On September, it is the 35 anniversary of the massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, in East Beirut, Lebanon. Almost three thousand Palestinians were murdered with cruelty, shocking the whole world. Even today, the wound is still open. In both places, the memory of the massacres remains vivid.
By Soraya Misleh.
Sabra is now an administrative district in which 12 thousand people live. Shatila remains one of the twelve official camps in Lebanon registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), where 450 thousand Palestinians live, out of which near 10 thousand live in Shatila. Established in 1949 by the Red Cross International – therefore, after the Nakba (catastrophe that represented the creation of the Israel State on May 15th, 1948) – the camp still faces serious problems of environmental sanitation, with poor sewage system, and humid and overcrowded shelters. There are only two schools and a health center. Poverty, lack of infrastructure, and unemployment, not to mention discrimination, are part of the daily life of Palestinians, also in Sabra. Without the same rights than the rest of the population, they are forbidden to work in several jobs.
The shortage situation repeats in other camps, within the Occupied Palestine or in the neighboring Arabic countries. There are more than five million refugees registered with UNRWA. There are still around one million refugees not registered in the region, besides thousands spread throughout the world.
In 1982, Lebanon was facing a Civil War, with a big wave of popular dissatisfaction against the dominant elite. One of its members was Bashir Gemayel, leader of an extreme right party entitled Kataeb Party [known as Phalange]. He had the intention of expelling the Palestinians from that territory, once he considered them as “surplus population”. He assumed the presidency of the country but he was killed on September 14th due to the war before concluding his attempt. But his “radical solution” was put in practice by his followers soon after his death, between the 16th and 18th, in the camps of Sabra and Shatila, along with close cooperation with Israel, whose Defense Ministry at the time was Ariel Sharon. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had already been expelled, what divided and weakened the movement.
According to the Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, in an article named “The United States was responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in 1982,” published in The Nation, in September last year, documents from the Israel Official Archive recently made public show the responsibility of the United States in the massacre: they ensured the safeguard of the refugee camps when the PLO was removed. In addition, its diplomacy had been previously informed about the killing that would occur in Sabra and Shatila, and not only did it not intervene as it provided weapons for the genocide. United States special envoy, Morris Draper, received the information from Sharon himself.
In the bloodshed, mainly women, children and the elderly were shot dead or stabbed. The genocide was marked by other savage acts, like rapes. The population had no way to scape, once Israel eased the entrance of Lebanese troops and it even trained them and surrounded the camps preventing evacuation.
The murders in Sabra and Shatila make part of a tragic list of massacres committed against Palestinians by Israel since 1948, as part of a deliberate ethnic cleansing that remains until today. The most known one took place on April 9th of the same year, in a Palestine village called Deir Yassin, in which around 750 people were living. Two hundred and fifty-four people were murdered that day, also including women, children, and the elderly, according to the portal Deir Yassin Remembered.
The world raises
The massacres of Sabra and Shatila caused a wave of indignation throughout the world with no precedents in the Palestine History. A rally organized by the movement “Peace Now” in Israel took almost 400 thousand protesters to the street. Protests spread throughout the globe, including Brazil, in which demonstrations with thousands of people were made demanding justice. Consequently, Ariel Sharon, the great architect of the genocide in Sabra and Shatila, was indirectly blamed for the massacre and removed from the Ministry of Defense. He continued carrying out atrocities like this for a long time, what caused him the nickname of “The Butcher,” until he went into a comma in 2006 to finally die in January 2014.
Before this regime of apartheid faced by Palestinians until today, their call is to boycott to Israel, in the action frames that helped to put an end to black segregation in South Africa during the 90’s. The Brazilian government became one of the biggest importers of military technology of the occupying power and it is the moment to strengthen the demand for it to break this and other contracts.
With an eye on the potential market, not only in Brazil but in all Latin America, a week before the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, traveled to the region, followed by a delegation of 30 businessmen. They went to Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, and they were received with protests due to the long path of service of occupying and colonizing Palestinians lands. Implied in crimes against humanity, like the massacres in Gaza over the last years – the biggest of which took 51 days in 2014, when around 2200 Palestinians were dead, among them 500 children, – Netanyahu earned the repulse of activists and the Palestinian Community.
Sharon’s heir in policies against the people who live under occupation – as other Zionist leaders – is worried about the growth of the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,) which has been criminalized. Also, the leftist Zionism – with a different rhetoric – took a stand against the boycott to Israel, to which, shamefully, the Congressman Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ) made echo: on September 14th, he shared on his Facebook page a video of the Brazil-Israel Institute that poses his opposition to BDS campaign. The fallacious production tries to pose oppressor and the oppressed as equals, under the false propaganda that the boycott harms possible dialogue and peace. It omits, however, that what compromises this is the absence of a fair solution – only possible with the guarantee of return, for millions of refugees, to the lands from where they were expelled, which means a unified, secular, free, democratic, non-racist Palestine state with equal rights for all those who want to live in peace with Palestinians.
The offensive against BDS is a signal that this movement has achieved effective results on isolating – politically, economically, and culturally – the racist State of Israel. Indeed, they suffered a drop of 46% on external investments, lately. Data relative to Israel economics prove the importance of this campaign: 25% of their workforce is employed in the military or “security” industry, and half the population is engaged in projects related to “defense.” From the total of production, 70% are intended to export. Which means, it is an economy sustained by business connected with the occupation as well as by the imperialist powers and by Zionists, world-wide – independently of the religion, Jews or Christians.
A true tribute to the victims of Sabra and Shatila should strengthen the call to the BDS campaign as an active international solidarity action. In parallel, it is necessary to be on the side of the real strugglers along the Arab World, to combat the enemies of the Palestinian cause, already identified in 1936 – 1939 by the Marxist Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani: Imperialism/Zionism, the Arab regimes, and the Palestinian bourgeoisie. To stop the massacres like the one in Lebanon in 1982 – whose imminent threat, siege, offensive, and even ethnic cleansing are, even today, unhappily, a tragic reality of Palestinians who live in refugee camps in the Arab world. For instance, the Syrian case, which is, at the moment, under the bloody dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in his pursuit to defeat the revolution that arose in 2011.
Translation: Eduardo Correia Neto.