Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Holocaust annals: Sabra and Shatila

Case File


Sabra and Shatila
Sept. 16-Sept. 18, 1982

Time magazine, Sept. 27, 1982

Compiled by Michael Hoffman

Casualties: (as determined by Israeli researcher Amnon Kapeliouk): 3,500 Palestinian Men, Women, Children and Babies Slaughtered by Israeli Proxies - raped, shot, buried alive.

War criminals: Officers and personnel of the Israeli armed forces and their proxy army -- the (Fascist) Phalange; Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Foreign Minister Shamir, Israeli Commander Ariel Sharon. Statement by Sharon to U.S. officials: “So, we’ll kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. ...If you don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.”

Perpetrators' ideology: The Lebanese Phalange, allies of the Israelis are motivated by Fascist idoelogy; the Israelis are motivated by Zionism and the religion of Judaism as expressed in their holiest book, the Babylonian Talmud's view of the inferiority of gentiles. Cf. BT Abodah Zarah 22a; Berakoth 58a; Sanhedrin 58b; Sanhedrin 104a; Baba Kamma 113a; Baba Metzia 24a; BT Bava Metzia 114b. Also cf. Rabbi Saadya Grama, Romemut Yisrael Ufarashat Hagalut; and Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yossi Elitzur, Torat Hamelech: Dinei Nefashot Bein Yisrael Le’Amin.

Holocaust memorial: Mass grave for the victims is located at the edge of Shatila camp, now marked by a single tombstone on an unkempt, red-dirt lot. That's the extent of the memorial: no museum, no archive, no student tours or teachable moments; no Hollywood movies.

Status of commemoration of this holocaust in the West: near zero; almost no memory of the massacre exists among school children or young people in the West. American high school history teachers don’t choose to recall it. State legislatures in the U.S. don’t fund 'Massacre of Palestinians' studies.’ There are no endowed chairs in universities to study the relationship between Talmudic racism and Israeli state-sponsored terror and war crimes.

Outcome: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, "spiritual" leader of the Israeli political party, Shas, whose members comprise Binyamin Netanyahu's government, regularly calls for the extermination of Arab and Muslim nations; most recently he called for the extermination of Iranians, a genocidal incitement which was not reported by the New York Times or most other U.S. media. Hololcausts against Arabs and Muslims are quickly forgotten after initial bursts of outrage. The solemn duty to remember is reserved solely for the history of the persecution of superior Judaic persons and those who ally with them. Inferior gentiles do not merit remembrance or commemoration of the war crimes and atrocities committed against them. This is in keeping with Talmudic doctrine.

Other forgotten Israeli holocausts in Lebanon: click here


1. Remembering the Sabra-Shatila massacre

2. A Preventable Massacre


Remembering the Sabra-Shatila massacre

16 September 2012   

By Habib Battah | Al-Jazeera

Youssef Hamza escaped the Phalangists by leading his family through a network of alleyways. But when they reached the edge of the camp, he says they were turned back by Israeli forces.

Adnan Hamzi says he watched from his window as militiamen attached a hand grenade below a corpse so that it would kill anyone who overturned it.

Oum Hussein points to a picture of one of her sons killed in the massacre: "The youngest one burned my heart."

Open air garbage dumps are everywhere in Shatila. In the afternoons, young boys collect trash on wooden carts tipping them over with zeal.

Hamed Chamas holds up a photo of the pile of bodies he hid under for two days. Among the dead were his father and 22-year-old brother.

Thirty years later, a market has grown up around the site of the mass grave.

Shatila's main road was piled in bodies in 1982. The only bodies that line the street today are mannequins on display for clothing stores.

From his cinder block home in the Shatila refugee camp, Youssef Hamza remembers peering through a bathroom vent when he heard a woman running down the alley, screaming his name. Her arm was gushing blood but Hamza remained silent. Moments later, the militiamen came trampling after her, and he knew he had to act fast. He motioned quietly to his family, who were crouching in the dark, to get ready to make a run for it.

"I told them, 'don't speak, don't cough,'" the 65-year-old Palestinian refugee recalls, scratching a thin white beard. "Either we are going to be killed here or die trying to escape." He told those who protested, "We will rely on God.”

Sneaking through the camp's network of dark alleyways, the family fled to the adjoining Beirut neighbourhood of Barbir. But there, under a highway overpass, they were met by a 50-calibre barrel of an Israeli gunner. Hamza says the soldier ordered them back, brushing off their plea that a massacre was taking place.

But Israeli commanders knew otherwise. They were actually in close coordination with the militiamen known as Phalangists, and had allowed them into Hamza's neighbourhood earlier that evening.

'Mopping up'

Israeli tanks had rolled into Beirut and sealed off the camps the previous day on September 15, 1982, hours after the Jewish state's key ally in Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated in a blast that killed him and 26 others. The Israelis entrusted the Phalangists - right-wing Christian fighters associated with the slain president' s party - with "searching and mopping up the camps", according to Israeli military orders.

Knowing the Phalangists sought revenge for Gemayel's death, an Israeli government inquiry held the country's defence minister, Ariel Sharon, "personally responsible" for the atrocities the militiamen carried out when they entered Shatila on the evening of September 16.

That night, while Hamza kept his family frantically on the move in the dark streets, others seeking shelter underground were less safe.
Hamed Chamas was hiding in a basement with his brother and father when the Phalangists marched them out.

With big poufy disco hair, Chamas was 17 when he was struck in the back with a rifle butt, after he refused to line up outside with the others. He was shoved into place against a concrete wall, and the militiamen opened fire.

Thirty-years later, Chamas unfurls a tattered sepia print that captured the aftermath: A heap of bodies with their arms and legs outstretched - one of the most iconic images of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. He points to the limbs of his father and 22-year-old brother among the dead. Chamas himself was shot twice; one bullet grazed his head and another entered his leg. He was shielded from additional rounds when the bodies of others collapsed on top of him.
"I hid under the dead bodies for two days," he says.

Lebanese victims

Chamas, now 57, recounts his story by the light of a cell phone because there is no electricity in his home, located down a labyrinth of dark muddy alleyways in Hay el Arsal. It is one of many poor, densely packed Beirut neighbourhoods that have gradually grown seamlessly into the Shatila camp, since it was established in 1948 to house Palestinian refugees.

Today some 20,000 residents, mainly Lebanese and Palestinians, are crammed into the one square kilometer Shatila camp. Thousands more Lebanese live in surrounding slums such as Sabra, which was affected by the massacre but often mistakenly considered to be part of the official camp.

Chamas keeps a copy of his Lebanese passport handy amid the photographs and yellowed papers he pulls out when discussing the massacre with journalists. Many reporters misidentify him as Palestinian in their news articles, he complains, adding that Lebanese account for a large number of the dead and are often overlooked.

"After 30 years, my mind cannot handle it."  
- Oum Hussein, son and husband killed

The Lebanese Al Meqdad family alone lost at least 30 family members, death records show. Oum Hussein, a stout 74 -year-old with a round stoic face, says she held up her Lebanese ID when the Phalangists raided her shelter. She was staying with her husband and young son. Although veiled, Oum Hussein pleaded with the militiamen that she had been raised Christian, but converted for marriage.

"They cursed me over and over. Words that cannot be repeated," she says.
Oum Hussein explained she and the other women were loaded in a truck and hauled away to a nearby sports stadium occupied by the Israelis. They were released a few days later, and she came running back to the shelter. When she arrived, she found all 16 male occupants slaughtered - including her husband and son.
The Shatila killing spree went on for 48 hours and left piles of dead bodies rotting in the September sun. Photographs taken just after the attack show mutilated adult corpses with newborn babies tossed among them. Many were buried in a mass grave at the edge of Shatila camp, now marked by a single tombstone on an unkempt, red-dirt lot.

Survivors say women were routinely raped and some victims were buried alive or shot in front of their families. Truckloads of others were hauled away, never to be heard from again.

The Israeli government-sponsored Kahan Commission estimated the death toll at about 800, but other researchers, including Israeli author Amnon Kapeliouk, say the number was closer to 3,500.

History of violence
"Why doesn't anyone ask about the massacres at Tel el Zaatar or the War of the Camps," asks 90-year-old Abu Mohammed, in reference to other mass killings that claimed the lives of thousands, both in Shatila and other Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

Thanks to Lebanon's 1991 amnesty law, issued at the civil war's end, the major militias that once marauded Beirut's streets have now become political parties and their commanding officers, leading politicians.

Among Lebanon's ruling parties is the Kataeb, which Shatila survivors see as the principal source of Phalangists who participated in the massacre.

Kataeb party Member of Parliament Nadim Gemayel, son of the assassinated president, was only an infant in 1982. He says no reconciliation efforts have taken place, but adds he is open to the idea. "A lot of crimes happened on both sides ... I think admitting that it happened from both sides can help."
But he cautioned against taking the initiative alone. "It should not be a one way act."

Lebanese law prohibits Palestinian refugees from employment in most professions, restricting them to menial jobs.

Suffocating conditions

A memorial is not likely to improve the lives of the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in a dozen camps such as Shatila across Lebanon. The tight alleyways block sunlight, open sewers fill puddles in the street, and piles of garbage are everywhere, creating a suffocating stench. Little is available in terms of health care.

Palestinians are forced to endure these conditions because they are barred from owning property and earning decent wages in Lebanon. Though they have resided in the country for more than 60 years, Lebanese law prohibits Palestinian refugees from employment in most professions, restricting them to menial jobs. Lebanese officials frequently cite the danger of upsetting Lebanon's delicate Sunni-Shia-Christian power-sharing system as a reason behind the government's hardline policy.

For some camp residents, the only real option is to escape from Lebanon.

"I can never imagine staying in this country," says Hiba, a second-year college student studying journalism.

The 19-year-old is one of the few camp residents to have earned a scholarship at a prestigious Lebanese university, but her degree would be worthless in the local market. "If I stay here I'll never be able to work in my field."

Hiba's only hope is her mother's bid to gain asylum in Germany after having been smuggled into Europe with a counterfeit passport that cost the family a small fortune. "We have no rights at all," she explains. "How can I build a future for myself or my children when we can't even own property."

A Preventable Massacre

By Seth Anziska | New York Times, Sept. 16, 2012

ON the night of Sept. 16, 1982, the Israeli military allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.

Thirty years later, the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps is remembered as a notorious chapter in modern Middle Eastern history, clouding the tortured relationships among Israel, the United States, Lebanon and the Palestinians. In 1983, an Israeli investigative commission concluded that Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent them.

While Israel’s role in the massacre has been closely examined, America’s actions have never been fully understood. This summer, at the Israel State Archives, I found recently declassified documents that chronicle key conversations between American and Israeli officials before and during the 1982 massacre. The verbatim transcripts reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of “terrorists” were in the camps. Most troubling, when the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it failed to do so. As a result, Phalange militiamen were able to murder Palestinian civilians, whom America had pledged to protect just weeks earlier.

Israel’s involvement in the Lebanese civil war began in June 1982, when it invaded its northern neighbor. Its goal was to root out the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had set up a state within a state, and to transform Lebanon into a Christian-ruled ally. The Israel Defense Forces soon besieged P.L.O.-controlled areas in the western part of Beirut. Intense Israeli bombardments led to heavy civilian casualties and tested even President Ronald Reagan, who initially backed Israel. In mid-August, as America was negotiating the P.L.O.’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Reagan told Prime Minister Menachem Begin that the bombings “had to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered,” Reagan wrote in his diaries.

The United States agreed to deploy Marines to Lebanon as part of a multinational force to supervise the P.L.O.’s departure, and by Sept. 1, thousands of its fighters — including Yasir Arafat — had left Beirut for various Arab countries. After America negotiated a cease-fire that included written guarantees to protect the Palestinian civilians remaining in the camps from vengeful Lebanese Christians, the Marines departed Beirut, on Sept. 10.

Israel hoped that Lebanon’s newly elected president, Bashir Gemayel, a Maronite, would support an Israeli-Christian alliance. But on Sept. 14, Gemayel was assassinated. Israel reacted by violating the cease-fire agreement. It quickly occupied West Beirut — ostensibly to prevent militia attacks against the Palestinian civilians. “The main order of the day is to keep the peace,” Begin told the American envoy to the Middle East, Morris Draper, on Sept. 15. “Otherwise, there could be pogroms.”

By Sept. 16, the I.D.F. (Israeli military) was fully in control of West Beirut, including Sabra and Shatila. In Washington that same day, Under Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told the Israeli ambassador, Moshe Arens, that “Israel’s credibility has been severely damaged” and that “we appear to some to be the victim of deliberate deception by Israel.” He demanded that Israel withdraw from West Beirut immediately.

In Tel Aviv, Mr. Draper and the American ambassador, Samuel W. Lewis, met with top Israeli officials. Contrary to Prime Minister Begin’s earlier assurances, Defense Minister Sharon said the occupation of West Beirut was justified because there were “2,000 to 3,000 terrorists who remained there.” Mr. Draper disputed this claim; having coordinated the August evacuation, he knew the number was minuscule. Mr. Draper said he was horrified to hear that Mr. Sharon was considering allowing the Phalange militia into West Beirut. Even the I.D.F. chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, acknowledged to the Americans that he feared “a relentless slaughter.”

On the evening of Sept. 16, the Israeli cabinet met and was informed that Phalange fighters were entering the Palestinian camps. Deputy Prime Minister David Levy worried aloud: “I know what the meaning of revenge is for them, what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to create order there, and we will bear the blame.” That evening, word of civilian deaths began to filter out to Israeli military officials, politicians and journalists.

At 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir hosted a meeting with Mr. Draper, Mr. Sharon and several Israeli intelligence chiefs. Mr. Shamir, having reportedly heard of a “slaughter” in the camps that morning, did not mention it.
The transcript of the Sept. 17 meeting reveals that the Americans were browbeaten by Mr. Sharon’s false insistence that “terrorists” needed “mopping up.” It also shows how Israel’s refusal to relinquish areas under its control, and its delays in coordinating with the Lebanese National Army, which the Americans wanted to step in, prolonged the slaughter.

Mr. Draper opened the meeting by demanding that the I.D.F. pull back right away. Mr. Sharon exploded, “I just don’t understand, what are you looking for? Do you want the terrorists to stay? Are you afraid that somebody will think that you were in collusion with us? Deny it. We denied it.” Mr. Draper, unmoved, kept pushing for definitive signs of a withdrawal. Mr. Sharon, who knew Phalange forces had already entered the camps, cynically told him, “Nothing will happen. Maybe some more terrorists will be killed. That will be to the benefit of all of us.” Mr. Shamir and Mr. Sharon finally agreed to gradually withdraw once the Lebanese Army started entering the city — but they insisted on waiting 48 hours (until the end of Rosh Hashana, which started that evening).

Continuing his plea for some sign of an Israeli withdrawal, Mr. Draper warned that critics would say, “Sure, the I.D.F. is going to stay in West Beirut and they will let the Lebanese go and kill the Palestinians in the camps.”

Mr. Sharon replied: “So, we’ll kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism.”

Mr. Draper responded: “We are not interested in saving any of these people.”

Mr. Sharon declared: “If you don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.”

Mr. Draper then caught himself, and backtracked. He reminded the Israelis that the United States had painstakingly facilitated the P.L.O. exit from Beirut “so it wouldn’t be necessary for you to come in.” He added, “You should have stayed out.”
Mr. Sharon exploded again: “When it comes to our security, we have never asked. We will never ask. When it comes to existence and security, it is our own responsibility and we will never give it to anybody to decide for us.”

The meeting ended with an agreement to coordinate withdrawal plans after Rosh Hashana.

By allowing the argument to proceed on Mr. Sharon’s terms, Mr. Draper effectively gave Israel cover to let the Phalange fighters remain in the camps. Fuller details of the massacre began to emerge on Sept. 18, when a young American diplomat, Ryan C. Crocker, visited the gruesome scene and reported back to Washington.

Years later, Mr. Draper called the massacre “obscene.” And in an oral history recorded a few years before his death in 2005, he remembered telling Mr. Sharon: “You should be ashamed. The situation is absolutely appalling. They’re killing children! You have the field completely under your control and are therefore responsible for that area.”

On Sept. 18, Reagan pronounced his “outrage and revulsion over the murders.” He said the United States had opposed Israel’s invasion of Beirut, both because “we believed it wrong in principle and for fear that it would provoke further fighting.” Secretary of State George P. Shultz later admitted that “we are partially responsible” because “we took the Israelis and the Lebanese at their word.”

He summoned Ambassador Arens. “When you take military control over a city, you’re responsible for what happens,” he told him. “Now we have a massacre.”

But the belated expression of shock and dismay belies the Americans’ failed diplomatic effort during the massacre. The transcript of Mr. Draper’s meeting with the Israelis demonstrates how the United States was unwittingly complicit in the tragedy of Sabra and Shatila.

Ambassador Lewis, now retired, told me that the massacre would have been hard to prevent “unless Reagan had picked up the phone and called Begin and read him the riot act even more clearly than he already did in August — that might have stopped it temporarily.” But “Sharon would have found some other way” for the militiamen to take action, Mr. Lewis added.

Nicholas A. Veliotes, then the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, agreed. “Vintage Sharon,” he said, after I read the transcript to him. “It is his way or the highway.”

The Sabra and Shatila massacre severely undercut America’s influence in the Middle East, and its moral authority plummeted. In the aftermath of the massacre, the United States felt compelled by “guilt” to redeploy the Marines, who ended up without a clear mission, in the midst of a brutal civil war.

On Oct. 23, 1983, the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed and 241 Marines were killed. The attack led to open warfare with Syrian-backed forces and, soon after, the rapid withdrawal of the Marines to their ships. As Mr. Lewis told me, America left Lebanon “with our tail between our legs.”

The archival record reveals the magnitude of a deception that undermined American efforts to avoid bloodshed. Working with only partial knowledge of the reality on the ground, the United States feebly yielded to false arguments and stalling tactics that allowed a massacre in progress to proceed.

The lesson of the Sabra and Shatila tragedy is clear. Sometimes close allies act contrary to American interests and values. Failing to exert American power to uphold those interests and values can have disastrous consequences: for our allies, for our moral standing and most important, for the innocent people who pay the highest price of all.

(Seth Anziska is a doctoral candidate in international history at Columbia University).


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August said...

An eyewitness account of the aftermath at Shatila written by Jean Genet is here:

Peter said...

After the Sabra Shatilla massacres, my youthful innocence and faith in Amerikan journalism utterly withered away.
Much to my increasing horror, the journalistic standards continue to grow even more egregiously grotesque.
I shutter to think what lies ahead.