, the Israeli mission was one to kill civilians, and the presence of guards did not transform this into a “battle.” However, I see no reason to believe that there was a firefight with armed guards. I have never seen any other reference to this firefight. I checked the Wiki footnote and it is a secondary source of unknown reliability that still says nothing about soldiers or guards but only an Israeli (self-serving) claim of one soldier slightly wounded – it could have been a sprained ankle or falling debris from a dynamited building, if the wound was genuine. Every other account of Qibya I’ve seen refers only to the civilians of the town, and until Bronner, I never saw anyone call it a “battle.” Even Ben-Gurion’s public lies about IDF participation did not include the claim that Qibya had armed guards who fired back. I see no reason to trust Wiki on this point.

      • Donald says:

        Thanks David. You could be right–I’ve only read summaries of Qibya and don’t know if anyone fired back at the Israelis. I was trusting the wikipedia article, which might have been a mistake. At best it wasn’t much of a battle if it was a battle at all–my main point, as you realize, is that even if it were, the NYT would never describe it as such if the roles were reversed, given all the dead civilians.

  2. Ethan Bronner another zionist fundamentalist (like Rudoren) that praise a warcriminal thug. A clear example of the biased israeli-propaganda in the west.

  3. Taxi says:

    “Bronner whitewashes Sharon’s atrocities”

    You mean like the little cartoon in this article:
    link to scottishpsc.org.uk

    • Walid says:

      Taxi, Mick Napier (from your link) was interviewed on Mayadeen a couple of days back. He recounted the great successes of BDS Scotland, such as having almost put the Eden Mineral Water Company out of business until the local government bailed it out with a grant. Eden is selling Golan water in Scotland. The interview in English starts after 3:32 minutes into the program:

  4. The trick of declaring war against the armed resistance and then attacking the resisters’ unarmed kin as well as the sur­rounding population with the most gruesome products of Death-Science — this trick is not new. American Pioneers were pioneers in this too; they made it standard practice to declare war on indigenous warriors and then to murder and burn villages with only women and children in them. This is already modern war, what we know as war against civilian populations; it has also been called, more candidly, mass murder or genocide.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the perpetrators of a Pogrom portray themselves as the victims, in the present case as victims of the Holocaust.

    Herman Melville noticed over a century ago, in his analysis of the metaphysics of Indian-hating, that those who made a full-time profession of hunting and murdering indigenous people of this continent always made themselves appear, even in their own eyes, as the victims of manhunts.

    The use the Nazis made of the International Jewish Conspiracy is better known: during all the years of atrocities defying belief, the Nazis considered themselves the victimized.

    It’s as if the experience of being a victim gave exemption from human solidarity, as if it gave special powers, as if it gave a license to kill. ~ Fredy Perlman

    from: link to recollectionbooks.com

  5. Walid says:

    Thank you, David, you said it all. Looking forward to reading some reactions to your article from hophmi and the gang.

  6. RE: “I was most anxious to see how his [Sharon's] death would be covered in mainstream outlets like the New York Times. I expected the Times to embellish his ‘courageous’ 2005 Gaza ‘withdrawal’, but how would the Times treat the ‘highlights’ of Sharon’s mass murdering terrorism, such as Qibya in 1953 and the 1982 Lebanon War? As it turns out, Ethan Bronner’s Times obit was worse than I could have imagined. ~ Samel

    MY COMMENT: I doubt that Orwell would have been at all surprised.*

    * SEE: “Notes on Nationalism”, by George Orwell, 1945

    [EXCERPTS] . . . All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . .

    . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one’s own mind. . .

    SOURCE (“Notes on Nationalism”, by George Orwell, 1945) – link to orwell.ru

  7. RE: “Bronner’s sole reference to this terror-bombing speaks of ‘saturation bombing of Beirut neighborhoods’–a five-word phrase in a much longer sentence not about Sharon’s brutality, but the Reagan Administration’s disenchantment with Sharon and Israel.” ~ Samel

    SEE: “How Many Violations of US Arms Laws are Too Many?” ~ by Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch, 3/16/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Alarm centered on whether or not Israel had used U.S.-supplied antipersonnel cluster bombs against civilian targets during its carpet bombing West Beirut during the nearly three month siege.
    The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in July and August 1982. On July 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration announced that it would prohibit new exports of cluster bombs to Israel. . .
    . . . During a late June 1982 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Reagan was handed a note from George Shultz. Based on the information he had in hand, Reagan directly told Begin that the US had reliable information than Israel was using American weapons against civilians in Lebanon. At this point according to Reagan, Begin became very agitated. He lowered his glasses and while glaring at Reagan and shaking his index finger said, “Mr. President, Israel has never and would never use American weapons against civilians and to claim otherwise is a blood libel against every Jew, everywhere.” Following their meeting Reagan told Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, as reported by Weinberger and by various biographers of Reagan that “I did not know what the term “blood libel” meant, but I know that the man looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to counterpunch.org

  8. Ron Edwards says:

    I thoroughly agree with this article. Mondoweiss mods: I hope it’s OK to post an excerpt from my book Shahida which juxtaposes the lives of Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat. I’m doing so in the spirit of agreement with Mr. Samel and in support of his points.
    link to adept-press.com

    • Taxi says:

      Thanks for the excerpt, Ron. Immense ten pages with a cool chart.

      Shahida (Arabic for female martyr). Great title.

    • Walid says:

      Interesting account of events in both histories, Ron. The Abu Nidal caper you mentioned was subsequently uncovered as an Israeli plot to provide an alibi to invade Lebanon. The (1969-1987) Cairo Agreement that had been rammed down Lebanon’s throat by the AL that was at the root of Lebanon having suffered so much of Israel’s viciousness. Lebanon is still paying the price of that absurd agreement that rendered the refugee camps and their arming off-limits to Lebanese authorities and allowed Palestinians to conduct operations against Israel from Lebanon.

    • Ron Edwards says:

      Taxi & Walid: many thanks, for both the kind words and the information! If you’re interested, check out the link on the first page to see the contents page of the book. That’s only one of nine profiles, themselves modifying six chapters.

      Bronner’s article still baffles me. How can anyone look over Sharon’s career like that? Is it not apparent that this man’s priority, always, was to bathe in blood? If he could get away with it, he did it – and seems to have mastered the art of brazening it out; if he had to bide his time and set it up (which is only and fully what I see in pulling Israelis out of Gaza), he did that instead.

  9. RE: “Bronner whitewashes Sharon’s atrocities”

    MY COMMENT: But Yossi Gurvitz does not!

    SEE – “His finest hours: On Sharon’s murderous legacy”, By Yossi Gurvitz, 972mag.com, 1/13/14
    From the Qibya massacre, to Sabra and Shatila and the dirty tricks, lies and deceptions that made the West Bank settlements what they are today, Ariel Sharon has caused unimaginable damage to Israel, its army, morality, and political life.
    LINK – link to 972mag.com

    • P.S. Nor does John Glaser whitewash Sharon’s atrocities! He even includes a nice photo of one.

      SEE: “Ariel Sharon and the Legacy of US-Backed War Crimes”, by John Glaser, antiwar.com/blog, 1/13/14

      [EXCERPT] Not only was Israel responsible for the slaughter of innocents, but the U.S. was at least indirectly blameworthy. “Working with only partial knowledge of the reality on the ground,” wrote Seth Anziska in a 2012 New York Times op-ed that made use of declassified documents, ”the United States feebly yielded to false arguments and stalling tactics that allowed a massacre in progress to proceed.”

      Anziska’s piece is worth quoting at length:

      In Washington that same day, Under Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told the Israeli ambassador, Moshe Arens, that “Israel’s credibility has been severely damaged” and that “we appear to some to be the victim of deliberate deception by Israel.” He demanded that Israel withdraw from West Beirut immediately.

      In Tel Aviv, [American envoy to the Middle East, Morris] Draper and the American ambassador, Samuel W. Lewis, met with top Israeli officials. Contrary to Prime Minister Begin’s earlier assurances, Defense Minister Sharon said the occupation of West Beirut was justified because there were “2,000 to 3,000 terrorists who remained there.” Mr. Draper disputed this claim; having coordinated the August evacuation, he knew the number was minuscule. Mr. Draper said he was horrified to hear that Mr. Sharon was considering allowing the Phalange militia into West Beirut. Even the I.D.F. chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, acknowledged to the Americans that he feared “a relentless slaughter.”

      …Mr. Draper opened the meeting by demanding that the I.D.F. pull back right away. Mr. Sharon exploded, “I just don’t understand, what are you looking for? Do you want the terrorists to stay? Are you afraid that somebody will think that you were in collusion with us? Deny it. We denied it.” Mr. Draper, unmoved, kept pushing for definitive signs of a withdrawal. Mr. Sharon, who knew Phalange forces had already entered the camps, cynically told him, “Nothing will happen. Maybe some more terrorists will be killed. That will be to the benefit of all of us.” Mr. Shamir and Mr. Sharon finally agreed to gradually withdraw once the Lebanese Army started entering the city — but they insisted on waiting 48 hours (until the end of Rosh Hashana, which started that evening).

      Continuing his plea for some sign of an Israeli withdrawal, Mr. Draper warned that critics would say, “Sure, the I.D.F. is going to stay in West Beirut and they will let the Lebanese go and kill the Palestinians in the camps.”

      Mr. Sharon replied: “So, we’ll kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism.”

      Mr. Draper responded: “We are not interested in saving any of these people.” Mr. Sharon declared: “If you don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.” . . .

      SOURCE – link to antiwar.com

      • P.P.S.
        ALSO SEE: “A Preventable Massacre”, By Seth Anziska, nytimes.com, September 16, 2012
        LINK – link to nytimes.com

      • Walid says:

        Dickerson, keep in mind what Jeff Blankfort once said here, “From what I saw of the Israeli military in Lebanon then and from what I have seen of it in the West Bank and Gaza, it is an army of sadists, representing a government of sadists. Since Israel’s army is truly a “people’s army” what that says about the majority of the population of the Jewish population of Israel should be self-evident. They deserve no quarter from the civilized world.”

        • seafoid says:

          Sadism hasn’t worked, Walid
          Sharon’s memes are still iterating away, however

          link to haaretz.com

          “Vandals set fire to a mosque early Wednesday morning in the Palestinian village Deir Istiya in the northern West Bank, in a suspected hate crime by Jewish vandals. Light damage was caused to the door of the mosque as the fire did not spread.
          Palestinian residents report graffiti sprayed on the mosque with the messages: “Arabs out, “Hi from Qusra’ and “Revenge for spilled blood in Qusra.”
          l

        • USA = The Big Sadist™
          Israel = The Little Sadist™