By Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.*
September brings back memories of atrocities ranging from 9/11/01, to the CIA's involvement in the coup that installed General Pinochet in Chile (9/11/73), and to the massacre of Sabra and Shatila on 9/15/82. These tragedies are demonstrably intertwined beyond the coincidences of date and that they claimed similar numbers of civilian victims. Israel invaded Lebanon June 1982 pounding cities and refugee camps and killing thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Under a deal arranged by Israel's patrons in Washington, the PLO was forced out of Lebanon on 1 Sept. 1982 in exchange for promises that refugees would not be harmed. US promises were not kept and Israel was given US weapons and diplomatic cover. A ruthless General known to Israelis as the bulldozer (because nothing stood in his way) commanded Israelís invading army. On 11 September 1982 he announced that the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila had 2000 "terrorists" and unleashed mercenaries to do his ghastly deed. The 150 Phalagist killers who went into the camps on September 15 not only received Israeli salaries and weapons but a direct Green light (the camp was surrounded by Israeli soldiers, and Israeli lights allowed continuation of the massacre throughout the night). For 40 hours straight, women were raped, children's throats were slit, and elderly men were hacked to death. Estimates of the number of victims ranged from 750 (Israeli figure) to 2500 (Red Cross figure) to over 3000.
The US used its veto power to block a number of UN Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Israeli actions in Lebanon. The responsible "bulldozer" is now Israel's Prime Minister Sharon. Sharon was never repentant for this or his earlier atrocities (like his massacre of civilians at Qibya in 1956). In fact he immediately became engaged in colonizing more Palestinian lands and is now proudly proclaimed the father of West Bank settlements/colonies. Sharon's army killed over 2000 Palestinian civilians just in the past three years, including over 350 children. He is busy building an apartheid and land grab wall condemned as a grave violations of International law. The US government stands virtually alone in supporting Israel as is evident by recent rulings from the International Court of Justice and votes at the UN (the latest vote: 150 to 4).
Jewish writers with conscience such as Joel Kovel (writing in September 2002) asked how the US continue to support the murderous actions of the Israeli government (in turn used to fuel the rage that led to tragedies including 9/11). He asked how can Jews, long associated with suffering, identify with a state condemned around the world for oppressing and subjugating millions? Indeed, why support a state that ethnically cleansed 2/3rds of the native inhabitants and is imprisoning the remaining natives in large open-air concentration camps? Why do US taxpayers allow Congress to give 30% of our foreign aid to a nation with 0.1% of world population? This is a nation that elected Sharon for prime minister, a war criminal (see http://www.indictsharon.net/)? Why are US soldiers forced to risk their lives for corporate and Zionist greed? Why do Americans take training from an army condemned by Human Rights organizations for terrorizing millions? South Africa under apartheid argued that the ANC was a terrorist organization all while terrorizing blacks with US support, Israel, also with US support is doing the same thing. It is now well recognized that the tragedy of 9/11/01 was similarly used it as an excuse for further oppression, trashing the UN charter, and even challenging the US constitutional protections.
More Americans realize that US policies, made for special interests, creates victims everywhere. US-led sanctions killed over a million Iraqi civilians (talk about WMD!) and the $250 billion given to Israel left millions as refugees. The question is not if politicians like Bush and Kerry will stop funding state terrorism, if they will realize the folly of the colonial "white man's burden", or if they will stop outsourcing US foreign policy; the question is simply when will the public force them to do so and what price do we all pay till then. Politicians lagged behind in all great social movements from ending slavery, to civil rights, to ending the genocidal war on Vietnam, and to ending apartheid in South Africa. Like these struggles, peace with justice demands awakening civic engagement and exposing the truth of events like the September atrocities. Hopeful signs include the democratic wins in Venezuela and Brazil (despite US policies), and, despite the strong Israeli lobby, the FBI investigation of the Pentagon-Israel connections, and the return of Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney. As we learn and act more on the lessons of history, more lives (Iraqi, Palestinian, Israeli, American) will be spared and more resources will be redirected to human needs at home and abroad. The work for truth and justice is the only way to end the violence and bring peace. Such work thus truly honors the victims of black September.
*Author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan" http://qumsiyeh.org