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Why do Arabs hate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon so much?


He doesn't signal when he changes lanes, has a potty-mouth that would embarrass a drunk Merchant Marine, talks on his cell phone at movies and has been known to attempt the "pull my finger" trick during negotiations. As diehard fans of Judith Martin's "Miss Manners" newspaper columns, Arabs are simply appalled by Sharon's boorishness.

In order to avoid a libel suit, let me make it clear that everything in the above paragraph is a lie. Arab disgust for Sharon isn't actually the result of haughty displeasure over social graces. The real reason is more serious. Arabs (and, in fact, quite a few non-Arabs, including Jews) consider Sharon to be an Arab-hating, Arab-killing, Arab-land-taking war criminal. And they have ample reason to hold that opinion. Even in Israel, the guy's nickname is "The Bulldozer."

The most famous and talked about example in the United States and Europe is Sharon's complicity in the massacre of civilians in Lebanon in 1982. As Israel's defense minister, Sharon led Israel Defense Forces into Lebanon to destroy the Beirut-headquartered Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat. The invasion of a sovereign nation that hadn't itself attacked Israel provoked much international (and domestic Israeli) criticism. (In Israel's defense, the PLO and its forces weren't in Lebanon to snack on hummus and tabouli at Beirut's seaside cafes. They were using Lebanon as a staging area for attacks on Israel.)

During the invasion, Israeli-allied Christian Lebanese forces known as Falangists (or Phalangists, depending on who you ask) entered Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut and murdered between 800 and 3,500 civilians -- again, the number varies depending on who you ask. Because the Sharon-led Israeli military surrounded the camps while the massacres took place, it is commonly believed (and not just among Arabs) that Sharon condoned the attacks. Again, depending on who you ask, there are some reports that Israeli forces took part in the massacre.

Beyond dispute, though, is that an Israeli government commission investigating the massacre held Sharon indirectly responsible for the killings. Overall, it is estimated that the invasion of Lebanon, an Arab nation, resulted in the deaths of almost 20,000 people.

The Lebanon invasion wasn't the first indication that Sharon isn't bashful about killing. As an Israeli military officer in 1953, Sharon led Israeli Special Forces into the West Bank village of Qibya, where they dynamited nearly 50 homes, killing dozens of women and children.

Sharon was also the recipient of much Arab ire when, as a government minister in the 70s, 80s and 90s, he aggressively supported the construction of Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Many analysts on all sides of the debate see the settlements as the single biggest obstacle to a workable peace settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.

Finally, there's one hugely obvious reason Sharon is despised by Arabs: He's an Israeli. If killing Arabs in general, or Palestinian Arabs specifically, is by itself enough to inspired hatred among Arabs, then the late King Hussein of Jordan, himself an Arab, would've been more widely hated for his leadership in 1970's Black September assault against Palestinians in Jordan. The attack left hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian civilians dead.

The point being: It's always easiest to condemn someone's actions if he's clearly an enemy. Both Arabs and Israelis are guilty of directing righteous indignation at their enemies while ignoring the atrocities committed by their own people.

Next week: Why is Yasser Arafat so funny looking?

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