Sabra and Shatila
Nobody talks about Sabra and Shatila in my family. We all know, though, that some of us fought for Hobeika during the civil, for Geagea and Bashir and Aoun – all in the same family. There was no logic to the Lebanese civil war, nothing I can trace that shows any loyalty or creed anyone followed that didn’t change and change back. It was a time of chaos and desperation and a vengeance chain of massacres that led to war that led to more massacres that led to more war. Anybody who tries to make sense of it is trying in vain. What remains to be made is redemption for the crimes, the murders, the kidnappings, and the total sell-out of the Lebanese and the Palestinian people. Redemption can only be made through acknowledgement and apology.
Many have called for efforts to commemorate the civil war so that generations would remember how sectarianism kills hundreds of thousands of people. That never happened – and how could it with the same militia men and their militia parties in parliamentary seats today? It is an offense that nobody has apologized. There was no one side to blame, and, therefore, everybody is to blame. And everybody must apologize. It is the first step towards accountability. It entails acknowledgement. Doesn’t make up for it – the least all these parties could do is dissolve themselves. But it’s the first step.
This weekend is the commemoration of the Sabra and Shatila massacre that happened on September 16, 1982. Thousands of men, women, and children were lined up and killed under an Israeli-lit sky and a Christian-led killing machine. It is no different than the Tal el Zaatar massacre where women running away had their babies snatched from them so the soldiers could kill the male babies, the “future fighters.” They bashed the babies’ heads against the wall in front of their mothers. It is no different than the Damour massacre or the Ehden massacre or Black Saturday or the Karantina massacre or the Hama massacre.
Decades after the war, we must still hold political parties responsible. We must hold ourselves responsible. We all come from families that took part in the war. We all come from families that suffered the loss of sons and daughters during the war. We are all responsible. Even those of us who weren’t yet alive during these crimes. We carry the legacy of the crimes committed in our names still – the unspoken burden of history. We must all apologize.
I start with myself. I apologize for the crimes of Sabra and Shatila committed in the name of Christians in 1982. I apologize to the thousands of Palestinians who lost their souls in the most heinous of crimes. I apologize to the families who saw their loved ones slaughtered in front of their eyes. I apologize to all the women who were raped repeatedly for days on end. I apologize to their children – now probably my age – for the wounds they bear. I apologize with all my heart. I’m sorry.