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Sharon fetid strink { February 6 2001 }

Fwd: Robert Fisk remembers the fetid stink which accompanies Ariel Sharon (fwd)

>By Robert Fisk
>
>[The Independent, UK, 6 February 2001]:
>Even when I walk these fetid streets today, more than 18 years after
>what was by Israel's own definition of that much-misused phrase
>the worst single act of terrorism in modern Middle East history, the
>ghosts haunt me still. Over there, on the side of the road leading to
>the
>Sabra mosque, lay Mr Nouri, 90 years old, grey-bearded, in pyjamas
>with a small woollen hat still on his head and a stick by his side. I
>found him on a pile of garbage, on his back, fly-encrusted eyes
>staring
>at the blazing sun. Just up the lane, I came across two women sitting
>upright with their brains blown out, next to a cooking pot and a dead
>horse. One of the women appeared to have had her stomach slit open.
>A few metres away, I discovered the first babies, already black with
>decomposition, scattered across the road like rubbish.
>
>Yes, those of us who got into Sabra and Chatila before the murderers
>left have our memories. The flies racing between the reeking bodies
>and
>our faces, between dried blood and reporter's notebook, the hands of
>watches still ticking on dead wrists. I clambered up a rampart of
>earth
> an abandoned bulldozer stood guiltily nearby only to find, once I
>was atop the mound, that it swayed beneath me. And I looked down
>to find faces, elbows, mouths, a woman's legs protruding through the
>soil. I had to hold on to these body parts to climb down the other
>side.
>Then there was the pretty girl, her head surrounded by a halo of
>clothes pegs, her blood still running from a hole in her back. We had
>burst into the yard of her home, desperate to avoid the
>Israeli-uniformed militiamen who still roamed the camp; coming in by
>back door, we had found her body as the murderers left by the front
>door.
>
>And as I walked through the carnage on 18 September the last day of
>the three-day massacre with Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post,
>a fierce, tough, Colorado reporter, I remember how he stopped in
>shock and disgust. And then, with as much energy as his lungs could
>summon in the sweet, foul air, he shouted, "SHARON!" so loudly that
>the name echoed off the crumpled walls above the bodies. "He's
>responsible for this fucking mess," Jenkins roared. And that, just
>over
>four months later in more diplomatic words and in a report in which
>the murderers were called "soldiers" was what the Israeli commission
>of enquiry decided. Sharon, who was minister of defence, bore
>"personal responsibility", the Kahan commission stated, and
>recommended his removal from office. Sharon resigned.
>
>And so today, in this fetid, awful place, where Lebanese Muslim
>militiamen were three years later to kill hundreds more
>Palestinians
>in a war which produced no official inquiries, where scarcely 20 per
>cent of the survivors still live, where brown mud and rubbish now
>covers the mass grave of 600 of the 1982 victims, the Palestinians
>wait
>to see if their tormentor will hold the highest office in the state of
>Israel.
>
>"Ariel Sharon was responsible," a well-dressed young man shouted at
>us from an apartment balcony yesterday morning. And who could
>disagree? Israel had invaded Lebanon on 6 June 1982 with a plan
>known to Sharon but not vouchsafed to his Likud prime minister,
>Menachem Begin to advance all the way to Beirut and surround
>Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation guerrillas in the
>Lebanese capital. Officially named "Operation Peace for Galilee" (the
>real Israeli military codename was "Snowball"), the invasion was
>supposedly a response to PLO rocket attacks across the Israeli border.
>
>But the rocket attacks had followed a series of Israeli air-raids on
>Lebanon which had ended a UN-brokered ceasefire and which were
>supposedly in "retaliation" for the attempted murder of the Israeli
>ambassador to London though his would-be killers came from the
>Abu Nidal group which had nothing to do with the PLO and hated
>Arafat. But Sharon had anyway received an earlier American "green
>light" for his operation from Alexander Haig in the spring of 1982.
>After two months and almost 17,000 deaths, most of them civilians
>the majority killed by Israeli gunfire and air attack the PLO
>withdrew from Beirut under international protection, leaving their
>unarmed families behind. At which point Sharon announced that 2,000
>"terrorists" remained in the Sabra and Chatila camps. These mythical
>"terrorists" prompted a small advance by Israeli tanks contrary to
>an
>agreement with Washington towards the Palestinian camps. A
>French UN officer who tried to photograph the advance was shot dead
>by an "unknown" sniper. Sharon repeated his extraordinary claim that
>"terrorists" remained in the camps. And it was then that the Christian
>Lebanese president-elect, Bashir Gemayel the leader of the Phalange
>militia which had already murdered thousands of surrendering
>Palestinians in the Tel el-Zaatar camp in 1976 was assassinated.
>
>Sharon paid his condolences to Gemayel's father, Pierre. He must have
>known the old man's history. Pierre Gemayel had founded his party
>after being inspired by the Olympics in Nazi Germany in 1936 ("I
>liked their idea of order," he once confided to me). Not for nothing
>did
>Israel's militia allies use the fascist "Phalange" as their name. As
>the
>Christians prepared to bury their hero, Sharon again contrary to
>assurances he had given the Americans ordered the Israeli army into
>west Beirut to "restore order". The Israelis then asked the Christian
>Phalange armed and uniformed by Israel and allied to Israel since
>1976 to enter the Israeli-surrounded camps to "liquidate" the
>"terrorists". Which is why, on Thursday 16 September, guided by
>signposts which the Israelis had laid across a Beirut airport runway,
>the Christian gunmen walked through the southern entrance of Chatila,
>some of them drunk, a number on drugs all under the eyes of the
>Israelis and embarked on a war crime.
>
>Today, much scarred by later wars, the lanes of Chatila still follow
>the
>same paths I walked down 18 years ago. There are always survivors
>who have never told their stories to us before. Yesterday I wandered
>up an alleyway rippling with water pipes and running with rain and
>sewage to find a middle-aged woman buying tomatoes from a stall. I
>was 30 metres from the road where I discovered Mr Nouri's body
>almost two decades ago. She took me to her family home and
>introduced me to her daughter, Nadia Salameh. Nadia was only 12
>when Ariel Sharon's soldiers watched the Phalangist militia slaughter
>their way through the camps.
>
>"At the end of this alleyway outside our home, we were all shocked
>by what we saw," she told me, her voice slowly rising with the
>memory of horror. "I saw corpses there, seven deep, some
>decapitated, others with their throats slit. One of our neighbours was
>lying there, Um Ahmed Saad, and her body had grown big with the
>heat. Her hands had been chopped off at the wrists. She used to wear a
>lot of bracelets, a lot of gold. The Phalange obviously wanted the
>gold."
>
>Each house I enter contains the faded photographs of young men killed
>in the war, some by Israel's allies, others by Shia Muslim gunmen in
>the later 1985 camps war. But their memories have not faded. Old
>Abdullah he is 78 and pleaded with us not to use his family name
>talks without looking at me, eyes staring at the wall. The ghosts are
>returning again. "The Phalange were led by Elie Hobeika," he said,
>"but
>who sent them into the camps? The Israelis. And who was the defence
>minister? Sharon. They put their tanks round the camp. I was part of a
>delegation that tried to negotiate with them. We carried a white flag.
>When we got near, there was a man's voice on a loudspeaker telling us
>to have our identity cards ready. But I didn't have my ID. So I went
>back home. And it turned out the loudspeaker was being used by a
>Phalangist. And they murdered all the men in the delegation. I was the
>only one to survive."
>
>There was no doubt that the Israelis could see what the Lebanese
>Christian Phalange were doing. The Kahan commission was later to
>quote Lieutenant Avi Grabovski, deputy commander of an Israeli tank
>unit that was helping to encircle the camp: he watched the murder of
>five women and children and wanted to protest, but his battalion
>commander had replied to another soldier who complained that "we
>know, it's not to our liking, and don't interfere". Up to 2,000
>Palestinians were murdered two mass graves remain unexhumed in
>Beirut and Sharon's reputation, already besmirched by the much
>earlier slaughter of more than 50 Palestinian civilians by his
>Commando Unit 101, seemed as buried as the Palestinian victims.
>
>But like the garbage that has collected over the only known mass
>grave, the historical narrative save for that of the survivors has
>become overgrown. History moves on. Arafat recognised Israel and
>found himself trapped by an agreement that would give him neither a
>real "Palestine" nor secure the return of the refugees including
>those
>in Sabra and Chatila to what is now Israel. And the new leader of
>Israel is, within hours, likely to be the man who allowed the killers
>into the Beirut camps more than 18 years ago.
>
>With power, of course, comes respect. CNN now calls Sharon "a
>barrel-framed veteran general who has built a reputation for
>flattening
>obstacles and reshaping Israel's landscape", while the BBC World
>Service on Sunday managed to avoid the fateful words Sabra and
>Chatila by referring only to his "chequered military career". As for
>Nadia Salameh, "Sharon's role here shows what he is capable of. If
>Sharon is elected, the whole peace process falls by the wayside
>because he doesn't want peace." It's a relief to recall that up to a
>million Israelis demonstrated their moral integrity in 1982 by
>protesting in Tel Aviv against the massacre. And equally chilling to
>reflect that some of those one million if the polls are accurate
>may well be voting for Mr Sharon today.
>
>
>
>





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