Sunday, 16 September 2007

A Terrible Anniversary

Today, September 15th, is the 25th anniversary of the massacres in the South Beirut Palestinian refugee camp/squatter village of Sabra/Shatila by right-wing Phalangist (Kataƫb) forces led by Elie Hobeika, aided, abetted and benignly supervised by the Israeli Defense Force, and including Israeli commandos and pro-Israeli mercenaries, led by Ariel Sharon.

The Israelis had only recently occupied West Beirut, despite promising the world that they wouldn't, after the main forces of the PLO had been packed off to Tunis, along with Yasser Arafat. You can read the whole story here.

The camps were full of Palestinian refugee women and children, who had either been there since 1948, or were born there. The lowest estimate of deaths was 700; the highest 3,500; nobody really knew how many lived there, and nobody counted the individual bodies afterwards.

A letter (and tribute to a brave and wonderful woman, Janet Lee Stevens) by Franklin Lamb, in DesertPeace actually made me weep, despite all the horrors I still read daily of death, destruction and terror in the Levant and Iraq; you have to maintain the normal appearances and attitudes of a hard nut, especially if you are powerless to do anything to right the wrongs.

This, particularly, struck me:

"Your friend, Um Ahmad, still lives in the same house where she lost her husband, four sons and a daughter when Joseph, a thick-set militiaman carrying an assault rifle bundled everyone into one room of their hovel and opened fire. She still explains like it was yesterday, how the condoned slaughter unfolded, recalling each of her four sons by name, Nizar, Shadi, Farid and Nidal. I asked Joseph if he wanted to sit with Um Ahmad and seek forgiveness and possible redemption since he has now become a lay cleric in his Parish. He declined but sent his condolences with flowers".

Um Ahmad, 'Mother of Ahmad' lost her first son, Ahmad, in 1975, during one of several Israeli rocket attacks on Sabra, billed as reprisals for 'terrorist' incidents in Galilee.

At that time, I lived in Beirut, just by the Commodore Hotel, in Hamra. The Israeli bombers flew at terrifyingly low levels over my apartment, releasing their rockets just before they passed over, and Um Ahmad came daily to clean my house.

She quietly told me, the next day, about this, but at that time, I still believed the Zionist propaganda about 'Palestinian terrorists', and how they needed to be 'punished'.

None of the perpetrators of the massacre was ever punished. Elie Hobeika, their leader, became a Minister in the Lebanese government, but, twenty years later, in January 2002, was assassinated by a car bomb, just before he might, it was rumoured, give damning evidence in the war crimes case then being prepared in Belgium against Ariel Sharon.

Twenty-five years later, Israel still pursues a policy of proxy terrorist attacks, aerial bombing, assassinations, and collective punishment, under the shelter of the world's benign ignorance, and with the approval of many.

This is what they did to a small section of South Beirut only just last summer:

Postscript: Ariel Sharon is still alive, comatose in a respirator after nearly two years. They tell me, that in the few minutes before you die by drowning, your entire life passes before your eyes and conscience. I do hope Ariel Sharon has had enough time now to reflect on his personal crimes over the past fifty years, from Qibya to Gush Emunim to his deliberate provocation of the Second Intifada to the massacre at Jenin which is not even mentioned in Sharon's Wikipedia entry.

That last massacre has been quietly 'cleaned up', but I saw the Israeli refrigerated trucks lined up outside Jenin that night in 2002. I didn't think they were there just to take away the rubble made of the refugee camp.

Pity Ariel Sharon is still too comatose to confess the horrendous truth of his lifetime as a war criminal.

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