Brisbane remembers Sabra and Chatilla

In 1982 there was a demonstration in Brisbane King George Square to protest the Sabra and Chatilla Massarce [Arabic: مذبحة صبرا وشاتيلا.]

There was worldwide condemnation of the attacks including this small demonstration in King George Square organised by the Brisbane Palestinian Human Rights Committee.

In 1982 in Brisbane the Palestinian Human Rights Group (PHRC) was formed for the reason of offering solidarity and support for the victims at Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps. We tried to organise a political campaign around their demands. This campaign was not the first, nor the last, that people in Brisbane have organised in support the central demand of the the Palestinian people – the right of return to their homeland.

This demonstration occurred only days after Maronite Christian Phalange militia massacred the undefended refugees at Sabra and Chatilla (in Beirut) under Israeli military supervision. The Sabra and Shatila massacre was carried out in September 1982.

On September 1 1982, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was expelled from Beirut. Two days later, Israel deployed its armed forces around the refugee camps.

Ariel Sharon, Israeli Defense Minister at the time, and then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, decided to occupy West Beirut, informing only then Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and not consulting the Israeli cabinet. The same night Sharon began preparations for entering the Sabra-Shatila refugee camps. Thus on September 15, the Israeli army reoccupied West Beirut.

The US government had given written guarantees to the Palestinians that it would ensure the protection of the Muslims of West Beirut. Israel’s occupation violated its peace agreements with Muslim forces in Beirut and with Syria.

By noon of September 15th 1982, the IDF had completely surrounded the Sabra-Shatila camps, and controlled all entrances and exits by the means of checkpoints. The IDF also occupied a number of multi-storey buildings as observation posts. Amongst those, was the seven-story Kuwaiti embassy, which, according to TIME, had “an unobstructed and panoramic view” of the camps. Hours later, IDF tanks began shelling the camps.

Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan met with the Lebanese Phalangist militia units, inviting them to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps to clean out “terrorist nests”. Under the Israeli plan, Israeli soldiers would control the perimeters of the refugee camps and provide logistical support while the Phalangists would enter the camps.

The meetings concluded at 3:00 p.m. September 16 1982.

An hour later, 1,500 Christian militiamen assembled at Beirut International Airport, then occupied by Israel. Under the command of Elie Hobeika, they began moving towards the camps in Israeli Defence Force supplied jeeps, following Israeli guidance on how to enter the camps. The forces were mostly Phalangist, though there were some men from Saad Haddad’s “Free Lebanon forces”..

The first unit of 150 Phalangists, armed with guns, knives and hatchets entered the camps at 6:00 p.m. Immediately the unit began slitting throats, axing, shooting, and raping, often taking groups outside and lining them up for execution. During the night the Israeli forces fired illuminating flares over the camps. According to a Dutch nurse, the camp was as bright as “a sports stadium during a football game”.

There was worldwide condemnation of the attacks including this small demonstration in King George Square organised by the Brisbane Palestinian Human Rights Committee.

In 1982 in Brisbane the Palestinian Human Rights Group was formed for the reason of offering solidarity and support for the victims at Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps. We tried to organise a political campaign around their demands. This campaign was not the first, nor the last, that people in Brisbane have organised in support the central demand of the the Palestinian people – the right of return to their homeland.

Ian Curr
17 September 2013
Sources
Facts taken from various leaflets distributed by the Palestinian Human Rights Committee – Brisbane PHRC at the time (1982).

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