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Hidden History of Zionism

Ralph Schoenman

The Hidden History of Zionism

Chapter 8
Blitzkrieg and Slaughter

7. Myth of Security   |   9. Second Occupation


Zionist designs upon Lebanon long antedated the formation of the state of Israel. In 1918, Britain was informed of Zionist claims to Lebanon up to and inclusive of the Litani River. British plans in 1920 to designate the Litani the northern border of a Jewish state were altered in response to French objections.

By 1936, the Zionists had offered to support Maronite hegemony in Lebanon. The Maronite Patriarch then testified to the Peel Commission in favor of a Zionist state in Pa1estine. In 1937, Ben Gurion spoke of Zionist plans for Lebanon to the Zionist World Workers Party, which was meeting in Zurich:

They are the natural ally of the land of Israel. The proximity of Lebanon will further our loyal allies as soon as the Jewish state is created and give us the possibility to expand ... [113]

In 1948, Israel occupied up to the Litani but withdrew a year later under pressure. Sharett reports of Ben Gurion’s timetable in 1954 to induce the Maronites to fragment Lebanon:

This is now the Central Task ... We must invest the time and energy to bring about a fundamental change in Lebanon. Dollars should not be spared ... We will not be forgiven if we miss the historic opportunity. [114]

The invasion of Lebanon in 1982 followed a series of raids and invasions in 1968, 1976, 1978 and 1981. Plans to dismember Lebanon were joined now to the primary objective of dispersing the Palestinian inhabitants of Lebanon through massacre followed by expulsion.

The invasion was planned jointly with the US government. The Maronite Phalange was part of the project: “When Amin Gemayel visited Washington the previous Fall, he was asked by an American official when the invasion was due.” [115]

Later, when Defense Minister Ariel Sharon visited Washington: “Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, gave the green light for the invasion.” [116]

The invasion of Lebanon was launched under the rubric “Peace in the Galilee”. Cruel irony! The original inhabitants of the Galilee had lived there for a millennium and were driven out by massacre in 1948. They had settled near Sidon, setting up tents in a refugee camp they called Ain El Helweh, “Sweet Spring”

The camp was organized in areas corresponding to the Galilean communities from which people had come. A miniature Galilee, its areas replicated the villages of the homeland in the Diaspora tent town which was Ain El Helweh.

In 1952, they were allowed to convert tents into permanent structures and they numbered now, some 80,000, the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon.

On Sunday, June 6, 1982, at 5:30 a.m., intensive aerial bombardment began with the onset of the invasion. The Israelis took Ain El Helweh as a grid, using a saturation-bombing pattern in a series of quadrants. First one quadrant was subjected to carpet-bombing and then the next-methodically and relentlessly, the bombing of each quadrant renewed as the last was levelled. The bombing continued in this manner for ten days and nights. Cluster bombs, concussion bombs, high flaring incendiary bombs and white phosphorus were used.

It was followed by a further ten days of bombardment from the sea and air. Then bulldozers were brought by the Israelis to reduce to rubble what remained standing. Shelters were covered, burying people alive, their frantic family members clutching at the bulldozers. Norwegian health workers who survived, reported:

It smelled like dead bodies everywhere. Everything was devastated. [117]

From 500,000 to 50,000

The invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982 had as its purpose the scattering through massacre and terror of the entire Palestinian population.

Prior to the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel had declared on separate occasions that they would reduce the Palestinians in Lebanon from 500,000 to 50,000. As the invasion unfolded, these plans began to surface in the pages of the Israeli and Western press. Ha’aretz reported on September 26, 1982:

A long-term objective aimed at the expulsion of the whole Palestinian population of Lebanon beginning with Beirut. The purpose was to create a panic to convince [sic] all the Palestinians of Lebanon that they were no longer safe in that country.

The London Sunday Times reported on the same day:

This carefully preplanned military operation to ’purge’ the camps was called Moah Barzel or Iron Brain; the plan was familiar to Sharon and Begin and part of Sharon’s larger plan discussed by the Israeli Cabinet on July 17.

Bashir Gemayel became emboldened as the Israeli blitzkrieg swept through Lebanon. “The Palestinians,” he declared, “are a people too many. We will not rest until every true Lebanese has killed at least one Palestinian.” [118]

A prominent Lebanese army doctor told his unit: “Soon there will not be a single Palestinian in Lebanon. They are a bacteria which must be exterminated.” [119]

The Sabra and Shatila Massacres

The massacres which ensued bore a grim resemblance to the slaughter of the innocents engulfing Deir Yassin, Dueima, Kibya and Kfar Qasim as Palestine was depopulated from 1947 through the 1950’s.

The Western and Israeli reports made the murderous purpose of Israel’s invasion unmistakable: “By Sharon’s admission, the Israelis planned two weeks ago to have the Lebanese Forces enter the camps,” wrote Time Magazine. Later in the same article, it became clear that this had been prepared long before.

Top Israeli officers planned many months ago to enlist the Lebanese Forces, made up of the combined Christian militias headed by Bashir Gemayel, to enter the Palestinian refugee camps once an Israeli encirclement of West Beirut had been completed.

On several occasions Gemayel told Israeli officials he would raze the camps and flatten them into tennis courts. This fits in with Israeli thinking. The Christian militia forces that were known to have gone into the camps were trained by the Israelis. [120]

The Israeli press was equally explicit in its reports of Israeli plans. On September 15, Ha’aretz quoted Chief of Staff General Raphael Eitan: “All four Palestinian camps are surrounded and hermetically sealed.”

The New York Times had corroborated the Time Magazine account:

Sharon told the Knesset that the General Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Phalangists met twice with Israel’s ranking generals on September 15 and discussed entering the camps which they did the next afternoon. [121]

The Killer Militia

Two months before the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, perhaps the most remarkable account appeared in the Jerusalem Post. A long interview was published with Major Etienne Saqr [code name, Abu Arz]. Major Saqr was the leader of the several-thousand-strong rightwing militia, “The Guardians of the Cedars”.

The Jerusalem Post disclosed that Major Saqr “is about to leave for the United States to put his credo and solutions” before Americans. “Since 1975, he has propagated the Israeli solution ... and Israel has supported him in every possible material way.” [122]

Major Saqr’s own remarks foreshadowed what would later shock the world at the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila:

It is the Palestinians we have to deal with. Ten years ago there were 84,000; now there are between 600,000 and 700,000. In six years there will be two million. We can’t let it come to that.

When asked by the Jerusalem Post: “What is your solution?” Major Saqr replied: “Very simple. We shall drive them to the borders of ’brotherly’ Syria ... Anyone who looks back, stops or returns will be shot on the spot. We have the moral right, reinforced by well-organized public relations plans and political preparations.“

Are you – asked the Jerusalem Post – able to implement this threat? (He does not blink an eyelid.) “Of course we can. And we shall.”

Major Saqr had played a major role in the 1976 massacre of Palestinians in Tal al Zaatar refugee camp.

After the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Major Saqr returned to Jerusalem to hold a press conference in which he took responsibility for carrying out the massacre with the Israelis: “No one has the right to criticize us; we carried out our duty, our sacred responsibility.” [123]

He left this press conference where he claimed a share in the “credit” for mass murder to attend a meeting with Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Major Saqr surfaced again, now based in the Israeli command headquarters in the Suraya complex in Sidon, near Ain El Helweh. His militia distributed leaflets throughout Sidon which read:

Germs live only in rot. Let us prevent rot from infiltrating society. Let us continue the work of destruction of the last bastions of the Palestinians and smash whatever life is left in this poisonous snake.

Major Saqr had worked closely with the notorious intelligence chief for Bashir Gemayel’s militia, Elie Hobeika. Hobeika was known as the CIA’s man in Beirut.

Jonathan Randal of the Washington Post cited Hobeika’s declarations in Beirut, ascribing these to “one of the killers”; they echoed those of Major Saqr in Jerusalem:

Shoot them against the pink and blue walls; slaughter them in the half-light of the evening. The only way you will find out how many Palestinians we killed is if they ever build a subway under Beirut ... A good massacre or two will drive the Palestinians out of Beirut and Lebanon once and for all. [124]

The Israeli Army command had also enlisted leading Lebanese officers. One of them revealed:

During Thursday, General Drori, took me to the airport where Israelis were assembling the militia. “If your men won’t do it, I know others who will.” [125]

He referred to Saqr. “... The Guardians of the Cedars, whom Gemayel incorporated into the Lebanese Forces in 1980, held, as an article of faith, that Palestinian infants must be killed since they eventually grew up to be terrorists.” [126]

Each Of You Is An Avenger

The brutality of the invasion and occupation of Lebanon and the chilling horror of the massacres in Sabra and Shatila once again removed the mask from the cruel face of Zionism. Television and newspaper coverage of the war produced a worldwide outcry, forcing Israel to dissimulate and to appoint an official Commission of Inquiry. The Israeli government conducted its own investigation under the Kahan Commission.

The “investigation” concluded, predictably, that the Israelis were merely negligent in underestimating “Arab blood lust,” but had no direct role in the massacre of Sabra and Shatila.

The German weekly Der Spiegel, however, carried an interview on February 14, 1983, with one of the killer militia, who recounted not only his own role in the slaughter, but described direct Israeli participation.

The article was entitled Each Of You Is An Avenger, and the first person account could have come from the Nuremberg Trials:

We met in the Schahrur wadi, in the valley of the nightingales Southeast of Beirut. It was Wednesday, the fifteenth of September ... We were approximately three hundred men from East Beirut, South Lebanon and the Akkar Mountains in the north ... I belonged to the Tiger Militia of ex-President Camile Chamoun.

Phalange officers summoned us and brought us to the meeting place. They told us that they needed us for a “special action” ... “You are the agents of good,” the officers told us repeatedly. “Each of you is an avenger.” ...

Then a good dozen Israelis in green uniforms without indication of rank came along. They had playing cards with them and spoke Arabic well, except that like all Jews they pronounced the hard “h” as “ch.” They were talking about the Palestinian camps Sabra and Shatila ... it was clear to us what we were to do, and we were looking forward to it.

We had to swear an oath never to divulge anything about our action. At about 10 p.m. we climbed into an American army truck that the Israelis had given over to us. We parked the vehicle near the airport tower. There, immediately next to the Israeli positions, several such trucks were already parked.

Some Israelis in Phalange uniforms were with the Party. “The Israeli friends who accompany you,” our officers told us “... will make your work easier.” They directed us not to make use of our firearms, if at all possible. “Everything must proceed noiselessly.” ... We saw other comrades. They had to do their work with bayonets and knives. Bloody corpses were lying in the alleys. The half-asleep women and children who cried out for help put our whole plan in danger, alarming the entire camp.

Now I saw once again the Israelis who had been at our secret meeting. One signalled us to move back to areas of the camp entrance. The Israelis opened up with all their guns. The Israelis helped us with floodlights.

There were shocking scenes that showed what the Palestinians were good for. A few, including women, had taken shelter in a small alley, behind some donkeys. Unfortunately we had to shoot down these poor animals to finish off the Palestinians behind them. It got to me when the animals cried out in pain. It was gruesome.

A comrade entered a house full of women and children. The Palestinians screamed and threw their gas stoves on the ground. We sent the hard-hearted rabble to hell.

At about four in the morning my squad went back to the truck. When there was morning light we went back into the camp. We went past bodies, stumbled over bodies, shot and stabbed all eyewitnesses. Killing others was easy once you have done it a few times.

Now came the Israeli Army bulldozers. “Plow everything under the ground. Don’t let any witnesses stay alive.” But despite our efforts, the area was still teeming with people. They ran about and caused awful confusion. The order to “plow them under” demanded too much.

It became clear that the pretty plan had failed. Thousands had escaped us. Far too many Palestinians are still alive. Everywhere now people are talking about a massacre and feeling sorry for the Palestinians. Who appreciates the hardships that we took upon ourselves ... Just think. I fought for twenty-four hours in Shatila without food or drink.

The death toll in Sabra and Shatila was over 3,000. Many of the mass graves were never opened.

Destroying Lebanon

The slaughter and dispersal of the Palestinian people was one component of Israeli strategy. Another was the decimation of the vital Lebanese economy which, despite Israeli efforts, had emerged as the finance capital of the Middle East.

Twenty thousand Palestinians and Lebanese died, 25,000 were wounded and 400,000 were made homeless during the first months of the 1982 Israeli invasion. The tonnages dropped on Beirut alone surpassed those of the atomic bomb which devastated Hiroshima. Schools and hospitals were particularly targeted.

Virtually all rolling stock and heavy equipment from Lebanese factories were looted and taken to Israel. Even the lathes and smaller machine tools from the UNRWA vocational training centers were pillaged.

The citrus and olive production of Lebanon south of Beirut was destroyed. The Lebanese economy, whose exports had competed with Israel’s, became moribund. The south of Lebanon became an Israeli market even as the headwaters of the Litani River, like the Jordan River before it, were diverted by the Israelis.

The author of this book experienced the bombing and siege of West Beirut in 1982, lived with Palestinians in the ruins of Ain El Helweh during Israeli occupation and witnessed the devastation in the Palestinian camps of Rashidya, El Bas, Burj al lamali, Mieh Mieh, Burj al Burajneh, Sabra and Shatila, as well as the destruction of the Lebanese towns and villages throughout the south.

The accounts of Israeli enactment of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila have been substantiated by this author, who was present in the camps on the final day of slaughter. He and Mya Shone photographed Israeli tanks and soldiers in Sabra and Shatila and spoke to the survivors over a period of four days.


113. Jonathan Randal. Going All The Way (New York: Viking, 1983), p.188.

114. Letter to Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. February 27, 1954. Rokach, p.25.

115. Randal.

116. Ibid., p.247.

117. Norwegian social worker Marianne Helle Möller, cited in Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone, Towards A Final Solution in the Lebanon?, New Society, August 19, 1982.

118. Randal.

119. Cited in a leaflet distributed in Sidon by Major Saqr, February 1983.

120. Time Magazine, October 4, 1982.

121. New York Times, October 1, 1982.

122. Jerusalem Post, July 23, 1982.

123. Jerusalem Post, October 1983.

124. Randal, p.17.

125. Ibid.

126. Ibid.


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