Monday, September 16, 2013

Sabra and Shatila massacre, 16 September to 18 September, 1982

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the “Sabra and Shatila massacre “in Beirut that began on September 16, 1982.
“In 1982 [Ariel] Sharon persuaded Menahem Begin to undertake a wondrous adventure: conquering Lebanon and liquidating the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] there once and for all, putting in power a ‘friendly’ Christian regime. The offensive ended in a major political defeat. After the assassination, probably by the Syrians, of Beshir Gemayel, the president supposedly ‘elected’ under the Israeli heel, his forces [Christian Phalangists], the Israelis’ allies, committed a massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, killing between 800 and 1,500 civilians: men, women, children, and old people. [….] Phalangist leaders had been seen by many witnesses as the IDF’s [Israeli Defense Force] Beirut headquarters throughout the day preceding entry into the camps. According to a recent book of testimony, Mibeyrut ad Jenin (From Beirut to Jenin) (Hammeman and Gal, 2003), it appears that General Raphael Eytan, chief of staff at the time, prearranged the testimony of his officers before the [Israeli] commission [of inquiry conducted by Judge Kahan] so as to deny any planning or knowledge of what the Phalangists were going to perpetrate or what happened during the massacre itself.”—Sylvain Cypel, in his book Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse (Other Press, 2006)
“The war, the massacre, and the PLO’s removal from Lebanon came to be viewed as a ‘turning point, the watershed that led to the intifada.’ The net effect was to broaden the ranks of Palestinians who became active. Offering a ‘new Palestinianism,’ the grassroots committees won increasing support from a broad cross section of the populace.”—May Elizabeth King, A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance (Nation Books, 2007).
What follows is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry, sans links and notes:
The Sabra and Shatila massacre was the slaughter of between 762 and 3,500 civilians,* mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, by a Lebanese Christian militia in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon from approximately 6:00 pm 16 September to 8:00 am 18 September 1982.
The massacre was presented as retaliation for the assassination of newly elected Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel, the leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party. It was wrongly assumed that Palestinian militants had carried out the assassination, now known to have been perpetrated by Lebanese militants with ties to Syria.
Israel invaded Lebanon with the intention of rooting out the PLO. Under the supervision of the Multinational Force the PLO withdrew from Lebanon following weeks of battles in West Beirut and shortly before the massacre took place. Various forces — Israeli, Phalangist and possibly also the South Lebanon Army (SLA) — were in the vicinity of the camps at the time of the slaughter, taking advantage of the fact that the multinational forces had removed barracks and mines that encircled Beirut’s Muslim neighborhoods and kept the Israelis at bay. The Israeli advance over West Beirut in the wake of the PLO withdrawal, which enabled the Phalangist raid, was considered a violation of the ceasefire agreement between the various forces. The actual killers were the ‘Young Men,’ a gang recruited by Elie Hobeika, the Lebanese Forces intelligence chief, from men who had been expelled from the Lebanese Forces for insubordination or criminal activities. [….]
The Israel Defense Forces surrounded the camps and at the Phalangists’ request, fired illuminating flares at night. In 1982, a UN commission chaired by Sean MacBride concluded that Israel bore responsibility for the violence. In 1983, the Israeli Kahan Commission, appointed to investigate the incident, found that Israeli military personnel, aware that a massacre was in progress, had failed to take serious steps to stop it. Thus Israel was indirectly responsible, while Ariel Sharon, then Defense Minister, bore personal responsibility, forcing him to resign. [….]
* “In his book published soon after the massacre, the Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk of Le Monde Diplomatique, arrived at about 2,000 bodies disposed of after the massacre from official and Red Cross sources and ‘very roughly’ estimated 1,000 to 1,500 other victims disposed of by the Phalangists themselves to a total of 3,000–3,500.”
First Image / Second Image: Dia Al Azzawi’s epic work Sabra Shatila. “Described by Azzawi as ‘a manifesto of dismay and anger,’ Sabra Shatila was created by the artist in response to the 1982 massacre of civilians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps during the Lebanese civil war.”


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