Oct. 7 Update: NPR Clarifies Claim That Israel “Helped” in Shatila Massacre
Oct. 6 — Two months ago, National Public Radio falsely blamed a purported “complete” Israeli “policy of separation” from Palestinians for a total “separation of the two communities,” distorting the porous reality in which Palestinians work, pray and tour in Israel.
While personal interaction between the two populations is definitely down compared to past decades, the claim that the alienation is due to an Israeli “policy of separation” is simply untenable given that one million Palestinians reportedly entered Israel one month alone in 2013.
Last week, NPR once again turned its attention to the alienation and segregation of Palestinians. This time, though, the Palestinians in question are residents of fragmented Beirut, not the West Bank. Unlike the July 2014 broadcast focusing on alleged Israeli restrictions against Palestinians as the culprit behind separation, the most recent report completely covers up the anti-Palestinian discriminatory Lebanese legislation and policies which relegate Palestinians in Lebanon to a status of something far less than second class citizens.
The Oct. 2 “Cities Project” report on Beirut (“Ghosts of the Past Still Echo in Beirut’s Fragmented Neighborhoods“), focusing on how the “ghost’s of a city’s past affects its neighborhoods,” ignores how Lebanon’s very real, concrete and longstanding laws impact those very same communities.
Foremost on the anti-Palestinian discriminatory policies ignored by NPR is the Lebanese ban on granting citizenship to Palestinian “refugees,” including those who were born in Lebanon and have lived there for decades. According to UNRWA, the U.N. agency with responsibility for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
do not enjoy several important rights; for example, they cannot work in as many as 20 professions. Because they are not formally citizens of another state, Palestine refugees are unable to claim the same rights as other foreigners living and working in Lebanon. Among the five UNRWA fields, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestine refugees living in abject poverty.
Alice Fordham’s “Cities Project” broadcast touches on the poverty of the Palestinians in Lebanon, but omits the government’s responsibility for the ongoing destitution of the Palestinian population. Fordham paraphrases Hassan, a Palestinian: “He says memories make it hard for Christian, Lebanese and Palestinians to live alongside each other. Plus, it doesn’t help that most Palestinians are poor and can’t afford to move.”
It also doesn’t help that the government prohibits Palestinians from engaging in many professions and from owning property, but Fordham is silent on these key points.
As a resident of Beirut, Fordham may have read the June 13, 2013 article in the Lebanese Daily Star about how a 2010 law meant to expand Palestinians’ rights in Lebanon had not been implemented. The Daily Star reported:
In the history of the Palestinian rights struggle in Lebanon, Aug. 17, 2010, was supposed to mark a turning point. Issued on that date, Law 129 amended Article 59 of the Labor Law and thus revoked two major obstacles to Palestinians in Lebanon accessing employment, namely the work permit fee and the reciprocity condition (Palestinians here can’t be treated like Lebanese working in Palestine, because there is no Palestinian state).But almost three years later, these revisions remain unimplemented, and with the unfolding implications of the Syrian conflict in Lebanon, many Palestinian rights advocates now say neither the political nor social climate is favorable to progress on the issue.The two main Palestinian rights campaigns — to secure the right to work and restore the right to property ownership, reneged in 2001 — remain active, with advocacy groups continuing to hold meetings and events, but the expectations are low that they will bear fruit any time soon.
Rather than acknowledge the concrete Lebanese government policies which stand in the way of Palestinian integration, including the ban on citizenship for Palestinians who have spent their entire lives there, Fordham’s report focuses only on the “ghosts” from the civil war decades ago.
She conceals the discriminatory policies by citing her neighbor, Mona Harb, who laments that “there was never a real postwar attempt to bring people back together.” Harb states:
At no point, you know, urban policies that were developed by the state attempted to remedy the situation on the ground and started to think like, OK, let’s think about ways of making people interact more, of encouraging people to live in each other’s neighborhood.
In the face of the government’s wholesale denial of citizenship to Palestinians as well as the longstanding restrictions on employment and property rights, the failure to develop urban policies which would encourage people to interact more is really beside the point. (Will gentrification or a welcoming bike trail looping through different neighborhoods make a substantive difference in the lives of generations of Palestinians who continue to be denied citizenship and the career of their choice?) To suggest otherwise is an extremely distorted depiction.
Gross Misrepresentation on Shatila Killings
Concerning the Palestinian Shatila refugee camp, Alice Fordham reports: “here they remember one of the worst atrocities of the war — a massacre of mostly Palestinian civilians by Christian militias helped by Israeli forces, in 1982.”
It is a gross misrepresentation to allege that Israeli forces “helped” the Christian militias massacre Palestinians in Shatila. As the Israeli Kahan commission found, Israeli figures held “indirect responsibility” for not anticipating that the Phalangists would massacre the Palestinians. The Kahan report states:
Contentions and accusations were advanced that even if I.D.F. had not shed the blood of the massacred, the entry of the Phalangists into the camps had been carried out with the prior knowledge that a massacre would be perpetrated there and with the intention that this should indeed take place; and therefore all those who had enabled the entry of the Phalangists into the camps should be regarded as accomplices to the acts of slaughter and sharing in direct responsibility. These accusations too are unfounded. We have no doubt that no conspiracy or plot was entered into between anyone from the Israeli political echelon or from the military echelon in the I.D.F. and the Phalangists, with the aim of perpetrating atrocities in the camps…. No intention existed on the part of any Israeli element to harm the non-combatant population in the camps…. Before they entered the camps and also afterward, the Phalangists requested I.D.F. support in the form of artillery fire and tanks, but this request was rejected by the Chief of Staff in order to prevent injuries to civilians. It is true that I.D.F. tank fire was directed at sources of fire within the camps, but this was in reaction to fire directed at the I.D.F. from inside the camps. We assert that in having the Phalangists enter the camps, no intention existed on the part of anyone who acted on behalf of Israel to harm the non-combatant population, and that the events that followed did not have the concurrence or assent of anyone from the political or civilian echelon who was active regarding the Phalangists’ entry into the camps.
In addition, the report found:
The Direct Responsibility… Our conclusion is … that the direct responsibility for the perpetration of the acts of slaughter rest on the Phalangist forces …The Indirect ResponsibilityTo sum up this chapter, we assert that the atrocities in the refugee camps were perpetrated by members of the Phalangist, and that absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acts in its behalf. At the same time, it is clear from what we have said above that the decision on the entry of the Phalangists into the refugee camps was taken without consideration of the danger — which the makers and executors of the decision were obligated to foresee as probably — that the Phalangists would commit massacres and pogroms against the inhabitants of the camps, and without an examination of the means for preventing this danger. Similarly, it is clear from the course of events that when the reports began to arrive about the actions of the Phalangists in the camps, no proper heed was taken of these reports, the correct conclusions were not drawn from them, and no energetic and immediate actions were taken to restrain the Phalangists and put a stop to their actions. This both reflects and exhausts Israel’s indirect responsibility for what occurred in the refugee camp.
A federal jury in New York concured with this conclusion. The jury found that Time Magazine defamed Ariel Sharon with false information when they claimed he “consciously intended” the killing of civilians in the camps.
The Washington Post reported:
Mr. Sharon was forced to resign after an independent Israeli judicial commission ruled that he bore indirect responsibility for failing to prevent a massacre of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila camps south of Beirut by Israel’s Lebanese Christian militia allies. He later sued for libel and won a retraction and settlement from Time magazine for an article that claimed he had sanctioned the massacre in
It is a huge, untenable jump to say that failing to anticipate that Phalangists would massacre Palestinians is tantamount to “helping” in the massacre. “Helped” suggests that Israeli forces carried out killings; gave intelligence, arms or other support to facilitate the killings; or sanctioned the killings by the Christian forces. But Israeli leaders and soldiers did none of these things.
Thus, in one broadcast, NPR manages to both falsely blame the Israeli government for the suffering of Palestinians inflicted by Christian Lebanese, and to exonerate the Lebanese government for the decades-long suffering of Palestinians it continues to cause.