By Iqbal Jassat
Without exception, Palestinians as a collective, commemorate tragic events which robbed them of near and dear friends and family members.
One of these has been the 1982 massacre at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. A recurring nightmare as the barbarity of that blood-curling day is relived. Not without reason have historians described Ariel Sharon’s troops as those that “slaughter children” and those that “rip open pregnant women’s stomachs”. Indeed what can be more horrific than them “betting on the sex of the embryos”?
Edward Said viewed this massacre as a concerted, deliberate attempt to strip Palestinians of their national identity.
As Robert Fisk said, the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1700 Palestinians were butchered 34 years ago. I can attest to this, having visited Sabra and Shatila camps in 2003 and the privilege of addressing grief-stricken families and a huge crowd of activists marking 21st anniversary of Israel’s killing fields. The camps are a memorial to war-criminals and their allies in London, France and Washington, who evade justice.
The same can be said of Arab leaders. While these surrogates of the West have regularly expressed grief for the victims of September 11, none has dared to visit Sabra and Shatila’s mass graves. Again as Fisk laments, “Arab potentates bleed in their hearts for the Palestinians but an airfare to Beirut might be a bit much these days – and which of them would want to offend the Israelis or the Americans?”
As the horrors of various atrocities committed against Palestinians are recalled, it may sound strange, especially as pilgrims return from Haj having experienced heightened spirituality, that the “custodian of the two harams” is frantically pursuing “normalization” with Israel. Saudi Arabia, a creation of the British, has finally lifted its mask. Far from being in solidarity with Palestine, the monarchy has always used the Palestinian cause as a political football. That it financed Egypt’s bloody military coup that robbed the North African powerhouse of democracy and allows General Sisi to maintain his iron grip on the Rafah border – effectively sealing Gaza, is evidence of Saudi treachery.
And in the midst of commemorations in many parts of the world where the call has been to reinforce solidarity and pursue justice for Palestine, comes the shocking though not surprising news that America, under President Obama has rewarded Israel with $38 billion during the next 10 years. It constitutes the largest batch of military aid the US has ever pledged to another country.
Unprecedented in scope and in utter disregard for Israel’s atrocious human rights record, the US has gifted the Netanyahu clique of rightwing racists, the largest bilateral military aid package ever. And shamelessly, Obama proclaimed it “is just the most recent reflection of my steadfast commitment to the security of the state of Israel.” It reflects the faulty narrative which underpins America’s disastrous foreign policies which have and still do wreak havoc in the Muslim world.
Such immorality by the US and Saudi kingdom is akin to dancing on the graves of Sabra and Shatila. It says to the Palestinians “we don’t care about your plight, our national interest trumps everything else.”
The Saudis as indeed most of the Arab oligarchies have surrendered their flimsy security to the Zionist project. Palestinian history, especially since the 70’s is replete with the treacherous conduct of most Arab leaders. Their complicit role which allows Israel to continue plundering Palestinian lands in an ever-expanding colonialism in what is known as “settlements”, is downright humiliating for themselves if they dare to self-reflect.
It is perhaps noteworthy to recall one of the treacherous outcomes led by Egypt during the reign of Anwar Sadat. On 17 September 1978, 38 years ago and exactly 4 years before the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in front of the world’s TV cameras, Sadat and Irgun terrorist Menachem Begin as leader of Israel, signed the Camp David Accords in the White House.
Was it conceivable that Begin given his notorious history of terrorism would be an honorable “partner”? In 1946, Begin’s Irgun killed ninety-one British by blowing up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and in 1948, was implicated in the Deir Yassin massacre, a tragedy as mind-numbing as Sabra and Shatila. In fact US President Carter is on record as having had grave misgivings about Begin. During the run-up to the final Accords, Carter was not thrilled with Begin’s idea of offering Palestinians mere autonomy rather than sovereignty.
At the core of numerous disagreements was the principle of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” – the rejection of which by Begin, defined the weakness of the Accords. Caving in to Israel’s demands, Carter and Sadat left a legacy which to this day permits the Zionist regime to act with impunity without regard for accountability. For if it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, then the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip would all have to be relinquished without question.
The period from Carter to Obama and from Sadat to Sisi has witnessed how war criminals and baby killers in Israel are rewarded rather than hauled before the courts for justice to be dispensed. It’s a strange situation that’s best understood in the context of power-relations exercised by imperialism: Palestine is not just conquered territory; it represents a coveted prize held by an arrogant elite of Zionists who believe in their false notion of invincibility.
But nightmares have a strange ability to become the bugbear of hideous violators of human rights. Palestinian steadfastness and courageous resistance suggests that Israel’s nightmare will become more terrifying for them. Look no further than the Amal and Zaytouna. These are the two “Women’s Boat to Gaza”, captained by women-only, with 30 female activists, as they set sail to break the nine-year Israeli blockade on the coastal Mediterranean strip.