Thursday, February 21, 2013

Israel's First Response to Sabra & Shatila: Furious Rejection

The massacres at Sabra and Shatila were committed over a long weekend of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat, mid-September 1982. The story may have been all over the world's media, but many Israelis were unaware of it. The Cabinet convened for an urgent meeting only on Saturday night, Sept. 19. In the first of our series of newly-declassified Cabinet transcripts, here's a look at that meeting.

Or rather, here's a look at the small part we can show. The bulk of the transcripts deal, naturally, with the politics of the event, and that can be declassified after 30 years. Parts, however, dealt with the military aspects, and military documents are generally declassified only after 50 years; we haven't declassified those, or have done so only gingerly.

The meeting on September 19 was all about the military events themselves. As the roster of participants on page one shows, the entire top brass had been called to Jerusalem to report: The Chief of Staff, Head of Military Intelligence, Head of Northern Command, and assorted additional generals and colonels; the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet, and various other security-types. This was a meeting of the War Cabinet, not a standard Cabinet meeting.

Sadly, pages 2-94 remain blocked. Having spent a long evening talking about military matters, the Cabinet unanimously summed up their discussion in political terms:
On Rosh Hashana a libel was concocted against the Jewish State, its government and its military. At a place which was remote from IDF troops, a Lebanese unit entered a refugee camp in which terrorists were hiding, to arrest them. This unit caused many deaths among the civilian population, a fact the Cabinet registers with deep sorrow. As soon as the IDF recognized what was transpiring it put an end to it, and forced the unit out of the camps. The populace of the camps expressed their gratitude at the salvation by the IDF.

The government rejects with revulsion any allegation or insinuation of complicity or responsibility of the IDF in the human tragedy in the camp. On the contrary, were it not for the intervention of the IDF forces, the number of victims would have been far higher. ...

In spite of the incitement at home, the government calls on its citizens to unite around its government, which is striving for security and peace for all its citizens.

Let no-one preach us about morality and respect for human life, on which we have raised and will continue to raise generations of Israeli fighters.
The ministers were not correctly reading the landscape. The political storm had not even begun to break.

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