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Israel's Prime Minister was a
ruthless military commander responsible for one of the most shocking
war crimes of the 20th century, argues Robert Fisk. President George
Bush acclaims Ariel Sharon as 'a man of peace', yet the blood that was
shed at Sabra and Chatila remains a stain on the conscience of the
Zionist nation. As Sharon lies stricken in his hospital bed, his
political career over, how will history judge him?
By Robert Fisk
01/06/05 ""The Independent"" -- -- I shook hands with him once, a
brisk, no-nonsense soldier's grip from Sharon as he finished a review
of the vicious Phalangist militiamen who stood in the barracks square
at Karantina in Beirut. Who would have thought, I asked myself then,
that this same bunch of murderers - the men who butchered their way
through the Palestinian Sabra and Chatila refugee camps only a few
weeks earlier - had their origins in the Nazi Olympics of 1936. That's
when old Pierre Gemayel - still alive and standing stiffly to attention
for Sharon - watched the "order" of Nazi Germany and proposed to bring
some of this "order" to Lebanon. That's what Gemayel told me himself.
Did Sharon not understand this. Of course, he must have done.
Back on 18 September that same year, Loren Jenkins of The Washington
Post and Karsten Tveit of Norwegian television and I had clambered over
the piled corpses of Chatila - of raped and eviscerated women and their
husbands and children and brothers - and Jenkins, knowing that the
Isrealis had sat around the camps for two nights watching this filth,
shrieked "Sharon!" in anger and rage. He was right. Sharon it was who
sent the Phalange into the camps on the night of 16 September - to hunt
for "terrorists", so he claimed at the time.
The subsequent Israeli Kahan commission of enquiry into this atrocity
provided absolute proof that Israeli soldiers saw the massacre taking
place. The evidence of a Lieutenant Avi Grabovsky was crucial. He was
an Israeli deputy tank commander and reported what he saw to his higher
command. "Don't interfere," the senior officer said. Ever afterwards,
Israeli embassies around the world would claim that the commission held
Sharon only indirectly responsible for the massacre. It was untrue. The
last page of the official Israeli report held Sharon "personally
responsible". It was years later that the Israeli-trained Phalangist
commander, Elie Hobeika, now working for the Syrians, agreed to turn
state's evidence against Sharon - now the Israeli Prime Minister - at a
Brussels court. The day after the Israeli attorney general declared
Sharon's defence a "state" matter, Hobeika was killed by a massive car
bomb in east Beirut. Israel denied responsibility. US Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Brussels and quietly threatened to withdraw
Nato headquarters from Belgium if the country maintained its laws to
punish war criminals from foreign nations. Within months, George W Bush
had declared Sharon "a man of peace". It was all over.
In the end, Sharon got away with it, even when it was proved that he
had, the night before the Phalangists attacked the civilians of the
camp, publicly blamed the Palestinians for the murder of their leader,
President-elect Bashir Gemayel. Sharon told these ruthless men that the
Palestinians had killed their beloved "chief". Then he sent them in
among the civilian sheep - and claimed later he could never have
imagined what they would do in Chatila. Only years later was it proved
that hundreds of Palestinians who survived the original massacre were
interrogated by the Israelis and then handed back to the murderers to
be slaughtered over the coming weeks.
So it is as a war criminal that Sharon will be known forever in the
Arab world, through much of the Western world, in fact - save, of
course, for the craven men in the White House and the State Department
and the Blair Cabinet - as well as many leftist Israelis. Sabra and
Chatila was a crime against humanity. Its dead counted more than half
the fatalities of the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. But the man
who was responsible was a "man of peace". It was he who claimed that
the preposterous Yasser Arafat was a Palestinian bin Laden. He it was
who as Israeli foreign minister opposed Nato's war in Kosovo,
inveighing against "Islamic terror" in Kosovo. "The moment that Israel
expresses support...it's likely to be the next victim. Imagine that one
day Arabs in Galilee demand that the region in which they live be
recognised as an autonomous area, connected to the Palestinian
Authority..." Ah yes, Sharon as an ally of another war criminal,
Slobodan Milosevic. There must be no Albanian state in Kosovo.
Ever since he was elected in 2001 - and especially since his withdrawal
of settlements from the rubbish tip of Gaza last year, a step which
would, according to his spokesman, turn any plans for a Palestinian
state in the West Bank into "formaldehyde" - his supporters have tried
to turn Sharon into a pragmatist, another Charles de Gaulle. His new
party was supposed to be proof of this. But in reality, Sharon had more
in common with the putchist generals of Algeria.
He voted against the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. He voted against
a withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1985. He opposed Israel's
participation in the Madrid peace conference in 1991. He opposed the
Knesset plenum vote on the Oslo agreement in 1993. He abstained on a
vote for peace with Jordan in 1994. He voted against the Hebron
agreement in 1997. He condemned the manner of Israel's retreat from
Lebanon in 2000. By 2002, he had built 34 new Jewish colonies on
And he was a man of peace.
There was a story told to me by one of the men investigating Sharon's
responsibility for the Sabra and Chatila massacre, and the story is
that the then Israeli defence minister, before he sent his Phalangist
allies into the camps, announced that it was Palestinian "terrorists"
who had murdered their newly assassinated leader, President-elect
Gemayel. Sharon was to say later that he never dreamed the Phalange
would massacre the Palestinians.
But how could he say that if he claimed earlier that the Palestinians
killed the leader of the Phalange? In reality, no Palestinians were
involved in Gemayel's death. It might seem odd in this new war to be
dwelling about that earlier atrocity. I am fascinated by the language.
Murderers, terrorists. That's what Sharon said then, and it's what he
says now. Did he really make that statement in 1982? I begin to work
the phone from Jerusalem, calling up Associated Press bureaus that
might still have their files from 19 years ago. He would have made that
speech - if indeed he used those words - some time on 15 September 1982.
One Sunday afternoon, my phone rings in Jerusalem. It's from an Israeli
I met in Jaffa Street after the Sbarro bombing. An American Jewish
woman had been screaming abuse at me - foreign journalists are being
insulted by both sides with ever more violent language - and this man
suddenly intervenes to protect me. He's smiling and cheerful and we
exchange phone numbers. Now on the phone, he says he's taking the El-Al
night flight to New York with his wife. Would I like to drop by for tea?
He turns out to have a luxurious apartment next to the King David Hotel
and I notice, when I read his name on the outside security buzzer, that
he's a rabbi. He's angry because a neighbour has just let down a
friend's car tyres in the underground parking lot and he's saying how
he felt like smashing the windows of the neighbour's car. His wife,
bringing me tea and feeding me cookies, says that her husband - again,
he should remain anonymous - gets angry very quickly. There's a kind of
gentleness about them both - how easy it is to spot couples who are
still in love - that is appealing. But when the rabbi starts to talk
about the Palestinians, his voice begins to echo through the apartment.
He says several times that Sharon is a good friend of his, a fine man,
who's been to visit him in his New York office.
What we should do is go into those vermin pits and take out the
terrorists and murderers. Vermin pits, yes I said, vermin, animals. I
tell you what we should do. If one stone is lobbed from a refugee camp,
we should bring the bulldozers and tear down the first 20 houses close
to the road. If there's another stone, another 20 ones. They'd soon
learn not to throw stones. Look, I tell you this. Stones are lethal. If
you throw a stone at me, I'll shoot you. I have the right to shoot you.
Now the rabbi is a generous man. He's been in Israel to donate a vastly
important and, I have no doubt, vastly expensive medical centre to the
country. He is well-read. And I liked the fact that - unlike too many
Israelis and Palestinians who put on a "we-only-want-peace" routine to
hide more savage thoughts - he at least spoke his mind. But this is
getting out of hand.
Why should I throw a stone at the rabbi? He shouts again. "If you throw
a stone at me, I will shoot you." But if you throw a stone at me, I
say, I won't shoot you. Because I have the right not to shoot you. He
frowns. "Then I'd say you're out of your mind."
I am driving home when it suddenly hits me. The Old and New Testaments
have just collided. The rabbi's dad taught him about an eye for an eye
- or 20 homes for a stone - whereas Bill Fisk taught me about turning
the other cheek. Judaism is bumping against Christianity. So is it any
surprise that Judaism and Islam are crashing into each other? For
despite all the talk of Christians and Jews being "people of the Book",
Muslims are beginning to express ever harsher views of Jews. The
sickening Hamas references to Jews as "the sons of pigs and monkeys"
are echoed by Israelis who talk of Palestinians as cockroaches or
"vermin", who tell you - as the rabbi told me - that Islam is a warrior
religion, a religion that does not value human life. And I recall
several times a Jewish settler who told me back in 1993 - in Gaza, just
before the Oslo accords were signed - that "we do not recognise their
Koran as a valid document."
I call up Eva Stern in New York. Her talent for going through archives
convinces me she can find out what Sharon said before the Sabra and
Chatila massacre. I give her the date that is going through my head: 15
September 1982. She comes back on the line the same night. "Turn your
fax on," Eva says. "You're going to want to read this." The paper
starts to crinkle out of the machine. An AP report of 15 September
1982. "Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, in a statement, tied the killing
[of the Phalangist leader Gemayel] to the PLO, saying: "It symbolises
the terrorist murderousness of the PLO terrorist organisations and
Then, a few hours later, Sharon sent the Phalange gunmen into the
Palestinian camps. Reading that fax again and again, I feel a chill
coming over me. There are Israelis today with as much rage towards the
Palestinians as the Phalange 19 years ago. And these are the same words
I am hearing today, from the same man, about the same people.
In September 2000, Ariel Sharon marched to the Muslim holy places -
above the site of the Jewish Temple Mount - accompanied by about a
thousand Israeli policemen. Within 24 hours, Israeli snipers opened
fire with rifles on Palestinian protesters battling with police in the
grounds of the seventh-century Dome of the Rock. At least four were
killed and the head of the Israeli police, Yehuda Wilk, later confirmed
that snipers had fired into the crowd when Palestinians "were felt to
be endangering the lives of officers". Sixty-six Palestinians were
wounded, most of them by rubber-coated steel bullets. The killings came
almost exactly 10 years after armed Israeli police killed 19
Palestinian demonstrators and wounded another 140 in an incident at
exactly the same spot, a slaughter that almost lost the United States
its Arab support in the prelude to the 1991 Gulf War.
Sharon showed no remorse. "The state of Israel," he told CNN, "cannot
afford that an Israeli citizen will not be able to visit part of his
country, not to speak for the holiest for the Jewish people all around
the world." He did not, however, explain why he should have chosen this
moment - immediately after the collapse of the "peace process" - to
undertake such a provocative act. Stone-throwing and shooting spread to
the West Bank. Near Qalqiliya, a Palestinian policeman shot dead an
Israeli soldier and wounded another - they were apparently part of a
joint Israeli-Palestinian patrol originally set up under the terms of
the Oslo agreement. "Everything was pre-planned," Sharon would claim
five weeks later. "They took advantage of my visit to the Temple Mount.
This was not the first time I've been there..."
Jerusalem is a city of illusions. Here Ariel Sharon promises his people
"security" and brings them war. On the main road to Ma'ale Adumim,
inside Israel's illegal "municipal boundaries", Israelis drive at over
100 mph. In the old city, Israeli troops and Palestinian civilians
curse each other before the few astonished Christian tourists. Loving
Jesus doesn't help to make sense of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Gideon
Samet got it right in Ha'aretz. "Jerusalem looks like a Bosnia about to
be born. Main thoroughfares inside the Green Line... have become
mortally perilous... The capital's suburbs are exposed as Ramat Rachel
was during the war of independence..." Samet is pushing it a bit. Life
is more dangerous for Palestinians than for Israelis. Terrorism,
terrorism, terrorism. "I suggest that we repeat to ourselves every day
and throughout the day," Sharon tells us, "that there will be no
negotiations with the Palestinians until there is a total cessation of
terrorism, violence and incitement."
Gaza now is a miniature Beirut. Under Israeli siege, struck by F-16s
and tank fire and gunboats, starved and often powerless - there are now
six-hour electricity cuts every day in Gaza - it's as if Arafat and
Sharon are replaying their bloody days in Lebanon. Sharon used to call
Arafat a mass murderer back then. It's important not to become obsessed
during wars. But Sharon's words were like an old, miserable film had
seen before. Every morning in Jerusalem, I would pick up the Jerusalem
Post. And there on the front page, as usual, will be another Sharon
diatribe. PLO murderers. Palestinian Authority terror. Murderous
Within hours of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States,
Ariel Sharon turned Israel into America's ally in the "war on terror",
immediately realigning Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian version of bin
Laden and the Palestinian suicide bombers as blood brothers of the 19
Arabs - none of them Palestinian - who hijacked the four American
airliners. In the new and vengeful spirit that President Bush
encouraged among Americans, Israel's supporters in the United States
now felt free to promote punishments for Israel's opponents that came
close to the advocacy of war crimes. Nathan Lewin, a prominent
Washington attorney and Jewish communal leader - and an often-mentioned
candidate for a federal judgeship - called for the execution of family
members of suicide bombers. "If executing some suicide bombers'
families saves the lives of even an equal number of potential civilian
victims, the exchange is, I believe, ethically permissible," he wrote
in the journal Sh'ma.
When Sharon began his operation "Defensive Shield", the UN Security
Council, with the active participation and support of the United
States, demanded an immediate end to Israel's reoccupation of the West
Bank. President George W Bush insisted that Sharon should follow the
advice of "Israel's American friends" and - for Tony Blair was with
Bush at the time - "Israel's British friends", and withdraw. "When I
say withdraw, I mean it," Bush snapped three days later. But he meant
nothing of the kind. Instead, he sent secretary of state Colin Powell
off on an "urgent" mission of peace, a journey to Israel and the West
Bank that would take an incredible eight days - just enough time, Bush
presumably thought, to allow his "friend" Sharon to finish his latest
bloody adventure in the West Bank. Supposedly unaware that Israel's
chief of staff, Shoal Mofaz, had told Sharon that he needed at least
eight weeks to "finish the job" of crushing the Palestinians, Powell
wandered off around the Mediterranean, dawdling in Morocco, Spain,
Egypt and Jordan before finally fetching up in Israel. If Washington
firefighters took that long to reach a blaze, the American capital
would long ago have turned to ashes. But of course, the purpose of
Powell's idleness was to allow enough time for Jenin to be turned to
ashes. Mission, I suppose, accomplished.
Sharon's ability to scorn the Americans was always humiliating for
Washington. Before the massacres of 1982, Philip Habib was President
Reagan's special representative, his envoy to Beirut increasingly
horrified by the ferocity of Sharon's assault on the city. Not long
before he died, I asked Habib why he didn't stop the bloodshed. "I
could see it," he said. "I told the Israelis they were destroying the
city, that they were firing non-stop. They just said they weren't. They
said they werent doing that. I called Sharon on the phone. He said it
wasnt true. That damned man said to me on the phone that what I saw
happening wasn't happening. So I held the telephone out of the window
so he could hear the explosions. Then he said to me: 'What kind of
conversation is this where you hold a telephone out of a window?'"
Sharon's involvement in the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres continues
to fester around the man who, according to Israel's 1993 Kahan
commission report, bore "personal responsibility" for the Phalangist
slaughter. So fearful were the Israeli authorities that their leaders
would be charged with war crimes that they drew up a list of countries
where they might have to stand trial - and which they should henceforth
avoid - now that European nations were expanding their laws to include
foreign nationals who had committed crimes abroad. Belgian judges were
already considering a complaint by survivors of Sabra and Chatila - one
of them a female rape victim - while a campaign had been mounted abroad
against other Israeli figures associated with the atrocities. Eva Stern
was one of those who tried to prevent Brigadier General Amos Yaron
being appointed Israeli defence attaché in Washington because he had
allowed the Lebanese Phalange militia to enter the camps on 16
September 1982, and knew - according to the Kahan commission report -
that women and children were being murdered. He only ended the killings
two days later. Canada declined to accept Yaron as defence attaché.
Stern, who compiled a legal file on Yaron, later vainly campaigned with
human rights groups to annul his appointment - by Prime Minister Ehud
Barak - as director general of the Israeli defence ministry. The
Belgian government changed their law - and dropped potential charges
against Sharon - after a visit to Brussels by US defence secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, the man who famously referred on 6 August 2002 to
Israelis' control over "the so-called occupied territory" which was
"the result of a war, which they won".
Rumsfeld had threatened that NATO headquarters might be withdrawn from
Belgian soil if the Belgians didn't drop the charges against Sharon.
Yet all the while, we were supposed to believe that it was the corrupt,
Parkinson's-haunted Yasser Arafat who was to blame for the new war. He
was chastised by George Bush while the Palestinian people continued to
be bestialised by the Israeli leadership. Rafael Eytan, the former
Israeli chief of staff, had referred to Palestinians as "cockroaches in
a glass jar". Menachem Begin called them "two-legged beasts". The Shas
party leader who suggested that God should send the Palestinian "ants"
to hell, also called them "serpents".
In August 2000, Barak called them crocodiles. Israeli chief of staff
Moshe Yalon described the Palestinians as a "cancerous manifestation"
and equated the military action in the occupied territories with
"chemotherapy". In March 2001, the Israeli tourism minister, Rehavem
Zeevi, called Arafat a "scorpion". Sharon repeatedly called Arafat a
"murderer" and compared him to bin Laden.
He contributed to the image of Palestinian inhumanity in an interview
in 1995, when he stated that Fatah sometimes punished Palestinians by
"chopping off limbs of seven- and eight-year-old children in front of
their parents as a form of punishment". However brutal Fatah may be,
there is no record of any such atrocity being committed by them. But if
enough people can be persuaded to believe this nonsense, then the use
of Israeli death squads against such Palestinians becomes natural
rather than illegal.
Sharon was forever, like his Prime Minister Menachem Begin, evoking the
Second World War in spurious parallels with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
When in the late winter of 1988 the US State Department opened talks
with the PLO in Tunis after Arafat renounced "terrorism", Sharon stated
in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that this was worse than
the British and French appeasement before the Second World War when
"the world, to prevent war, sacrificed one of the democracies". Arafat
was "like Hitler who wanted so much to negotiate with the Allies in the
second half of the second world war...and the Allies said 'No'. They
said there are enemies with whom you don't talk. They pushed him to the
bunker in Berlin where he found his death, and Arafat is the same kind
of enemy, that with whom you don't talk. He's got too much blood on his
Thus within his lifetime Sharon was able to bestialise Yasser Arafat as
both Hitler and bin Laden. The thrust of Sharon's argument in those
days was that the creation of a Palestinian state would mean a war in
which "the terrorists will be acting from behind a cordon of UN forces
and observers". By the time he was on his apparent death bed yesterday
that Palestinian "state", far from being protected by the UN, was
non-existent, its territory still being carved up in the West Bank by
growing Jewish settlements, road blocks and a concrete wall.
Largely forgotten amid Sharon's hatred for "terrorism" was his
outspoken criticism of Nato's war against Serbia in 1999, when he was
Israeli foreign minister. Eleven years earlier he had sympathised with
the political objective of Slobodan Milosevic: to prevent the
establishment of an Albanian state in Kosovo. This, he said, would lead
to "Greater Albania" and provide a haven for - readers must here hold
their breath - "Islamic terror". In a Belgrade newspaper interview,
Sharon said that "we stand together with you against the Islamic
terror". Once Nato's bombing of Serbia was under way, however, Sharon's
real reason for supporting the Serbs became apparent. "It's wrong for
Israel to provide legitimacy to this forceful sort of intervention
which the Nato countries are deploying... in an attempt to impose a
solution on regional disputes," he said. "The moment Israel expresses
support for the sort of model of action we're seeing in Kosovo, it's
likely to be the next victim. Imagine that one day Arabs in Galilee
demand that the region in which they live be recognised as an
autonomous area, connected to the Palestinian Authority..."
NATO's bombing, Sharon said, was "brutal interventionism". The Israeli
journalist Uri Avnery, who seized on this extraordinary piece of
duplicity, said that "Islamic terror" in Kosovo could only exist in
"Sharon's racist imagination". Avnery was far bolder in translating
what lay behind Sharon's antipathy towards Nato action than Sharon
himself. "If the Americans and the Europeans interfere today in the
matter of Kosovo, what is to prevent them from doing the same tomorrow
in the matter of Palestine?
"Sharon has made it crystal-clear to the world that there is a
similarity and perhaps even identity between Milosevic's attitude
towards Kosovo and the attitude of Netanyahu and Sharon towards the
Palestinians." Besides, for a man whose own "brutal interventionism" in
Lebanon in 1982 led to a Middle East bloodbath of unprecedented
proportions, Sharon's remarks were, to say the least, hypocritical.
As Sharon sent an armoured column to reinvade Nablus, still ignoring
Bush's demand to withdraw his troops from the West Bank, Colin Powell
turned on Arafat, warning him that it was his "last chance" to show his
leadership. There was no mention of the illegal Jewish settlements.
There was to be no "last chance" threat for Sharon. The Americans even
allowed him to refuse a UN fact-finding team in the occupied
territories. Sharon was meeting with President George W Bush in
Washington when a suicide bomber killed at least 15 Israeli civilians
in a Tel Aviv nightclub; he broke off his visit and returned at once to
Israel. Prominent American Jewish leaders, including Elie Wiesel and
Alan Dershowitz, immediately called upon the White House not to put
pressure on Sharon to join new Middle East peace talks. "This is a
tough time," Wiesel announced. "This is not a time to pressure Israel.
Any prime minister would do what Sharon is doing. He is doing his best.
They should trust him." Wiesel need hardly have worried.
Only a month earlier, the Americans rolled out their first S-70A-55
troopcarrying Black Hawk helicopter to be sold to the Israelis. Israel
had purchased 24 of the new machines, costing $211m - most of which
would be paid for by the United States - even though it had 24
earlier-model Black Hawks. The log book of the first of the new
helicopters was ceremonially handed over to the director general of the
Israeli defence ministry, the notorious Amos Yaron, by none other than
Alexander Haig - the man who gave Begin the green light to invade
Lebanon in 1982.
Perhaps the only man who now had the time to work out the logic of this
appalling conflict was the Palestinian leader sitting now in his
surrounded, broken, ill-lit and unhealthy office block in Ramallah. The
one characteristic Arafat shared with Sharon - apart from old age and
decrepitude - was his refusal to plan ahead. What he said, what he did,
what he proposed, was decided only at the moment he was forced to act.
This was partly his old guerrilla training, a characteristic shared by
Saddam. If you don't know what you are going to do tomorrow, you can be
sure that your enemies don't know either. Sharon took the same view.
The most terrible incident - praised by Sharon at the time as a "great
success" - was the attack by Israel on Salah Shehada, a Hamas leader,
which slaughtered nine children along with eight adults. Their names
gave a frightful reality to this child carnage: 18-month-old Ayman
Matar, three-year-old Mohamed Matar, five-year-old Diana Matar,
four-year-old Sobhi Hweiti, six-year-old Mohamed Hweiti, 10-year-old
Ala Matar, 15-year-old Iman Shehada, 17-year-old Maryam Matar. And Dina
Matar. She was two months old. An Israeli air force pilot dropped a
one-ton bomb on their homes from an American-made F-16 aircraft on 22
What war did Sharon think he was fighting? And what was he fighting
for? Sharon regarded the attack as a victory against "terror".
Al-Wazzir, now an economic analyst in Gaza, believed that people who
did not believe themselves to be targets were now finding themselves
under attack. "There's a network of Israeli army and air force
intelligence and Mossad and Shin Bet that works together, feeding each
other information. They can cross the lines between Area C and Area B
in the occupied territories. Usually they carry out operations when IDF
morale is low. When they killed my father, the IDF was in very low
spirits because of the first intifada. So they go for a 'spectacular'
to show what great 'warriors' they are. Now the IDF morale is low again
because of the second intifada."
Palestinian security officers in Gaza were intrigued by the logic
behind the Israeli killings. "Our guys meet their guys and we know
their officers and operatives," one of the Palestinian officials tells
me. "I tell you this frankly - they are as corrupt and indisciplined as
we are. And as ruthless. After they targeted Mohamed Dahlan's convoy
when he was coming back from security talks, Dahlan talked to foreign
minister Peres. "Look what you guys are doing to us," Dahlan told
Peres. "Don't you realise it was me who took Sharon's son to meet
Arafat?" Al-Wazzir understands some of the death squad logic. "It has
some effect because we are a paternalistic society. We believe in the
idea of a father figure. But when they assassinated my dad, the
intifada didn't stop. It was affected, but all the political objectives
failed. Rather than demoralising the Palestinians, it fuelled the
intifada. They say there's now a hundred Palestinians on the murder
list. No, I don't think the Palestinians will adopt the same type of
killings against Israeli intelligence.
"An army is an institution, a system; murdering an officer just results
in him the great war for civilisation 573 being replaced..." The murder
of political or military opponents was a practice the Israelis honed in
Lebanon where Lebanese guerrilla leaders were regularly blown up by
hidden bombs or shot in the back by Shin Bet execution squads, often -
as in the case of an Amal leader in the village of Bidias - after
interrogation. And all in the name of "security".
Throughout the latest bloodletting, the one distinctive feature of the
conflict - the illegal and continuing colonisation of occupied Arab
land - was yet again a taboo subject, to be ignored, or mentioned in
passing only when Jewish settlers were killed. That this was the
world's last colonial conflict, in which the colonisers were supported
by the United States, was undiscussable, a prohibited subject,
something quite outside the brutality between Palestinians and Israelis
which was, so we had to remember, now part of America's "war on
terror". This is what Sharon had dishonestly claimed since 11 September
2001. The truth, however, became clear in a revealing interview Sharon
gave to a French magazine in December of that year, in which he
recalled a telephone conversation with Jacques Chirac. Sharon said he
told the French president that: "I was at that time reading a terrible
book about the Algerian war. It's a book whose title reads in Hebrew:
The Savage War of Peace. I know that President Chirac fought as an
officer during this conflict and that he had himself been decorated for
his courage. So, in a very friendly way, I told him: 'Mr. President,
you have to understand us, here, it's as if we are in Algeria. We have
no place to go. And besides, we have no intention of leaving.'"
Sana Sersawi speaks carefully, loudly but slowly, as she recalls the
chaotic, dangerous, desperately tragic events that overwhelmed her
almost exactly 19 years ago, on 18 September 1982. As one of the
survivors prepared to testify against the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon - who was then Israel's defence minister - she stops to search
her memory when she confronts the most terrible moments of her life.
"The Lebanese Forces militia had taken us from our homes and marched us
up to the entrance to the camp where a large hole had been dug in the
earth. The men were told to get into it. Then the militiamen shot a
Palestinian. The women and children had climbed over bodies to reach
this spot, but we were truly shocked by seeing this man killed in front
of us and there was a roar of shouting and screams from the women.
That's when we heard the Israelis on loudspeakers shouting, "Give us
the men, give us the men." We thought: "Thank God, they will save us."
It was to prove a cruelly false hope.
Mrs Sersawi, three months pregnant, saw her 30-year-old husband Hassan,
and her Egyptian brother-in-law Faraj el-Sayed Ahmed standing in the
crowd of men. "We were all told to walk up the road towards the Kuwaiti
embassy, the women and children in front, the men behind. We had been
separated. There were Phalangist militiamen and Israeli soldiers
walking alongside us. I could still see Hassan and Faraj. It was like a
parade. There were several hundred of us. When we got to the Cité
Sportive, the Israelis put us women in a big concrete room and the men
were taken to another side of the stadium. There were a lot of men from
the camp and I could no longer see my husband. The Israelis went round
saying "Sit, sit." It was 11 o'clock. An hour later, we were told to
leave. But we stood around outside amid the Israeli soldiers, waiting
for our men."
Sana Sersawi waited in the bright, sweltering sun for Hassan and Faraj
to emerge. "Some men came out, none of them younger than 40, and they
told us to be patient, that hundreds of men were still inside. Then
about four in the afternoon, an Israeli officer came out. He was
wearing dark glasses and said in Arabic: "What are you all waiting
for?" He said there was nobody left, that everyone had gone. There were
Israeli trucks moving out with tarpaulin over them. We couldn't see
inside. And there were Jeeps and tanks and a bulldozer making a lot of
noise. We stayed there as it got dark and the Israelis appeared to be
leaving and we were very nervous.
"But then when the Israelis had moved away, we went inside. And there
was no one there. Nobody. I had been only three years married. I never
saw my husband again."
The smashed Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium was a natural "holding
centre" for prisoners. Only two miles from Beirut airport, it had been
an ammunition dump for Yasser Arafat's PLO and repeatedly bombed by
Israeli jets during the 1982 siege of Beirut so that its giant, smashed
exterior looked like a nightmare denture. The Palestinians had earlier
mined its cavernous interior, but its vast, underground storage space
and athletics changing-rooms remained intact.
It was a familiar landmark to all of us who lived in Beirut. At
mid-morning on 18 September 1982 - around the time Sana Sersawi says
she was brought to the stadium - I saw hundreds of Palestinian and
Lebanese prisoners, perhaps well over 1,000 in all, sitting in its
gloomy, cavernous interior, squatting in the dust, watched over by
Israeli soldiers and plainclothes Shin Beth agents and a group of men
who I suspected, correctly, were Lebanese collaborators. The men sat in
silence, obviously in fear.
From time to time, I noted, a few were taken away. They were put into
Israeli army trucks or jeeps or Phalangist vehicles - for further
"interrogation". Nor did I doubt this. A few hundred metres away, up to
600 massacre victims of the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps
rotted in the sun, the stench of decomposition drifting over the
prisoners and their captors alike. It was suffocatingly hot. Loren
Jenkins of The Washington Post, Paul Eedle of Reuters and I had only
got into the cells because the Israelis assumed - given our Western
appearance - that we must have been members of Shin Beth. Many of the
prisoners had their heads bowed.
Arab prisoners usually adopted this pose of humiliation. But Israel's
militiamen had been withdrawn from the camps, their slaughter over, and
at least the Israeli army was now in charge. So what did these men have
Looking back - and listening to Sana Sersawi today - I shudder now at
our innocence. My notes of the time contain some ominous clues. We
found a Lebanese employee of Reuters, Abdullah Mattar, among the
prisoners and obtained his release, Paul leading him away with his arm
around the man's shoulders. "They take us away, one by one, for
interrogation," one of the prisoners muttered to me. "They are Haddad
militiamen. Usually they bring the people back after interrogation, but
not always. Sometimes the people do not return." Then an Israeli
officer ordered me to leave. Why couldn't the prisoners talk to me? I
asked. "They can talk if they want," he replied. "But they have nothing
All the Israelis knew what had happened inside the camps. The smell of
the corpses was now overpowering. Outside, a Phalangist Jeep with the
words "Military Police" painted on it - if so exotic an institution
could be associated with this gang of murderers - drove by. A few
television crews had turned up. One filmed the Lebanese Christian
militiamen outside the Cité Sportive. He also filmed a woman pleading
to an Israeli army colonel called "Yahya" for the release of her
husband. The colonel has now been positively identified by The
Independent. Today, he is a general in the Israeli army.
Along the main road opposite the stadium there was a line of Israeli
Merkava tanks, their crews sitting on the turrets, smoking, watching
the men being led from the stadium in ones or twos, some being set
free, others being led away by Shin Beth men or by Lebanese men in drab
khaki overalls. All these soldiers knew what had happened inside the
camps. One, Lt Avi Grabovsky - he was later to testify to the Israeli
Kahan commission - had even witnessed the murder of several civilians
the previous day and had been told not to "interfere".
And in the days that followed, strange reports reached us. A girl had
been dragged from a car in Damour by Phalangist militiamen and taken
away, despite her appeals to a nearby Israeli soldier. Then the
cleaning lady of a Lebanese woman who worked for a US television chain
complained bitterly that Israelis had arrested her husband. He was
never seen again.
There were other vague rumours of "disappeared" people. I wrote in my
notes at the time that "even after Chatila, Israel's 'terrorist'
enemies were being liquidated in West Beirut." But I had not directly
associated this dark conviction with the Cité Sportive. I had not even
reflected on the fearful precedents of a sports stadium in time of war.
Hadn't there been a sports stadium in Santiago a few years before,
packed with prisoners after Pinochet's coup d'état, a stadium from
which many prisoners never returned?
Among the testimonies gathered by lawyers seeking to indict Ariel
Sharon for war crimes is that of Wadha al-Sabeq. On Friday 17 September
1982, she said, while the massacre was still - unknown to her - under
way inside Sabra and Chatila, she was in her home with her family in
Bir Hassan, just opposite the camps. "Neighbours came and said the
Israelis wanted to stamp our ID cards, so we went downstairs and we saw
both Israelis and Lebanese forces on the road. The men were separated
from the women." This separation - with its awful shadow of similar
separations at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war - was a common feature
of these mass arrests. "We were told to go to the Cité Sportive. The
men stayed put." Among the men were Wadha's two sons, 19-year-old
Mohamed and 16-year-old Ali and her brother Mohamed. "We went to the
Cité Sportive, as the Israelis told us," she says. "I never saw my sons
or brother again."
The survivors tell distressingly similar stories. Bahija Zrein says she
was ordered by an Israeli patrol to go to the Cité Sportive and the men
with her, including her 22-year-old brother, were taken away. Some
militiamen - watched by the Israelis - loaded him into a car,
blindfolded, she says.
"That's how he disappeared," she says in her official testimony, "and I
have never seen him again since." It was only a few days afterwards
that we journalists began to notice a discrepancy in the figures of
dead. While up to 600 bodies had been found inside Sabra and Chatila,
1,800 civilians had been reported as "missing". We assumed - how easy
assumptions are in war --that they had been killed in the three days
between 16 September 1982 and the withdrawal of the Phalangist killers
on 18 September, and that their corpses had been secretly buried
outside the camp. Beneath the golf course, we suspected. The idea that
many of these young people had been murdered outside the camps or after
18 September, that the killings were still going on while we walked
through the camps, never occurred to us.
Why did we journalists at the time not think of this? The following
year, the Israeli Kahan commission published its report, condemning
Sharon but ending its own inquiry of the atrocity on 18 September, with
just a one-line hint - unexplained - that several hundred people may
have "disappeared around the same time". The commission interviewed no
Palestinian survivors but it was allowed to become the narrative of
The idea that the Israelis went on handing over prisoners to their
bloodthirsty militia allies never occurred to us. The Palestinians of
Sabra and Chatila are now giving evidence that this is exactly what
happened. One man, Abdel Nasser Alameh, believes his brother Ali was
handed to the Phalange on the morning of 18 September. A Palestinian
Christian woman called Milaneh Boutros has recorded how, in a
truck-load of women and children, she was taken from the camps to the
Christian town of Bikfaya, the home of the newly assassinated Christian
President-elect Bashir Gemayel, where a grief-stricken Christian woman
ordered the execution of a 13-year-old boy in the truck. He was shot.
The truck must have passed at least four Israeli checkpoints on its way
to Bikfaya. And heaven spare me, I had even met the woman who ordered
the boy's execution.
Even before the slaughter inside the camps had ended, Shahira Abu
Rudeina says she was taken to the Cité Sportive where, in one of the
underground "holding centres", she saw a retarded man, watched by
Israeli soldiers, burying bodies in a pit. Her evidence might be
rejected were it not for the fact that she also expressed her gratitude
for an Israeli soldier - inside the Chatila camp, against all the
evidence given by the Israelis - who prevented the murder of her
daughters by the Phalange.
Long after the war, the ruins of the Cité Sportive were torn down and a
brand new marble stadium was built in its place, partly by the British.
Pavarotti has sung there. But the testimony of what may lie beneath its
foundations - and its frightful implications - will give Ariel Sharon
further reason to fear an indictment.
I had been in the Sabra and Chatila camps when these crimes took place.
I had returned to the camps, year after year, to try to discover what
happened to the missing thousand men. Karsten Tveit of Norwegian
television had been with me in 1982 and he had returned to Beirut many
times with the same purpose. Lawyers weren't the only people
investigating these crimes against humanity. In 2001, Tveit arrived in
Lebanon with the original 1982 tapes of those women pleading for their
menfolk at the gates of the Cité Sportive. He visited the poky little
video shops in the present-day camp and showed and reshowed the tapes
until local Palestinians identified them; then Tveit set off to find
the women - 19 years older now - who were on the tape, who had asked
for their sons and brothers and fathers and husbands outside the Cité
Sportive. He traced them all. None had ever seen their loved ones again.
Extracted from The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, by Robert Fisk.
Talking To The Enemy Indeed
(January 31, 2006)
In Iraq the U.S. is secretly talking with the 'insurgent' enemy... There will have to be actual significant policy changes by the American Empire or else -- especially when it comes to reversing Israeli apartheid and realigning American policies and interests in truly new ways, not just more rhetorical trickery and obfuscation.
Abbas, Shaath, Safieh, Fateh Officials Should Resign or Be Sacked
(January 30, 2006)
The danger of fractricidal conflict and civil war in Palestine -- an under-the-table goal pursued by the Israelis for some time no matter how much they deny it -- is now greater than ever. The major figures representing the exposed and corrupt remnants of Fateh are attempting to manipulate their way one way or another to retain money, guns, and power. Rather than resigning as he should Fateh's top man, Mahmoud Abbas, is using his considerable backing from the U.S., Israel, Europe, and the Arab 'client regimes' to attempt to keep himself and his cronies in power one way or another. It is an unprecedented dangerous political poker game of bluff, counter-bluff, and chicken being played out not just in occupied Palestine but on the regional and world stages as well and with quite unpredictable results at this point. Meanwhile the Iranians are racing ahead to prepare themselves for attack, the comatose 'peace process' is all but finally declared dead, international energy supply concerns and escalating prices could trigger more conflict and economic hard-times, and the Neocon/Evangelical regime in Washington (under unprecedented assault as the second article below suggests) is desperately seeking new ways for possible salvation and resurrection before the November 2006 mid-term election even as the still hesitant impeachment movement might yet gain traction.
LAWLESS WORLD Erupting Thursday in London
(January 30, 2006)
"...likely to cause a fierce new controversy on both sides of the Atlantic" the new edition of this damning book LAWLESS WORLD will not be published until Thursday in London, just hours after President Bush's State of the Union 2006 address to Congress at 9pm tomorrow. Major pressures are now building in both Washington and London to actually attempt to remove from power those who brought about the Iraq war through such chicanery and duplicity. But if the pressures really get too strong expect the tension with Iran to escalate further and maybe explode into military exchanges and/or another major 'terrorist attack' either from the pertrators most expect or from the underground manipulators connected to those in power whom many now suspect with considerable damning circumstantial evidence
Assassination Backlash - Hamas Landslide
(January 26, 2006)
When the Israelis released the founder of Hamas from prison some years ago they did so because they had attempted to assassinate in Amman the man who today heads Hamas from Damascus and they needed to provide King Hussein an excuse to give them back their caught and endangered Mossad henchmen. Then, a few years later, they assassinated Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a blind paraplegic who founded Hamas in the late 1980s, as he emerged from a Gaza Mosque one morning -- this on top of an ongoing anti-Hamas assassination campaign designed to dismember and weaken 'The Islamic Resistance Movement'. The actual result however is what happened yesterday in a sea of Hamas green.
Hamas Wins Big
(January 26, 2006)
There's a long history to why Hamas has been so victorious in occupied Palestine. And whatever the Israeli p.r. spin about what has happened they and the U.S. are really the midwives.
(January 25, 2006)
This day was destined to come sooner or later. With the Israelis having a considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons and the ability to delivery them
tactically to the battlefield as well as strategically by submarine and airplane a gross imbalance has been there in the region for some time already. Furthermore there should be no doubt that Israel's apartheid and bloodletting policies toward the Palestinians have been a major force enflaming Arab and Muslim sentiments throughout the region; while militant neo-imperialist U.S. policies on top of the
American-Israeli alliance and the rise of Christian Fundamentalism have fueled the raging passions and led to today's imbroglio.
(January 24, 2006)
Hamas is not taking power tomorrow in occupied Palestine; it is instead asserting power in what can be seen as a kind of historic political blowback for so many awful years of miserable corruption, gross ineptitude and dastardly co-optation by those whom the U.S., Israel, and the Arab 'client regimes' pushed so hard to date to lord over the millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Call it as well a kind of democratic payback for the Israeli/U.S. assassinations of the senior generation of Palestinian leaders including in recent years the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and the long-time Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.
Questions About 9/11 That Don't Go Away
(January 23, 2006)
So much of what is happening now in our world can be traced back to the year 2001 when Bush/Cheney and the Neocons came to power in Washington, Ariel Sharon came to power in Israel, and what we all now simply call 9/11 happened. But just what did really happen? Nagging questions not only are not going away, they are surfacing from credible people and need to be very seriously and independently investigated.
U.S. Caught In The Act In Occupied Palestine
(January 22, 2006)
American credibility has rarely been lower; American duplicity has rarely been higher; and the exposure of American lies and hypocrisy has rarely been more evident than in the lead story in today's Washington Post.
(January 21, 2006)
From MER in January 1997: Torture of Palestinians is not only routine and systematic, in it actually sanctioned by the Israeli legal system that has been twisted to serve Israeli policies. Going back to the Shinbet scandal of the early 1980's, even more sadistic forms of torture have given way to the kinds of 'legalized' torture methods outlined in this important article from one of the few independent and courageous media sources in Israel, The Alternative Information Center (AIC). Among the reasons the Israelis get away with such systematic torture of Palestinians is that hardly anyone is willing to protest. The so-called "Palestinian Authority" practices similar and even worse torture techniques, as do nearly all of the Arab governments in the region -- so they are hardly in a position to protest. And the "liberal" American Jewish community has been morally bankrupt about such issues for so long now that to speak up at this point would be to condemn themselves for permitting, and even encouraging in many cases, such Nazi-like behavior by the Israelis for decades.
"WAR on TERRORISM" - Noam Chomsky Lecture on 18 Jan
(January 20, 2006)
This important lengthy lecture was delivered a few days ago in Dublin. Plus information about how to get a unique and now rare video documentary about the start of the "New World Order" -- available now exclusively from MER. At the start of Gulf War I in 1991 -- the beginnings of the Bush-era "New World Order", Noam Chomsky came to Washington and spoke to a huge overflow audience at George Washington University. This video documentary captures the entirety of his speech as well as the extensive question and answer period that followed. This documentary is essential to a serious understanding of U.S. foreign policy worldwide today. Chomsky uniquely provides the background and understanding needed to appreciate what the War in Iraq is really all about as well as the many misrepresentations and lies Washington propogates so often about the Israeli-Palestinian "Peace Process". From the back of the video by Mark Bruzonsky: "There's no one like Chomsky if you want to truly understand the realities of both U.S. policies and the overall situation in the Middle East...
Any Questions or Comments - CHAT at 12pm today
(January 20, 2006)
If you hvae any Questions or Comments about this program or MER use CHAT at 12pm today (Washington, DC time)
Palestinian 'Election' Approaches...Still Maybe
(January 19, 2006)
In the end it may be that the failing remnants of the disgraced 'Palestinian Authority' -- after so many years of miserable corruption and co-optation -- are now too weak and fractured to even manage to 'postpone' the long-promised Legislative election... Now the past is coming back to haunt the PA -- and their godfathers as well.
PARADISE NOW or is it PARADISE LOST?
(January 18, 2006)
Though they run a far more effective propaganda network the Jewish and Zionist establishments don't always get their way and have in fact lost quite a bit of credibility and following. This article from earlier this week in The Christian Science Monitor. And we certainly hope that those in Iraq who are legitimately and so courageously standing up against the US/UK/Israeli invasion/occupation will decide to release the CSM correspondent they are holding hostage, showing that they are sophisticated enough to distinguish between hostile and friendly Christians and thereby giving hope amidst so much despair and bloodletting.
ISLAM, SEX and the INTERNET
(January 17, 2006)
The cultural and emotional differences between Islam and Christianity and Judaism are considerable -- never more so than in the areas relating to women and sexuality. This interesting but not really adequate article is from today's Guardian in the UK: SEMINAL QUESTIONS - As scholars question the place of nudity in marriage, Islamic clerics are hotly debating exactly what sexual practices are acceptable, writes Brian Whitaker
The Faster March To International War
(January 16, 2006)
Joining the rising chorus is a growing group of sometimes neo-con, sometimes evangelical, sometimes hustling and/or sponsored academics. They are now contributing to the growing 'New World Order' hysteria that now dominates American political life through the pages of associated magazines and newspapers. While Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson for instance is right indeed to be warning about the great dangers now immediately ahead, his analogies and heroes are so misguided and off the mark one has to wonder just who is really orchestrating and behind this kind of thing. This Ferguson article appeared over the weekend in The Telegraph published in the U.K.
Historic Anti-U.S./Israel Crucible of Hatred and Revenge
(January 15, 2006)
One day Pakistan will no longer be lead by a military General empowered by the U.S and manipulated by the CIA. Remember now that today's feared Zawahiri left his Cairo medical practice to oppose the U.S. when he felt Egypt was deceived and co-opted by the U.S. Bin Laden himself, after working with the Americans to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan and working intimately with the American-sponsored Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, turned against the U.S. when American troops on top of the CIA directly occupied his country. And of course Iraq is today a country erupting as a result of U.S. occupation and destruction while Iran is a country today still rebelling after so many years of tortuous rule by the Shah and so much CIA-plotting to control that country.
INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program MiddleEast.Org
(January 12, 2006)
Useful INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program always available at MiddleEast.Org/MER
What Sharon Has Wrought; and What He Has Left
(January 12, 2006)
Understanding what has happened between Israel and Palestinians over the years requires not only expert analysis but considerable memory, ideological as well as political understanding, and an ability to put the historical pieces all together. Meron Benviniste's article today in Ha'aretz is of considerable help in summarizing the situation past, present, and maybe future.
Ariel Sharon - by Robert Fisk
(January 6, 2006)
There are few journalists who have the knowledge and perspective of Robert Fisk. This from his recent book, footnoted at the end and highly recommended.
Chaos and Geostrategic Changes of Historic Consequences Looming
(January 6, 2006)
The Year 2006 is now more ominous than ever.
Sharon's Huge Legacy
(January 5, 2006)
Sharon's legacy is overwhelming, and not for the positive
MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area
(January 4, 2006)
MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area
Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel
(January 4, 2006)
Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel