What are Sabra & Shatilla, and what happened there?
Sabra & Shatilla are Arab "refugee camps" located in Lebanon. It is in fact a town that was being used for terrorist training, and for targeting of Christian communities in Lebanon, and ultimately of Israel. A massacre was perpetrated on its residents in 1982, which, like Deir Yassin in Jerusalem, and Qana in southern Lebanon, is blamed on Israel by anti-Zionists, and held up as an example of Israel's "brutality". This is of course far from the truth.
Who killed the Arabs in the town?
The Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia, led by Elias Hobeika, was responsible for the massacres that occurred at the two Beirut-area refugee camps on September 16-17, 1982.
But didn't Israel knowingly allow the Christians into the town in order to perpetrate the massacre?
Israeli troops allowed the Phalangists to enter Sabra and Shatilla to root out terrorist cells believed to be located there (and which had a well established history of training there). It had been estimated that there may have been up to 200 armed men in the camps working out of the countless bunkers built by the PLO over the years, and stocked with generous reserves of ammunition.
Israel had allowed the Phalange to enter the camps as part of a plan to transfer authority to the Lebanese, and accepted responsibility for that decision.
How many were killed? Were women and children targeted?
When Israeli soldiers ordered the Phalangists out, they found hundreds dead (estimates range from 460 according to the Lebanese police, to 700-800 as calculated by Israeli intelligence). The dead, according to the Lebanese account, included 35 women and children. The rest were men, of various nationalities, including: Palestinians, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Iranians, Syrians and Algerians. The killings came on top of an estimated 95,000 deaths that had occurred during the civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1982.
Why did the Christians kill those Arabs?
The killings were perpetrated to avenge the murders of Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel and 25 of his followers, killed in a bomb attack earlier that week.
Doesn't Israel have any remorse or regrets over what happened?
The Kahan Commission of Inquiry, formed by the Israeli government in response to public outrage and grief, found that Israel was indirectly responsible for not anticipating the possibility of Phalangist violence. Israel instituted the panel's recommendations, including the dismissal of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Gen. Raful Eitan, the Army Chief of Staff.
The Kahan Commission, declared former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, was "a great tribute to Israeli democracy....There are very few governments in the world that one can imagine making such a public investigation of such a difficult and shameful episode."
Ironically, while 300,000 Israelis demonstrated in Israel to protest the killings, little or no reaction occurred in the Arab world. Outside the Middle East, a major international outcry against Israel erupted over the massacres. The Phalangists, who perpetrated the crime, were spared the brunt of the condemnations for it.
By contrast, few voices were raised in May 1985, when Muslim militiamen (Nabi Berri's Amal militia) attacked the Shatilla and Burj-el Barajneh Palestinian refugee camps. According to UN officials, 635 were killed and 2,500 wounded. During a two-year battle between the Syrian-backed Shiite Amal militia and the PLO, more than 2,000, including many civilians, were reportedly killed. No outcry was directed at the PLO or the Syrians and their allies over the slaughter. International reaction was also muted in October 1990 when Syrian forces overran Christian-controlled areas of Lebanon. In the eight-hour clash, 700 Christians were killed--the worst single battle of Lebanon's Civil War.
Did Ariel Sharon allow the massacre to happen?
According to the Kahan Commission, who found Ariel Sharon to be indirectly responsible--he should have been able to predict that, given the circumstances of the preceding week in Lebanon, the Phalanges would be out for revenge. In no way did they find him directly responsible--he did not encourage this to happen, nor could he have prevented it from happening. At the worst, Ariel Sharon was guilty of incompetence, not malice.
Furthermore, Time Magazine at the time published an article implying that Ariel Sharon was guilty of this crime. Sharon sued the Magazine in an American court, and a jury--which we learned afterwards was admittedly predisposed to finding him guilty(!)--determined that the Time article was false and defamatory, and that "certain Time employees had acted negligently and carelessly".
Do the Lebanese hold Ariel Sharon responsible for the massacre?
An Open Letter to Human Rights Watch
From the Lebanese Foundation for Peace
"We Have Hundreds of Eye Witnesses to the Events at Sabra and Chatilla, Will You Call Them?"
Mr Hanny Megally
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, New York, 10118 USA
Telephone: (212) 216 1230
Facsimile: (212) 736 1300
June 28, 2001
Dear Mr Megally,
I feel it's my moral obligation to address your latest remarks on the Sabra & Chatilla affair asking President Bush to urge Prime Minister Sharon to cooperate with any investigation against him. I must take issue with your accusations that there is abundant evidence that war crimes and that crimes against humanity were committed at the Sabra and Chatilla Palestinian camps. You should know better, for as one of Egyptian origin who is expert in Arabic you realize the problem within the Islamic world of the problem in seeing events, truths, that have no significance to Islam and of the Islamic world ignoring other crimes of larger gravity that are not significant to the Muslim world.
Did you really assume that the Palestinians were attacked for no reason or that groups of civilian Christians suddenly developed a blood lust for Palestinians? Why did the Christians attack only Palestinians and not the Lebanese Muslims with whom they lived peaceably for centuries? The Christians have historically been a peaceful people who preferred to live in Lebanon in a historical balance with their Muslim neighbors, a friendly and respectable balance that existed until Yasir Arafat and his killers entered Lebanon.
Your myopic vision of the Sabra and Chatilla massacres ignores the massacres perpetrated by Yasser Arafat and his murderers against the Christian Lebanese. Let me remind you of some of Arafat's actions (I am an eye witness):
* The distribution of arms and money to the Islamists in Lebanon for the express purpose of subjecting the Christian Lebanese to ethnic cleansing.
* The massacre of the town of Chekka, in northern Lebanon, by Arafat forces, dozens of civilians, mostly Christians, were murdered and tortured by Arafat's hoodlums.
* In the massacre of the town of Damour, South of Beirut, dozens of Christians civilians were slaughtered, along with numerous rapes of young girls, were done by forces that came from those same Palestinian camps that you are defending.
* The massacre of the towns of Aintoura and Mtein, where groups of Palestinians murdered innocent Christian civilians solely because they were Christians .
* The daily assaults by the PLO forces against the Christian towns of Hadath, Ain-el Remmaneh, Jisr el Bacha, Dekaouneh, Beirut, and the Southern Metn, that resulted in hundred of Christian casualties murdered for defending their hometowns and existence. This was at a time when the Lebanese Government was paralyzed and could not send the Lebanese Army to halt the Palestinian atrocities due to Arab intervention in internal Lebanese affairs by the "Cairo" accords.
No, Mr Megally, Palestine's path to the submission of Lebanon does not begin at the Lebanese Christian Port of Junieh as stated in the famous phrase of Abu Ayad, Yasser Arafat second in command. There were no Israelis in Mount Lebanon to murder, they were all innocent Christian civilians massacred in hundreds of low intensity incidents (as in Israel today) just because they were Christians. The barbarism in Lebanon was an Arafat speciality. Christians were decapitated, girls were raped, parents and kids were murdered in the streets due to Palestinian military attacks against the Christians areas, as they refused to distinguish between adult men and women and children. All Christians, despite age or sex, were Palestinian targets. These were the same Palestinians we welcomed with open arms in 1948 with charity and our reward was death and torture.
Sabra and Chatilla was not a peaceful area where strangers entered for no reason and murdered innocent civilians. Sabra and Chatilla were one of the largest training centers for international terrorism. Most of the terrorists of the world visited the Sabra and Chatilla Camps in Beirut, received extensive training in terrorism, ranging from the use of plastic explosives to booby trapping cars, and special, assassination techniques given by well experienced followers of Yasser Arafat.
For example, the terrorist Red Brigades from Italy trained there, the terrorist Basque ETA movement, Carlos, Islamist mercenaries from Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, all came to those camps to be taught how to hijack planes, prepare bombs for use in Europe and elsewhere against US and Israeli embassies and missions. Sabra and Chatilla became known as the terror center in Beirut, whose mission was to export terror and subversion to the world. Many Lebanese were kidnaped to these camps and never returned alive.
The Christian Kataeb militias are no murderers Mr. Megally. They realized that the destruction of Lebanon by Palestinian hands could not continue and Lebanon could not be a training ground for international terror and murder. There was no proportionality in the two events as Sabra & Chatilla experienced about 800 executions, yet the Palestinians murdered 200,000 Lebanese on different occasions and places. Could you help open an investigation into the matter? Lebanese families, eye witnesses, will thank you and are eager to get their rights back in court from Arafat murderers if they have the chance. Can you arrange in the interests of justice to hear in the court in Belgium from hundreds of cases of Lebanese victims of Palestinian terrorism? Will you call as a witness Elias Hobeika a known Lebanese traitor and Syrian operative who incited the event without the knowledge or consent of Ariel Sharon in order to embarrass and blacken Ariel's Sharon's name?
Additional information you should be aware of is that sensitive information from Lebanese intelligence army sources show that Brigadier General Ghazi Kanaan, head of the Syrian Secret Service in Lebanon, is now pursuing a path of intimidation and threats through many channels against former Lebanese forces leaders to force them to testify in Lebanese courts against Ariel Sharon so as to relieve the pressure on Elias Hobeika.
No Christian Lebanese will apologize for the deaths of assassins and murders as their continued existence was at stake, and the Palestinian executions occurred with a deep revulsion for the taking of lives; however, these Palestinians were the victims of Yasir Arafat who precipitated the killings by supporting an existential evil that threatened the world. No Palestinian ever apologized for the destruction of Lebanon a country that hosted them with a friendly and open hands.
Sabra and Chatilla was no mistake, it was the Christian Community's inability to continue to suffer their extinction and their planned genocide that forced them to decide to halt once and for all Palestinian terrorism in Lebanon, a country that has suffered terribly from PLO terror while the world ignored us, making them willing accomplices. Don't blame the Christians or General Sharon. The Palestinians under Yasir Arafat and Elias Hobeika are responsible as well as a world that doesn't care.
Sabra and Chatilla is a nothing more than a political attempt by Yasser Arafat, backed by Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia, to undermine and weaken Israel's Prime Minister Sharon. By doing so, they hope to force Israel to return to the concessions given by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, an inexperienced, political player as compared to Prime Minister Sharon. This is a failed tactic that will lead nowhere as Sharon's political position is to encourage a meaningful peace in the Middle East and is much stronger than these failed maneuvers and lost attempts.
Mr Megally, your call to President Bush was inappropriate, as you failed to present the full picture of the past events by inappropriately judging one side and disregarding the offenses of the other party involved in the events, not to mention that Arafat who succeeded through the weakness of the Israeli left to import the chaos and revolution from his Tunisian exile to the heart of Israel.
Nagi N. Najjar
Director of the Lebanon Foundation for Peace