Seth Anziska, a doctoral candidate in international history at Columbia University, has written an OpEd in the New York Times entitled “A Preventable Massacre” published here.
The OpEd piece reports on Anziska’s discovery at the Israel State Archives this summer of “recently declassified documents that chronicle key conversations between American and Israeli officials before and during the 1982 massacre” of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen — after the enforced evacuation of PLO leader Yasser Arafat and his fighters.
UPDATE: Documents from the Israeli State Archives were posted on the NYTimes website to accompany Anziska’s article, here. “The Secretary asked you yesterday to convey our deep conviction that Israel should promptly pull pack…”, an American briefing note for guidance before a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens, “…[but] Today we find the IDF consolidating its positions … I am instructed to ask Israel to have its forces out of West Beirut…immediately”.
But, Israel did not pull back.
The primary massacre in the two adjacent Palestinian refugee camps just south of Beirut took place between 16 – 18 September 1982.
UPDATE: Israel’s current State Archivist, Yaakov Lozowick, wrote in a post he published on 19 September on the Israel’s Documented Story blog: “30 years ago this week, Lebanese Phalangists murdered hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Shatila, two Palestinian camps near Beirut. The IDF had allowed the phalangists into the camps, and according to the Kahan Commission’s investigation after the events, Israel bore indirect responsibility for the massacre because its troops controlled access to the camps, knew about the killings, and didn’t stop them. Morally, this was one of Israel’s darkest moments. Much of the military documentation of the 1982 war in Lebanon cannot yet be declassified. Some, however, can and has. The New York Times has an article by Seth Anziska, a researcher who spent time this summer in our reading room going through files, mostly of the Foreign Ministry, which show the tensions between American diplomats and Israeli leaders as the massacre was unfolding. It does not make for easy reading”. This is posted here.
Anziska reports that “In mid-August, as America was negotiating the PLO’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Reagan told Prime Minister Menachem Begin that the bombings ‘had to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered’, Reagan wrote in his diaries”.
American marines had been deployed near Beirut until 10 September 1982.
But on 14 September 1982, Lebanon’s President-elect Bashir Gemayel, a leader of the strongly anti-Palestinian Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia was assassinated, and Anziska writes, “Israel reacted by violating the cease-fire agreement. It quickly occupied West Beirut — ostensibly to prevent militia attacks against the Palestinian civilians. ‘The main order of the day is to keep the peace’, Begin told the American envoy to the Middle East, Morris Draper, on Sept. 15. ‘Otherwise, there could be pogroms’. By Sept. 16, the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] was fully in control of West Beirut, including Sabra and Shatila”.
Robert Fisk, who was in Beirut writing for The Independent and who is still there now, has just written that “Elie Hobeika, the Lebanese Christian militia leader who led his murderers into the camp – after [Israeli Defense Minister Ariel] Sharon had told the Phalange that Palestinians had just assassinated their leader, Bashir Gemayel – was murdered years later in east Beirut. His enemies claimed the Syrians killed him, his friends blamed the Israelis; Hobeika, who had ‘gone across’ to the Syrians, had just announced he would ‘tell all’ about the Sabra and Chatila atrocity at a Belgian court, which wished to try Sharon”. Fisk’s piece, titled “The Forgotten Massacre”, is posted here.
Fisk wrote that “While presidents and prime ministers have lined up in Manhattan to mourn the dead of the 2001 international crimes against humanity at the World Trade Centre, not a single Western leader has dared to visit the dank and grubby Sabra and Chatila mass graves, shaded by a few scruffy trees and faded photographs of the dead. Nor, let it be said – in 30 years – has a single Arab leader bothered to visit the last resting place of at least 600 of the 1,700 victims. Arab potentates bleed in their hearts for the Palestinians but an airfare to Beirut might be a bit much these days – and which of them would want to offend the Israelis or the Americans? It is an irony – but an important one, nonetheless – that the only nation to hold a serious official enquiry into the massacre, albeit flawed, was Israel. The Israeli army sent the killers into the camps and then watched – and did nothing – while the atrocity took place. A certain Israeli Lieutenant Avi Grabowsky gave the most telling evidence of this. The Kahan Commission held the then defence minister Ariel Sharon personally responsible, since he sent the ruthless anti-Palestinian Phalangists into the camps to ‘flush out terrorists’ – ‘terrorists’ who turned out to be as non-existent as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction 21 years later”…
Continue reading 30 years ago today, the world began to hear about the "Forgotten" and "Preventable" massacre in Sabra + Shatila refugee camps near Beirut