The massacres in Sabra and Shatila took place 30 years ago. Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone bore witness as hell was brought to earth. They stood with the Palestinian people and they have campaigned for justice for them from those days 'till now.
January 22, 2002
Maitre Luc Walleyn
154 Rue des Palais
Belgium - Via Federal Express
Dear Maitre Walleyn,
Our friend and colleague, Kjell Bygstad of Oslo, Norway, has written to you with respect to our eyewitness testimony regarding the responsibility of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and of the Israeli armed forces under his direction for the massacres at Sabra and Shatila.
We were present in Sabra and Shatila shortly after the massacres of September 18th (within 30 to 40 minutes).
Our evidence has been published by us in book form in several of our books, including: The Hidden History of Zionism, Prisoners of Israel and Homage to Palestine. Our testimony before the Nordic Commission and the Sean MacBride Commission in Oslo was published by those bodies.
Our book, The Hidden History of Zionism, documents, as well, the role of Prime Minister Sharon in the massacre of Kibya, in his capacity as Commander of Unit 101.
Please find below excerpts from this evidence:
Subject: Evidence of Israeli involvement in the massacres of Sabra and Shatila
On pages 67 to 69 of The Hidden History of Zionism, we cite the dramatic story in the German weekly Der Spiegel on February 14, 1983. The featured interview with one of the participants in the massacre created a large response and was discussed throughout Germany and beyond.
The section concerned in Chapter 8 of "The Hidden History of Zionism" follows:
"EACH OF YOU IS AN AVENGER
"The brutality of the invasion and occupation of Lebanon and the chilling horror of the massacres in Sabra and Shatila once again removed the mask from the cruel face of Zionism. Television and newspaper coverage of the war produced a world-wide outcry, forcing Israel to dissimulate and to appoint an official Commission of Inquiry. The Israeli government conducted its own investigation under the Kahan Commission.
"The 'investigation' concluded, predictably, that the Israelis were merely negligent in underestimating 'Arab blood lust,' but had no direct role in the massacre of Sabra and Shatila.
"The German weekly, Der Spiegel, however, carried an interview on February 14, 1983, with one of the killer militia, who recounted not only his own role in the slaughter, but described direct Israeli participation.
"The article was entitled 'Each Of You Is An Avenger,' and the first person account could have come from the Nuremberg Trials:
"We met in the Schahrur Wadi, in the valley of the nightingales Southeast of Beirut. It was Wednesday, the fifteenth of September ... We were approximately 300 men from East Beirut, South Lebanon and the Akkar Mountains in the north. ...I belonged to the Tiger Militia of ex-President Camille Chamoun.
"Phalange officers summoned us and brought us to the meeting place. They told us that they needed us for a 'special action..' ... You are the agents of the good, the officers told us repeatedly. 'Each of you is an avenger.'
"'THEN A GOOD DOZEN ISRAELIS IN GREEN UNIFORMS WITHOUT INDICATION OF RANK CAME ALONG. THEY HAD PLAYING CARDS WITH THEM AND SPOKE ARABIC WELL, EXCEPT THAT LIKE ALL JEWS, THEY PRONOUNCED THE HARD 'H' AS 'CH.' THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN CAMPS, SABRA AND SHATILA. ... IT WAS CLEAR TO US WHAT WE WERE TO DO AND WE WERE LOOKING FORWARD TO IT..
"'We had to swear an oath never to divulge anything about our action. At about 10 p.m., we climbed into an American army truck that the Israelis had given over to us. We parked the vehicle near the airport tower. There, immediately next to the Israeli positions, several such trucks were already parked.
"'SOME ISRAELIS IN PHALANGE UNIFORMS WERE WITH THE PARTY. "THE ISRAELI FRIENDS WHO ACCOMPANY YOU," OUR OFFICERS TOLD US ... WILL MAKE YOUR WORK EASIER."'
"'THEY DIRECTED US NOT TO MAKE USE OF OUR FIREARMS, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. EVERYTHING MUST PROCEED NOISELESSLY." ... We saw other comrades. They had to do their work with bayonets and knives. Bloody corpses were lying in the alleys. The half-asleep women and children who cried out for help put our whole plan in danger, alarming the entire camp.
"'NOW I SAW ONCE AGAIN THE ISRAELIS WHO HAD BEEN AT OUR SECRET MEETING. ONE SIGNALLED US TO MOVE BACK TO AREAS OF THE CAMP ENTRANCE. THE ISRAELIS OPENED UP WITH ALL THEIR GUNS. THE ISRAELIS HELPED US WITH FLOODLIGHTS.
"'There were shocking scenes that showed what the Palestinians were good for. A few, including women, had taken shelter in a small alley, behind some donkeys. Unfortunately, we had to shoot down these poor animals to finish off the Palestinians behind them. It got to me when the animals cried out in pain. It was gruesome.
“A comrade entered a house full of women and children. The Palestinians screamed and threw their gas stoves to the ground. We sent the hard-hearted rabble to hell.
"'At about four in the morning my squad went back to the truck. When there was morning light we went back into the camp. We went past bodies, stumbled over bodies, shot and stabbed all eyewitnesses. Killing was easy once you have done it a few times.
"'NOW CAME THE ISRAELI ARMY BULLDOZERS. "PLOW EVERYTHING UNDER THE GROUND. DON'T LET ANY WITNESSES STAY ALIVE." BUT DESPITE OUR EFFORTS THE AREA WAS STILL TEEMING WITH PEOPLE. THEY RAN ABOUT AND CAUSED AWFUL CONFUSION. THE ORDER TO "PLOW THEM UNDER" DEMANDED TOO MUCH.
"'It became clear that the plan had failed. Thousands had escaped us. Far too many Palestinians are still alive. Everywhere, now, people are talking about a massacre and feeling sorry for the Palestinians. Who appreciates the hardships that we took upon ourselves ... Just think. I fought for twenty-four hours in Shatila without food or drink.'
"The death toll in Sabra and Shatila was over 3,000. Many of the mass graves were never opened."
If you read the two days of testimony we provided the Sean McBride International Commission in Oslo in1983 - published in the full proceedings of those hearings in book form - you will find our detailed account and the eye witness testimonies.
Mya Shone's slide/lecture presentation includes our photographs of Israeli soldiers in Sabra and Shatila, of the tanks and the soldiers. We were there.
The slides of the victims in the camps were taken by us within 30 minutes of the death of some. We were crying as we photographed, took cover, photographed and took cover. We were determined to make a living record of what occurred and to get it to the outside world before it was suppressed.
We photographed the mass graves before the bulldozers covered many of them to conceal the scale of the butchery.
We spoke to hundreds of eye witness survivors. Many described to us the Israeli accented Arabic spoken by soldiers in uniforms without insignia.
We took Jean Genet with us on the fourth day. We walked the camps together, speaking to survivors. We were confronted by soldiers and had to negotiate our way out. Genet's personal account of the horror has been published in The Journal of Palestine Studies in the United States and in various publications in France.
We returned to Lebanon and the Palestinian camps again that winter for another six weeks and interviewed even more people. One of these was an elderly man, still hospitalized after his throat had been slit by Israeli soldiers in the Sports Stadium where he and others had been brought during the massacre.
Our interviews were conducted with interpreters. They were taped in the original Arabic, translated by professionals.
Our slide presentation and lecture, entitled "The War In Lebanon: An Inside View" has been presented at universities throughout the United States - from UCLA to Princeton and Yale - from North Carolina to Minnesota and at conferences internationally.
Our appearance at Yale University in 1982 with Hatem Husseini, then PLO representative to the United Nations, created a firestorm of publicity when the Hillel and Zionist groups tried to break up the meeting.
In all our lectures and slide presentations over many years, in public meetings, in libraries, in faculty gatherings, in union halls, in meetings with Arab and Palestinian students, we have detailed the role of lsraeli armed forces in Sabra and Shatila.
We have presented this evidence to gatherings and meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
This evidence and our presentation concerning the Israeli role in Sabra and Shatila was cited by Yasir Arafat in international meetings.
We met with the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Algiers and Tunis and discussed the evidence in full.
Yasir Arafat confronted the Italian Foreign Minister with Mya Shone's slides and challenged him over the medallion we possessed of an Israeli soldier lost by him in Shatila in the course of the butchery.
A Palestinian survivor hiding in a ditch, who watched the killings in trauma, picked up this medallion, dropped by an Israeli soldier when the soldiers moved to another section of the camp in their killing orgy. He gave it to us. It is inscribed in Hebrew "From the grateful citizens of Ramat Gan."
Others have come forward with evidence and it is included and cited by us in our published work.
Der Spiegel's prominently promoted story and the long interview on February 14, 1983 can hardly have escaped the notice of any scholar serious about this issue. The publication of this interview by Der Spiegel was reported on German radio and television. Much printed commentary followed.
This participant in the mass murder provides a specific account of his own role in the slaughter, a searing and sickening eye witness description of direct Israeli participation.
Mya Shone and I wrote to the official Israeli Commission of Inquiry, The Kahan Commission, offering our evidence and eye witness testimony. We were answered by them only after their "hearings" were completed.
"The Hidden History of Zionism" has been published in English, French, and Spanish. It has sold continuously since 1988 and can be found in many libraries.
It is on the internet and is read throughout the world. We have been engaged in dialogue with readers of The Hidden History of Zionism for 14 years.
Our report for the United Nations on the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in three jurisdictions was expanded into a book "Prisoners of Israel." The events in Lebanon are set forth there in meticulous detail.
We provided 6,000 affidavits from family members of the killed, tortured, disappeared, and those held in the detention camps, to the Israeli attorney, Leah Tsemel. She presented these to the Israeli Supreme Court in seeking habeas corpus for the detained and the disappeared.
Chapter Eight of The Hidden History of Zionism" is entitled "Blitzkrieg and Slaughter" It describes the role of Israel in Lebanon.
We shall cite here the section entitled "From 500, 000 to 50,000 and the section entitled "The Sabra and Shatila Massacres":
Chapter Eight details the role of Israel, the Phalange and the actual killer militia units who did the slaughter on the ground:
"The invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982 had as its purpose the scattering through massacre and terror of the entire Palestinian population.
"Prior to the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel had declared on separate occasions that they would reduce the Palestinians in Lebanon from 500,000 to 50,000. As the invasion unfolded, these plans began to surface in the pages of the Israeli and Western press. Ha'aretz reported on September 26, 1982:
'A long-term objective aimed at the expulsion of the whole Palestinian population of Lebanon beginning with Beirut. The purpose was to create panic to convince [sic] all the Palestinians of Lebanon that they were no longer safe in that country.'
The London Sunday Times reported on the same day:
'This carefully, pre-planned military operation to 'purge' the camps was called Moah Barzel or “Iron Brain;” the plan was familiar to Sharon and Begin and part of Sharon's larger plan discussed by the Israeli cabinet on July 17.'
"Bashir Gemayel became emboldened as the Israeli blitzkrieg swept through Lebanon. 'The Palestinians,' he declared, ' are a people too many. We will not rest until every true Lebanese has killed at least one Palestinian.' (118)
"A prominent Lebanese army doctor told his unit: 'Soon there will not be a single Palestinian in Lebanon. They are bacteria that must be exterminated.' (119)
"The massacres that ensued bore a grim resemblance to the slaughter of the innocents engulfing Deir Yasin, Dueima, Kibya and Kfar Qasim as Palestine was de-populated from 1947 through the 1950's.
"Western and Israeli reports made the murderous purpose of the Israeli invasion unmistakable:
'By Sharon's admission, the Israelis planned two weeks ago to have the Lebanese Forces enter the camps,' wrote Time Magazine. Later in the same article, it became clear that this had been prepared long before:
“'Top Israeli officers planned many months ago to enlist the Lebanese Forces made up of the combined Christian militias headed by Bashir Gemayel, to enter the Palestinian refugee camps once an Israeli encirclement of west Beirut was completed.
“'On several occasions Gemayel told Israeli officials he would raze the camps and flatten them into tennis courts. This fits in with Israeli thinking. The Christian militia forces that were known to have gone into the camps were trained by the Israelis.' (120)
The Israeli press was equally explicit in its reports of Israeli plans. On September 15, Ha'aretz quoted Chief of Staff General Raphael Eitan: "All four Palestinian camps are surrounded and hermetically sealed.'
The New York Times corroborated the Time Magazine account:
'Sharon told the Knesset that the General Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Phalangists met twice with Israel's ranking generals on September 15 and discussed entering the camps which they did the next afternoon.' (121)
THE KILLER MILITIA
“Two months before the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, perhaps the most remarkable account appeared in the Jerusalem Post. A long interview was published with Major Etienne Saqr [code name, Abu Arz.] Major Saqr was the leader of the several-thousand strong right wing militia, 'The Guardians of the Cedars.'
"The Jerusalem Post disclosed that Major Saqr 'is about to leave for the United States to put his credo and solutions' before the Americans. 'Since 1975, he has propagated the Israeli solution ... and Israel has supported him in every material way.' (122)
"Major Saqr's own remarks foreshadowed what would later shock the world at the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila:
"It is the Palestinians we have to deal with. Ten years ago there were 84,000; now there are between 600,000 and 700,000. In six years there will be two million. We can't let it come to that.'
"When asked by the Jerusalem Post: 'What is your solution?' Major Saqr replied, 'Very simple. We shall drive them to the borders of brotherly Syria. ...Anyone who looks back, stops or returns will be shot on the spot. We have the moral right, reinforced by well organized public relations plans and political preparations.'
"'Are you,' asked the Jerusalem Post, 'able to implement this threat? (He does not blink an eyelid.) 'Of course we can. And we shall.'"
"Major Saqr had played a major role in the 1976 massacre of Palestinians in Tal al Zaatar refugee camp.
"After the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Major Saqr returned to Jerusalem to hold a press conference in which he took responsibility for carrying out the massacre with the Israelis: 'No one has the right to criticize us; we carried out our duty, our sacred responsibility.' (123)
"He left this press conference where he claimed a share in the 'credit' for mass murder to attend a meeting with Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
"Major Saqr surfaced again, now based in the Israeli command headquarters in the Suraya complex in Sidon, near Ain El Helweh. His militia distributed leaflets throughout Sidon which read:
"'Germs live only in rot. Let us prevent rot from infiltrating society. Let us continue the work of destruction of the last bastions of the Palestinians and smash whatever life is left in this poisonous snake.'
"Major Saqr had worked closely with the notorious intelligence chief for Bashir Gemayel's militia, Elie Hobeika. Hobeika was known as the CIA's man in Beirut.
"Jonathan Randal of the Washington Post cited Hobeika's declarations in Beirut, ascribing these to 'one of the killers;' they echoed those of Major Saqr in Jersualem:
"'Shoot them against the pink and blue walls; slaughter them in the half-light of the evening. The only way you will find out how many Palestinians we killed is if they ever build a subway under Beirut ... A good massacre or two will drive the Palestinians out of Beirut and Lebanon once and for all.' (124)
The Israeli Army command had also enlisted Lebanese officers. One of them revealed:
'During Thursday, General Drori took me to the airport where Israelis were assembling the militia. 'If your men won't do it, I know others who will.' (125)
He referred to Saqr: ' ... The Guardians of the Cedars, whom Gemayel incorporated into the Lebanese Forces in 1980, held, as an article of faith, that Palestinian infants must be killed since they eventually grew up to be terrorists.' (126)
".... The author of this book experienced the bombing and siege of West Beirut in 1982, lived with Palestinians in the ruins of Ain el Helweh during the Israeli occupation and witnessed the devastation in the Palestinian camps of Rashidya, El Bas, Burj al Jamali, Mieh Mieh, Burj al Burajneh, Sabra and Shatila, as well as the destruction of the Lebanese towns and villages throughout the South.
"The accounts of Israeli enactment of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila have been substantiated by this author, who was present in the camps on the final day of slaughter. He and Mya Shone photographed Israeli tanks and soldiers in Sabra and Shatila and spoke to the survivors over a period of four days."