Atonement: Not in Israel’s Vocabulary
by Stephen Lendman
Yom Kippur is considered the holiest of Jewish holidays. It occurs on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei (Hebrew year 5773).
September 17 marked the new year (Rosh HaShanah). Ten days of repentance began. They culminated on Yom Kippur.
It’s traditionally observed by 25 hours of fasting, prayers for forgiveness, and abstaining from work, school, and physical pleasures.
On September 25, Yom Kippur 2012 began at sundown. On September 26, it ended at sunset.
Atonement excludes penance for occupation harshness. Crimes of war and against humanity remain out of sight and mind. Few rabbis discuss them. Media scoundrels ignore them. Decades of Palestinian suffering go unmentioned. More on that below.
Ahead of Yom Kippur, Israel announced a 48-hour lockdown. The West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were affected. Border crossings were closed. Normal activities were interrupted or suspended. Life in Occupied Palestine excludes normality.
On September 25, Haaretz headlined “Israel comes to a halt for Yom Kippur,” saying:
Jews began observing the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar. Israeli security forces and emergency service were on high alert. Patrols were beefed up in cities, around synagogues, and other strategic locations.
IDF doublespeak said it would “continue to defend the citizens of Israel, whole taking into consideration the Palestinians’ quality of life.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reports weekly on how Israel shows “consideration (for) the Palestinians’ quality of life.”
For the week ending September 19, Israeli soldiers extrajudically murdered two Palestinians and wounded another. They confronted a peaceful West Bank protest violently.
A child and human rights defender were wounded. Dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Twenty-three incursions into West Bank Palestinian communities occurred. Three more targeted Gaza. On average it was four a day. It was a light week. Others average seven or more daily.
One Palestinian child was wounded. Seven West Bank arrests were made. A university professor was detained. Three Gazan children were arrested.
Israeli gunboats opened fire on Palestinian fishermen. Gaza remains suffocating under siege. Arrests and other forms of abuse happen daily. Civilians wanting to live free are targeted.
Settlers have free reign to commit violence. They attack Palestinians with impunity. Farmers are targeted on their land. So are children at play. Property is maliciously destroyed or damaged.
Israeli security forces stand aside and do nothing. Every day is Kristallnacht in Occupied Palestine. Institutionalized terror is policy. So is collective punishment.
No one’s safe. From day to day, who knows who’ll live free or be imprisoned. Staying alive unharmed is challenging and uncertain.
Israeli border guards shoot Palestinian children for target practice. Peaceful public demonstrations are assaulted. Free expression and movement are prohibited.
Population centers are isolated. Borders are closed. Land theft occurs daily. Bulldozed homes, dispossessed owners, and village displacements reflect institutionalized ethnic cleansing.
Palestinians are replaced by settlement expansions, closed military zones, and Jewish-only development. Israel plans stealing all parts of Judea and Sumaria it wants. At most, Palestinians will be left with isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland.
Normal daily life is denied. Economic strangulation and institutionalized racism are imposed. So are curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, separation walls, electric fences, and other barriers.
Neighborhood incursions, land, sea and air attacks, institutionalized violence, slow-motion genocide, targeted killings, mass arrests, torture, and gulag imprisonment reflect daily life for praying to the wrong God.
Fundamental civil and human rights are denied. Racism is policy. Crimes of war and against humanity repeat without redress. Wanting to live free in sovereign Palestine is called terrorism.
Punitive taxes are imposed. Few services are provided. Vital ones are lacking or inadequate. Palestinian lawmakers are imprisoned for belonging to the wrong party.
Muslims are considered subhuman. Police state repression terrorizes them. Arab Israeli citizens are considered fifth column threats. Israeli governance is more hypocrisy than democracy.
Fundamental human and civil rights are denied. International laws are spurned. Militarized control is policy. Israel’s gulag is filled with non-believers.
For many, Dante’s inscription through the gate of Hell applies: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Hellish conditions for some reflect a lower level Dante forgot.
Israel’s 1982 High Holiday (High Holy Days) Period: Yamim Noraim
On September 17, 1982 at sunset, Yamim Noraim began. Atonement excluded what journalist Robert Fisk called “one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century.”
He referred to massacring thousands in cold blood in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. On June 6, 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. Fighting lasted nearly a year.
An Israeli staged false flag was pretext. Arafat was falsely blamed for Abu Nidal militants’ attempted assassination of Israeli UK ambassador Shlomo Argov.
Israel got the war it wanted. Around 18,000 Palestinians were massacred. Southern Lebanon remained occupied until May 2000. Israel still illegally holds Sheba Farms.
It’s a 14-square mile water-rich area near Syria’s Golan. It’s been lawlessly occupied since 1967 along with Ghajar, a bordering Lebanese village.
Sabra and Shatila remain symbols of Israeli ruthlessness. At the time, Ariel Sharon was defense minister. He ordered the slaughter. He let Phalangist fascists do his dirty work.
Slaughter preceded Rosh HaShanah by 24 hours. Palestinian civilians were massacred in cold blood. Women were raped multiple times before being killed. Children were murdered like adults.
Whole families were shot, stabbed, bludgeoned to death, or buried dead or alive under homes. Some were tortured before dying. Bodies were decapitated.
Corpses were charred and violated. Eyes were gouged out. Faces were unrecognizable.
Israel maliciously planned it. Sharon led it. He called it “ridding the world of the center of international terrorism.” Orwell couldn’t have said it better. No one to this day was punished.
A Kahan Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate the incident. Sharon’s personal aide recorded his instructions on entering the camps. Commission members heard it.
Sharon emphasized that: “Only one element, and this is the IDF, shall command the forces in the area. For the operation in the camps, the Phalangists should be sent in” to do Israel’s dirty work.
On September 16, killings began. Philangists were told to use “their own methods.” On September 10, Sharon claimed “2,000 armed terrorists had remained in the camps.”
He lied. Weapons were never found. Armed resistance was absent. Civilians were defenseless. Slaughter was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Even after evidence disputed Sharon’s official account, he claimed thousands of terrorists had “very large quantities of arms.” On September 24, he said so on Israeli TV.
While slaughter was ongoing, he and other Israeli commanders directed Philangist killings. Kahan Commission members were told they entered the camps on September 16 at sunset. Yamim Noraim began 24 hours later.
Killings began “almost immediately.” Militiamen entered homes. They began “slitting throats, axing, shooting, and raping, often taking groups outside and lining them up for execution.”
“There was virtually no resistance. Only a very few camp residents” had small arms for protection. Slaughter continued until around sunset September 18. Yamin Noraim High Holidays began 24 hours earlier.
On September 19, Lebanese forces took control of the camps. Foreign journalists and diplomats entered for the first time. They found bodies strewn everywhere. Many were mutilated. Some were buried in shallow graves and sand piles.
Body parts protruded. For the first time, reports were broadcast worldwide. At first, Israel denied involvement or knowledge of what happened. Later, an Israeli spokesman said “fierce fighting” broke out between Philangists and “terrorists.”
Casualties resulted. Philangists, in fact, suffered almost none. IDF forces “had to intervene to prevent a much larger tragedy.” Israel’s entire account was falsified.
Sharon directed everything. Kahan Commission members were told he “provided logistical, operational support as well as food, water, ammunition, and supplies throughout the operation.”
On September 19, a Security Council resolution unanimously condemned it. Even Ronald Reagan expressed “outrage and revulsion.” He blamed Israel for the slaughter. He demanded IDF forces immediately withdraw from West Beirut.
Within Israel, demonstrations called for Sharon’s ouster. Menachem Begin was prime minister. Demands were made for his removal. On September 25, Tel Aviv witnessed its largest ever demonstration. Over 400,000 participated. Outrage was expressed.
Recriminations didn’t follow. Kahan Commission findings were largely ignored. Sharon was forced out as defense minister. He remained unprosecuted in government as minister without portfolio.
Others implicated were demoted. Quickly, they regained high-level positions. Sharon eventually became prime minister.
Various estimates were made of the numbers slaughtered. B’Tselem co-founder Amnon Kapeliouk estimated 3,000 – 3,500. Lebanese Professor Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hour conducted exhaustive research. She published it in her book titled “Sabra and Shatila: September 1982.”
Critics call it the most comprehensive, authoritative account. Its detail includes photographs, maps, and other documentation. It’s over 500 pages long. It’s unrivaled in detail and scope. She sought to make sense of what happened.
She estimated around 3,500 killed. Mass graves tried concealing many. Others were buried alive or dead under bulldozed homes.
Witnesses recounted the horror. One survivor saw a “deep pit full of corpses. They were killing people and throwing bodies into the pit.”
“Before they let us leave, they lined us up, and one of the armed men said to another, with a wink, ‘Choose one. Which one deserves to have her throat slit?’ “
“The other replied, ‘No, we don’t want to kill them now.’ They made us walk to Sports City. There, three armed men in a jeep told us to turn around and go back.”
They didn’t know what to do. A mine or cluster bomb exploded nearby. Wounded victims fell. Others were shot at. “Everyone was running in all directions.”
“We flagged down a car….There were foreign journalists. Some spoke Arabic. They photographed us and asked what happened. We told them there had been a massacre, but they didn’t want to believe us.”
“We told them we were the first survivors to get out of the camp.” Killing was ongoing at the time. Other survivors had their own horror stories. Archived photos reveal them. How do you describe blood, gore, and dismembered bodies piled on each other?
How do you explain who’d commit, order, and direct such atrocities? They happened during Israel’s High Holiday Yamim Noraim period.
One survivor lost her husband and two sons. “I have eight children,” she said. “What can I do with them? I don’t have anyone to help me. My house has been razed.”
“Where will I go? Is this what America wants? Is that what Israel wants? And the Arab countries agree? They took away our (protection and) killed our men. What more do they want of us?”
Thirty years later, nothing changed. Occupation harshness remains ruthless. America supports it. Other Western leaders ignore it. So do regional despots. Palestinians struggle to be free. Maybe next time.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.