The smell of death… it is something a photograph can never carry
“In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
– Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Why massacres are probed in the first place if no actions on ground are taken? Are these investigations meant to tell people that a massacre took place at some time? In some place? Well, thanks! You need to excuse our blindness that kept us away from seeing all bloody photos! No, we saw them… But, for some reason, commissions of inquiry insist people are blind, or ignorant, or maybe careless… Thanks for telling the whole world that someone is “indirectly” responsible for a massacre that took lives of some 750 – 3500 innocent people.
The smell of death… it is something a photograph can never carry. The hustle and bustle of victims’ lives can neither be carried in a photograph. Who said photographs depict humans? Humans are not photographs…
“It was really a whitewash,” Noam Chomsky described the Kahan Commission, responsible for investigating the Sabra and Shatila Massacre. “It tried to give as soft as possible an interpretation of what was in fact a horrifying massacre.”
On September 14th, 1982, Lebanon’s President-elect, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated by pro-Syrian militant, Habib Shartouni. However, the assassinated president’s loyalists blamed the Palestinians, who were already refugees fleeing the brutal hegemony of Israel in their land. Maybe these refugee camps, which are one of a lot other manifestations of Israeli’s theft of the Palestinian land, were too much for them… Palestinians.
“If the American Marines, the French paratroopers, and the Italian bersagliere who made up an intervention force in Lebanon left so quickly (the Italians, who arrived by ship two days late, fled in Hercules airplanes!) one day or thirty-six hours before their official departure date, as if they were running away, and on the day before Bashir Gemayel’s assassination, are the Palestinians really wrong in wondering if Americans, French and Italians had not been warned to clear out pronto so as not to appear mixed up in the bombing of the Kataeb headquarters?”1
The day came, two days after the assassination, Lebanese militiamen, under command of Elie Hobeika, entered camps at Sabra and Chatila to carry out revenge attacks on Palestinian refugees, with occupying Israeli forces guarding the camps and firing flares to aid the attacks at night. Two nights… Death, rape, torture… all were illuminated by the flares. All, but life.
“We might have accepted evidence of a few murders; even dozens of bodies, killed in the heat of combat. Bur there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.” Veteran journalist Robert Fisk said after visiting the killing fields.
The Kahan Commission did condemn Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, who was in command for the Israeli military which orchestrated and oversaw the massacre, for what they called “indirect responsibility” for Sabra-Shatila massacre.
“It seems justice isn’t always just.” Sharon’s followers who met him in a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv after the release of the Kahan report said, describing him as a “great warrior.”2
It is the amorality of power politics, which has been demonstrated in Miles Copeland’s Game of Nations. It is the amorality that keeps the law unpalatable in this game, with the aim to keep it going, as pausing the game means one thing; a war.
Thus, a massacre is deemed better than a war. Victims are of one side of the struggle. They are easier to be contained and intimidated. They are simply “the weakest player.”
In this world, the world we have created, someone like Sharon is called “A man of peace” by world leaders. These are the same people who allegedly take the lead in the “fight against terrorism.” After all, it turned out that our human nature is ironically far from humanity. Is that right? Or is that humans vary in their eligibility for living in the perspective of who have been dubbed “world leaders?”