Elaine Washburh Shiber: Sharon stomped back goal of peace in the Middle East

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in this 2004 photo, died Saturday after being in a coma for eight years. He was 85.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in this 2004 photo, died Saturday after being in a coma for eight years. He was 85. AP

Ariel Sharon's body finally succumbed to inevitable death after eight years of comatose existence. Aside from his closest relatives and diehard Zionists, few shed tears, especially those in the international political scene.

Of course the United States had to produce some, but to authentic Middle-East peace seekers, Sharon was a nightmare. He gave a whole new meaning to the Yiddish word "chutzpah."

No Israeli leader in recent memory did more to alienate his Arab neighbors and undermine prospects for peace with the Palestinians than Sharon. As Yousef Munayyer, executive director of The Jerusalem Fund, recently wrote, Sharon's actions had been "consistently destructive" and he "left some of the bloodiest marks on the history of Palestine."

That included his activities with the Zionist terror group Haganah in the 1940s that killed hundreds of Palestinians and caused hundreds more to flee their ancestral homes, to the 1953 massacre of nearly 70 Palestinian civilians in Qibya under his leadership.

It included actions from his 1982 invasion of Lebanon as Israeli defense minister, in which internationally outlawed cluster bombs were used, to his responsibility for the 1985 massacre of thousands of innocent Palestinian women, children and elderly men living in refugee camps just outside Beirut, which met worldwide condemnation.

What bloody baggage Sharon carried. Imagine an American with the same background being allowed to run for any political office, let alone the most powerful one in the country. Yet that is exactly what happened in his case, and he became prime minister of Israel in 2001.

Barely a year later, he invaded the West Bank refugee town of Jenin, in which his forces destroyed hundreds of homes with bulldozers and killed scores of civilians.

When a leader with a history like Sharon's is lauded by Israeli and American politicians as heroic or courageous, something is grossly skewed in their moral thinking.

Sure, he was successful in removing a few illegal Israeli settlements from Gaza back in 2005, but those who really keep track of events on the ground will concur that it was nothing but a distraction from a greater plan for settlement expansion elsewhere in Palestine.

All one has to do is look at the numbers.

In 2004 there were about 234,000 Israelis illegally settled on confiscated Palestinian land in the West Bank. By 2010, there were 314,000. In Palestinian East Jerusalem, there were about 182,000 in 2004 and by 2010, 20,000 more.

Sharon told Israeli religious zealots to "seize the hilltops," and that's precisely what they are doing.

The political rhetoric of Sharon and other Israeli leaders, including the present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was and is completely antithetical to the hegemonic aspirations of the Zionist Jewish State. The lasting peace they claim to desire would mean abandoning their goal of conquering and acquiring control of the Middle East, which is at complete odds with Zionist ideology.

Jewish and Christian adherents to the belief that because God promised the Jews living thousands of years ago all the land "from the Nile of Egypt to the banks of the Euphrates," it is their right to fight for it today — irrespective of who now lives and has lived there for millennia — is dangerous.

To them, this doesn't mean taking over only Gaza and the Palestinian Territories, as they're rapidly doing. It also means Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Oman, Yemen and most of Turkey.

Any rational person might regard this as completely absurd in today's world, but increasing numbers of well-funded Zionist Jews and Christians are willing to invest everything they have in seeing that this promise is fulfilled.

Fortunately, more and more Israelis are becoming disenchanted by the aggressive, militaristic approach of their leadership and the ongoing illegal settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They know it only breeds resentment and violence. They realize that leaders must be elected who will irrevocably acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to their own state, withdraw all occupation forces and illegal settlements from Palestinian land, and be content to live within the remaining boundaries, which still leaves Israelis with well over half the originally disputed territory.

That is a job for which Ariel Sharon could never have been qualified.