Middle East reactions to the death of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon followed the lead of the prompt Palestinian expressions of joy and denunciation on Saturday.
However, official Arab sources remained silent on Sharon’s death, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency tweeted.
Obituaries of the fallen Israeli leader could be found in much of the press of the Middle East, with emphasis often put on his actions against the Palestinians and on the Israeli invasion in Lebanon where the Sabra and Shatila massacre by Lebanese Christian militiamen took place.
A Human Rights Watch statement published on Saturday, saying Sharon “died without facing justice for his role” in the killings, gained widespread attention in the Middle Eastern press and social media.
“It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science from the United Arab Emirates, tweeted the report to his almost 40,000 followers, as did Lebanese journalist Octavia Nasr, former senior Middle East editor at CNN, to her more than 190,000 followers.
CNN dismissed her in 2010 after she tweeted her sadness and respect for deceased Hezbollah-linked cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah.
Another article getting a lot of coverage is a piece on Al Jazeera’s website by Yousef Munayyer, titled “Ariel Sharon: Enemy of peace.”
“More often than not, in a life characterized by violence and slaughter, Sharon continued to find exactly what he was looking for – and it was anything but peace,” Munayyer wrote.
A Twitter user, Abu Sarah Sami al-Khaled, took a shot at Arab leaders, tweeting a picture of Sharon standing next to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II with the comment: “Sharon, intimate friend of Arab rulers, who were not too picky.”
Gamal Eid, an Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist with over 300,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted, “The killer Ariel Sharon died before being tried for his crimes against humanity.”
The survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre likewise showed little sympathy for Sharon’s passing. Israeli troops did not intervene during the bloodshed, which went down as one of the worst atrocities of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. Ariel Sharon was defense minister at the time, and many Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila still blame him for the hundreds of killings.
Abu Jamal, father of one of the victims, a 19-year-old boy, told Reuters that Lebanese militiamen allied to Israel had woken him and his family early one September morning and dragged them out into the street.
The gunmen forced him and other Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps to line up, separated the men and women, and dragged young men from the line to be killed, he said. Abu Jamal’s son was among those they chose.
“He was in his last year of school,” said Abu Jamal, who wore a button with his son’s picture on his sweater and asked that his full name not be used. “He never saw his diploma.”
Sitting in her home down the street from where a memorial stands at the site of a mass grave, 70-year-old Milany Boutrous Alha Bourje recalled how her husband and son were shot dead that day. Sharon, she said, deserved far worse than he got.
“May God send him deep into the earth,” she said, with black-and-white photos of her slain family, decorated with red artificial roses, leaning against the wall beside her. “I wish he had suffered as we’ve suffered. Thirty-two years we’ve been suffering.
He was in his state for eight years, but I wished he’d suffered for another 10.”
“He is a butcher, he is a killer, he is a murderer... All the Palestinian people are happy he is dead,” said Walid, a Palestinian from Shatila, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.
“With the passing of Sharon, there is now less evil in this world,” said Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, according to the paper.
Palestinian refugees live in dire conditions in Lebanon, where many are packed into overcrowded, impoverished “camps” that are more like urban slums of concrete buildings, potholed roads and tangled wire.
Sabra and Shatila in Beirut are crowded neighborhoods of narrow alleys where pictures of Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and young men killed in conflicts with Israel cover many walls.
Lebanese authorities, fearful of altering the sectarian balance that underpins the political power system, refuse to naturalize the overwhelmingly Sunni Palestinians, and ban them from a wide variety of professions.
Many blame the arrival of the refugees for fueling conflict that caused Lebanon’s war, during which both Israel and Syria sent troops into the country.
On the streets of Tehran, people condemned Sharon for the massacre.
“The Sabra and Shatila massacre was one of the most horrendous assassinations not just in the history of war and the history of nations. In a way it was one of the worst kinds of genocide,” resident Ali Asghar Mo’addeb said.
Resident Morteza Ahmadi added: “About why his crimes were not, so to speak, ‘addressed’ in history or at the United Nations – this shows that human society has not yet reached its full growth and maturity.”
“The crimes that Ariel Sharon committed against the defenseless people of Palestine will never be wiped off the world’s public opinion, and he will always be despised in history,” Iranian lawmaker Hossein Sheikholeslam said on Saturday, according to the country’s Press TV.
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