8 ways Ariel Sharon shook up the Middle East

Published January 14th, 2014 - 13:38 GMT

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Image 1 of 8: The philosophy of retaliation: Sharon, more than any other leader, personified Israel's now-common policy of disproportionate retaliation due to his military past. In 1953, to avenge the killing of a Jewish mother and two children, Sharon’s IDF unit demolished the West Bank village of Qibbiya killing 69 people, most of them women and children.

West Bank separation barrier
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Image 1 of 8: The Wall: As PM, Sharon approved the construction of a West Bank security wall to separate settlers from the 'explosive' Palestinians. Locals who lived between the barrier and the 1967 armistice line have since been subjected to severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, with devastating consequences for families and the economy.

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Image 1 of 8: Reelection of the Likud Party: Sharon won by a record margin in the 2002 elections bringing the Likud Party to power. Paradoxically, Sharon’s controversial visit to the Al Aqsa mosque triggered the Palestinian Intifada and was largely responsible for shifting public sentiment towards the Likud’s right wing agenda, now headed by Netanyahu.

Sharon Settlements
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Image 1 of 8: Settlements: Born in a settlement himself, Sharon was more responsible than any other Israeli for their construction. Daniella Weiss, West Bank Settlement Mayor, once said: "Ariel Sharon can be considered historically as the 'Daddy of the Settlement movement.'" Settlement activity grew 70% in 2014 thanks to Sharon’s past policies.

Sharon invaded Southern Lebanon
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Image 1 of 8: The rise of Hezbollah: As defense minister in 1982, Sharon invaded Southern Lebanon and Beirut and orchestrated the horrific Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres, since classed as genocide. He had set out to defeat Arafat, but his actions deepened sectarian tensions and pushed the Shiite population in Southern Lebanon to embrace Hezbollah.

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Image 1 of 8: The Golan Heights: Sharon said: “It will be a big mistake for us to return the Golan Heights, which provides a very efficient deterrent for us, Damascus being so vulnerable to our forces from the Heights.” Today, with the war in Syria, the Golan Heights provides Israel with a strategic vantage point against terrorists, the regime and Iran.

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Image 1 of 8: Gaza: In an act of what could be called foresight (or self-preservation) Sharon withdrew and dismantled all settlements in Gaza. The settlers protested. Skeptics said it was staged to win the sympathy of the West. It mobilized the rampant right wing, and cemented Sharon's legacy as a martyr for Israel.

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Image 1 of 8: The Jewish lobby: Sharon was a master in controlling AIPAC and other lobbying groups to direct the course of U.S. foreign policy. Today, Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid - in economic terms, every Israeli gets a subsidy of USD $500. In 2001, Sharon famously said, “We Israelis control America and the Americans know it.”

After spending eight years in a coma, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away at the age of 85 this weekend and was buried at his Negev ranch on Monday.

Sharon lampooned “the bulldozer” in honor of his affinity for settlements was a combative figure in life, perhaps more responsible than any other figure for deepening the divide between the Israelis and Palestinians. Since the inception of the Israeli state, he was involved with Jewish militias killing and clearing entire Palestinian villages of their occupants. The ruthless massacre of innocent refugees at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps - which Sharon facilitated -  will go down as among the most horrific acts of genocide to be ever witnessed in history. 

It is little wonder that in sharp contrast to say, the the passing of Nelson Mandela last month, not everyone has been saddened by Sharon’s death.

Jibril Rajub, a senior official of the Fatah party said, “Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, also voiced that she regretted that Sharon never faced justice for the crimes he committed when he was alive, particularly over his role in the Beirut camp killings.

It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses,” she said in a statement.

 

Longtime Hebron resident and Kach activist Baruch Marzel - expelled from a settlement in Gaza - comments disparagingly on the legacy of Ariel Sharon, positing that "history will remember him as a traitor against his people".

By the majority of Israelis, Sharon is hailed as "Arik, the Commander", the embodiment of what it means to be an outstanding military leader.

No matter what you think of Sharon, butcher or champion of security, his life was singular in that his legacy and impact outlive his coma and indeed his death, continuing to affect the lives of millions of people across the Middle East.  View this slideshow and find out eight different ways Sharon’s legacy will continue to play out in the region, even as Israel and Palestine hold peace talks in an attempt to end decades of conflict, war rages on in Syria and Iran comes to take on an increasingly dominant role in the region.

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