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American researcher uncovers recently declassified transcripts of
conversations between Israeli and American officials during First
Israel deceived the United States and hindered the country’s efforts to
prevent the massacre by Christians of Palestinians in the Sabra and
Shatila refugee camps during the First Lebanon War, according to a U.S.
In a New York Times op-ed, Seth Anziska, a
researcher and doctoral candidate in international history at Columbia
University, argues that Israel misled the Americans about events in
Beirut, also leading them to think that “thousands of terrorists” were
housed in the camps, when in fact the camp residents were civilians.
Hundreds of the residents were murdered by Phalange Christians between
September 16 and 18, 1982, while Israel Defense Forces soldiers were
positioned around the camps.
Anziska makes his claims based on
research he conducted this past summer at the State Archives, where he
found recently declassified documents that chronicle key conversations
between American and Israeli officials before and during the massacre.
“Working with only partial knowledge of the reality on the ground, the
United States feebly yielded to false arguments and stalling tactics
that allowed a massacre in progress to proceed,” writes Anziska.
“The lesson of the Sabra and Shatila tragedy is clear. Sometimes close
allies act contrary to American interests and values. Failing to exert
American power to uphold those interests and values can have disastrous
consequences: for our allies, for our moral standing and most important,
for the innocent people who pay the highest price of all,” he writes.
The IDF invaded Beirut in the summer of 1982, in an effort to remove
Palestinian terror groups from the city. Members of the Christian
Phalange militias cooperated with the IDF when it entered Lebanon. This
support helped the Phalanges increase their political power, and in
August of that year, Bashir Gemayel, a former Phalange commander, was
elected president of Lebanon.
After he was assassinated on September
14, the IDF allowed the Phalange militia into West Beirut, where the
two refugee camps were located, and gave them permission to enter the
camps and root out Palestinian fighters. Instead, the Phalange gunmen
committed indiscriminate revenge, murdering hundreds – some say
thousands – of the camps’ residents.
On September 15,
then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin told U.S. envoy Morris Draper that
the reason the IDF had entered West Beirut was to keep the peace there.
“Otherwise, there could be pogroms,” Begin said. But upon hearing that
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was considering allowing the Phalange
militia into West Beirut, even Chief of General Staff Rafael Eitan
acknowledged that he feared “a relentless slaughter,” according to
Another Israeli official who feared a massacre was
Deputy Prime Minister David Levy. On September 16, during a cabinet
meeting at which the ministers learned that the Phalange had been
allowed into the camps, he said, “I know what the meaning of revenge is
for them, what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to
create order there, and we will bear the blame,” according to the
documents Anziska found.
But Sharon told the Americans that the
conquest of West Beirut was justified because there were “2,000 to
3,000 terrorists who remained there.”
At a meeting on September 17
that included Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Sharon, several Israeli
intelligence officials and Draper, Shamir did not mention the slaughter
that had occurred in the camps the previous day, according to Anziska.
A transcript of the meeting reveals that the Americans were browbeaten
by Sharon’s false insistence that “terrorists” needed “mopping up,”
According to the researcher, Mr. Draper opened the
meeting by demanding that the IDF pull out of Beirut right away. Mr.
Sharon exploded, “I just don’t understand, what are you looking for? Do
you want the terrorists to stay? Are you afraid that somebody will think
that you were in collusion with us? Deny it. We denied it.”
on in the meeting Sharon added, “Nothing will happen. Maybe some more
terrorists will be killed. That will be to the benefit of all of us.
After Draper argued that Israel will be blamed for letting the Lebanese
kill the Palestinians in the camps, Sharon replied, “So, we’ll kill
them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You
are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism…If you
don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.”
Draper reminded Sharon that the United States had helped the PLO leave
Beirut so that Israel wouldn’t have to enter the city, Sharon replied,
“When it comes to our security, we have never asked. We will never ask.
When it comes to existence and security, it is our own responsibility
and we will never give it to anybody to decide for us.”
According to Anziska, the documents show that Shamir and Sharon finally
agreed to gradually withdraw from Beirut once the Lebanese Army started
entering the city — but they insisted on until the end of Rosh Hashana,
which started that evening.
“By allowing the argument to
proceed on Mr. Sharon’s terms, Mr. Draper effectively gave Israel cover
to let the Phalange fighters remain in the camps,” Anziska writes.
Based on the conclusions of the Kahan Commission, which investigated
the massacres at Sabra and Chatila, Sharon was dismissed as defense
minister. Twenty years later he was elected prime minister.
According to Anziska, Draper, in an oral history he recorded a few years
before he died in 2005, he recalled telling Sharon, “You should be
ashamed. The situation is absolutely appalling. They’re killing
children! You have the field completely under your control and are
therefore responsible for that area.”
Even so, the U.S.
ambassador to Israel during that period, Samuel Lewis, told Anziska that
it would have been difficult to prevent the massacre during that
period, “unless Reagan had picked up the phone and called Begin and read
him the riot act.” And even then, said Lewis, “Sharon would have found
some other way” for the militiamen to take action.”
In: Other Middle East
Tags: Israel, Jews, massacre, genocide, sabra, shatila, refugee, camps
Location: Israel (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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