Officials at Israel’s national archive have refused requests from journalists to have access to documents relating to the 1982 massacre in the Palestine refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, Haaretz newspaper said on Sunday.
The massacre in the two camps was perpetrated by the Phalangist Christian militia, which was under the political and military control of Israel. The killing spree was allegedly in retaliation for the assassination of the Phalange leader Bashir Gemayel, who was the Lebanese president at the time. Israel had invaded Lebanon ostensibly to flush out the PLO from its stronghold in Beirut.
The archive material, say officials, includes security information being held by the Israeli Defence Forces, as well as details of the Kahan Commission which investigated the massacre. The latter is still “secret” and unable to be released into the public domain.
The UN General Assembly considered the massacre to be an act of genocide and established an international investigation commission to look into Israeli violations during the war in Lebanon. The commission concluded that “the government of Israel has committed acts of aggression contrary to international law… and Israeli authorities or forces were directly or indirectly responsible for the massacres and killings.”
Four months later, on 8 February 1983, Israel’s own Kahan Commission submitted its report in which it regarded the state as having indirect responsibility for the massacre because its military personnel were aware that the massacre was in progress but did not take serious steps to stop it.
Kahan recommended the dismissal of the then Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon, and that he should not be appointed to that position ever again.
Nevertheless, 20 years later Sharon was elected as Israel’s Prime Minister.
According to Haaretz, its military correspondent in 1982, Zieve Chief, knew about the massacre and told Information Minister Mordechai Tzipori about it. “Chief told Tzipori that the Lebanese Kataeb Party was carrying out a massacre in Sabra and Shatila,” the newspaper said. “Tzipori told the Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, but Israel did nothing to stop it, even though its army was in Beirut.”