Dr. Steven Plaut
November 25, 2001
I say this because of the massacres now being calmly and indifferently reported from Afghanistan. When the Northern Alliance took Kabul and other areas, it made short shrift of any remaining Taliban fighters and, no doubt, many Afghans to whom they simply took a disliking, as well. These Sabras and Chatilas in Afghanistan took place right under the noses of the U.S. military and with U.S. ground forces in the area and directing the fighting. While U.S. troops did not do the killings themselves, they also failed to stop them. A bit like Rwanda? Now, don´t get me wrong. I don´t really think the U.S. had the ability to prevent the Northern Alliance from looking for a bit of catharsis on the hapless denizens of Kabul. Such things happen in war and ultimately the responsibility for them lies with those who started the war in the first place — in this case, the Taliban.
Which brings us to one of the worst blood libels of the 20th century: the accusation that Israel in general and Ariel Sharon in particular were directly to blame for the massacres of Palestinian Arabs by Lebanese Arabs at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps outside Beirut in 1982. It will be recalled that in 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon after years of shellings and terrorist incursions into Israel by Palestinians, backed by Syria and Lebanon. These same Palestinians had long played a role in the Lebanese civil war — a war that claimed thousands of lives and reduced Lebanon to being a puppet of the Syrian dictator — and they were responsible for countless atrocities inside Lebanon itself, between 1970 and 1982. When the Israeli troops entered Lebanon, many an Arab greeted them with flowers.
However, all did not go smoothly. When Israeli troops closed in on Beirut and on the PLO headquarters there, the world started grumbling. On September 14, 1982, the Christian president of Lebanon, Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated by a bomb planted by Palestinians. In response, the Christian-Arab Falange militias that had been headed by Gemayel entered Sabra and Chatilla and killed some people, probably about 400, but estimated by some to have been as high as 800.
In Afghanistan, massacres are being dismissed casually, as minor byproducts of Third World militiamen´s quaint way of settling scores. The events in Beirut, by contrast, became the focus of one of the worst anti-Jewish libels since the Middle Ages. The media (especially the Israeli media, long the occupied territories of Israel´s far Left) insisted that Ariel Sharon knew or should have known what the Christian Falange militiamen would do in the camps, despite the fact that the Falange were the official praetorian guards of the late elected president of Lebanon. The Western press insisted that Sharon could have stopped the killings before they happened. Strangely, those same journalists are not making the same claim today about Tony Blair or George W. Bush. None of the journalists who insisted that the Sabra and Chatilla killings should have been expected had printed predictions, in the days before they occurred, that they would. More of that 20/20 hindsight.
Failure to prevent the massacres then became the rallying cry for the world´s anti-Zionists and Israel-bashers, who were intent on proving that Israel is a bloodthirsty, savage country surrounded by peaceful Arab Quakers. President Reagan expressed his "revulsion" at Israel´s failure to prevent Arabs from killing Arabs, comparing it to the Holocaust (No one is comparing the piles of dead Taliban this week to the Holocaust).
The blood libel gained a life of its own. When Time magazine accused Sharon of complicity in the massacre, he sued them for libel and won. When a left-wing Israeli newspaper accused Sharon of having hidden his battle plans from the prime minister, he sued them for libel and won. No one seemed to notice when a Lebanese researcher, Robert Maroun Hatem, cleared Sharon of any culpability for the killings in his book From Israel to Damascus: Lebanon, the Mystery of the Unknown.
Ever since, Sharon has been the Jew anti-Semites most love to hate. The same Belgians trying to indict Sharon for the Sabra and Chatila killings are not preparing similar indictments of Blair and Bush. Neither is the BBC, which ran a recent series on Sharon´s guilt. The United States declared Sharon persona non grata after the 1982 events and only agreed to treat him as semi-human after he won the prime-ministership in Israel by a landslide. The Israel-bashing media are still blaming Sharon for the Palestinian Intifada because he took a "controversial" stroll on the Temple Mount last year, a stroll about as controversial as a walk in the Vatican by an Italian politician. Ariel Sharon has more than his fair share of faults, but he has long served as the Middle East´s mine canary. That is, more often than not, the assaults and slanders directed against him are indicators of a more vulgar sentiment regarding Israel and Jews in general.
As the body count in the streets of Kabul and other Afghan cities rises, the world should seriously consider proffering Sharon, Israel and the Jews a humble apology.