No Palestinian tears for ‘criminal’ Sharon

Updated 15 May 2014
0

No Palestinian tears for ‘criminal’ Sharon

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Palestinians on Saturday hailed the death of former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, describing him as a “criminal” but regretting that he is now permanently beyond the reach of the law.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also lamented the fact Sharon was never prosecuted, particularly over his role in the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel’s Lebanese Phalangist allies in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
“It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses,” HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement.
“For the thousands of victims of abuses, Sharon’s passing without facing justice magnifies their tragedy.”
Sharon had been in a coma for the past eight years since suffering a massive stroke on January 4, 2006, just months after pulling all troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip. His condition worsened last week and he died at a hospital near Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The news prompted an outburst of celebration in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, where around a hundred Islamic Jihad members burned pictures of him and handed out sweets, a spokesman said.
For the ruling Islamist Hamas movement, which seized power in Gaza in 2007, just two years after the Israeli pullout, Sharon’s death “is a lesson for all tyrants.”
“Our people are living at a historic moment with the disappearance of this criminal whose hands were covered with the blood of Palestinians and their leaders,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Among those killed by Israel during Sharon’s term in office was Hamas’s wheelchair-bound spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an air strike on Gaza City in 2004.
Similar sentiments were expressed in the West Bank, where a senior official also blasted him as a “criminal” and accused Sharon of being responsible for the mysterious death in the same year of veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“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,” said Jibril Rajub, a senior official of the ruling Fatah party.
Arafat was Sharon’s nemesis and the burly Israeli leader often expressed regret at not killing him during the 1982 invasion of Beirut.
After the Palestinian leader fell mysteriously ill while under a tight Israeli siege in 2004, dying in France several weeks later, rumors swirled that Israel had poisoned him.
Israel has repeatedly denied the allegations.
“We had hoped he would be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a war criminal,” said Rajub, who was head of the Palestinian security services when Sharon sent troops to the West Bank in a mass operation to wipe out militant groups in 2002.
“Sharon’s history is blackened by his crimes and written in the blood of the Palestinians,” said Jamal Huweil, a former militant from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed offshoot of Fatah.
“The curse of our blood will follow him to his grave,” said Huweil who is now a member of the Palestinian parliament, the PLC.
Human Rights Watch said that the failure to bring Sharon to justice had in no way helped the search for peace.
“His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer. For the thousands of victims of abuses,” Whitson said.
As minister of defense, Sharon was forced to resign following the Beirut camp killings of 1982 after an Israeli commission of inquiry found he had been “indirectly responsible” for the massacre.
The commission found that Sharon had disregarded the “serious consideration... that the Phalangists were liable to commit atrocities,” recommending that he be dismissed as defense minister, HRW said.


In Iraq’s Anbar, election offers chance to settle scores

Updated 3 min 1 sec ago
0

In Iraq’s Anbar, election offers chance to settle scores

  • In January 2014, Daesh militants captured the city of Fallujah just west of the capital, and after a year of heavy fighting they took the city of Ramadi too
  • Three years of brutal militant rule may have helped ease sectarian tensions between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites

RAMADI, Iraq: In the vast desert province of Anbar where Daesh group militants first emerged in Iraq, parliamentary elections next month are an opportunity for the predominantly Sunni residents to settle scores.
Many of the new candidates are eager to push out lawmakers they believe minimized the danger of — or even sympathized with — the Sunni extremists that stormed across the country in the summer of 2014.
“The political class that existed before IS is no longer suitable. They have lost their credibility with the residents of Anbar,” said Rafea Al-Fahdawi, who heads the candidate list in the province for the Victory Alliance led by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
“They were involved in bringing terrorism and made people believe that terrorists were just rebels belonging to our tribes. The people of Iraq will punish them at the ballot box,” said Fahdawi, leader of the Tribes Against Terrorism coalition that battled militants in the western province.
In the lush garden surrounding his home in the city of Ramadi, tents were set up to host crowds that came to listen to Abadi, part of the premier’s campaign tour in the area.
“We fought against terrorism, and today, thanks to our campaign, we want to continue the fight against sectarianism. We have great hope for change,” said Fahdawi, 62, dressed in a traditional white robe.
In late 2013, Sunni tribes in Anbar rose up against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
In January 2014, Daesh militants captured the city of Fallujah just west of the capital, and after a year of heavy fighting they took the city of Ramadi too.
It was not until 2016 that the Iraqi army and the paramilitary forces of the Hashed Al-Shaabi managed to retake the two cities, recovering full control of Anbar province in late 2017.
The people of Anbar are eager for change, their feelings fueled by burning disappointment with the political class.
In the largely agricultural province, where tribes carry considerable weight, 352 candidates are competing on 18 lists for 15 seats.
A quarter of the contenders are running for office for the first time, according to the electoral commission, who say the province’s electoral lists include women and young people.
“The Iraqi people, in general, want to see radical and complete change. We will not accept the same faces under different (party) names and slogans,” said Sheikh Mohammed Al-Nimrawi, a leader of the Khalidiya tribes in Ramadi.
In a sign of the times, election fever has taken over the province.
It is a stark difference from previous polls and campaigns, which were bleak and almost secretive affairs as militants increased attacks on polling stations.
Despite Daesh threats against this year’s elections, campaign posters are everywhere in Anbar — hanging on the city’s destroyed homes and on the walls of newly rented candidate offices.
Even more surprising is the presence of a list from the Conquest Alliance led by Hadi Al-Ameri, the most well-known leader of the largely Shiite Hashed Al-Shaabi.
Ameri fought for Tehran in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war and has been accused of forming death squads in Iraq at the height of sectarian tensions nearly 10 years ago.
“The time for change has come. Anbar will witness social and political revolution and choose men who can steer the ship to safety,” said Khalaf Al-Jeblawi, a candidate on the Conquest Alliance list.
“The province has emerged from a fierce war and the Hashed fighters played a big role in the battle,” he said.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force was formed in 2014 at the urging of Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani to counter the Daesh blitz.
But three years of brutal militant rule may have helped ease sectarian tensions between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites.
“While sectarian identities do retain a (somewhat diminished) political relevance, when it comes to violence, today ‘sectarianism’ is yesterday’s conflict,” said Fanar Haddad, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
“I think that, for now, sectarian division is no longer the defining feature of Iraqi political mobilization.”