That Massacre Was Personal

I watched the Sabra and Shatila massacre from Youngstown, Ohio.

Sam Bahour


Time Magazine cover from September 27, 1982

Note: This is the article I update and post every year during this time because, WE TOO NEVER FORGET!

These last few days, as they do every year, weigh heavy on every Palestinian’s heart. For me and my family, the heaviness is also personal.

Every Palestinian carries around two hearts. One is similar to that which all others carry; it keeps us alive, active, working, loving, moving, singing, playing, and hopeful that tomorrow will bring a better day. The second is very difficult to explain; it is the one that carries within it dark and heavy memories of our existence. Every Palestinian carries this dark heart, albeit the number of chambers in each varies; for far too many, new chambers are added daily, yet others are calcified but fully preserved.

Every year, these September days bring to the forefront one of those chambers present in all of our black hearts. This week in 1982, 41 years ago, in full coordination with the Israeli military which had invaded South Lebanon a few months prior, a group of “Christian” Phalangist fundamentalists, entered two Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, and slaughtered around 3,000 Palestinian civilians. The exact number is still not known. Most were murdered assassination style, using hatchets, striking mostly to the head. Several victims were beheaded. Children, women, men, young and old, no one was safe. September 16 and 17 were the days when the bulk of the cold-blooded rampage took place. On September 18th journalists finally made their way into the camp and the horrific scenes became known to all. Later, in 1983, the Israeli government appointed the Kahan Commission to investigate the incident. The Commission deemed Israel indirectly responsible, and Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister, personally responsible, forcing him to resign, deeming him unfit to serve as Defense Minister. Sharon later went on to become a popular Israeli Prime Minister.

During the massacre, I was in Youngstown, Ohio. Like Palestinian communities worldwide, we were glued to the TV screens in total shock. The news footage of the humanitarian organization workers, wearing masks to protect themselves from the overwhelming stench of death, picked…