The Acts of the Democracies
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According to G H Jansen, correspondent to the UK magazine, The Economist, Israeli forces would surround a town or city "so swiftly that civilian inhabitants were trapped inside and then to pound them from land, sea and air." Robert Fisk, journalist for the UK newspaper, The Independent, observes that the Israelis bombard residential areas with "50 shells at a time.. slaughtering everyone within a 500 yard [460m] radius of the explosions".
During the invasion, over 17,500 people are killed, many of them Lebanese civilians. Beruit is placed under a two month siege, in an attempt to evict Palestinians. The city is attacked with hundreds of cluster bombs (which shred flesh), phosphorus bombs (which are designed to create fires and produce untreatable burns on flesh) and vacuum bombs (which ignite aviation fuel, creating such pressure that buildings implode).
An entire apartment building in Beirut is destroyed by Israeli aircraft in an attempt to kill Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders. More than 100 people are killed but the Palestinian leadership had left.
The embassy of the USSR is seized for two days in violation of diplomatic rules. A hospital is bombed killing hundreds of patients. Eight of the nine orphanages in Beirut are destroyed by cluster and phosphorus bombs despite being clearly marked and despite Israeli assurances that they would be spared according to a report by Elain Carey writing in the USA magazine, Christian Science Monitor (4 August 1982).
Chris Giannou, a Canadian surgeon working in a Palestinian hospital testified to the USA Congress that he witnessed "total, utter devastation of residential areas, and the blind, savage indiscriminate destruction of refugee camps by simultaneous shelling and carpet bombing from aircraft, gunboats, tanks and artillery".
The city of Sidon is bombed killing over 2,000 civilians. According to Olof Rydbeck of the United Nations Refugee Agency, 32 years work had been destroyed with virtually all schools and clinics for the refugees "wiped out".
Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners are executed by the Israelis and secretly buried in Sidon. Torture is used including severe beatings, attacks by dogs on leashes, the use of air rifles (intense pain but not usually fatal), humiliation and allowing prisoners to go thirsty. Similar techniques would be used by the USA on Iraqi prisoners in 2004.
Palestinian leaders are eventually forced to leave, escorted out of Beirut by USA troops to Tunis (in Tunisia). The USA envoy, Philip Habib, promises that the Palestinian civilians left behind would be protected by the international community and Israeli forces would not be allowed to enter Beirut.
A few days later, the Phalangists (a Lebanese Christian militia) massacre over 2,750 Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila (in the suburbs of Beirut). Most of the victims are women, old men and children. Many girls (as young as 6) and women are raped by soldiers. During the three day massacre, Israeli troops look on and assist by sealing the camp perimeters and illuminating the camps at night. Bulldozers (supplied by the Israelis) are used to dig mass graves for bodies. A number of houses are also bulldozed to cover up the bodies of the victims.
One of the first journalists to enter the camps writes:
"The corpses of the Palestinians had been thrown among the rubble that remained of the Shatila camp. It was impossible to know exactly how many victims there were, but there had to be more than 1,000 dead. Some of the men who had been executed had been lined up in front of a wall, and bulldozers had been used in an attempt to bury the bodies and cover up the aftermath of the massacre. But the hands and feet of the victims protruded from the debris."
Another journalist (Loren Jenkins) from the USA's Washington Post describes the scene at the camps:
"The scene at the Chatila camp when foreign observers entered Saturday morning was like a nightmare. Women wailed over the deaths of loved ones, bodies began to swell under the hot sun, and the streets were littered with thousands of spent cartridges. Houses had been dynamited and bulldozed into rubble, many with the inhabitants still inside. Groups of bodies lay before bullet-pocked walls where they appeared to have been executed. Others were strewn in alleys and streets, apparently shot as they tried to escape. Each little dirt alley through the deserted buildings, where Palestinians have lived since fleeing Palestine when Israel was created in 1948, told its own horror story."
Two American journalists, Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone, later give this account to an international enquiry:
"When we entered Sabra and Chatila on Saturday, September 18, 1982, the final day of the killing, we saw bodies everywhere. We photographed victims that had been mutilated with axes and knives. Only a few of the people we photographed had been machine-gunned. Others had their heads smashed, their eyes removed, their throats cut, skin was stripped from their bodies, limbs were severed, some people were eviscerated. The terrorists also found time to plunder Palestinian property as well as books, manuscripts and other cultural material from the Palestinian Research Center in Beirut."
A 13 year old Palestinian girl who survived relates her story to a Lebanese officer:
"We stayed in the shelter until really late on Thursday night, but then I decided to leave with my girl friend because we couldn't breathe anymore. Then all of a sudden we saw people raising white flags and handkerchiefs and coming toward the kata'ib saying, 'We're for peace and harmony.' And they killed them right then and there. The women were screaming, moaning and begging [for mercy]. As for me, I ran back to our house and got into the bathtub. I saw them leading our neighbors away and shooting them. I tried to stand up at the window to look outside, but one of the kata'ib fighters saw me and shot at me. So I went back to the bathtub and stayed there for five hours. When I came out, they grabbed me and threw me down with everybody else. One of them asked me if I was Palestinian, and I said yes. My nine-month-old nephew was beside me, and he was crying and screaming so much that one of the men got angry, so he shot him. I burst into tears and told him that this baby had been all the family I had left. That made him all the more angry, and he took the baby and tore him in two."
In 2001, evidence would be unearthed that many survivors of the original massacre are taken away by Israeli troops to a football (soccer) stadium. Many are executed and buried in the tunnels under the pitch. The stadium would later be rebuilt.
The United Nations General Assembly condemns the massacre and declares it to be an act of genocide. The vote is 147 to 2 (Israel and the USA). The world condemns Israel and 400,000 of its own citizens join a Peace Now demonstration in Tel Aviv.
For the Arab world, the words Sabra and Chatila resonate all the injustices of this conflict. Israel, on the other hand, continues to receive massive military and financial aid from the USA as well as political and media support. In 2002, the anniversary of a terrorist attack on New York is marked in the UK with 2 minute silences in offices and work places as well as television programs about the victims. Less than a week later the 20th anniversary of the Sabra-Chatila Massacre is completely ignored by the West's media, as is the entire invasion.
Between 1982 and 1983, six separate United Nations resolutions condemning the Israeli invasion of Lebanon are vetoed by the USA. In addition, the USA refuses to invoke its own laws prohibiting Israeli use of American weapons except in self-defense.
According to Mordechai Bar-on, an education officer in the Israeli military, the aim of the invasion was "to deal a crushing blow to the national aspirations of the Palestinians and to their very existence as a nation endevouring to define itself and gain the right to self-determination".
|The Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon by militia allied and supported by Israel. The military incursion into Lebanon was planned and led by Ariel Sharon. USA vetoed six separate United Nations resolutions between 1982 and 1983 condemning Israel's invasion of Lebanon. In 2002 the USA referred to Ariel Sharon as "a man of peace".|