December 16, 2004
In her Nov. 29 column, "Revisiting the gritty symbol of Palestinian survival - Shatila," Helena Cobban stated that the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon was "the site of an ugly Israeli-orchestrated massacre in 1982." In fact, Israel neither orchestrated nor committed the massacre, which was carried out by Lebanese Christian militiamen of the Phalangist party.
A commission of inquiry into the events at the camp (the Kahan Commission) concluded that "the atrocities in the refugee camps were perpetrated by members of the Phalangists, and that absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acted in its behalf."
Far from having orchestrated the massacre, Israel was found by the commission only to be indirectly responsible, since it failed to consider the danger in allowing the Phalangists to enter the camp. Israeli officials were similarly faulted only for indirect responsibility. Ariel Sharon, defense minister at the time, was criticized "for having disregarded the danger" posed by the Lebanese Phalangists who entered the camp, and "for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing" this danger.
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
The following paragraph from the originial letter was cut from the published version:
A federal jury in New York concured with this conclusion. The jury found that Time magazine defamed Sharon with false information when they claimed Sharon "consciously intended" the killing of civilians in the camps.