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.