Ariel Sharon, in the annals of desk murderers, is a piker. He’s no Kissinger, no Cheney or Bill Clinton. But it’s not for lack of trying. It’s always about opportunity. Israel’s southern border was made secure by Jimmy Carter at Camp David 1978, so in ’82 there were no strategic considerations, no exposed flanks, and Sharon was free to pursue “terrorists” into his northern neighbor’s lands, and he laid siege on Beirut. In Gaza-style, he cut off food supplies and rained phosphorus and American cluster bombs on the streets, killing only 20,000 or so, mostly civilians. Cheney snorted in his sleep, Kissinger grunted “He doesn’t have the courage to be a war criminal.” . .
At first, we did not use the word massacre. We said very little because the flies would move unerringly for our mouths. We held handkerchiefs over our mouths for this reason, then we clasped the material to our noses as well because the flies moved over our faces. If the smell of the dead in Sidon was nauseating, the stench in Chatila made us retch. …They were everywhere, in the road, in laneways, in back yards and broken rooms, beneath crumpled masonry and across the top of garbage tips. The murderers – the Christian militiamen whom Israel had let into camps to ‘flesh out terrorists’ – had only just left … Down every alleyway, there were corpses – women, young men, babies and grandparents – lying together in terrible profusion where they had been knifed or machine-gunned to death. … Perhaps 1,000 people were butchered,; probably half that number again. …What we found inside the Palestinian Chatila camp at ten o’clock on the morning of 18 September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to retell in the cold prose of a medical examination. There had been massacres before in Lebanon, but rarely on this scale … these people, hundreds of them, had been shot down unarmed. This was a mass killing, an incident … that was also an atrocity. It went beyond what the Israelis would have in other circumstances called a terrorist activity. It was a war crime. …Little known here in the US, but most of the world views Israel as the aggressor in Mideast affairs, and the massacres at Sabra and Chatila, carried out by Christian Phalangist** militias, forever destroyed the image of Israelis as moderates or humanitarians.
[Washington Post correspondent Loren] Jenkins immediately realized that the Israeli defence minister would have to bear some responsibility for this horror. ‘Sharon!’ he shouted. ‘That fucker Sharon! This is Deir Yassin* all over again.’
I am plodding through an essay by Robert Fisk, British journalist who lives in Lebanon, called “Terrorists,” written in the grisly aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Fisk is a war correspondent, and has done on-the-ground and independent reporting (no embedding – not this guy) in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, the Lebanese Civil War, the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Iran–Iraq War, and the Gulf Wars.
I can take no more this morning. I am moving on now to “Out of My League” by Dirk Hayhurst. It’s about baseball, a sport where it is considered immoral to introduce a foreign substance like Vaseline onto the surface of a ball. I take refuge there from life.
*Village in Palestine where members of the Jewish paramilitary organization Irgun massacred 250 Arabs, half of them women and children, in April, 1948.
**As best as I can discern. “Phalangists” think that conservatives don’t go far enough and fascists too far in killing socialists and communists. I guess, from an Israeli standpoint, this makes them moderates. They were quite useful back in 1982.