The month of September carries painful memories for Palestinians. It is marked by commemoration activities recalling the horrors of Israel’s brutal and bloody massacres. Without exception, Palestinians as a collective remember those tragic events which robbed them of dear friends and family members.
One such was the 1982 massacre at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut, when Israeli soldiers facilitated the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in a weekend orgy of bloodshed. Not without reason have historians described Ariel Sharon’s troops as those who “slaughter children” and “rip open the stomachs of pregnant women.” Indeed, what can be more horrific than them actually “betting on the sex of the embryos”?
The late Professor Edward Said described this massacre as a concerted, deliberate attempt to strip Palestinians of their national identity and, as journalist Robert Fisk has remarked, the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1,700 Palestinians were butchered 34 years ago. I can attest to this, having visited Sabra and Shatila in 2003 and being privileged to address grief-stricken families and a huge crowd of activists marking what was then the 21st anniversary of the atrocity. The camps are a memorial to war criminals and their allies in London, Paris and Washington, who continue to evade justice.
The same can be said of Arab leaders. While these surrogates of the West have regularly expressed grief for the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the US, none has dared to visit Sabra and Shatila’s mass graves. “Arab potentates bleed in their hearts for the Palestinians,” notes Fisk, “but an airfare to Beirut might be a bit much these days – and which of them would want to offend the Israelis or the Americans?”
As the horrors of various atrocities committed against Palestinians are recalled, it may sound strange — not least as the pilgrims start to return after performing the Hajj in a state of heightened spirituality — that the “Custodian” of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah is frantically pursuing “normalisation” with Israel. Saudi Arabia, a state created by the British, has finally discarded its mask. Far from being in solidarity with Palestine, the Saudi monarchy has always used the Palestinian cause as a political football. Riyadh’s financial support for Egypt’s bloody military coup that robbed the North African powerhouse of democracy, allowing Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to maintain his iron grip on the Rafah border and thus seal the Gaza Strip from the outside world, is evidence of Saudi treachery.
Now, in the midst of calls around the world to reinforce solidarity and pursue justice for Palestine, the shocking though not surprising news is that the US administration of President Barack Obama has rewarded Israel with $38 billion in military aid from 2019 to 2028. It constitutes the largest batch of military aid that the US has ever pledged to another country.
Unprecedented in scope and with utter disregard for Israel’s atrocious human rights record, the US has gifted the Netanyahu ruling clique of right-wing racists with the largest bilateral military aid package ever. “This is just the most recent reflection of my steadfast commitment to the security of the state of Israel,” proclaimed Obama shamelessly, reflecting the faulty narrative which underpins America’s disastrous foreign policies which continue to wreak havoc across the Muslim world.
Such immorality by the US and Saudi Arabia is akin to dancing on the graves outside Sabra and Shatila. It says to the Palestinians, “We don’t care about your plight; our national interest trumps everything else.”
The Saudis have surrendered their flimsy security to the Zionist project as, indeed, have most of the other Arab oligarchies. Palestinian history, especially since the 1970s, is replete with the treacherous conduct of Arab leaders. Their complicit role allows Israel to continue to plunder Palestinian lands in its ever-expanding colonialism in what are known as “settlements”; this would be downright humiliating for the Saudis if only they dared to engage in some serious self-reflection.
It is perhaps noteworthy to recall at this time one of the treacherous outcomes of Egypt’s government led by Anwar Sadat. On 17 September 1978, 38 years ago and exactly 4 years before the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister (and erstwhile Irgun terrorist) Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords at the White House in front of the world’s media.
Was it conceivable that, given his notorious history of terrorism, Begin could be seen as an honourable “partner” for peace? In 1946, Begin’s Irgun killed ninety-one British officials and staff when the terrorist group blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the British Mandate HQ at the time. Two years later, he was implicated in the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the village of Deir Yassin, an atrocity as mind-numbing as Sabra and Shatila. In fact, US President Jimmy Carter is on record as having had grave misgivings about Begin. During the run-up to the final agreement, Carter was less than thrilled with Begin’s idea of offering Palestinians mere autonomy rather than sovereignty.
At the core of numerous disagreements was the principle of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, the rejection of which by Begin defined the weakness of the Accords. Caving in to Israel’s demands, Carter and Sadat left a legacy which to this day permits the Zionist regime to act with impunity without regard for accountability; if it is accepted that it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, then the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip would all have to be relinquished by Israel without question.
The decades from Carter to Obama and Sadat to Sisi have witnessed war criminals and baby killers in Israel being rewarded rather than hauled before the courts for justice to be dispensed. It’s a strange situation that’s best understood in the context of power-relations exercised by imperialism: Palestine is not just conquered territory; it also represents a coveted prize held by an arrogant elite of Zionists who believe in their false invincibility.
Nevertheless, nightmares have a strange habit of being the bugbear of those who violate human rights. Palestinian steadfastness and courageous resistance suggests that Israel’s nightmare will become progressively more terrifying. We need look no further than the Amal and Zaytouna, two small vessels belonging to the “Women’s Boat to Gaza” movement. Captained and crewed by women, along with 30 female activists, they have set sail to break the nine-year Israeli blockade on the Palestinians besieged in the coastal enclave. If past evidence is anything to go by, it will be giving Israeli officials and politicians nightmares as they decide how to react. The nightmare of Palestine is being passed to the Israelis, and rightly so.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.