This week, we are commemorating the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. Twenty-eight years ago, between the 16th and 18th of September, 1982, the lives of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon came to a brutal and violent end. Hundreds more were rounded up and crammed into trucks like cattle. They were driven to unknown locations and were never heard from again.
These are the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, carried out by the Lebanese Christian philangists with the approval, protection and support of the Israeli military, under the direction of Ariel Sharon.
Officials have never been able to determine the exact number of dead. The International Committee of the Red Cross buried at least 1,000 in a mass grave. But untold numbers were buried under the rubble of buildings the philangists militants demolished on top of them. Hundreds of survivors were carted off and never heard from again.
The massacre is one of the bloodiest and most heart-wrenching in Palestinian history; outpaced in genocidal violence perhaps only by the Nakba itself and the recent Operation Cast Lead, in which Israeli bombardment killed more than 1,400 Palestinians confined in Gaza – including at least 355 children – in December 2008 and January 2009.
But the real tragedy of Sabra and Shatila is the absence of justice for the massacre’s victims and survivors. Nearly 30 years after the event, those responsible were never called to account. After an investigation, Sharon was sanctioned and he resigned as defense minister, but then went on to become one of the most brutal Israeli prime ministers the world has ever known.
In fact, Israel has been allowed to act without consequences since its inception in 1948. From massacre to massacre, Israel – the so-called “only democracy” in the Middle East – has been allowed to violate international humanitarian law with impunity for more than 60 years. For more than 60 years, the United States has been supporting Israel – and consequently the occupation – with billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money.
After six decades, it’s clear the world is not going to speak up. It’s clear that U.S. cares more for the formidable and enriching pro-Israel lobby than it does for upholding our values of human rights, and the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That’s why it is up to us as Americans to work to bring justice to Palestine. It is our duty as Americans to work against injustice wherever we see it but especially in Palestine.
Start by educating yourself about the illegal occupation of Palestine and then speak up to your colleagues, friends and families. Write letters to the editor of your local papers and attend rallies, seminars and lectures.
I am the media director for the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), whose mission is to educate the public about Palestine and the occupation. We believe that once Americans understand the true facts on the ground, they won’t accept the U.S.’ unilateral support for Israel.
If you need materials or information, please contact me at AMP at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have produced numerous books, brochures, fact sheets and other materials for your use. We send them out free of charge.
The responsibility is huge, but we believe in the power of the Truth. There is strength in unity and in numbers and that’s why it is imperative that we all work together.
~ Kristin Szremski 9/15/2010