The Guardian January 23, 2002


Remember Sabra and Shatila

by Nathan Barnes

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of Palestinian 
refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut. In July 1982 Israel 
invaded Lebanon under the direction of the then Israeli Defence Minister, 
Ariel Sharon. After entering Beirut the Israeli forces encircled Sabra and 
Shatila on September 18, allowing the Israeli-backed Phalange militia, a 
fascist Lebanese group, into the camps where they slaughtered almost 3000 
people, mainly women, children and the elderly.

Around 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians were killed by the 
invading forces.

Today, as the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon has unleashed a 
murderous campaign of terror against the Palestinian people, at the same 
time labelling Palestinians "terrorists". This is not a new tactic, except 
that now Israel has seized on the September 11 attacks in the US as an 
excuse to escalate its murderous war of oppression and dispossession.

Israel has long used the term "terrorism" to describe pretty much every act 
of Arab resistance to Israeli occupation and aggression. So, Palestinians 
who refuse to accept the usurpation of their land and choose to defend 
their national existence are labelled "terrorists". Lebanese patriots who 
resist Israeli occupation of their country are also labelled "terrorists".

In fact, it is Israel that has first and foremost used military force when 
the resolution of disputes and differences could have been found through 
peaceful means.

This is reflected in Sharon's rise to power through war crimes and the 
ongoing violation of human rights.

A driving force behind the establishment of Jewish settlements on 
confiscated Palestinian land, he was nurtured in the ranks of the Haghana 
gang that spread terror throughout Palestine in the late 1940s. As the 
commander of a terrorist group known as Special Unit 101, he was 
responsible for countless acts of killings and sabotage.

Always rooted in the camp of reaction, Sharon's extremist cabinet members 
have pushed for military strikes against Lebanon and Syria and for the 
bombing of the Aswan Dam in Egypt.

This warmongering is shown up in even sharper relief when put next to the 
concessions made by the Palestinians in seeking peace and coexistence.

In 1993 the PLO signed an agreement in Oslo which allowed for peace 
negotiations and an interim period that would culminate in the signing of a 
peace treaty in 1998. The Palestinians agreed to create a state of their 
own on only 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

Instead, Israel stepped up the construction of Jewish settlements and 
deliberately sparked off a conflict which it has been escalating ever 
since.

The horrific violence against a mostly defenceless people by the biggest 
military power in the Middle East arises out of one of the longest military 
occupations in modern history, based on the growth of illegal settlements 
in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem and the collective punishment of 
3.1 million people.

Nonetheless, despite Israel's illegal policies of assassinating activists, 
destroying the Palestinian infrastructure and economy, devastating the 
health and education systems and killing civilians, Sharon has not 
smothered the determination of the Palestinian people to be free of Israeli 
occupation.

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