It's Time for Sharon to Go

News Abroad

Mr. Cole (juancole.com) is professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has reoccupied the West Bank in response to terrorist attacks from Palestinian radicals, putting the entire population under a grueling curfew. In April, Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli army of extensive violations of international law during its campaigns in Jenin and Ramallah. Sharon is no stranger to such controversies. He was first accused of being a war criminal after his 1982 invasion of Lebanon twenty years ago this summer, during which the Israeli army allowed its far-right Christian allies to massacre Palestinian civilians. Sharon and his iron fist policies have contributed significantly to the Middle East quagmire.

It is hard to remember now, but in 1982 there was no Shiite terrorism in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War had wound down and the economy was beginning to recover. Despite occasional minor skirmishes, the Palestine Liberation Organization in that country posed no real threat to Israel. It and its leftist and Muslim allies had been badly defeated by Syrian intervention in the 1976 Civil War.

Lebanon was a colonial creation of the French, who designed it with a slight Christian majority. Over time the Muslims had more children, and many Christians emigrated, leading by the 1980s to a Muslim majority and a plurality of dirt-poor Shiites. Lebanese political institutions, however, still gave Christians more power and patronage. Christians and Muslims increasingly disagreed about the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who had originally fled or been expelled in 1948. They had been organized in the 1970s by the PLO for guerilla strikes at Israel. Rightwing Christians had feared the PLO was becoming a state within a state.

In neighboring Israel, the hawkish Ariel Sharon was appointed minister of defense by Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Sharon developed a plan to march to Beirut, destroy the PLO, which was then based there, and to put the far rightwing Christian Phalangist party firmly into power in Lebanon. Israel could then annex and settle the West Bank and Gaza, occupied since 1967, and could replace a Syrian-dominated, fractured Lebanon with a strong ally.

Sharon launched his invasion on June 6, 1982 without any obvious casus belli, and by the 11th, Israeli forces had reached Beirut. During the succeeding two months, the Israeli army subjected the Lebanese capital to heavy, sometimes indiscriminate bombardment. They deprived the inhabitants of water and electricity. Sharon's aim of destroying the PLO was frustrated when some 15,000 Palestinian fighters and Syrian troops put up a surprising fight. By 21 August, PLO chief Yasser Arafat as well as the Syrian troops had agreed to leave the city. The leader of the Phalangist party-militia, Bashir Gemayel, was elected president on 23 August.

An apparent victory turned bitter for Sharon. The Israeli invasion is conservatively estimated to have killed nearly 18,000 persons, half of them innocent civilians, and to have destroyed a fourth of all the homes in the capital. The Israeli public turned against the war. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, appalled by what he termed a"holocaust" at Beirut, called for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Right-wing strong man Bashir Gemayel was assassinated in September. The Phalangists resented being ordered around by Sharon and Begin, and were alarmed at the apparent Israeli intent to deprive Beirut of sovereignty over southern Lebanon.

The Shiites, who initially had welcomed the Israelis because of their own competition with Palestinian refugees for local resources, were dismayed when the Israelis overstayed their welcome. In response, some formed terrorist organizations. A brief American intervention ended when hundreds of marines were killed by a Shiite suicide bomber. Lebanon fell back into intermittent civil war until 1989. The Israelis were finally pushed out of the south in 2000, in part by the new weapon of suicide bombings pioneered by the Shiite Hizbullah, a party and a tactic that did not exist when Sharon planned his invasion.

Among the mysteries of September 11 is why an engineer from a secular middle class family in Lebanon, Ziad Jarrah, would have hated the United States so much as to hijack United Airlines flight 93. Jarrah was eight years old when he lived through the brutal invasion of his country by America's ally, Ariel Sharon. Despite his promises, Sharon's iron fist and reckless disregard for innocent life have yielded no end to violence. If past experience is any guide he is busily creating further hatred and bitterness that will haunt the future of the Mideast and the United States. Yasser Arafat is not the only old warhorse in the region who should resign from office so that a settlement can be reached.

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David - 10/21/2003

Juan, activist, nothing to say about Arafat?

David - 10/21/2003

Selective history on your part "professor," not to mention all the catch phrases and terms that riddle your material. You do make pretense of impartiality, but it's very thinly veiled.

Selective history "professor", or should I call you activist?

David - 10/21/2003

Professor, you call Israel's christian allies to the north "far right". What makes them far right? Does that make the muslims with whom they were at war "far left"?

Why do you academic types never use the term "far left" but so freely insist everybody is "far right"?

Do you realize how revealing it is of your bias? You really should try to be more conspicuous about that, for the sake of your own academic credibility.

The_Doc - 4/1/2003

Randy, you obviously never paid attention in school. Go back and learn. Not only that, but learn to spell for God's Sake.

Now, this issue is old, but it's still relevant. If there is to be peace in the region, then both Sharon and Arafat must go. Their both old goats too stuck in there ways, and unwilling to change.

SHARON - 12/9/2002


rick - 11/10/2002

i agree arafat must go along w/the islamic extremist.there is a battle going on in the world good against evil.evil lives in caves and kills woman and children.evil blows up night clubs resturants buses ect.ect.evil brain washes young people to blow themselves up along w/innociant people.we must and will wipe out evil and the cowards whom people call terrorist.it makes me laugh when they say they fight for god???my god is the creator of all things,beautiful things,family values.it is the evil cowardly islamics whom disgrace the word of god in there perverted way of thinking.they are a cancer to world peace and must be cut out and destroyed..remember to much of anything is not healty for the human race..we must cut out the cancer in indoneisa before they turn into a iraq,iran,saudi arabia,syria etc.need i say more???

Michael Glazer - 10/20/2002

The reason terrorism has gone on for so long is because people like you who encourage, accept, and approve it.

Even after 9.11 there are so mnay among us who hate us and have no tolerance they supposedly preach for people of the most ancient religion.

I am an American, unlike you, and will fight to rid the world of this scourge with my dying breath now and forever I stand against arab murderers and for America and Israel.

You think we need a support of a baby-killing coward?

You think we need or even want your approval or help?

Your useless and weak without America.

Michael Glazer - 10/20/2002

How dare you!

You are obviously not American.

All Americans know how many of our countrymen have been killed by the arab terorrists, since Robert Kennedy was killed by Sir Han, Sir han, a 'palestinian.'


Michael Glazer - 10/20/2002

Are you serious and still breathing air with no brains?

So lets see who can agree on things:

The KKK, neo-nazis, Left, 'liberals', arabs, muslims, terrorists... and now 'college professors' anyone else to be added to the historical Jew-hat list of some 2,000 years?

It takes a lot of courage to be against the Jews like everyone else in the world and support the arab terrorists and others who want to once again annihilate the Jews from the world.

Wow, Bravo!

Real tought stand you took there, bravery uncharted, spectacular!

What an intellectual you are... wheezz

Randy - 9/28/2002

I was reading this article of half truth and out right lies. Were Sharon aid the Christian in Lebanon to Massacre many thousand of Arab of islamic Faith.This has be investigate to death and it shows that Sharon did not aid the so called Christian in murdering thoses of islamic faith. But there is a Murder is name is Arafat.Cbs tommorrow are going to look at the documents that Isreal has on Arafat. It will show that he has order the Murder of children and babies and all Isreal civilian. Arafat must go he is a Blood thirst Murder. Another lie is the land of the west bank and Gaza . Belongs to the Arabs the Bible say it was promised by God to His people. All we ever here is what Islam has to say on this Subject.There has been 2 million Christian slaugter by Islam in the Sudan. Were is the outrage from the Collage Elite. And to say american is to blame for the Murder of over 3000 of there citzens. Is nothing but Hate but what else would expect from people who allways blame Isreal and American.Yes they say that Islam is a peaceful religon Yea. Tell that to the people of Sudan and to the people of New York and Others.To many Christian seat on the sideline and hear all the lies and do nothing. There afraid to offend or not be Political Correct.

Ben Creech - 9/27/2002

Bravo Zack: You are right on in everything you say until you get to the punch line which is backwards! The purpose of campus watch is to facilitate, not stifle freedom of campus communication. This site promotes freedom of expression by calling attention to incidents where views are shouted down by people who won't tolerate opposing ideas. Fascism is the opposite of freedom of communication. Fascists would want to outlaw this site.

JG - 9/25/2002

Hezbollah is the group that killed over 200 U.S. Marines as they slept in a barracks in Lebanon in 1983. You dishonor the Marines' deaths by praising their murderers. Shame on you.

Ben Creech - 9/25/2002

Fred: From what I read Campus-Watch is not out to "silence", chill, or intimidate any teacher anywhere. My impression is that the promoters of Campus-Watch want more, not less freedom for teachers of any subject. I think they are pushing the idea that students should not be limited to teachers of only one side of an issue. Haveing access to teacher's names and views allows us to make better informed decisions regarding them. Why should any teacher object to this? If anything, being listed by Campus-Watch gives teachers an even greater platform beyond the classroom. No teacher is threatened in any way that I can see. Were I a teacher I would welcome my ideas being posted on as many sites as possible.

Ben Creech - 9/25/2002

Fred: From what I read Campus-Watch is not out to "silence", chill, or intimidate any teacher anywhere. My impression is that the promoters of Campus-Watch want more, not less freedom for teachers of any subject. I think they are pushing the idea that students should not be limited to teachers of only one side of an issue. Haveing access to teacher's names and views allows us to make better informed decisions regarding them. Why should any teacher object to this? If anything, being listed by Campus-Watch gives teachers an even greater platform beyond the classroom. No teacher is threatened in any way that I can see. Were I a teacher I would welcome my ideas being posted on as many sites as possible.

Brian Anthony - 9/24/2002

As far as I can tell, the only mistake Professor Cole made in his brillian and courageous assessment of Ariel Sharon was in labeling Hezbollah as a 'terrorist' organization. The Lebanese resistance embodied by Hezbollah successfully repelled 22 years of Israeli aggression, occupation, and mass-murder. Hezbollah and liberation movements everywhere deserve the utmost respect for standing up against such oppression.

Apart from that, a fine analysis. I condemn the efforts of your organization to undermine courageous people who speak out against Israeli state terrorism. Furthermore, while this kind of bullying may work in your so-called 'democracy' by the Mediterranean, your efforts to crush free speech in the United States are absolutely repellent.

HETAL PATEL - 9/24/2002

what revisionist nonsense
no casus belli ?
ask shlomo argov
state within a state
ask king hussein abt black sept ...

Ellen - 9/23/2002

The idea that any critic of Sharon's policies is anti-Israel and even anti-American is ridiculous. Cole has stated in an article linked from the CampusWatch site: "I strongly support Israel's right to exist within secure and peaceful borders." Many individuals both in and outside Israel have disagreed with Sharon's policies without being anti-Israel.

Fred Stalworth - 9/22/2002

I want to thank Campus-Watch for directing me to this fine article. When I heard about Campus-Watch through the media, I was disgusted that they would try to silence academics who did not agree with them.

I realized I could use them as a resource, however. I figured Campus Watch could lead me to views that are unfairly left out of political discourse in America. Most of the voices in American are primitively simplistic about the Middle East. Ironically, Campus-Watch has led me to some of the more informed and balanced ones.

Keep up the great work Professor Cole!

Nick Durango - 9/22/2002

Juan Cole is right on the money about Sharon....and you are retarded

Nick Durango - 9/22/2002

You are a moron and you can't even spell....Israel is the real terrorist of the middle east using American money (billions upon billions of dollars)to continually harass, kill, humiliate and destroy the homes of the native population......I feel sorry for imbeciles such as yourself...Nick

Nick Durango - 9/22/2002

There is hope for America as long as there are people like Juan Cole who have the courage to state the obvious that most people already know.....Sharon needs not only to go but to get a taste of his own sick medicine.......Nick

Zack Morris - 9/21/2002

I can see from this website (campus watch) that fascism is alive and well in America. Keep up the good work! Before too long we will not have any freedoms left. Academia is arguably one of the few places that still has some semblance of freedom of expression and critical thought, though through your fine work, you will finally put an end to such unnecessary evils. Thanks to you group thought and ignorance will prevail. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini applaud your resilient efforts.

John robertson - 7/17/2002

I applaud Professor Cole for this piece, and for his piece of a few weeks ago. I also wonder to which fantasy-land Mr. Chaimberg alludes. He will find Cole's account of what happened during the Israeli invasion amply corroborated by the facts; he might care to have a look at Avi Shlaim's recent book, The Iron Wall, which essentially presents an account that parallels Cole's, but that goes even further in tracing the career of Ariel Sharon over several decades. That G.W. Bush could have chracterized Sharon as a "man of peace" simply reflects our president's shocking ignorance of history and his wanton blindness toward a man whose record of military aggression and disregard for the lives of Arabs has been seldom paralleled among leaders of a democracy.

Jerry Meents - 7/17/2002

This is a lot of bull. To call terrorist a guerilla fighter is a in sulte to the American Special Forces or American Commando's is a in insult. They are our best. And they dont target civilians. Terrorist do. And that's what the arabs have been doeing sinds 1950. From Jordan,Syria,Lebanon ect. ect.Even if the Palestine liberation Organisation was not a to Israel they were still killing Israeli citizens. Not soldiers. And if Sharon is a war criminal how about Arafat? He has been involved with killings of women and children ever sinds 1955? If you attack me and I hit you back I am a war criminal? The Arabs had there chance in 1948 and many times before for peace but always rejected it. What do you want Israel to do when the Arabs keep killing there women and children? Why is it that Sharon disregard innocent life but the Arabs dont? I am sorry but I expected a more intelligent article from a Professor.

Steven Chaimberg - 7/17/2002

Dear Sirs:

In reading Mr. Cole's abovementioned article, I was struck by the fact that non-fiction could so easily be transformed into fiction, or, to take it further, fantasy. My hat goes off to Mr. Cole for this accomplishment. I would simply hope that his students at the University of Michigan realize that the spin placed by Mr. Cole on events which have transpired in the Middle East transform his recounting of such events to the land of make-believe.


Steven Chaimberg
Montreal, Canada

Kenneth Labowe - 7/17/2002

This article would lead one to believe that the Lebanese Civil War of the 1970's was caused by Ariel Sharon. I think that the author should do more research and speak to the people who were actually there. The idea that "The Lebanese Civil War had wound down and the economy was beginning to recover" is nonsense. Also, the statement "Despite occasional minor skirmishes, the Palestine Liberation Organization in that country posed no real threat to Israel" is simply not true.

Allan Tulchin - 7/11/2002

I am no fan of Ariel Sharon--in fact, I can't stand the man. But Cole's piece is unbalanced, because it overlooks why Sharon is in office: who put him there and who can get him out. In 2000, in the middle of an election campaign and behind 20 points in every national poll, Ehud Barak went to the brink to negotiate a final settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He offered a contiguous territory consisting of over 95% of the West Bank, including half of East Jerusalem, and all of Gaza, plus compensation for all of the refugees with claims to land in Israel proper. It was a bold and generous offer. It was clear to all that Chairman Arafat had the opportunity to make Barak or break Barak: an enthusiastic welcome to the offer would suggest that peace was at hand, and it was unlikely that any Israeli leader who brought a viable offer of permanent peace could lose the elections. Instead, Arafat's response was late, begrudging, and ultimately negative. In short, he took a mudpie and aimed it directly at Barak's face. Under these circumstances, no one was suprised when Sharon won the election. Sharon has no long term plan for peace. If the Israeli public becomes convinced that there ARE avenues for peace, and that Sharon is not pursuing them, he will in his turn lose the next election. At the moment, as a result of Chairman Arafat's actions, the overwhelming majority of Israelis are convinced that there are no such avenues, and therefore left-wing criticism of Sharon has no sticking power. Arafat created Sharon--and only he can destroy him.