NPK-info 04-12-2001 - Nederlands Palestina Komitee / www.palestina-komitee.nl

Bombs and Wreaths, Ali Abunimah, 2-12-2001
Citaat: "I wonder why I am so rarely asked by the same media how I feel when
Palestinians are killed."
Zie ook

Over Sharon en Sabra & Shatila 1982
* The Guardian (London), 28-11-2001, Julie Flint
   Uncovers secret documents that detail Israel's involvement in the massacres
* The Independent (London), 28-11-2001, Robert Fisk
   New evidence that Palestinians died hours after surviving camp massacres.

Opmerkelijke uitspraken
In een interview in HP/De Tijd van 16 november zegt Van Aartsen over het
komen tot een oplossing van het conflicht Palestina-Israel: "De vorige
president van de VS heeft zich uit de naad gewerkt om die oplossing te
vinden, maar is op het laatste moment door Arafat in de kou gezet."
En op de vraag of de VS het wellicht verkeerd aanpakken: "Nee! Dit is zeer
onrechtvaardig ten opzichte van de VS."
Zou Van Aartsen echt niet beter weten?

NPK/WL, 4-12-2001

P.S. VIRUS-problemen?
Zie o.a. http://www.virusalert.nl/?show=virus&id=185
Bombs and Wreaths
by Ali Abunimah
December 2, 2001

Once again Israelis are shocked and horrified that innocent men,
women and children have been blown up by suicide bombers in the
heart of Jerusalem and in the mixed Palestinian-Jewish city of
Haifa. No decent person can refrain from condemning such attacks in
the strongest terms. Such deeds harm not only their innocent
victimsin this case also likely to include Palestinian citizens of
Israel--but debase the just cause of Palestine which is one that has
no need to stoop to the levels of cruelty and dehumanization that
Israel has routinely used against us.

Yet I find myself starting to feel cynical and jaded even in the
face of such horror and misery. As a Palestinian I find that the
media asks and challenges me about views on such horrific bombings.
I dutifully repeat my condemnation, and state that I oppose the
targeting and killing of all innocent civilians regardless of
whether they are Israelis or Palestinians.

I wonder why I am so rarely asked by the same media how I feel when
Palestinians are killed. No one asked how I felt last week when five
Palestinian schoolboys were killed by a bomb planted by the Israeli
occupation forces in their refugee camp in Gaza. I wonder why it is
not demanded of Israelis and pro-Israeli Jews who appear on TV to
condemn the violence that is committed in their name against
Palestinians the way I am asked to condemn violence by Palestinians
against Israelis.

I watch in amazement the latest US envoy General Anthony Zinni
laying a wreath in Jerusalem at the site of the bombings there in
memory and mourning for yet more innocent dead. But where was the
American wreath for the five boys killed in Gaza? Why do twenty-six
dead Israelis make a crisis that mobilizes the whole world and
saturates the media, while the targeting and killing of hundreds of
unarmed Palestinian civilians, one third of them children, and the
suffocation by siege of three million more is simply background
noise unworthy of attention?

In response to the attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
said that "the only way to defend against terrorists is to go after
the terrorists."

This can only be understood as an endorsement of Israels policy of
extrajudicial executions which last week took the life of a senior
Hamas leader, put an end to a tacit ceasefire with Hamas, and
directly triggered the latest round of suicide bombings. Perhaps
Rumsfeld is giving a green light for even greater atrocities that
have yet to unfold. After a brief meeting with President Bush,
Israels prime minister Ariel Sharon is flying back from Washington
to direct the vengeance operations in person. What will it be this
time? More F-16 attacks? More death squad killings? More shelling of
refugee camps? More houses destroyed? More kidnappings? More
torture? An even tighter blockade of the occupied territories? These
are the regular items on the Israeli menu.

None of these are likely to satisfy the Israeli governments
appetite, after all, all have been tried and continue to be tried
relentlessly and without mercy.  Perhaps this time Sharon will order
the specialto fulfill his dream and either kill Yasir Arafat or
at least send him back into exile. After all, as US Secretary of
State Colin Powell put it this morning, this is the "moment of
truth" for Arafat. (When, Mr. Powell, does Israels moment of truth

My response to all of this is a big shrug. So they send Arafat back
to Tunis or assassinate him, the occupation will still be there.
The Israelis will be the losers because they will no longer have the
decrepit old man, their "bin Laden" to blame for all their problems.
They will come face to face with the fact that it is their
occupation and their attempt to crush all opposition to it that is
the fuel of the conflict. Palestinians will be neither better off
nor worse off. Some even think that a return to direct military
occupation without the intermediary of the Palestinian Authority can
only sharpen the confrontation and hence bring it to its conclusion
more rapidly.

Certainly no serious person believes that Arafat and his
lieutenants, nominally controlling a few divided scraps of land in
the occupied West Bank and Gaza, bombed daily by the Israeli army,
can through coercion, arrests and torture do what Israel with all
its might has failed to dobring about an unconditional end to all
resistance against the occupation or attacks on Israeli civilians.
Rumsfeld revealed that even he doubts that Arafat can succeed when
he told NBCs "Meet the Press" that Arafat "is not a particularly
strong leader, and I don't know that he has good control over the
Palestinian situation." But Zionist orthodoxy in the United States,
enforced by Israels intransigent and powerful lobby, demands that
all the ugly symptoms of 53 years of relentless and unspeakably
brutal dispossession and repression of millions of people by Israel,
and decades of US collusion and support for these policies, be
blamed on one man. All too aware of its assigned role, the
Palestinian Authority has declared a "state of emergency." This
amounts to little in practice since all the means of repression and
arbitrary rule at the disposal of the PA are already in full use
while none of the means that could actually improve the lives of
Palestinians are granted to it by the Israeli occupier.

This morning the BBC World Service asked Mr. Rolf Mayer, a former
minister in the last Apartheid government of South Africa whether
from his experience he thought that the onus was on the Israeli
government or the Palestinians to act to end this conflict. Mayer
said that it was not until the Apartheid governmentthe side with
the powergave up the dream of perpetuating white rule that South
Africa could move forward, and that therefore it was up to
Israelthe side with the powerto decide to end its occupation.
Mayer said that negotiations take place in the context of conflict
and therefore the demand that all violence be stopped as a
precondition for negotiations was one which would have doomed the
South African peace talks to failure.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Apartheid South Africa and Israel
were close military and political allies. So it is saying something
when even Israels former Apartheid friends are telling it to see
reality in a different way. And it is remarkable to think that when
everyone in the world sees things clearly, only the United States
government and media pretend they do not.

So last week the burden of death fell on Palestinians. This week on
Israelis. The only surprise will be if in the coming week dozens
more innocent people are not killed.

Mr. Zinni said he will stay in the region until he succeeds in
getting a ceasefire. But if US policy is going to continue to ignore
the root causes of the conflict, then I advise Mr. Zinni to do two
things: start looking for a comfortable house and find a reliable
supplier of wreaths.

Ali Abunimah


The Sharon files: A Belgian court will today decide
whether to try Ariel Sharon for war crimes. 
Julie Flint uncovers secret documents that detail Israel's involvement in the 1982
massacres at Sabra and Shatila

by Julie Flint

The Guardian (London)
November 28, 2001

It is September 19 1982, the day after the Lebanese Forces militia
left Beirut's Palestinian camps after a 38-hour orgy of killing, and
it is finally possible to see what the Israeli soldiers surrounding
the camps claimed they had been unable to see. Streets carpeted with
bodies. Men, women and children shot and hacked to death. Pregnant
women eviscerated. In Christian East Beirut, Israel's chief of
staff, Lieutenant General Rafael Eitan, the commander of the
Northern District, Major General Amir Drori, and a senior Mossad
officer, Menahem Navot, codenamed Mr R, meet the deputy chief of
staff of the Lebanese Forces, Antoine Breidi - "Toto" - and Joseph
abu Khalil, the man who made the first contact with the Israelis in
March 1976. What ensues is a cynical damage-limitation conference in
which senior officers of the Israeli Defence Forces utter not one
word of reproach for a massacre in which mili tiamen trained, armed
and sent into the camps by them killed at least 900 defenceless

Gen Eitan: "Everybody points an accusing finger at Israel and the
outcome might be that the IDF will be forced to withdraw from
Beirut. Therefore some of you have to explain the subject and
immediately. The formula should be that they (the Lebanese Forces)
took part in an assignment and that whatever occurred was out of
their control." Gen Drori: "On this occasion you should mention also
what happened at Damour (a Christian village where fighters
including Palestinians killed 200 civilians in 1976). Also to
mention the fact that this is not your policy. You could mention
that in the places that they entered there were battles between
rival sides inside the camps and not only with the Phalangists (the
LF's political umbrella)."

Abu Khalil: ". . . You tell us and we will carry it out."

And so it goes on - a web of evasions and untruths concocted by the
IDF, which sent 200 Lebanese militiamen into Sabra and Shatila on
September 16 to "mop up" 2,000 "terrorists" who Ariel Sharon, then
Israel's defence minister, claimed had remained there after the
PLO's evacuation from Beirut. It is an encounter that shows the
intimacy between the IDF and the LF, even after the massacre, and
the virtual incorporation of the LF into the IDF structure.

Two almost identical reports of this meeting - one identified as "a
transcript of a conversation recorded by an aide to the commander of
the Northern District"; the other as "Minutes of Mossad (4222) of a
meeting between Israeli chief of staff and Gen Drori with Toto" -
are among a stack of documents delivered to lawyers seeking to bring
Sharon, now Israel's prime minister, to trial in Belgium for war
crimes committed in Lebanon 19 years ago when he had overall
responsibility for the IDF.

The documents, exclusively obtained by the Guardian, cover the
period between June and November 1982 - from a meeting in which "the
cabinet has decided to have the Lebanese army and the Phalangists
participate in the entering of Beirut" to the testimony to Israel's
Kahan commission of inquiry of a senior military intelligence
officer, Colonel Elkana Harnof. Some are in Hebrew; others in
English. Michael Verhaeghe, one of three lawyers representing the
plaintiffs in the case against Sharon, has little doubt about the
documents' authenticity. They arrived anonymously in June, within 10
days of the suit being lodged under legislation that allows Belgium
to prosecute foreigners for war crimes, wherever they were

"The documents give a very detailed account of a number of events
which would be very difficult to fabricate - es pecially in that
very short period of time," says Verhaeghe. Investigations by the
Guardian in Israel and Lebanon have confirmed the identity of the
intelligence officers named in the documents as well as the dates,
times and locations of some of the meetings, those who attended them
and some of their content. The typescript of the Hebrew documents
matches that used at the time of Kahan. And the voices of many of
the protagonists are unmistakable - among them the courtly Pierre
Gemayel, patriarch of the Gemayel family, and Sharon, referred to
throughout as DM.

Thus, from minutes of a meeting on August 21 at Gemayel's home in
Bikfaya: Pierre: "I visited Israel several times. I was very
impressed." DM: "How to create power and how to convey its presence
is the great test. We were 18 million, six million were exterminated
. . . The use of power is what I want to discuss with you."

The lawyers say the documents' importance lies in recurring evidence
that the IDF had "command responsibility" for the Lebanese Forces
before, during and after the massacre. Thus, according to a summary
of a meeting in which "the capture of Beirut" was discussed with LF
leaders on July 13, Gen Eitan "explained that the IDF would provide
all the necessary support: artillery, air etc as if they were
regular IDF units".

"Under the established law of command responsibility - also known as
indirect responsibility - this is watertight evidence of the
conscious and effective chain of command," says Chibli Mallat, one
of Verhaeghe's colleagues.

In February 1983, the Kahan commis sion found that no Israeli was
"directly responsible" for the massacre, but determined that Sharon
bore "personal responsibility". It ruled that he was negligent in
ignoring the possibility of bloodshed in the camps following the
assassination of the Lebanese Forces' leader, president-elect Bashir
Gemayel, on September 14 - a massacre that Sharon publicly, and
erroneously, blamed on Palestinians. Sharon resigned his defence
portfolio, but stayed in the cabinet.

In Brussels today an appeals court will meet in closed session to
decide whether to put Israel's prime minister on trial. Sharon's
lawyers will argue that he has immunity as a head of government;
that he is a victim of double jeopardy after the Kahan inquiry; and
that the Belgian law cannot be used retroactively - claims that
Mallat and his colleagues dismiss. Only if the appeals court rules
for the plaintiffs will the documents be introduced to a court,
obliging Sharon's lawyers either to acknowledge them or to produce
others that refute them. Only then will a court hear of Sharon's
early insistence that the Lebanese Forces "clean" the camps, despite
their known proclivity for murder and rape.

Thus, even as the first PLO fighters left Beirut on August 21,
Sharon met Bashir and Pierre Gemayel to demand a new strike against
the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. Minutes of the meeting quote
Sharon as saying: "A question was raised before, what would happen
to the Palestinian camps once the terrorists withdraw . . . You've
got to act . . . So that there be no terrorists you've got to clean
the camps." Pierre Gemayel prevaricated: "We are in the midst of a
political process of presidential elections . . . Bashir is the
nominee . . . It is very important that calm is kept." Sharon
insisted: "What would you do about the camps?" Bashir: "We are
planning a real zoo."

In his testimony to Kahan, Sharon claimed that no one imagined the
Lebanese Forces would carry out a massacre in the camps. This claim
is contradicted by numerous testimonies in the documents in Belgium
- among them Sharon's own complaint to Bashir Gemayel, minuted 10
weeks before the massacre, that "it is incumbent that we prevent
several ugly things which have occurred - murders, rapes and
stealing by some of your men". In the same month, in a meeting with
American diplomats at the home of Johnny Abdo, Lebanon's military
intelligence chief, Sharon proposed that the PLO fighters in Beirut
be given "refuge" in Israel. "Although we are at a friend's house,"
he said, according to the report of the meeting, "rest assured that
they would be more secure in our hands!"

Verhaeghe's documents show that this belief was shared by top
intelligence officials identified in a secret part of the Kahan
report - Appendix B. Kahan said Appendix B would not be published
for reasons of national security. The lawyers believe the documents
referring to these officers must come from Appendix B, but do not
know whether the entire file is from Appendix B.

Echoing Sharon's concerns, according to excerpts from testimony to
Kahan on October 22, Mossad chief Yitzhak Hoffi says the Phalangists
"talk about solving the Palestinian problem with a hand gesture
whose meaning is physical elimination . . . I don't think anybody
had any doubts about this . . . They raised the issue of Lebanon
being unable to survive as long as this size of population existed
there." Similarly, Col Harnof, in a summary of his testimony a month
later: "It was possible to surmise from contacts with the Phalange
leaders what were their intentions towards the Palestinians: 'Sabra
would become a zoo and Shatila Beirut's parking place' . . . When
they participated in actions east of Bahamdoun (when they operated
against the Druze) they ran straight to the villages and committed

But the clearest indication of how the Lebanese Forces might solve
the "demographic problem" was given by Bashir Gemayel himself in a
meeting with Menachem Navot. In one account of this meeting, Bashir
"adds that it is possible that in this context they will need
several Dir Yassins" - a reference to the Palestinian village where
254 villagers were massacred in April 1948, in the most spectacular
single attack in the conquest of Palestine.

In June this year, the first case involving the exercise of
universal jurisdiction in Belgium resulted in the conviction of four
Rwandans for war crimes committed in 1994. Mallat and his colleagues
say they are determined to press for a similar result despite the
accusations being levelled against them - among them anti-semitism,
animosity and hatred. They say their starting point is not the
criminal but the crime.

"I have a very profound belief that it is difficult to have peace in
the Middle East without minimal accountability, certainly for the
largest crimes," says Mallat. "We need a day of reckoning for the
outstanding crime against humanity committed in Sabra and Shatila."


The Independent (London)

November 28, 2001, Wednesday


Robert Fisk Middle East Correspondent

CHILLING NEW evidence suggests that more than 1,000 Palestinian
survivors of the Sabra and Chatila camp massacres in Beirut were
"disappeared" within 24 hours of the slaughter, often in areas under
direct Israeli military control.

The testimony - which describes in detail how the victims were last
seen by their families in the hands of Israeli troops and Israel's
militia allies - will be among the material to be considered by a
Belgian judge, who could decide today whether the Israeli Prime
Minister, Ariel Sharon, should be prosecuted for the slaughter.

Mr Sharon was judged "personally responsible" for the massacre by
the Israeli Kahan Commission in 1983. Its report concluded that
hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children,
were all butchered between 16 and 18 September in 1982. But among
the female witnesses cited by lawyers in Belgium, who are seeking
the indictment against Mr Sharon, are at least five who claim that
more than 100 men were detained by the militiamen and handed over to
the Israelis alive. They were never seen again.

Separately from the court action, film taken by a television crew at
the time, which has recently come to light, appears to show Israeli
officers in the presence of Phalangist gunmen - long after the
Israelis knew their Phalangist allies had carried out the massacre,
which caused worldwide outrage and led Mr Sharon, then Defence
Minister, to resign.

There has always been a discrepancy between the number of bodies
found in Sabra and Chatila - up to 600 - and the number of civilians
registered as missing - more than 1,800. Until now, it was assumed
that all the victims had been murdered by Phalangists and that many
had been secretly buried.

If accepted by the court, the new evidence could hold disturbing
implications for both the Israeli army and for Mr Sharon,
particularly if the Israelis continued their collaboration with the
Phalange after the murders in the camps and if they permitted the
Phalange to take away more prisoners.

For a longer account of this, see:


Another war on terror. Another proxy army. Another mysterious massacre. And
now, after 19 years, perhaps the truth at last...

The eyes of the world are on Afghanistan, but today a Belgian appeals court
is due to consider a case with disturbing contemporary parallels. Robert
reveals shocking new evidence that the full, horrific story of the Sabra and
Chatila massacres of 1982 has not yet been told

28 November 2001


Sana Sersawi speaks carefully, loudly but slowly, as she recalls the
chaotic, dangerous, desperately tragic events that overwhelmed her just over
19 years ago, on 18 September 1982. As one of the survivors prepared to
testify against the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon - who was then
Israel's defence minister - she stops to search her memory when she
confronts the most terrible moments of her life. "The Lebanese Forces
militia [Phalangists] had taken us from our homes and marched us up to the
entrance to the camp where a large
hole had been dug in the earth. The men were told to get into it. Then the
militiamen shot a Palestinian. The women and children had climbed over
bodies to reach this spot, but we were truly shocked by seeing this man
killed in front of us and there was a roar of shouting and screams from the
That's when we heard the Israelis on loudspeakers shouting, 'Give us the
men, give us the men.' We thought, 'Thank God, they will save us.'" It was
to prove a cruelly false hope.

Mrs Sersawi, three months pregnant, saw her husband Hassan, 30, and her
Egyptian brother-in-law Faraj el-Sayed Ahmed standing in the crowd of men.
"We were told to walk up the road towards the Kuwaiti embassy, the women and
children in front, the men behind. We had been separated. There were
Phalangist militiamen and Israeli soldiers walking alongside us. I could
still see Hassan and Faraj. It was like a parade. There were several hundred
of us.
When we got to the Cité Sportif, the Israelis put us women in a big concrete
room and the men were taken to another side of the stadium. There were a lot
of men from the camp and I could no longer see my husband. The Israelis went
round saying 'Sit, sit.' It was 11am. An hour later, we were told to leave.
But we stood
around outside amid the Israeli soldiers, waiting for our men."

Sana Sersawi waited in the bright, sweltering sun for Hassan and Faraj to
emerge. "Some men came out, none of them younger than 40, and they told us
to be patient, that hundreds of men were still inside. Then about 4pm, an
Israeli officer came out. He was wearing dark glasses and said in Arabic:
'What are you all waiting for?' He said there was nobody left, that everyone
had gone.
There were Israeli trucks moving out with tarpaulin over them. We couldn't
see inside. And there were jeeps and tanks and a bulldozer making a lot of
We stayed there as it got dark and the Israelis appeared to be leaving and
we were very nervous. But then when the Israelis had moved away, we went
And there was no one there. Nobody. I had been only three years married. I
never saw my husband again."

Today, a Belgian appeals court will begin a hearing to decide if Prime
Minister Sharon should be prosecuted for the massacre of Palestinian
civilians at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. (Belgian
laws allow courts to try foreigners for war crimes committed on foreign
soil.) In working on this case, the prosecution believes that it has
discovered shocking new evidence of Israel's involvement.

The evidence centres on the Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium - the "Cité
Sportif". Only two miles from Beirut airport, the damaged stadium was a
natural holding centre for prisoners. It had been an ammunition dump for
Yasser Arafat's PLO and repeatedly bombed by Israeli jets during the 1982
siege of Beirut so that its giant, smashed exterior looked like a nightmare
The Palestinians had earlier mined its cavernous interior, but its vast,
underground storage space and athletics changing-rooms remained intact. It
was a familiar landmark to all of us who lived in Beirut. At mid-morning on
18 September 1982 - about the time Sana Sersawi says she was brought to the
stadium - I saw hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, probably
well over 1,000, sitting in its gloomy, dark interior, squatting in the
dust, watched over by Israeli soldiers and plain-clothes Shin Beth (Israeli
secret service) agents and men who I suspected were Lebanese collaborators.
The men sat in silence, obviously in fear. From time to time, I noted, a few
were taken away. They were put into Israeli army trucks or jeeps or
Phalangist vehicles - for further "interrogation".

Nor did I doubt this. A few hundred metres away, inside the Sabra and
Chatila Palestinian refugee camps, up to 600 massacre victims rotted in the
sun, the stench of decomposition drifting over the prisoners and their
captors alike.
It was suffocatingly hot. Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post, Paul Eedle
of Reuters and I had only got into the cells because the Israelis assumed -
given our Western appearance - that we must have been members of Shin Beth.
Many of the prisoners had their heads bowed. But Israel's Phalangist
militiamen - still raging at the murder of their leader and president elect
Bashir Gemayel - had been withdrawn from the camps, their slaughter over,
and at least the Israeli army was now in charge. So what did these men have
to fear?

Looking back - and listening to Sana Sersawi today - I shudder now at our
innocence. My notes of the time, subsequently written into a book about
Israel's 1982 invasion and its war with the PLO, contain some ominous clues.
We found a Lebanese employee of Reuters, Abdullah Mattar, among the
prisoners and obtained his release, Paul leading him away with his arm
around the man's shoulders. "They take us away, one by one, for
interrogation," one of the prisoners muttered to me. "They are Haddad
[Christian militia] men. Usually
they bring the people back after interrogation, but not always. Sometimes
the people do not return them." Then an Israeli officer ordered me to leave.
Why couldn't the prisoners talk to me, I asked? "They can talk if they
want," he replied. "But they have nothing to say."

All the Israelis knew what had happened inside the camps. The smell of the
corpses was now overpowering. Outside, a Phalangist jeep with the words
"Military Police" painted on it - if so exotic an institution could be
associated with this gang of murderers - drove by. A few television crews
had turned up. One filmed the Lebanese Christian militiamen outside the Cité
Sportif. He also filmed a woman pleading to an Israeli army colonel called
"Yahya" for the release of her husband. (The colonel has now been positively
identified by The Independent. Today, he is a general in the Israeli army.)

Along the main road opposite the stadium there was a line of Israeli Merkava
tanks, their crews sitting on the turrets, smoking, watching the men being
led from the stadium in ones or twos, some being set free, others being led
away by Shin Beth men or by Lebanese men in drab khaki overalls. All these
soldiers knew what had happened inside the camps. One of the members of the
tank crews, Lt Avi Grabovsky - he was later to testify to the Israeli Kahan
commission - had even witnessed the murder of several civilians the previous
day and had
been told not to "interfere".

And in the days that followed, strange reports reached us. A girl had been
dragged from a car in Damour by Phalangist militiamen and taken away,
despite her appeals to a nearby Israeli soldier. Then the cleaning lady of a
Lebanese woman who worked for a US television chain complained bitterly that
Israelis had arrested her husband. He was never seen again. There were other
vague rumours of "disappeared" people.

I wrote in my notes at the time that "even after Chatila, Israel's
'terrorist' enemies were being liquidated in West Beirut". But I had not
directly associated this dark conviction with the Cité Sportif. I had not
even reflected on the fearful precedents of a sports stadium in time of war.
Hadn't there been a sports stadium in Santiago a few years before, packed
with prisoners after Pinochet's coup d'etat, a stadium from which many
prisoners never returned?

Among the testimonies gathered by lawyers seeking to indict Ariel Sharon for
war crimes is that of Wadha al-Sabeq. On Friday, 17 September 1982, she
said, while the massacre was still (unknown to her) underway inside Sabra
and Chatila, she was in her home with her family in Bir Hassan, just
opposite the camps. "Neighbours came and said the Israelis wanted to stamp
our ID cards, so we went downstairs and we saw both Israelis and Lebanese
Forces [Phalangists] on the road. The men were separated from the women."
This separation - with its awful shadow of similar separations at Srebrenica
during the Bosnian war - were a common feature of these mass arrests. "We
were told to go to the Cité Sportif. The men stayed put." Among the men were
Wadha's two sons, 19-year-old Mohamed and 16-year-old Ali and her brother
Mohamed. "We went to the Cité Sportif, as the Israelis told us," she says.
"I never saw my sons or brother again."

The survivors tell distressingly similar stories. Bahija Zrein says she was
ordered by an Israeli patrol to go to the Cité Sportif and the men with her,
including her 22-year-old brother, were taken away. Some militiamen -
watched by the Israelis - loaded him into a car, blindfolded, she claims.
"That's how he disappeared," she says in her official testimony, "and I have
never seen him again since."

It was only a few days afterwards that we journalists began to notice a
discrepancy in the figures of dead. While up to 600 bodies had been found
inside Sabra and Chatila, 1,800 civilians had been reported as "missing". We
assumed - how easy assumptions are in war - that they had been killed in the
three days between 16 September 1982 and the withdrawal of the Phalangist
killers on the 18th, that their corpses had been secretly buried outside the
camp. Beneath the golf course, we suspected. The idea that many of these
young people had been murdered outside the camps or after the 18th, that the
killings were still going on while we walked through the camps, never
occurred to us.

Why did we not think of this at the time? The following year, the Israeli
Kahan commission published its report, condemning Sharon but ending its own
inquiry of the atrocity on 18 September, with just a one-line hint -
unexplained - that several hundred people may have "disappeared" at about
the same time.
The commission interviewed no Palestinian survivors but it was allowed to
become the narrative of history. The idea that the Israelis went on handing
over prisoners to their bloodthirsty militia allies never occurred to us.
Palestinians of Sabra and Chatila are now giving evidence that this is
exactly what happened. One man, Abdel Nasser Alameh, believes his brother
Ali was handed to the Phalange on the morning of the 18th. A Palestinian
Christian woman called Milaneh Boutros has recorded how, in a truck-load of
women and children, she was taken from the camps to the Christian town of
Bikfaya, the home of the newly assassinated Christian president-elect Bashir
Gemayel, where a grief-stricken Christian woman ordered the execution of a
13-year-old boy in the truck. He was shot. The truck must have passed at
least four Israeli checkpoints on its way to Bikfaya. And heaven spare me, I
realise now that I had even met the woman who ordered the boy's execution.

Even before the slaughter inside the camps had ended, Shahira Abu Rudeina
says she was taken to the Cité Sportif where, in one of the underground
"holding centres", she saw a retarded man, watched by Israeli soldiers,
burying bodies in a pit. Her evidence might be rejected were it not for the
fact that she also expressed her gratitude for an Israeli soldier - inside
the Chatila camp, against all the evidence given by the Israelis - who
prevented the murder of her daughters by the Phalange.

Long after the war, the ruins of the Cité Sportif were torn down and a brand
new marble stadium was built in its place, partly by the British. Pavarotti
has sung there. But the testimony of what may lie beneath its foundations -
and its frightful implications - might give Ariel Sharon further reason to
fear an indictment.






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