Sabra and Shatila – September 16, 1982: Does anyone care to remember?

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Since 9/11, it appears that the month of September is overshadowed by the tragic event that rocked New York.

From that moment, the likudniks in the Bush administration known as neocons, seized the opportunity to completely subvert American policies.

As a consequence they plundered two sovereign states and with their “shock and awe” brutality gave the world new challenges. Apart from detention without trial in Guantanamo Bay, whereby hundreds of people have been incarcerated as “terrorists”, they also shocked the world with the abuse and torture of inmates in Abu Ghraib.

In the process, fresh research and information is now beginning to emerge not only to challenge the gravely distorted reasons for the neocon’s “war on terror”, but also the uncomfortable reality that the likudniks have ensured that Israel remains the prime beneficiary of all the death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The paradox is that for the Palestinians, the month of September also evokes painful memories of a horrible massacre perpetrated under the direct command of the current Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.

Historian Sami Hadawi has recorded that the 1982 massacre at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, like the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin was a cold, calculated atrocity. The heinous nature of the crime committed by Sharon’s proxy militias, the Phalangists, has been depicted as barbaric in the extreme.

Hence the nightmare of Sabra and Shatila has served to depict Sharon as the “Butcher of Beirut”. In addition his Defence Force members have been described as those that “slaughter children” and as those that “rip open pregnant women’s stomachs”. More chilling is the account of them “betting on the sex of the embryos”.

This cruelty is in reference to a gruesome practice that was enacted in the massacres, according to the accounts of several eyewitnesses who saw fetuses placed on stakes at the site of the massacre.

Edward Said viewed this carnage as a concerted, deliberate attempt to strip Palestinians of their national identity.

Much of the type of demonisation of Palestinians as “terrorists” going on today under Sharon the Prime Minister, is a continuation of the rhetoric of 1982 by Sharon the Defence Minister. In utter contempt of the Palestinian national struggle, Sharon and his colleagues, including Menachem Begin viewed Palestinians as two-legged beasts, making it easier to slaughter them and pretend that they were doing humanity a huge favour.

The slaughter at Sabra and Shatila of thousands of innocent refugees flowed from Likud’s callous disregard of Palestinians as real people with a real history.

So while the world is pre-occupied with America’s “war on terror” following 9/11, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as well as in Lebanon would correctly question the morality of countries such as the United States which underwrite aid to Israel to the tune of billions of dollars in addition to supplying arms and weapons of mass destruction.

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