Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

"Why the Zionist focus on the Sabra and Shatila massacre and not all the other massacres committed by the Zionist aggressor in 1982 when it killed close to 20,000 civilians? The reason is clear, and it has no connection with the atrocities committed by the Lebanese Forces which fill any history of the Lebanese civil war. In its propaganda focus on Sabra and Shatila to the exclusion of others, Israel wants to evade - not to assume - responsibility." (The Angry Arab News Service, 2/3/09)

The above analysis (in its entirety of course) of Ari Folman's film Waltz with Bashir should be supplemented by Gideon Levy's 'Antiwar' film Waltz with Bashir is nothing but charade (Haaretz, 21/2/09), and this, written over 25 years ago:-

"'I was one of the Christian gunmen on that Palestinian shoot down Sabra and Chatila way in September last year [1982], and all I can say is, I cannot imagine what all the uproar is about. As these hunts go, it was nothing out of the ordinary at all, very much like the drive in Karantina in 1976 when we got a very good bag of Kurds. The camps were like Karantina because they were very much of a fun thing: a few days out in the open air and a good bag to show at the end of it. Nothing at all like Tal Zaatar, I can tell you, because Tal Zaatar took for ever, and it was bloody dangerous as well. If you like comparisons, Sabra and Chatila were like a pheasant shoot; Tal Zaatar was like a tiger hunt, much more exhausting and dangerous, but more rewarding. Not that Sabra and Chatila didn't bring you out in a healthy sweat of course, because you have to run like hell to catch those ten year olds - they move like rabbits when they see old grannie with her head half off. All in all, an entertaining few days after sitting around for two months doing nothing while the Israelis had all the fun; I'd forgotten how much enjoyment you can have, picking off a nippy teenager on the run. And easy for the Palestinians as well - I doubt if one in ten felt a thing.

"'But the fuss, the uproar, the breast-beating! If we'd shot a load of human beings, it couldn't have been any worse. Television cameras all over the place, reporters saying it was the worst thing to happen in the Middle East since the fall of Byzantium, and those bloody Israelis leaping up and down in a frenzy, saying they had nothing to do with it, and it was all so unexpected, and deary me, how could people do such dreadful things to innocent civilians.

"'Well, bugger me with the rough end of a pineapple, the Israelis of all people asking how we could do it! We do a little bit of tidying up at the end of their season, clean up the ground after they've had their fun on it... and they start doing their nuts. Can you imagine they could have the gall to ask how we could do what we did! They spent two months bombing and shelling those camps every day; they used cluster bombs and incendiaries and phosphorus shells; they leave kids with their guts split open and their legs sliced off; they burn old men and women to death; they leave people in the ruins of their houses, watching the smoke rise from their chests as the phosphorus burns through to their lungs; they can't understand why we wanted a share in the fun. That murderous oaf Sharon, up to his guts in blood, has the outstanding nerve to stand in front of his own commission of inquiry and say, perfectly straight-faced, "These atrocities stand in contradiction not only to the values towards which we were educated and which we teach... we were surprised, astounded and shocked by the massacre that took place in those neighbourhoods in Beirut'.

"I wrote the last lines in a fine rage, thinking that irony was the only way to express what I feel about what the Israelis did in Beirut in 1982. The fury was on me because the buggers were going to get away with what they did, and the reason they will is that the massacre at the finish completely wiped out the memories and indignation about what had gone on before the killings in the camps. If I'd been doing public relations for the Israeli army I couldn't have thought of a more brilliant scheme to get them off the hook than having those last few hundred people killed in the camps. As soon as the news leaked out, the whole of the world's attention was focused on Sabra and Chatila and away from the butchers of Beirut. Suddenly the villains were Christian militiamen; and attention was distracted even more by the question whether it was Haddad's people or Gemayel's Phalangists. The Israelis got a little mud splashed on them through guilt by association, because whoever did the killings couldn't have done them without the Israelis opening the way. But compared with the real weight of condemnation they deserved for what they had done to Beirut, the confused and bewildered indignation over the camp killings was easy to deal with.

"The fact is that the Israelis are as responsible for the deaths in the camps as they were for the deaths in the war, just as a Nazi commander would be judged guilty of mass murder, even if he had just stood by while his Ukrainian Einsatzgruppe slaughtered the Jewish peasants in the town his troops had first broken open. In the two months of the siege the Israelis established that everyone in west Beirut was a legitimate target; they hit every part of the city, using the vilest of modern weapons and showing absolutely no concern for the lives of civilians; more than anything, their obsessive shelling of camps like Sabra and Chatila showed they considered the people who lived in these areas had even less right to live than the other citizens of the city.

"Whatever you might say of them, the Christian militiamen are not ignorant, unthinking peasants. They read the reports coming out of west Beirut every day, they heard the Palestinian and Muslim militiamen's radio broadcasts about what was happening in west Beirut. They knew it was open season on purely civilian areas; they knew the Israelis were deliberately terrorizing west Beirut. The Israelis were responsible for the climate of mindless violence and the downgrading of human life to less than nothing in west Beirut. Nothing the Christians did in the camps was in any way more reprehensible than what the Israeli armed forces had done for two months preceding the final massacres.

"I find it much easier to understand what the Christians did in the camps than what the Israelis did to west Beirut. I was in Beirut during the civil war and although I was not in Damour, I know how Christian families were butchered there. Both sides committed atrocities, although, in terms of the mathematics of horror, the Christians have more to answer for: Karantina, Tal Zaatar, Jisr al-Basha and now Sabra and Chatila, as against Damour and Jiyeh. I name these alone, because nobody has ever tallied the individual acts of brutality that left the eyeless corpses under the Fuad Chehab flyover, the burnt bodies on either side of the crossing-points between east and west. However, because of the civil war there is hardly a family on either side in Lebanon that does not remember the violent death of a relative or friend. The Christian gunman carefully lining up the six-year-old girl in his sights in Sabra may have remembered a tragedy of his own as he created another. I would feel much more comfortable with such a man - as I would with a Palestinian who throws a grenade into a school in a kibbutz - than I ever would with an Israeli bomber-pilot or commander of an artillery crew... This is not to say that I support what any of them are doing; but the man who stares down the barrel or pulls the pin has to make the decision to kill someone, he must watch them die, he has to live with that vision for the rest of his life and almost invariably with the Palestinian, he knows he will soon die because of what he has done. The pilot or the soldier pulling the lanyard on a howitzer performs an action no more stressful than ringing a doorbell; if his co-ordinates are anywhere near right he has done ten times the damage and causes fifty times the misery of any half-baked little 'terrorist', yet he never hears a scream or sees a tear or has to watch blood spurt. He will sleep peacefully every night of his life because there is no raw material for his conscience to weave into nightmares." (God Cried, Tony Clifton, 1983, pp 135-136)


Anonymous said...

Hello , Sabra and Shatila massacre by Israelis , oh really
I wonder where Merc gets his information from, Cartoon corner..

The Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps were killed by Christian Phalangists in revenge for the murder of Christians .

Please Merc if you wish to have any credibility please be factual.

MERC said...

You don't seem able to read.

anon2 said...

Keep writing, MERC.

MERC said...

As the sun rises in the east, anon2.