Home > Middle East, Religion, The Politics of War > US gave Israel green light for Sabra, Shatila genocide 30 years ago.

US gave Israel green light for Sabra, Shatila genocide 30 years ago.

By Finian Cunningham 19th September 2012.

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This week sees the 30th anniversary of the single-worst atrocity during the more than six decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yet not a single person has ever been prosecuted for the slaughter at Sabra and Shatila. As part of Lebanon’s civil war settlement in 1990 an amnesty was afforded to all those who had participated in this and other atrocities. Some would later clear their consciences by confessing publicly to media and tribunals to the most barbaric acts of cruelty one can imagine.”

For three days, between 15 and 18 September, up to 3,500 men, women and children were butchered in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps of West Beirut. Their mutilated, mangled bodies bulldozed into mass graves.

For three days, Lebanese Christian Phalangists under the command of intelligence chief Elie Hobeika returned over and over again to go on an orgy of systematic slaughter in the camps. The massacre would not have been possible only for the collaboration of Israel’s Defence Forces, which had months earlier invaded Lebanon and taken control of the camps.

Sabra and Shatila were populated by destitute families of Palestinians that had fled from the pogroms in 1948 carried out by Israel’s Haganah death squads. The refugee numbers also burgeoned with Lebanese Shia displaced from the civil war in their country that erupted in 1975.

The United Nations’ General Assembly later condemned what happened at Sabra and Shatila as “an act of genocide”. A UN commission of inquiry, headed up by Irish statesman Sean MacBride, concluded that the Israeli authorities and their forces were involved and responsible for the deaths. The then head of the IDF was Ariel Sharon who later would hold four ministerial posts before becoming Israeli Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006.

Yet not a single person has ever been prosecuted for the slaughter at Sabra and Shatila. As part of Lebanon’s civil war settlement in 1990 an amnesty was afforded to all those who had participated in this and other atrocities. Some would later clear their consciences by confessing publicly to media and tribunals to the most barbaric acts of cruelty one can imagine.

Former Phalangist commander Hobeika was due to give evidence in a Belgian court, which had claimed international jurisdiction for crimes against humanity to prosecute the case. Ahead of the hearings, Hobeika had publicly stated that he was going to testify against Aerial Sharon to implicate him in the operation of the massacre. He never made it to the courtroom. He was assassinated in a car bomb in Beirut in January 2002. At least two other former Lebanese Phalangists who were similarly due to testify were also mysteriously killed. Eventually, the Belgian court was forced to drop the trial under pressure from Washington. Many believe that Israeli agents carried out the assassinations to spare Sharon international ignominy.

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