Adonis Diaries

Shatila Camp survivors (Palestinians and Lebanese) recollect the massacre: Of Sharon’s Beirut genocide in 1982

Posted on: January 16, 2014

Shatila (Chatila) Camp survivors recollect the massacre: Of Sharon’s Beirut genocide in 1982

Alex  Rowell & Luna  Safwan posted this January 13, 2014 on Now

Sharon death only partial solace for Shatila survivors

NOW speaks with Palestinian survivors of the infamous 1982 massacre

SHATILA, Lebanon: On Monday afternoon, the recently-deceased former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was being laid to final rest in the Negev desert, where he was eulogized by national and international dignitaries as a “great leader” whose “memory will forever be kept in the nation’s heart.”

But in the mud-caked, bare-brick labyrinth of narrow alleyways in Beirut’s Shatila refugee camp, some streets scarcely wide enough for one adult to pass, Sharon’s name was remembered by the Palestinian residents for something other than greatness.

A weapon of the massacre

“I was 12 years old at the time. I remember standing right here,” said one resident who gave his name only as Fadi, pointing to the rusted metal doorway of his apartment on one of the camp’s numberless streets. “It was nighttime, and there were lights flying high up in the air. And I was wondering, who’s making these lights? And why?”

It was September, 1982.

The answer to Fadi’s question is that the lights were flares, fired by Israeli troops who had occupied the city weeks earlier following a bloody ground and air assault campaign masterminded by then-Defense Minister Sharon.

The flares provided illumination for Lebanese militiamen, allied with Israel at the time, who entered the camp and committed perhaps the most infamous massacre of the 15-year civil war, in which over a thousand civilian men, women, and children were killed with the knowledge of the Israeli forces encircling the camp.

Many of the victims were raped and hacked with blades. An official Israeli inquiry later found Sharon “indirectly responsible” for the massacre and recommended that he be removed from his post. To his critics, he would forever be known as the “Butcher of Beirut” thenceforth.

On top of the wardrobe in his bedroom, 83-year-old Hajj Abu Ahmad al-Salhani still keeps a remarkable memento of the slaughter that nearly claimed his life. “This is one of the actual weapons they used on us,” he tells NOW, holding up an old workman’s tool with a hammer’s head on one end and an axe on the other.

Salhani becomes visibly agitated when recounting the events, fidgeting nervously with an intense stare in his grey eyes.

“I was in a taxi when it started,” he tells NOW. “When I got home, we started hearing people talk about a massacre happening. Later, I found out the taxi I was in was stopped at a checkpoint, and we never heard anything about the others in it again. The taxi driver’s name was Ahmad Hishme.”

“My sister lost her husband in that massacre. I was one of the lucky ones,” he adds, his eyes moistening.

67-year-old Hajj Abu Imad al-Masri had an equally near miss with the Lebanese militiamen.

“That night I saw women and children running, screaming about a massacre. Sharon’s forces were set and ready on the Kuwait embassy, along with the Saad Haddad militia [the ‘South Lebanon Army’]. They came in from al-Rihab Street with axes, and managed even to get to al-Gaza Hospital, where they slaughtered a lot of people.”

“We had small underground shelters, where we were able to hide families.” Even so, they weren’t always beyond the militiamen’s reach.

“I remember the story of a guy we called ‘the survivor,’” said Masri. “He was hiding along with 25 families in an underground shelter and insisted on going out to get cigarettes. They caught him [and] he ended up telling them about the shelter. They took all the men aside, took their wallets, and then made them all face a wall. They executed all of them, except ‘the survivor,’ who took 15 bullets but didn’t die.”

For all the pain still clearly evoked by the memory of the massacre, the Shatila residents with whom NOW spoke said Sharon’s death was of little consequence to their overall plight.

“Personally, I would rather he stayed in a coma,” said Ziad Himmo, general secretary of the camp’s Popular Committee. “Or was just tossed into a field, like what happens to our people.”

Asked if he would have wanted to see Sharon face trial for war crimes, Himmo told NOW this would be missing the point.

“It’s not just about Sharon. The whole Zionist state is the problem.”

“I have no feelings about the death of Sharon,” said Salhani. “What about Saad Haddad? And Antoine Lahad [Haddad’s successor]? A lot of people should be held accountable.”

The insinuation that justice was still yet to be served was summarized by Masri.

“Israel should be held accountable, and not only Sharon, which is why his death means nothing to me. But who will hold Israel accountable? The same countries trying to help it become stronger now?”

Note 1: Sharon of Israel https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/ariel-sharon-of-israel/

Note 2: Interview by Robert Fisk https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/interview-with-a-general-in-israel-air-force-who-is-this-specter/

Note 3: Anniversary of a genocide https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/anniversary-of-another-massacre-palestinians-in-camps-of-sabra-and-shatila-and-crocodile-tears/

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