Is Israel to Blame for Sabra and Shatila?

  • 1 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • September 19, 2022

During the Lebanese Civil War, between 1975 and 1990, an estimated number of 120,000 people were killed in thirteen different and well-defined massacres. The 1982 Sabra and Shatila were not the first nor the last, and did not have the most fatalities. It’s not even the biggest massacre against the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian camps. That would be the 1985 War of the Camps massacre. There is actually nothing unique about this massacre besides one thing: Israel was involved. Most people don’t question that Israel made it easier for the Phalanges to commit this massacre, but somehow the population that made the killing is barely mentioned. Also, the haters and the media completely forget about The 15-year war between the Lebanese Christian Phalanges, the Palestinians, and the Muslim group. Even more important, Israel is the only party that took responsibility. The Minister of Defense at the time, Ariel Sharon, was dismissed from his post of Minister and Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister, took heavy hits. Again, war is never clean, and you can’t always get it right, but the Israelis took responsibility for it. Yet, for the Anti-Israel marketing machine, it a great propaganda tool.

So here’s the deal, was Israel involved for some time in the Lebanese Civil War? Yes.

Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians made lebanon their terrorist headquarters for many years, which unfortunately dragged Israel into this awful 15 years of Civil war between the Lebanese Christian Phalanges, Palestinians, and Syria-backed Muslim groups.

Also, if the war would go in the right way, the Lebanese Christians would not only make peace with Israel, but they would have actually been friends and allies.

While so many countries who strategically ally with one side or another in wars for not-so-ethical reasons such as financial benefits and resource control, the Israelis made the strategy over a much better reason of simply having a friend in a sea of enemies. Israel most certainly had nothing to do with starting with the war, and while we decided to leave the conflict long ago, Syria (and Iran) still interferes in the country till today.

So the massacre did happen somewhere between 16-18 September of 1982, in the context of the Lebanese Civil War. The Civil war was initiated because the PLO was trying to create a “state within a state.” after being pushed out of Jordan. It also combined with the effort of certain Muslim groups to make Lebanon more united with Syria and Egypt while Christian Maronites wanted to keep Lebanon fully independent. After 7 completely ignored massacres, we arrive to Sabra and Shatila. Two days prior to the massacre, Bachir Gemayel, an important leader of Christian Lebanese militias and recently elected president, was assassinated by a Syrian agent called Habib Shartouni, a member of a political party which acts in both Syria and Lebanon to this very day as part of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (while the party denies to be National Socialist and Fascist, its logo is swastika-like, and the group has connections with the far-right Nazis around the globe).

It was also the Syrian Social Nationalist Party that sent gunmen to attack a church, disguising their henchmen as members of the PLO; however, this was just discovered in the late 80s.

PLO had just left by the start of the month to Tunisia, but then Ariel Sharon allegedly received information about PLO terrorists remaining in Sabra and Shatilla, two camps populated by Palestinian refugees. Since no Palestinian likes or respects Israeli soldiers, Sharon asked the Phalangists to check the camps in search of terrorists, backed by the IDF, if they needed cover or backup. Then the Phalangists took advantage of the situation by starting the massacre, and many sources claim that Ariel Sharon, the general at the time, did not do much to stop them.

The massacre was largely condemned by international society and even in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court wanted Sharon’s head, and Sharon resigned.

While every massacre is condemnable, all the other twelve massacres in the Lebanese Civil War are blatantly ignored, even if they had a higher number of victims, including another bigger massacre against the Sabra and Shatila’s Palestinian camp.

Here, let’s check if you are aware of any of them:

  1. 1975 Beirut bus massacre: April 13, 1975, 300 deaths. A group allegedly from the PLO (but actually Syrian Nazis, it took years for this information to become public) stormed a church during baptism and almost killed Phalangist Party leader Pierre Gemayel. Phalangists attacked another group from PLO who was on a bus returning from a political rally. It ignited the first spark of the war.
  2. Karantina massacre: January 18, 1976, Around 300–1,500 deaths. Karantina was a Muslim district in Beirut that was invaded by Phalangists.
  3. Damour massacre: January 20, 1976, 684 deaths. PLO soldiers massacred a small Christian town in the south of Beirut as revenge for Karantina.
  4. Tel al-Zaatar massacre: August 12, 1976, 1,500–5,000. The Christians militias united and besieged Tel al-Zaatar, a Palestinian refugee camp managed by UNRWA.
  5. Aishiyeh massacre: October 19-21, 1976, 60–80 deaths. Fatah and As-Sa’iqa, two Palestinian militias backed by Syria, massacred a small village called Aishiya in southern Lebanon.
  6. Ehden massacre: June 13, 1978, 40 deaths. Phalangists attacked a mansion belonging to the Frangieh, an influent Lebanese Muslim family.
  7. Safra massacre or the Day of the Long Knives: July 7, 1980, 83 deaths. The Phalange launched a surprise attack against the Tigers, the militia of President Camille Chamoun.
  8. Sabra and Shatila massacre: September 16, 1982, 700–3,500 deaths. Phalangists were asked by the IDF to check if there were terrorists in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Things went out of control really fast.
  9. Mountain Wars massacre: September 3, 1983, 500–1,600 deaths. The Druze, a long-standing enemy of the Christian Maronites from Lebanon, massacred their enemies and drove them out of South Mount Lebanon.
  10. US embassy bombing: April 18, 1983, 63 deaths. The Islamic Jihad Organization, a pro-Iranian backed militia, sent a suicide car driver to the US embassy in Beirut.
  11. Beirut barracks bombing: October 23, 1983, 307 deaths. The Islamic Jihad, Iranian backed militia, used two suicide truck drivers to explode against a peacekeeping force called Multinational Force in Lebanon.
  12. War of the Camps massacre (the bigger Sabra and Shatila Massacre): May 1985, 3,781 deaths. This disgusting infighting between Syrian militias and the PLO in the Palestinian refugee camps counted with Fatah fighting side by side with the Syrians against the PLO… against their own people.
  13. October 13 massacre: October 13, 1990, 740–940 deaths. Syrian Army executed Lebanese Christian militia and civilians after they had surrendered.

The Lebanese Civil war is an often ignored piece of middle east history. A war that prevented what could have been one of the only moderate, democratic Arab countries till today. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians can take a piece of the blame. Yet all this does not really matter. The only reason why we know anything about this conflict because Israel was somewhat involved in one of the massacres

A great article Discussing this topic in more detail is Fred Maroun’s Why the world cares about 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre.

He also brought in a great table showing how much attention does Sabra and Shatila massacre gained compared to the three other big massacres. Double standard anyone?

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