Monday, March 19, 2018

Remembering Sabra and Shatila

By Sam Gilbert - September 18, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Sabra and Shatila Massacre]

Dia Azzawi's painting "Sabra and Shatila 1982-1983" commemorating the massacre.
On 16 September 1982, between 800-3500 Palestinian were massacred by the Lebanese Phalange party militia, after the right wing Christian group, in collaboration with Israeli forces, invaded the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in southern Beirut. The massacre took place in the context of the Lebanese civil war (1970-90) and Israel’s 1982 invasion of the war-torn country, an incursion which led to the forcible expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon.
In a press release on Monday, Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, made a statement in remembrance of the massacre: “On the 31st anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, we take this opportunity to remember the victims of that dreaded episode and recall the importance of working to end impunity for such crimes.”  The statement came amidst the ongoing peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators that began in late July. 
Sabra and Shatila
On 14 September 1982, pro-Syrian militants killed Israel’s main alley, Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel.   The president’s loyalists, including the Phalangist Militia, blamed the assassination on the Palestinians, even the though the PLO had been expelled from Lebanon the previous month.  On 15 September 1982, Israeli forces surrounded and sealed of the two refugee camps in southern Beirut. The following day, Israel allowed the revenge-seeking Phalangist militia to enter the camps in order to “route out militants.”  
The resulting massacre, between the 16th and 19th of September, led to the deaths of an estimated 800-3500 individuals, many of whom were women and children. The disparity between the numbers has to do with the source. The Israeli government estimates around 800 while other independent sources put the death toll in the thousands. 
31 years later, there is still no justice for the victims
An Israeli government inquiry following the event held Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister at the time, personally responsible for the massacre committed by the right wing militia.  The Kahn Report, published by the Israeli government in response to the massacre, held a list of several Israeli military officials “indirectly” responsible.
Today, not a single person (Israeli or Lebanese) has been charged with  involvement in the crime.  The amnesty law that came into affect after Lebanon’s Civil Wars ended in 1991 let many of those involved in the massacre off the hook, including those who now form one of Lebanon’s ruling political parties, the Kata’eb.  Sharon, who ended up loosing his position as Defense Minister due to his complicity in the massacre, nonetheless became prime minister of Israel between 2004 and 2005.  
“31 years later, there is still no justice for the victims. In fact, those responsible, including then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, would go on to have very successful political careers, adding further insult to the injury,” said Erekat during Monday’s press conference. 
Erekat went on to say, “Unfortunately, this was not the first or the last massacre to take place in our history. It is our responsibility and our right to take all measures to protect our people, deter such crimes, and seek accountability for the perpetrators by relying on the system of international criminal justice. That is a primary duty of any government.”
Today there are more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, most barred from owning property and earing decent wages.  They make up part of the nearly 5 million Palestinians refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza and throughout the Mid East, descendants of the 750,000 displaced after the establishment of the Israeli State.  
Dr. Erekat concluded, “While negotiations are ongoing, we want to assure our people, from Sabra and Shatila to Yarmouk, that a solution to the refugee issue in compliance with international law, including UN General Assembly Resolution 194, will be the cornerstone of any agreement. The rights of refugees have been denied for too long, and there can be no lasting and just peace so long as that continues to be the case.”

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