Whose truth is it anyhow?
Wed 26th Sep 2012
This past week saw the thirtieth anniversary of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre. The anniversary passed by virtually unnoticed. There was no memorial service for the victims. In fact, the Pope conducted mass in Beirut, just a few kilometres from the massacre site. He did not utter a few words of compassion for the murdered Palestinians. The world, it would appear, does not regard Palestinians' suffering as remotely equating the awful suffering of Americans in New York or the suffering of other Western victims. Why?
Over the last ten years or so I have had an experience that may throw a little light on the current one sidedness of US policy towards Palestinian aspirations for a return to their homeland.
After reading two articles in Time Magazine over ten years ago in which reference was made to the fact that the Kahan Commission found Ariel Sharon to bear “indirect responsibility” for the Sabra and Shatila camps massacre, I wrote a letter to Time alerting them to the error and pointing out that the Kahan Commission had in fact found that Sharon bore a “personal responsibility” for the events.
In May 2002 I received a letter from Gloria Hammond (Letters Editor) refuting my argument and enclosing long extracts from the Kahan Commission Report allegedly proving that the Commission found Sharon to be “indirectly responsible” and not, as I argued “personally responsible”.
I wrote thanking Ms. Hammond for taking so much time and trouble to give me such a detailed response. I pointed out that Time was right in asserting that the overall finding of the Commission was that Israel’s top civilian and military leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila camps. I added that the doctrine of “indirect responsibility” was an overarching one through the report in its assumption of “the obligations applying to every civilised nation and the ethical rules accepted by civilised peoples”.
I went on to argue that, as I had already stated, then Minister of Defence, Ariel Sharon, was found to bear “personal responsibility” for the events. I quoted directly from the Kahan Commission Report. “We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister of Defense bears personal responsibility. In our opinion, it is fitting that the Minister of Defense draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office, and if necessary, that the Prime Minister, consider whether he should exercise his authority under Section 21-A (a) of the basic law of the Government, according to which ‘the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office’.”
Finally, I pointed out that Ariel Sharon was served with a notice, as required by Israeli law, informing him that he might be harmed if the Commission determined that he ignored or disregarded the danger inherent in his, then, alleged actions. The Commission continued to state that “no prophetic powers were required to know that concrete danger of acts of slaughter existed when the [fascist] Phalangists were moved into the camps without the Israeli Defense Forces being with them. The sense of such a danger should have been in the consciousness of every knowledgeable person who was close to this subject, and certainly in the consciousness of the Defense Minister, who took an active part in everything relating to the war”. The Commission reached the conclusion that to consider this was a “humanitarian obligation” and that “from the Defense Minister himself we know that this consideration did not concern him in the least.”
Time Magazine has not responded to this and subsequent letters. Given Western democratic and liberal claims to an ownership of the truth, I find this astonishing. Is it really the case that American support for Israel is so unconditional that even its press refuses to correct a clear error of fact (and not purely of opinion which is, of course, negotiable). To publish that Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for murder presumably goes against the grain.
This is an infinitesimal but significant part of the terrifying standards permeating current Western political thought. Since we allegedly went to war to safeguard freedom and democracy in Iraq, I find this somewhat frightening. For if we are happy to give half truths for the benefit of an ally (Israel) what half lies are we willing to perpetrate for the detriment of our enemy (Iraq and, now, Iran)?