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French Version

The carnage of Sabra and Shatila

The anniversary of the Sabra-Shatila massacre this week is likely to pass us by as if it's another casual affair.
Robert Fisk, a lone pen in the world of international journalism, is likely to remember the massacre with an awe-struck chill.


For he was one of the first journalists to enter the Sabra-Shatila camp on the morning of 18 September, the final day of the massacre. Fisk will likely remember the massacre that took place under the watchful eyes of the world long after it has been forgotten by countries that harp on justice, morality and respect for human rights-the very countries that violate or turn a blind eye to massacres committed in the name of humanity.

He was there in September 1982 walking in a camp of carcasses, of cadavers and bodies lying in the street sublimely waiting to be rescued from the people who slaughtered them. In a harrowing and graphic description he talks about the people who have been shot, butchered and slain in a willful, sadistic manner of debauchery.

He talked about the women who were raped and shot, lying in wait for a world that had turned its back on them. He saw the children and the babies that were shot point blank. He remembers the old men, the young men, youths who were rounded up, strung along walls and shot point blank. Fisk, along with a couple of his journalist colleagues, including an American and a Swede, talked about the flies devouring the corpses, the throats that were slit, the mouths that were axed. He talks about the man who had been castrated with the swarm of flies hovering over his trousers. He remembers the pregnant woman whose stomach had been torn wide open with a knife.

Every time I read his book Pity The Nation, I go into a trance. How can people do this? Are they beasts or humans? Do they hate the Palestinians so much that they are prepared to kill them, nay slaughter them, kill their women-but not before they rape them- and kill their children, their old and their young. The Sabra-Shatila massacre that took place between 16 till 18 September 1982, under the guise of the Israelis, should be a marked scare on Arabs and the international community. Instead, the massacre hardly warrants a mention. Is it because the world prefers to forget its misdeeds? Or is because the world stands in guilty silence with the fact that they may have been able to prevent the massacre?

Robert Fisk and his brave colleagues found themselves walking on faces, limbs, noses, mouths. They found themselves treading on mass graves-graves of people dug up just hours before they arrived. They were walking, watching, and vomiting in between alleyways and dirt roads. They saw dead people in a city of ghosts. Dead people that were lying on their pavement and outside their homes.

The Irish journalist says it was a surreal experience; he was half-expecting the people to get up from the dead and start moving or go about their business. But they never did, they were corpses. After counting a hundred bodies or so, Fisk says they stopped; their minds had become numb and ceased to operate.

Undoubtedly, it was the Phalange and the other Christian militias, at the behest of their Israeli mentors, who closed the doors to the camp; it was the Phalange and murderers linked to the Israelis who embarked on this evil, insane deed that resulted in an entire area of carnage. For three days, the butchery or more appropriately, the debauchery, slaughter and rape of defenseless Palestinians took place, so that Ariel Sharon, the architect of the Lebanese invasion of 1982, could bark of his Israeli glory that it was he who rid Beirut of the PLO.

The price was the Sabra-Shatila massacre of innocent, unprotected people-people who stood alone while the Phanalange raped and ravaged their souls. They paid the price with their own lives, with their own bodies and limbs, with their faces, hands, mouths, feet, legs, souls and dignity.

The stench of death, the millions of flies, the sheer enormity of it all had left Fisk, at the time, senseless. When he went home later on that 18 September day, he took a long bath to try and rid himself of the smell of death hovering around his cloths and body. The long bath yielded no results. The chamber of horrors that he is privy to still lingers in his mind 20 years later.

I wanted to write about Sabra and Shatila last year. However, after reading about the enormity of the massacre it seemed so insignificant and slight for me to write an article about it. The actual massacre bewildered me, I couldn't put pen to paper. The same feeling gripped me this time around. While no amount of writing will rectify the grave human injustice, it might help in some indefinable way which no one knows.


Amman,23September2002
Marwan Asmar
The Star


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