Arab world marks death of Sharon ‘the butcher’

Gazans burn Sharon photos, hand out candies to celebrate his death; Fatah official, HRW regret ex-PM wasn’t tried for war crimes

Palestinians in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, burn crossed-out posters depicting late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon as they celebrate his death, January 11, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, burn crossed-out posters depicting late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon as they celebrate his death, January 11, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian and Arab leaders and media on Saturday marked the death of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon with an outpouring of disgust for the man they termed a “criminal” and “butcher.”

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said it was a shame Sharon would never stand trial before an international tribune for his actions.

“Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of [Palestinian president Yasser] Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal,” AFP quoted Rajoub saying.

PLO official Dr. Mustafa Barghouti told the BBC that the Palestinians had no positive memories of Sharon.

“Nobody should celebrate any death. But unfortunately I have to say that Mr Sharon left no good memories with Palestinians. Unfortunately he had a path of war and aggression and a great failure in making peace with the Palestinian people,” he said.

Some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip did celebrate Sharon’s death, Safa, the Palestinian press agency, reported. According to the report, residents of Khan Younis took to the streets in celebration of the former Israeli prime minister’s death, burning photos of him and handing out candies to passersby.

Ariel Sharon with Mahmoud Abbas at the Prime Minister's Office on July 01, 2003. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat Flash90)
Ariel Sharon with Mahmoud Abbas at the Prime Minister’s Office on July 01, 2003. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat Flash90)

In Lebanon, Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said he would not gloat over Sharon’s death, though he was “a criminal who made his life the source of death and suffering of others,” the Beirut-based Daily Star reported.

“With the passing of Sharon, there is now less evil in this world,” he said.

Karl Sharro, a Lebanese blogger based in London, tweeted shortly after news of Sharon’s hit the press that the bottom line was that the Israeli general-turned-statesman would not stand trial.

Hamas, the Islamist terror group which took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, two years after Sharon unilaterally pulled Israeli troops and settlers from it, called Sharon’s death a “historic moment” that marked the “disappearance of a criminal whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood.”

Khalil al-Haya of Hamas said Sharon had caused suffering to generations of Palestinians. “After eight years, he is going in the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood,” he said.

Some Palestinians expressed disappointment that Sharon hadn’t been put on trial or had suffered a violent death.

“I always wished he would be killed by a Palestinian child or a woman, like he killed children and women,” said Mohammed el-Srour, a Sabra resident who lost his father and five siblings in the massacre.

In Qibya, the village Sharon’s forces raided in 1953, residents stage a memorial march each year.

Village resident Hamed Ghethan, 65, said earlier this week that he was sorry to see Sharon and the others involved in the attack escape punishment. “We were hoping the world would hear our voice and try them,” he said.

The international group Human Rights Watch expressed a similar sentiment, saying in a statement: “It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Chatilla and other abuses.”

A Twitter feed associated with Hamas tweeted several messages bidding a farewell to “the butcher of Sabra and Shatila,” two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where Christian Phalangist gunmen carried out a massacre in 1982.

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of The Palestine Center in Washington, DC, tweeted that Sharon’s legacy was “destruction, collective punishment and war crimes.”

Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, wrote in a Foreign Affairs article shortly after Sharon’s death that, “For most Arabs, no Israeli in history is more synonymous with violence and Israeli expansionism than Ariel Sharon.”

“His name quickly conjures the worst massacres, deepest pro-settlement fanaticism, and most extreme nationalistic provocations in the Palestinian bill of particulars against Israel,” Ibish wrote.

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency wrote in its obituary for Sharon that the one-time IDF chief of staff left behind “a bloody and conflicted legacy in the land he called home.”

“Nicknamed ‘the Bulldozer,’ Sharon is remembered by Palestinians and many other Arabs for his involvement in and leadership over massacres in several countries and his role in repressing the Palestinian national movement over the course of decades,” the paper wrote.

The official Wafa news agency was notably silent, providing no coverage of Sharon’s death Saturday in either English or Arabic.

In Egypt, those who took to the media expressed little remorse at Sharon’s passing. “Sharon died years ago, today he is being taken to the courtroom,” Egyptian actor Nabil al-Halafawi said on Twitter.

Egyptian TV presenter Khayri Ramadan also tweeted that, “The murderer Ariel Sharon. Sharon died and is thrown in the history’s dustbin because of his brutality, maltreatment of our brothers in Palestine and Lebanon.”

In Iran, the English language PressTV ran a brief notice of Sharon’s death, noting that “Sharon was the prime minister of the Israeli regime from 2001 to 2006, and was directly responsible for war crimes against Palestinians and Lebanese.”

A twitter feed associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, tweeted some of the ruler’s statements about Sharon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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