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Rafeef Ziadeh

Rafeef Ziadeh recites her poem, Hadeel, on Remember Palestine, a show broadcast on Press TV.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | Comments Off on Rafeef Ziadeh

The Massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Thirty Years Later

By SONJA KARKAR | CounterPunch | September 16, 2012

It happened thirty years ago – 16 September 1982.  A massacre so awful that  people who know about it cannot forget it.  The photos are gruesome  reminders – charred, decapitated, indecently violated corpses, the smell of  rotting flesh, still as foul to those who remember it as when they were  recoiling from it all those years ago. For the victims and the handful of  survivors, it was a 36-hour holocaust without mercy.  It was deliberate, it  was planned and it was overseen.  But to this day, the killers have gone  unpunished.

Sabra and Shatila – two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon – were the  theatres for this staged slaughter.  The former is no longer there and the  other is a ghostly and ghastly reminder of man’s inhumanity to men, women  and children – more specifically, Israel’s inhumanity, the inhumanity of the  people who did Israel’s bidding and the world’s inhumanity for pretending it  was of no consequence. There were international witnesses – doctors, nurses,  journalists – who saw the macabre scenes and have tried to tell the world in  vain ever since.

Each act was barbarous enough on its own to warrant fear and loathing.  It  was human savagery at its worst and Dr Ang Swee Chai was an eye witness as  she worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society on the dying and the  wounded amongst the dead.  What she saw was so unimaginable that the  atrocities committed need to be separated from each other to even begin  comprehending the viciousness of the crimes. [1]

People Tortured. Blackened bodies smelling of roasted flesh from the power  shocks that had convulsed their bodies before their hearts gave out – the  electric wires still tied around their lifeless limbs

People with gouged out eye sockets.  Faces unrecognisable with the gaping  holes that had plunged them into darkness before their lives were thankfully  ended.

Women raped.  Not once – but two, three, four times – horribly violated,  their legs shamelessly ripped apart with not even the cover of clothing to  preserve their dignity at the moment of death.

Children dynamited alive. So many body parts ripped from their tiny torsos,  so hard to know to whom they belonged – just mounds of bloodied limbs  amongst the tousled heads of children in pools of blood.

Families executed.  Blood, blood and more blood sprayed on the walls of  homes where whole families had been axed to death in a frenzy or lined up  for a more orderly execution.

There were also journalists who were there in the aftermath and who had  equally gruesome stories to tell, none of which made the sort of screaming  front page headlines that should have caused lawmakers to demand immediate  answers.  What they saw led them to write shell-shocked accounts that have  vanished now into the archives, but are no less disturbing now. These  accounts too need to be individually absorbed, lest they be lumped together  as just the collective dead rather than the systematic torture and killing  of individual, innocent human beings.

Women gunned down while cooking in their kitchens. [2]  The headless body of  a baby in diapers lying next to two dead women. [3]  An infant, its tiny  legs streaked with blood, shot in the back by a single bullet. [4]   Slaughtered babies, their bodies blackened as they decomposed, tossed into  rubbish heaps together with Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of  whiskey. [5]  An old man castrated, with flies thick upon his torn  intestines. [6]  Children with their throats slashed. [7]  Mounds of rotting  corpses bloated in the heat – young boys all shot at point-blank range. [8]

And most numbing of all are the recollections of the survivors whose  experiences were so shockingly traumatic that to recall them must have been  painful beyond all imaginings.   One survivor, Nohad Srour, 35 said:

“I was carrying my one year-old baby sister and she was yelling “Mama!  Mama!” then suddenly nothing.  I looked at her and her brain had fallen out  of her head and down my arm. I looked at the man who shot us. I’ll never  forget his face. Then I felt two bullets pierce my shoulder and finger.  I  fell.  I didn’t lose consciousness, but I pretended to be dead.”[9]

The statistics of those killed vary, but even according to the Israeli  military, the official count was 700 people killed while Israeli journalist,  Amnon Kapeliouk put the figure at 3,500. [10] The Palestinian Red Crescent  Society put the number killed at over 2,000.[11]  Regardless of the numbers,  they would not and could not mitigate what are clear crimes against  humanity.

Fifteen years later, Robert Fisk, the journalist who had been one of the  first on the scene, said:

“Had Palestinians massacred 2,000 Israelis 15 years ago, would anyone doubt  that the world’s press and television would be remembering so terrible a  deed this morning?  Yet this week, not a single newspaper in the United  States – or Britain for that matter – has even mentioned the anniversary of  Sabra and Shatila.”[12] 

Thirty years later it is no different.

The political developments 

What happened must be set against the background of a Lebanon that had been  invaded by the Israeli army only months earlier, supposedly in ‘retaliation’  for the attempted assassination of the Israeli Ambassador in London on 4  June 1982.  Israel attributed the attempt to Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation  Organisation (PLO) then resident in Beirut. In reality, it was a rival  militant group headed by Abu Nidal.   Israel wanted to oust the PLO from  Lebanon altogether and on 6 June 1982, Israel began its devastating assault  on the Lebanese and Palestinian civilian population in the southern part of  Lebanon.  Lebanese government casualty figures numbered the dead at around  19,000 with some 30,000 wounded, but these numbers are hardly accurate  because of the mass graves and other bodies lost in the rubble. [13]

By 1 September, a cease-fire had been mediated by United States envoy Philip  Habib, and Arafat and his men surrendered their weapons and were evacuated  from Beirut with guarantees by the US that the civilians left behind in the  camps would be protected by a multinational peacekeeping force.  That  guarantee was not kept and the vacuum then created, paved the way for the  atrocities that followed.

As soon as the peacekeeping force was withdrawn, the then Israeli Defence  Minister Ariel Sharon moved to root out some “2,000 terrorists” he claimed  were still hiding in the  refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.  After totally  surrounding the refugee camps with tanks and soldiers, Sharon ordered the  shelling of the camps and the bombardment continued throughout the afternoon  and into the evening of 15 September leaving the “mopping-up” of the camps  to the Lebanese right-wing Christian militia, known as the Phalangists.  The  next day, the Phalangists – armed and trained by the Israeli army – entered  the camps and proceeded to massacre the unarmed civilians while Israel’s  General Yaron and his men watched the entire operations.  More grotesquely,  the Israeli army ensured there was no lull in the 36 hours of killings and  illuminated the area with flares at night and tightened their cordon around  the camps to make sure that no civilian could escape the terror that had  been unleashed.

Inquiries, charges and off scot-free

Although Israel’s Kahan Commission of Inquiry did not find any Israeli  directly responsible, it did find that Sharon bore “personal responsibility”  for “not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger  of massacre” before sending the Phalangists into the camps. It, therefore,  lamely recommended that the Israeli prime minister consider removing him  from office. [14] Sharon resigned but remained as Minister without portfolio  and joined two parliamentary commissions on defence and Lebanese affairs.  There is no doubt, as Chomsky points out “that the inquiry was not intended  for people who have a prejudice in favour of truth and honesty”, but it  certainly gained support for Israel in the US Congress and among the public.  [15]  It took an International Commission of Inquiry headed by Sean MacBride  to find that Israel was “directly responsible” because the camps were under  its jurisdiction as an occupying power. [16] Yet, despite the UN describing  the heinous operation as a “criminal massacre” and declaring it an act of  genocide [17], no one was prosecuted.

It was not until 2001 that a law suit was filed in Belgium by the survivors  of the massacre and relatives of the victims against Sharon alleging his  personal responsibility. However, the court did not allow for “universal  jurisdiction” – a principle which was intended to remove safe havens for war  criminals and allow their prosecution across states. The case was won on  appeal and the trial allowed to proceed, but without Sharon who by then was  prime minister of Israel and had immunity.  US interference led to the  Belgian Parliament gutting the universal jurisdiction law and by the time  the International Criminal Court was established in The Hague the following  year, the perpetrators of the Sabra and Shatila massacre could no longer be  tried because its terms of reference did not allow it to hear cases of war  crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide pre-dating 1 July 2002. Neither  Sharon nor those who carried out the massacres have ever been punished for  their horrendous crimes.

The bigger picture

The length of time since these acts were carried out should be no impediment  to exposing the truth.  More than 60 years after the Nazi atrocities against  the Jews in Europe, the world still mourns and remembers and erects  monuments and museums to that violent holocaust.   How they are done, to  whom they are done and to how many does not make the crimes any more or less  heinous. They can never be justified even on the strength of one state’s  rationale that another people ought to be punished, or worse still, are  simply inferior or worthless beings. It should lead all of us to question on  whose judgment are such decisions made and how can we possibly justify such  crimes at all?

The atrocities committed in the camps of Sabra and Shatila should be put in  the context of an ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people.  The  MacBride report found that these atrocities “were not inconsistent with  wider Israeli intentions to destroy Palestinian political will and cultural  identity.” [17] Since Deir Yassin and the other massacres of 1948, those who  survived have joined hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing a litany  of massacres committed in 1953, 1967, and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and  the killing continues today. The most recent being the 2008-2009 Gaza massacre –  that 3 week merciless onslaught, a festering sore without relief as the people are  further punished by an impossible siege that denies them their most basic rights.

Thus were the victims and survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre gathered  up in the perpetual nakba of the slaughtered, the dispossessed, the displaced and  the discarded  – a pattern of ethnic cleansing perpetrated under the Zionist plan  to finally and forever extinguish Palestinian society and its people.

This is why we must remember Sabra and Shatila, thirty years on.

Sonja Karkar is the founder of Women for Palestine (WFP), a Melbourne-based  human rights group and co-founder of Australians for Palestine (AFP), an  advocacy group that provides a voice for Palestine at all levels of  Australian society.  She is the editor of the website  http://www.australiansforpalestine.com . Her email address is   sonjakarkar@womenforpalestine.org

Footnotes:

[1]  Dr Ang Swee Chai, “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, Grafton Books, London, 1989

[2]  James MacManus, Guardian, 20 September 1982

[3] Loren Jenkins, Washington Post, 20 September 1982

[4]  Elaine Carey, Daily Mail, 20 September 1982

[5]  Robert Fisk, “Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War”, London: Oxford University Press, 1990   [6] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[7] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[8] Robert Fisk, ibid.

[9]  Lebanese Daily Star, 16 September 1998

[10] Amnon Kapeliouk, “Sabra & Chatila – Inquiry into a Massacre”, November 1982

[11] Schiff and Ya’ari,, Israel’s Lebanon War, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1984,

[12]  Robert Fisk, Fifteen Years After the Bloodbath, The World turns its Back, shaml.org, 1997   [13] Noam Chomsky, “The Fatal Triangle” South End Press, Cambridge MA, p.221

[14] The Complete Kahan Commission Report, Princeton, Karz Cohl, 1983, p. 125     (Hereafter, the Kahan Commission Report).   [15]  Chomsky, ibid. p.406

[16]  The Report of the International Commission to Enquire into Reported Violations of International Law by Israel during Its Invasion of the Lebanon, Sean MacBride, 1983 (referred to as the International Commission of Inquiry or MacBride report)   [17]  United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 16 December 1982

[18] MacBride report, ibid. p.179

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S.A. Privatizes National Forests

By RYAN ABBOTT | Courthouse News Service | September 14, 2012

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Forest Service lets private companies charge people for using undeveloped public lands, in violation of federal law, an Oregon nonprofit claims in Federal Court.

Lead plaintiff BARK clams the Forest Service’s grants to concessionaires violates the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. BARK has 7,000 members, many of them who live near the Mt. Hood National Forest.

“Bark has been extensively involved in the administrative process concerning the challenged decision on the Mt. Hood National Forest covering the transfer of 28 sites (including the Big Eddy day use site and Bagby Hot Springs) to private management, and uses these areas on a regular basis,” the complaint states. “Barks’ members have been adversely affected by either having to pay new fees at these areas, or by being dissuaded from using them due to the new fees.”

Five citizens from Arizona and Colorado joined as plaintiffs, objecting to Uncle Sam’s handing out special permits that allow private companies to charge fees for the use of such land.

Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), the federal government is authorized to collect fees at a limited number of recreational sites, so long as the sites have facilities that justify a fee.

The government may charge fees for public lands containing national conservation areas, national volcanic monuments or a visitor center, the complaint states. It also may charge fees if it has substantially invested in the land in the form of parking facilities, restrooms and trash receptacles.

But BARK says the government may not charge for recreational use of undeveloped land. That includes parking, picnicking, boating, horseback riding, using scenic overlooks and driving or walking through undeveloped, undesignated public land.

“The Forest Service issues special use permits to concessionaires that allow them to charge visitors to Forest Service areas managed by the companies even when visitors do not use any facilities or services of the area, but simply wish to enter Forest Service lands to engage in undeveloped recreation,” the complaint states.

BARK claims that private companies charge an $8 parking fee at Rose Canyon Lake in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, and walk-ups must pay $1 apiece if they park at within 3 miles, regardless of whether they use any facilities or services.

BARK claims that in Oregon, the Forest Service granted a special-use permit to a private company to charge for use of the Mount Hood National Forest, “including the ‘Big Eddy’ day-use area, where visitors have traditionally parked to swim in the Clackamas River free of charge.”

And, “Under the new special use permit, the concessionaire now charges $5 per person to soak in Bagby Hot Springs, regardless of how they arrive.”
BARK says the Forest Service issued the special use permits without public notice or allowing for comment.

It wants the fees enjoined at Rose Canyon Lake, Second Crossing, Rampart Reservoir, Walton Lake and Big Eddy as violations under the REA.

It also wants the court to declare that imposing new fees for recreation areas through special permits handed out without public notice violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

And it wants all of the special-use permits that allow private companies to charge such fees to be set aside, and the Forest Service ordered to pay back the money it illegally collected.

BARK is represented by Matt Kenna, with Public Interest Environmental Law, of Durango, Colo.  

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Economics | , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S.A. Privatizes National Forests

US nuclear arsenal to undergo costliest-ever modernization process

Press TV – September 16, 2012

The United States is to treat its nuclear arsenal to the costliest modernization process ever, with the projected expenditure estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Washington Post reported the prospect of the wholesale overhaul on Saturday, saying the country’s 5,113-strong arsenal of nuclear warheads is to undergo an upgrade and maintenance process as part of the plan.

The paper added that the plan also includes renovation of aging nuclear facilities, and replacement of old delivery systems.

The daily withheld the figure on the price tag, but the Washington think-tank Stimson Center has estimated the cost at least $352 billion over the next decade. Others have said the figure could far exceed the amount.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I haven’t seen a moment like this,” said Thomas P. D’Agostino, who leads the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The stockpile houses seven types of weapons, upgrading only the B61 thermonuclear bomb among is likely to cost $10 billion over five years, while Washington would have to lavish $110 billion to build 12 replacements for the aging Ohio-class submarines.

The country is, meanwhile, spending $162 million per airplane to build a nuclear-capable fleet of the F-35 strike aircraft to replace existing warplanes.

The US is the only country to have ever used atomic bombs against another nation.

The prospective overhaul flies in the face of the country’s persisting economic woes and the international calls for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on US nuclear arsenal to undergo costliest-ever modernization process