“We were lined up against a bullet-ridden wall; an Israeli came running and stopped the Phalange from shooting,” said Ellen Siegel, a Jewish-American who worked as a nurse during the infamous 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinians. “We were led to the Israeli Forward Command Post where we saw Israeli soldiers on the roof looking down on the camps. Those in command knew what would happen, knew what was happening, and did not stop it from happening for at least 48 hours.”
“The Israeli Commission of Inquiry found Sharon to be ‘indirectly responsible.’ His responsibility was more than indirect. As head of an army occupying a capital, Beirut, he was responsible for the welfare of the inhabitants,” Siegel continued.
Arik Sharon, now the prime minister of Israel, has gotten the red carpet treatment in DC yet again. The rest of the world anxiously awaits the next ruling which could lead to a trial for war crimes in Belgium for Sharon’s role in the murders of Palestinian refugees, and our nation chooses to honor this man again.
At a time we are waging war against world terror, it is distressing to see little mention of the lawsuit against Sharon, or even a reaction from the US State Department. If we are serious about the war on terrorism, shouldn’t we start with the guest list at the White House?
To this day, the massacre at Sabra and Chatila has brought nightmares to those who survived it. Rape, torture in the form of disembowelment, and murder awaited the women. Babies were thrown on top of heaps of garbage. Many Palestinian men, young and old, were lined up against the wall and shot. Others were whisked away, never to be seen again. Israeli soldiers lit flares throughout the nights so that the Israeli-allied Phalangist could see their victims.
The former Phalangist leader, Elie Hobeika, recently told Belgian legislators that he wanted to fully cooperate and could produce evidence against Ariel Sharon in Belgium. The information was expected to severely damage Ariel Sharon. But we’ll never know what the additional information is because Hobeika was killed two weeks ago in a mysterious car bomb é the same week that the Belgian legislators were told of Hobeika’s cooperation.
One British newspaper, The Guardian, has already published a report quoting from original documents of the secret annex of the Kahan Commission of Inquiry é which probed into the massacre in the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. The prestigious newspaper reviewed typewritten Hebrew documents, which it said it took extensive efforts to verify as real, including comparison tests of typewriters used at the time of the 1983 commission of inquiry. The results clearly show that top Israeli officials – including Sharon – knew of Lebanese Phalangist plans for massacring Palestinians, and at no point tried to dissuade such action.
Other evidence points to chilling new evidence suggesting that more than 1,000 Palestinian survivors of the Sabra and Chatila camp massacres in Beirut “disappeared” within 24 hours of the slaughter, often in areas under direct Israeli military control.
Even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak claimed to have evidence against Sharon for his role at Sabra and Chatila in the last elections.
Israeli attorneys in Belgium argue that there is a lack of jurisdiction to try Sharon in Belgium. But crimes against humanity are not subject to issues of jurisdiction, as even Israelis had argued when they sought to try German Nazi leader, Adolph Eichmann. The Israelis subsequently tried and executed him. Fortunately, the Belgian Courts have also rejected jurisdictional arguments.
The war on terrorism is a complicated one, and it is highly doubtful that anyone is envious of President Bush’s task. But some issues are no-brainers. Inviting a man of Ariel Sharon’s stature for a fourth time is puzzling. He represents terror that puts him on equal footing with Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. Few could disagree with this assessment, even among Israel’s majority.
“There are a number of nurses and doctors that were present during those days that have requested to testify,” said Siegel. “No matter what happens, this story is being heard by a new generation. Sharon’s legacy is tainted; history will take note of this massacre.
The professor quietly responded that if Palestinian men don’t even have the most basic of human rights, what was the point of pushing forth a feminist movement?
“One hopes that one day ALL those responsible will be judged,” said Siegel with resolve. “And that justice will be done.”
Siegel concluded, “It is of concern that the future of the Palestinians is in the hands of a man with such a frightening history.”
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.