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Terrorism Pays: Ask Assad, Khamane’i, and Arafat

With all the uproar over the calls to indict Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes, it is ironic that it is the Hamas weekly newspaper that recently called for the indictment of the “real culprits” in the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

An editorial in al-Risalah (The Mission), the Hamas paper in Gaza, names Phalange security chief Eli Hobeika and his Syrian masters as the ones who ought to be indicted for the massacre. (See Annex for English translation of the article).

It must be remembered that 20,000 Moslem Brotherhood militants and their families were slaughtered in Hama in February 1982 by the Syrian regime, but have never been the subject of any documentary films nor even of serious protest by the enlightened world. As is pointed out in the Hamas journal: “A regime that has lost its sensitivity for the lives of its own people, which have murdered tens of thousands in Hama, is incapable of finding any fault in Hobeika for murdering two thousand Palestinians.”

The Sabra and Shatila massacre occurred after a Syrian agent, Habib Shartouni, a member of the National Socialist Syrian Party, planted a bomb in the Phalange party headquarters, resulting in the death of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel along with 40 Phalange members (14 September 1982). This same Shartouni was sentenced to death, but was released by his Syrian masters after serving only six years in a Lebanese prison.

Eli Hobeika, on the other hand, who directly commanded the slaughter of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, not only went un-tried in Lebanon under Syrian rule, but today is the only Phalange leader who escaped assassination arrest or deportation. He as even held many high-ranking positions, and served three times as a minister in various Lebanese governments.[1]

The Syrians took care to wipe out—physically or politically—every Lebanese leader who posed a threat to their rule. In addition, they also aided in the expulsion of the international force that came to enforce the peace in a country torn apart by civil war, and by the murder of hundreds of American and French soldiers in Hizballah suicide attacks in October 1983.

In 1998, Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass boasted to the Gulf al-Bayan newspaper that he was the one who gave the green light to the “resistance” to murder marines and French soldiers, but that he prevented attacks on the Italian soldiers of the multi-national force “because he was in love with the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida.” At the time, not a single foreign ministry nor self-righteous organization protested at this revelation. Certainly no one sought to bring him to trial in an international court.[2]

Several Paris city councilmen dared to remind their distinguished guest, President Bashar Assad, during his visit to France last week, of the murder of the French ambassador to Lebanon in 1981, but this did not prevent their government from receiving him with pomp and ceremony.

Recently, it has even been reported that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is negotiating with Syria to assure it a seat on the Security Council in exchange for its pledge to restrain Hizballah terrorist and guerilla activity on Israel’s northern border. This is the prize given by the international community to a state that has been on the U.S. State department’s list of countries that support terrorism for the last 20 years! Let’s call this asking the cat to guard the cream.

In recent days, Iran’s role in the 1996 bombing of the American soldiers’ barracks in Dharan Saudi Arabia has finally been clarified. It took five years for the American prosecutor to pry, almost by force, the information out of the hands of the Saudi authorities and decide to make it public, apparently due to the stubbornness of FBI Director Freeh, who saw this affair as a personal challenge. Yet, in the indictment there is still no finger-pointing towards the Iranian leadership itself, and it is not at all certain that the U.S. government will decide to take the serious steps required by the exposure of the Iranian involvement in the murder of American soldiers.

These days, Yasser Arafat, another great artist in the use of terrorism, is deceiving world leaders, apparently even the Bush administration itself, and is attempting to cover for the activities of Hamas’ perpetrators of suicide-attacks and their political leadership. These are the same people who received from him the green light to act, similar to the permission given at the time by Mustafa Tlass to the Hizballah suicide-bombers in Lebanon.

Israel must put on the international agenda, with renewed vigor, the role played by Syria, Iran and the PLO in the trampling of human rights and the running amok of terrorism that has plagued our region for the past 35 years and threatens to drown us again in a wave of violence and regional conflict.

It is incumbent on the government of Israel to make a supreme information effort on this issue, to forcefully insist on the PA arresting and trying all Hamas and Fatah perpetrators and planners of terrorism, and to demand from the international community to prevent victory of terrorism to prevail in the international arena.



Translation courtesy of MEMRI
Special Dispatch No. 232 – Palestinians                                                June 22, 2001
Hamas Weekly: Syria and Heads of Lebanese Christian Forces Should be Tried for Sabra and Shatila Before Sharon
Saleh Al-Na’ami, a senior political commentator for the Hamas weekly, Al-Risala, related in its latest issue to the BBC/Panorama program about Sharon. Contrary to the consensus in the Arab media, Al-Na’ami states that the demand to prosecute Israeli PM Sharon as a war criminal is hypocritical and that Syria and the heads of the Christian Lebanese forces are the ones responsible for the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. Following are excerpts from his column:
“The documentary aired by the BBC’s first channel has provoked the interest of the entire world… Naturally, many Arab intellectuals were enthusiastic about prosecuting Sharon, and the BBC deserves full credit for its objective handling of the issue…” 
“However, with all honesty, there is a certain degree of hypocrisy in the Arab coverage of the Sabra and Shatila massacres!!!!! It is true that Sharon bears responsibility for these massacres, but the people who committed these war crimes with their own hands, were never tried.” 
“Moreover, Eli Hbeika who was head of security in the Lebanese Forces when they committed these massacres and who supervised the mass-killings and the rapes, boasted in the [BBC] film itself that he was never, nor will he ever be tried, and that he lives completely free. The same goes for Fadi Afram, the commander of the Lebanese Forces, who had an actual role in committing the massacres.” 
“We ask once again the question we have been asking always: Who is protecting Eli Hbeika now, when nobody disputes his responsibility for these massacres? The answer is: The Syrian government who rewarded him two years after the massacre, by appointing him as a minister in the Lebanese government. The Syrian rulers, and first and foremost Bashar Al-Assad, should prove their commitment to the Palestinian cause before they fill the air with their slogans about it.” 
“Indeed, it is hypocritical to attack Sharon for his part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, without demanding from Syria and from the Lebanese government to demonstrate minimal commitment towards the Palestinian people and allow the prosecution of the real war criminals – Hbeika and the gang of lowlifes that surrounded him at the time.” 
“Israel has established an investigation committee headed by ajudge in order to investigate the Sabra and Shatila massacres. This committee forced the Begin government to fire Sharon from the Ministry of Defense. Israel has also discharged many of its army commanders. However, we have not seen the Lebanese government doing [what Israel did] even though one would expect them to do it.” 
“When such a committee was, finally, established by the Lebanese government, it acquitted Hbeika of any responsibility for committing the massacres and unloaded all the responsibility on Israel, even though, the court established that it was Hbeika’s soldiers who committed the massacres.” 
“As’ad Jamuswho headed the Lebanese investigation committee, gave the strangest possible reasoning for his committee’s decision: He leveled the responsibility on Israel because the Lebanese Forces were Israel’s allies when they committed the massacre!!” 
“Syria, hence, has not only turned a blind eye to Hbeika’s responsibility for the massacre [when it appointed him a minister], it has also turned a blind eye to the fact that it was publicly declared [by the investigation committee] that Hbeika served as an Israeli agent. Furthermore, in 1981, Israeli TV aired a report showing Hbeika, accompanied by a group of Jews, visiting the Golan Heights and calling upon Israel to keep the Golan Heights.” 
“In all honesty, the regime in Syria has not found any flaw in its relations with Hbeika, despite his crimes against Palestinians and Lebanese alike, because this regime has lost the sensitivity to the lives of its own people.” 
“Someone who murdered tens of thousands in Hamma, cannot be expected to find any flaw in the murder of two thousands Palestinians by Hbeika.”[1]
[1] Al-Risala (PA), June 21, 2001.

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  1. For Hobeika’s role in the massacre of Sabra and Shatila see, Robert Maroun Hatem’s book From Israel to Damascus. The Painful Road of Blood, Betrayal and Deception. The book can be found on-line at 
  2. See AFP from Rome, January 1, 1998.