The 25th Anniversary of the Massacre at Sabra-Shatilla

Will anyone remember? Does anyone really care anymore?

Martyrs Square
Sabra-Shatilla Palestinian Refugee Camp

A Letter to Janet

Dearest Janet,

It’s a very beautiful fall day here in Beirut today. Twenty-five years ago this week since the September 15-18, 1982 Massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra-Shatila. Bright blue sky and a fall breeze. It actually rained last night. Enough to clean out some of the humidity and dust. Fortunately not enough to make the usual rain created swamp of sewage and filth on Rue Sabra, or flood the grassless burial ground of the mass grave (the camp residents named it Martyrs Square–one of several so named memorials now in Lebanon)) where you once told me you that on Sunday September 19, 1982, you watched, sickened, as families and Red Crescent workers created a subterranean mountain of butchered and bullet riddled victims from those 48 hours of slaughter. Some of the bodies had limbs and heads chopped off, some boys castrated, Christian crosses carved into some of the bodies.

As you later wrote to me in your perfect cursive:

“I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an ally wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles”.

Today Martyr’s Square is not much of a Memorial to the upwards of 1,700 mainly women and children, who were murdered between Sept. 15-18. You would not be pleased. A couple of faded posters and a misspelled banner that reads: “1982: Saba Massacer”, hang near the center of the 20 by 40 yard area which for years following the mass burial was a garbage dump. Today, roaming around the grassless plot of ground is a large old yellow dog that ignores a couple of chicken hens and six peeps scratching and pecking around.

Since you went away, the main facts of the Massacre remain the same as your research uncovered in the months that followed. At that time your findings were the most detailed and accurate as to what occurred and who was responsible.

The old 7-storey Kuwaiti Embassy from where Sharon, Eytan, Yaron, Elie Hobeika, Fradi Frem and others maintained radio contact and monitored the 48 hours of carnage with a clear view into the camps was torn down years ago. A new one has been built and they are still constructing a Mosque on its grounds.

I am sorry to report that today in Lebanon, the families of the victims of the Massacre daily sink deeper into the abyss. No where on earth do the Palestinians live in such filth and squalor. ‘Worse than Gaza!” a journalist recently in Palestine exclaims.

A 2005 Lebanese law that was to open up access to some of the 77 professions the Palestinians have been barred from in Lebanon had no affect. Their social, economic, political, and legal status continues to worsen

“It’s a hopeless situation here now,” according to Jamile Ibrahim Shehade, the head of one of 12 social centers in the camp. “There are 15,000 people living in one square kilometer,” Jamile runs a center which provides basic facilities such as a dental clinic and a nursery for children. It receives assistance from Norwegian People’s Aid and the Lebanese NGO, PARD. “This whole area was nothing before the camps were here and there has been very little done in terms of building infrastructure,” Shehade explained.

Continued misery in the camps has taken a heavy psychological toll on the residents of Sabra and Shatila, aid workers here say. Tempers run high as a result of frustration from the daily grind in the decrepit housing complex. In all 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon, tensions and tempers rise with increasing family, neighborhood, and sect conflicts. Salafist and other militant groups are forming in and around Lebanon’s Palestinian camps but not so much here in the Hezbollah controlled areas where security is better.

In Sabra-Shatilla schools will run double shifts when they open at the end of this month and electricity and water are still a big problem.

According to a 1999 survey by the local NGO Najdeh (Help), 29 percent of 550 women surveyed in seven of the 12 official refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, have admitted being victims of physical violence. Cocaine and Hashish use are becoming a concern to the community.

There is some new information about the Sabra-Shatilla Massacre that has come to light over the years. Few Israelis, but many of the Christian Lebanese Forces, following the national amnesty, wanted to make their peace and have confessed to their role. I have spoken with a few of them.

Remember that fellow you once screamed at and called a butcher outside of Phalange HQ in East Beirut, Joseph Haddad. At the time he denied everything as he looked you straight in the eye and made the sign of the cross. Well, he did finally confess 22 years later, around the time of his youngest daughter’s Confirmation in his local Parish. Your suspicions were indeed correct. His unit, the second to enter the camp, had been supplied with cocaine, hashish and alcohol to increase their courage. He and others gave their stories to Der Spiegel and various documentary film makers.

Many of the killers now freely admit that they conducted a three-day orgy of rape and slaughter that left hundreds, as many as 3,500 they claim, possibly more, of innocent civilians dead in what is considered the bloodiest single incident of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a crime for which Israel will be condemned for eternity.

Your friend, Um Ahmad, still lives in the same house where she lost her husband, four sons and a daughter when Joseph, a thick-set militiaman carrying an assault rifle bundled everyone into one room of their hovel and opened fire. She still explains like it was yesterday, how the condoned slaughter unfolded, recalling each of her four sons by name, Nizar, Shadi, Farid and Nidal. I asked Joseph if he wanted to sit with Um Ahmad and seek forgiveness and possible redemption since he has now become a lay cleric in his Parish. He declined but sent his condolences with flowers.

Do you remember Janet, how we used to walk down Rue Sabra from Gaza Hospital to Akka Hospital during the 75-day Israeli siege in ’82, as you used to say “to see my people”? Gaza Hospital is gone now. Occupied and stripped by the Syrian backed Amal militia during the Camp Wars of ’85-87. Its remaining rooms are now packed with refugees. One old lady who ended up there recited how it’s her 4th home since being forced from Palestine in 1948. She survived the Phalangist attack on and destruction of Tel a Zaatar camp in 1976 fled from the Fatah al Islam Salafists in Nahr al Bared Camp in May of this year and wore out her welcome at the teeming and overwhelmed Bedawi camp near Tripoli last month.

Most of your friends who worked with the Palestine Red Crescent Society are gone from Lebanon. Our cherished friend, Hadla Ayubi has semi-retired in Amman, Um Walid, Director of Akkar Hosptial, finally did return to Palestine following Oslo, still with the PRCS. And its President, Dr. Fathi Arafat, your good friend, passed away in December of 2004 in Cairo less than a month after his brother Abu Ammar died in Paris. They both loved you for all you had done for their people.

That trash dump near the Sabra Mosque is now a mountain. Yesterday I did a double take as I walked by because I saw three young girls-as sweet and pretty as ever I have seen–maybe 7 to 9 years old in rags picking thru the nasty garbage. Their arms were covered with white chemical paste. Apparently whoever sent them to scavenge sought to protect them from disease. As I climbed thru the filth to give them my last 6,000 LL ($4) they managed a smile and giggle when I slipped on a broken thin plastic bag of juicy cactus fruit skins and plunged to my knees.

In some areas of the camps there are mainly Syrians. Selling cheap ‘tax free’ goods. Still some Arafat loyalists. Mainly among the older generation. Palpable stress among just about everyone it seems. One young Palestinian explained to me his worry that with the upcoming Parliamentary election to choose a new President scheduled for September 25, there may be fighting and his October 6th SAT exams may be cancelled and he won’t be able to continue his studies.

When you and I last spoke Janet, it was on April 16th of that year, and I was en route to the Athens Airport to catch a flight to Beirut to be with you, you told me you were working on evidence to convict Sharon and others of war crimes.

Twenty years later, lawyers representing two dozen victims’ and other relatives attempted to have Ariel Sharon tried for the massacre under Belgian legislation, which grants its courts “universal jurisdiction” for war crimes.

There had been great expectations about the case among the Palestinians and their friends, since as you remember, Sharon had already been found to bear “personal responsibility” in the massacres by an Israeli commission of inquiry which concluded he shouldn’t ever again hold public office. But hopes were dashed when the Belgium Court, under US and Israeli pressure, decided the case was inadmissible.

I regret to report that all those who perpetrated the Massacre at Sabra-Shatilla escaped justice. None of the hundreds of Phalange and Haddad militia who carried out the slaughter were ever punished. In fact they got a blanket amnesty from the Lebanese government.

As for the main organizers and facilitators, their massacre at Sabra-Shatilla turned out to be excellent career moves for virtually all of them.

Arial Sharon, found by the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry “to bear personal responsibility” for allowing the Sabra-Shatilla massacre resigned as Minister of Defense but retained his Cabinet position in Begin’s Government and over the next 16 years held four more ministerial posts, including that of Foreign Minister, before becoming Prime Minister in February, 2001. Following the Jenin rampage US President Bush anointed him “a man of peace.”

RAFEL EYTAN, Israeli Chief of Staff, who shared Sharon’s decision to send in the Phalange killers and helped direct the operation was elected to the Knesset as leader of the small ultra rightwing party, Tzomet. In 1984 he was named Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 1996. He currently serves as head of Tzomet and is jockeying for another Cabinet position in the next government.

Major-General YEHOSHUA SAGUY, Army Chief of Intelligence: found by the Kahan Commission to have made “extremely serious omissions” in handling the Sabra-Shatilla affair later became a right-wing Member of the Knesset and is now mayor of the ultra-rightist community of Bat-Yam, a little town near Tel Aviv.

Major-General AMIR DRORI, Chief of Israel’s Northern Command: found not to have done enough to stop the massacre, a “breach of duty”, recently was named as head of the Israeli Antiquities Commission.

Brigadier-General AMOS YARON, the divisional commander whose troops sealed the camps to prevent victims from escaping and helped direct the operation along with Sharon and Eitan was found to have” committed a breach of duty”. He was immediately promoted Major-General and made head of Manpower in the army, served as Director-General of the Israeli Defense Ministry and Military Attaches at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He is currently working for various Israeli lobby groups as a scholar in ‘tink thanks’.

Elie Hobeika, the Chief of Lebanese Forces Intelligence, who along with Sharon master-minded the actual massacre fell out with the Phalange in 1980s under suspicion that he was involved in killing their leader, Bachir Gemayal. He defected to the Syrians, acquired three Ministerial posts in post-civil war Lebanon Governments, including Minister of the Displaced (many thought he knew a lot about this subject) of Electricity and Water and in 1996, Social Affairs.

On January 24, 2002, twenty years after his involvement at Sabra-Shatilla he was blown up in a car bomb attack in East Beirut. Two of his associates who were also rumored to be planning to “come clean” regarding Sharon’s role were assassinated in separate incidents.

A few days before Hobeika’s death he stated that he might reveal more about the massacre and those responsible and according to Beirut’s Daily Star staff who interviewed him, Hebeika told them that his lawyers had copies of his files implicating Sharon in much more than had become public. These files are now is the possession of his son who following Sharon’s death may release them to the public.

They still remember you in Burj al Buragne camp. A few weeks ago one old man told me: “Janet Stevens? No, I didn’t know her”. He paused and then said, .Oh!.. you mean Miss Janet! She spoke Arabic… I think she was American. Of course I remember her! We called her the little drummer girl. She had so much energy. She cared about the Palestinians. That was so long ago. She stopped coming to visit us. I don’t know why. How is she?”

And so, Dearest Janet, I will be waiting for you at Sabra-Shatilla , at Martyrs Square, on Saturday, September 15, 2007.

You will find me patting and mumbling to that old yellow dog. He and I have become friends and we will pay our respects to the dead and I will reflect on these past 25 years and we will watch for and wait for you. You will find us behind the straggly rose bushes on the right as you enter.

Come to us, Janet. We need you. The camp residents need you, one of their brightest lights, on this 25th anniversary of one of their darkest hours. You were always their mediator and advocate… and until today you are their majorette for Justice and Return to their sacred Palestine.




Janet Lee Stevens was born in 1951 and died on April 18, 1983, at the age of 32, at the instant of the explosion which destroyed the American Embassy in Beirut. Twenty minutes before the blast, Janet had arrived at the Embassy to met with US A.I.D. official Bill McIntyre because she wanted to advocate for more aid to the Shia of South Lebanon and for the Palestinians at Sabra, Shatilla, and Burg al Burajneh camps, stemming from Israel’s 1982 invasion and the September 15-18 massacre. As they sat at a table in the cafeteria, where she had planned to ask why the US government has never even lodged a protest following the Israeli invasion or the Massacre, a van stolen from the Embassy the previous June arrived and parked just in front of the Embassy. Almost directly in front of the cafeteria. It contained 2,000 pounds of explosives. It was detonated by remote control and tons of concrete pancaked on top of Janet and Bill, killing 63 and wounding 120. Remains of Janet’s body were found two days later, unidentified in the basement morgue of the American University of Beirut Hospital by the author. She was pregnant with our son, Clyde Chester Lamb III. Had he lived he would be 24 years old. Hopefully taking after his mother he would, no doubt, be a prince of a young man.

Franklin Lamb’s book on the Sabra-Shatilla Massacre, now out of print, was published in 1983, following Janet’s death and was dedicated to Janet Lee Stevens. He was a witness before the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry, held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in January of 1983.

Lamb, Franklin P.: International legal responsibility for the Sabra-Shatila-massacre / Franklin P. Lamb – Montreuil: Imp. Tipe, 1983 – 157 S. Ill., Kt.

Franklin Lamb is author of the recently released book Syria’s Endangered Heritage: An International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect. He is currently based in Beirut and Damascus and reachable at Read other articles by Franklin.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. gerald spezio said on September 12th, 2007 at 8:21am #

    As a U.S. citizen accomplice and member of the species Homo Non Sapiens very much, I beg your forgiveness.

  2. sk said on September 12th, 2007 at 10:27am #

    The silence was deafening at the 15’th anniversary as well.

  3. David M. said on September 12th, 2007 at 5:28pm #

    My name is David M. And unfortunately, well, I live in the worse hell hole there is on the face of the whole world. It’s called The USA. the worse nation in history almost. You guessed it. Myself, I’m a former US Marine soldier and my father, an officer under General George Patten in WW2.
    Me? To tell you the exact truth? I’m a homeless US military, both sets of parents now deceased, my sisters wouldn’t talked to me anymore, and sometime ago, my girlfriend, while went out drunk, was laying down on the street somewheres and then a serial killer came by, slit her drunk throat, and then proceeded to rape her dead body. Yes, there are alot of sick people and demented people in other parts of the world out there somewheres. Just don’t forget, we have the worst of them here in America. And not to mention that we have a mass murderer, baby killer in the White House, who sends out recruits to fight his war for oil profits. I just can’t help though, always pondering what is going on around the world I’m in, especially in the worst nation in history, no doubt. Pondering and wondering when can I finally pack my bags and leave this country and just leave these dumb ignoramous people of America, the rich in this country, who take so much advantage of the poor’s blood spilled for this country. Sometimes I wonder that if I’m really thinking serial killer thoughts or can I just leave them to their doom because they ((The filthy and shameless rich of this country)) to their doom because they don’t want to help the poor and needy in this country? I’m an ex-soldier and I see alot of things going on in this country, especially alot of dirty cops on the take. Makes me wonder of some of you US veterans out there in this world would think and wonder, “Should you just pack up your bags and just leave them to their doom, and get what they deserve”? Amazing heh? This world is so violent, if only someone would just push that button of Nuke, thank God, the pain an misery of some of us would just go away!!

  4. sk said on September 12th, 2007 at 9:43pm #


  5. JDonohue said on September 12th, 2007 at 9:57pm #

    Thanks for telling the truth. I believe most Americans don’t really care unless it’s somehow connected to a celebrity ect. Living in USA like the man said is a total living zombie nightmare, it doesn’t really have to do with liberal or conservative- hard to describe but the people more and more are afraid and crven so naturally they would shut their blinds to the atrocities over there.
    I was homeless too and many or most Americans were pretty crap people.
    I am out of it but the efect never wears off. The goal is now to get over them or get by. I don’t think many of them are really informed of life other than the controlled media. Unfotunately too the doogooder types are so politically correct they fail to see the problems standing right before them.
    The bombs sold to Isreal inflicted homelessness of the Lebanese and excerbated the Palestinian prejudice, so to the rulers of USA it was a great success. Homelessness is a very common thing hear.

    See these people are so dark that they hate light.

    The citizens are like children, and many are full of murder hates which explains that all the popular TV shows are about killers and missing people. Truly many in the USA are missing souls so it’s no wonder they send off their children to be heroes, hahaha.

  6. sandra n said on September 12th, 2007 at 10:22pm #

    I remember..and shed tears and find myself still angry that the world did not seem to care that this horrific event could take place nor does it seem to care now. Why is that those who perished in another horiffic event known as 9/11 seem to have more value? There is something so wrong in how we decide who has value as a human being and who does not. Maybe just maybe someday it will not be that way… God willing.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 13th, 2007 at 4:47am #

    When one contemplates the ghastly truth of the greatest of very many acts of Israeli racist murderousness, dismissed at the time by arch-racist and Jewish supremacist Menachem Begin as ‘Goyim kill goyim, and still they blame the Jews’, it is best to temper our outrage and remember Israelis are still human beings. Like all peoples, some are saints, some monsters. The worst monsters are the hasbara-nicks who deny or exculpate every Israeli crime, placing themselves in moral perdition. But many Israelis see their state for the pariah it is. The people of the world, by and large recognise who is good and who is evil in the ghastly, endless colonial project, but as most people are decent, they do not wish Israel’s destruction. They merely demand that Israel ceases its relentless racist policies, its psychopathic cruelty and dishonourable hypocrisy. Unfortunately the Israelis have forged a folie a deux with the most ruthless, murderous and demented power in history, the United States. These two have caused between them, in just the last few decades, at least one thousand times as many tragedies and abominations as were visited on Sabra and Shatilla, and their blood-lust shows no sign of being slaked, ever.

  8. Jonny Kolb said on September 13th, 2007 at 12:29pm #

    I’ll follow Lamb to hell if that is what it takes to achieve Justice for the Palestnhians! He is one amazing son of a bitch. I have read his stuff and believe he can liberate Palestine!!!!!!!!!

  9. Mary Lee McIntyre said on September 13th, 2007 at 2:28pm #

    I am the widow of Bill McIntyre. We were both in the attack on our Embassy that day in April. I was told when I arrived at the Embassy moments before the attack that my husband was in the cafeteria giving a deep background interview to a Newsweek stringer, Janet Stevens. That was all I knew. Both perished that day. I had arrived from having taught some classes to discuss the week’s events with my husband as they were unfolding at the time. I never saw him because moments later we were picking ourselves up from the fourth floor offices from the explosion. Later we found out that Hezbollah, funded by the Iranians, was responsible for the bombing. It has been heart breaking for our family, our children, and the families of others similarly bereaved from that day forward. We were sustained by our families, our friends, colleagues, and our faith. It still was so unnecessary to lose that many good people who honestly were trying to do some good in Lebanon at the time. Yes, I remember the Sabra and Shatilla atrocities in 1982, and we all felt outrage against the attackers and for the Palestinians who had the misfortune to be there at the time. Sharon and the Christian militias together were the perpetrators of those crimes. Living together in peace in the Middle East is difficult when extreme aims of control get in the way. May we all learn to live in peace some day.

  10. sadie said on September 14th, 2007 at 11:57am #

    I remember.

  11. Eileen Fleming said on September 15th, 2007 at 6:02am #

    Last weekend I attended the U.S. Campaign’s End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine 6th annual conference.

    Among the many justice and peace activists I met, was Keren Batiyov, a poet, writer and justice and beautiful Jewish woman.

    She “wrote this poem prayer several years ago during Rosh Hashanah with Yom Kippur in mind…In Judaism, during the 8 days of Rosh Hashanah, Jews are supposed to examine their behavior over the past year and go to all those they have wronged and seek forgiveness because on Yom Kippur, we can ask God to forgive us only if we have first sought the forgiveness of those we have wronged.”

    I posted Keren’s poem to precede Franklin Lamb’s critique on my Sept. 15th blog, and offer it here:

    T’shuvah* For A Nation

    God forgive us
    for hostility toward those we perceive
    to be not like ourselves;
    for judging the powerless contemptible—
    though it was we who rendered them so;
    for believing that we are better, more deserving,
    and even entitled, because our own suffering has been so great.

    God forgive us
    for turning our pain into a grisly weapon
    with which we torment others;
    for perpetuating the poisonous cycle—
    from abused to abuser;
    for despising the stranger, the refugee, the homeless—
    for forgetting that we have been all of these.

    God forgive us
    for the thousands we have displaced and discounted;
    for the land we have confiscated
    and the homes we have demolished;
    for the trees we have uprooted, and the water withheld;
    for the hearts, and bones, and promises we have broken;
    for the hatred we have engendered.

    God forgive us
    for invoking your name to justify revenge
    and ethnic cleansing;
    for citing Security to legitimize murder and torture;
    for exploiting the Holocaust to defend doing to others
    what has been done to us.

    God forgive us
    for the blinders we so carefully fabricate
    to hide our eyes
    from the humanity of the people we call enemy;
    the same whom history records as kin.

    God forgive us
    for euphemisms, Orwellian doublespeak, and outright lies;
    for hiring high-powered firms to sell myths
    of innocence and righteousness;
    for seeking a face lift for our image
    instead of atonement for our soul.

    May God forgive us.
    May those we have so terribly wronged
    forgive us.


    ©Keren Batiyov

  12. Danny D said on September 18th, 2007 at 12:52pm #

    I would agree fully with what you have said sandra. I would add what is wrong with North American Media, I don’t know how people who report the news here can sleep at night knowing that they have not told the truth or even the whole story. The North American Media makes me sick. Thank God for the internet where sites like this tell the story!

  13. Margaret E. Powell said on September 28th, 2007 at 10:55am #

    I am related to Mary Lee McIntyre and the late Bill McIntyre who perished in the Beirut bombing of April 18th 1983. I flew to Beirut immediately after the Embassy bombing and spend some time helping Mary Lee recover from serious injuries. I wrote a book about my experience there: “Practicing Forgiveness: Aftermath of the First Suicide Bombing of an American Target.” It was and is my hope that in perhaps small ways we can add our voices to the larger discussion and a world consciousness that will not tolerate violence.

  14. David Inabinet said on September 28th, 2007 at 12:43pm #

    That is right of curse about violence. But violence does beget violence and occupation will most surelly beget resistance.
    It is terrible that those lives were lost at the American Embassy on April 18, 1982.
    Unfortunately the US government made the Embassy a legitimate target for those resisting the US supported, funded, and armed Israeli invasion and occupation. The US government stripped the Embassy on its diplomatic immunity by hosting meeting of the CIA which was planning operations against the Lebanese Resistance. The CIA helped find targets for the Shelling of the USS New Jersey and planned assassinations from the Embassy as former CIA operative Barr admitted in his revealing book.

    The same with the UN Marine Barracks. Their motto was “They came in Peace”. That may be true or not. But what is perfectly clear is that when they joined the Israelis and the Phalangists they moved from peacekeepers to belligerents taking one side. They immediately became legitimate ‘targets of opportunlity” to use Donald Rumsfeld term.
    Neither the Embassy nor the Marines attack were terrorism. They were both legitimate resistance operations supported by principles of international law. One country must be cautious when it involves itself in another country and takes sides.

  15. William Cendak II said on January 17th, 2008 at 4:01pm #

    I recently spent 2 days in Sabra- Shatila, I was appalled by the conditions these people are forced to live in.
    I met with people, sat in their homes and broke bread with them. I was able to understand why there is a hatred for Israel, the US and Britain. To hear the stories from the people who lived it, who ran in fear as their family members were shot down or beaten to death. To see with my own eyes the atrocities committed, but to see generations of people displaced and stuck in the middle of Lebanon’s own problems, civil war, Israeli occupation, and religious differences.
    We as people need to look out for people less fortunate than ourselves.

  16. William Cendak II said on January 17th, 2008 at 4:02pm #

    Have a look for yourself: