Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s death sparks controversy causing mixed emotions to surface. To countless Israelis Sharon was hailed a heroic warrior but to many Palestinians he was considered a murderer who was responsible for at least 800 deaths in Lebanon refugee camps.
Sharon would have turned 86 next month but he died on Saturday at age 85 after enduring an eight year comatose state. His family was with him during his final moments at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. Sharon’s two sons, Omri and Gilad, have been by his bedside since January 1 when his condition began to seriously decline.
Sharon is praised by Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s current defense minister. Ya’alon said Sharon was an extraordinary military commander. Sharon is said to have turned the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into an army that not only confronts the enemy but quickly prevails. Ya’alon said Sharon displayed military leadership in battles against regular armies as well as the fight against terrorism.
Sharon was a part of every Israeli war going back as far as 1948. Many remember him as a fierce fighter that believed a strong army was necessary in order for Israel to survive.
Other leaders such as Khaled Abu Al Noor and Sarah Leah Whitson feel very differently about Sharon. Al Noor, who is the head of the Democratic Front, remembers Sharon as a murder. He said, “We call on the international community to try him under international law – even after he’s dead” Al Noor said Sharon is responsible for the massacre of many Palestinian women, children and elderly; he needs to be accountable.
Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, agrees that it’s a shame Sharon died without facing justice. She said he should have had to answer for his role in Shatilla and Sabra as well as other abuses. Whitson said his passing is another grim reminder of the years of virtual impunity for rights and abuses that have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer.
As one of Israel’s legendary military leaders, Sharon’s victories on the battlefield earned him the title, “Arik, King of Israel.”
Sharon was equally as fearless in the political arena. He was the father of the Likud and Kadima parties. He oversaw the Lebanon War as defense minister in 1982 and was booted from office because of his involvement in the Sabra and Shatilla massacre. The Kahn Commission of Inquiry found Sharon to be indirectly responsible and as a result was ousted in 1983.
Sharon returned to politics as construction and housing minister in 1990. He was responsible for an enormous building effort which included 144,000 apartments. These apartments were constructed to house the multitude of Russian-speaking immigrants which had come from the former Soviet Union bloc. Sharon was also heavily involved in the building of thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria. He became known as the father of the settlement movement.
Sharon rose to the office of foreign minister in 1998. In September 2000 Sharon’s walk on the Temple Mount was cited by Palestinians as the cause for the second intifada. He was elected prime minister in 2001 and under his leadership Israel began to build its security barrier in the West Bank.
Sharon’s career ended abruptly when he suffered a debilitating stroke in January 2006. For the last eight years Sharon had been on life support in a comatose state.
Sharon’s death was officially announced at a press conference by Professor Shlomo Noy, director of the Rehabilitation Unit at the medical center. Noy said as Sharon’s heart continued to weaken he peacefully departed from his family.
Sharon will be laid in state at the Knesset Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., during which the public is invited to pay their respects to Israel’s 11th prime minister. A memorial service will be held in the Knesset Monday at 10 a.m. followed by a funeral at 2:30 p.m. on his Negev ranch, where he will be laid to rest beside his wife Lily who preceded him in death in 2000.
Gilad, Sharon’s son, thanked the medical staff at Sheba Medical Center and all of those who had prayed for the former prime minister during his health challenges.
At 85-years-old former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has died. His death has brought about mixed emotions from those who were affected by his life. Although numerous Palestinians have deemed him a murderer, Sharon is hailed a heroic warrior by many Israelis.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)