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Jun-27-2010 10:59printcomments

Lives Lived and Lost in Time- Remembering Chatila

When will the time come when justice is addressed for this outrage against humanity?

(TRIPOLI) - This is the second in a series as I wait for the Boat Brigade to leave from Tripoli, an event that may or may not happen as politics and legalities intertwine. This is not intended to be news reportage, but rather a reaction to the broader issues revolving around the boat flotillas attempting to breech the siege of Gaza.

“It was the flies that told us. There were millions of them, their hum almost as eloquent as the smell. Big as bluebottles, they covered us, unaware at first of the difference between the living and the dead.” (Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation, 359)

This quote opens Robert Fisk’s account of his encounter with the massacre at the Chatila refugee camp in 1982, a massacre controlled by the invading Israeli army here in Beirut. This blatant act of horrific barbarity occurred roughly 30 years ago, half the time the state of Israel has been in existence, transforming the mid-east into a seething cauldron of internecine conflicts, smoldering hatred, and absolute vengeance.

As I walked the alleyways of Chatila yesterday, I could not help but reflect on the consequences of the mentality that justified it or the consequences caused by those devastated by it. As I wait here 30 years later to board a boat to defy the Israelis' continuing occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza, I cannot avoid the reality on the ground that Israel has created. As I wait, a march gathers around Lebanon from all the refugee camps, a march that will culminate at the Parliament buildings today at 4PM. Some 5000 are expected, organized by the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign to bring through legislation civil rights to the Palestinians living in Chatila and the other refugee camps, rights denied for over 62 years.

As I wait, days pass filled with uncertainty about the legislation that could give hope to parents for some economic relief from absolute poverty, hope to children for a future of promise, hope to Lebanese who would no longer have to live in the presence of justice denied. As I wait, days pass, not years, for the boat to leave Tripoli to go to Gaza, and I wait impatiently annoyed that matters have not been organized and problems resolved before more time passes.

Time. What is it after all? Didn’t the “eloquent hum” of the flies Fisk heard ring the death knell of innocents slaughtered by Israeli “trained militaries"?

We were breathing death, inhaling the very putrescence of the bloated corpses around us. Jenkins immediately realized that the Israeli defence minister would have to bear some responsibility for this horror. ‘Sharon!’ he shouted. ‘That fucker Sharon! This is Deir Yassin all over again. (360)

Time. How do we account for it? Why these mothers carved and slashed, babies cut from wombs? Why these yet unborn children? Why these girls raped so violently? Lives lived in time, unexplainable and unremembered. And those who lived throughout Shabra, how do they live now? What is time to those who have nothing, time only to sit through because there is no work; time as remorse to weep for those lost; time as agony and torment for children that will live without hope, without fulfillment, without a future. I saw them caught in the confines of dark alleys, sloshing through stagnant puddles, surrounded by stench, the new stench of decaying garbage, not the “eloquent smell” of death Fisk describes. Thousands upon thousands of refugees imprisoned in one square kilometer of space, an area surrounded by embassies, highways, high rises, warehouses, car dumps, abandoned buildings, decrepit skeletons of past splendor, the visible metaphor of human indifference and disdain.

They must have been armed by the Israelis. Their handiwork had already been watched—clearly observed—by the Israelis, by those same Israelis who were still watching us through their field-glasses. (364)

Has time stood still for the residents of Chatila? How could it not. Lacking means to move, lacking legitimacy elsewhere, lacking a homeland because foreigners have stolen it, lacking a nation—indeed, lacking a community of nations that shows a heartfelt concern for their own, the refugee is crucified to the streets and alleys of Chatila, stuffed into the cement bunkers that grow only in filth and decay as time passes, living daily the horrifying memory of this heinous slaughter, passing the grounds that had been piled with decaying bodies.

When does a killing become an outrage? When does an atrocity become a massacre? Thirty? A hundred? Three hundred? When is a massacre not a massacre? When the figures are too low? Or when the massacre is carried out by Israel’s friends rather than Israel’s enemies.

When will the time come when justice is addressed for this outrage against humanity? When will the world declare an end to Israel’s evil? How many times must we witness the wanton slaughter of the helpless justified by “right of self-defense” when the people killed have no defense and no rights because the United States stands alone as it justifies the evil before the world; defying International law and all agreements that have united the nations of the world under the banners of justice from the foundational documents of the United States—the International Declaration of Human Rights. How ironic, how pathetic.

Perhaps today the lives lived and lost in time—the ghosts of Shabra and Chatila—will image for us what must not be if our future is to exist and we are not to live as the residents of Chatila must live, frozen by the mindset of those who commit such slaughter, lacking conscience, lost to indifference, the very image of the human without a soul.

The eyes of these young men were all open. The youngest was only 12 or 13 years old. They were dressed in jeans and coloured shirts, the material absurdly tight over their flesh now that their bodies had begun to bloat in the heat. They had not been robbed. On one blackened wrist, a Swiss watch recorded the current time, the second hand still ticking round uselessly, expending the last energies of its dead owner. (361)

Thus does time measure the mentality of men, a conscienceless recording of its darkest hours.


William A. Cook is Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California where he served for 13 years as Vice President for Academic Affairs before assuming his faculty position in 2001. Prior to coming to California, he served as a Dean of Faculty, Chair of Department of English and faculty member at institutions large and small, public and private in four eastern states. He is an activist and a writer for numerous Internet publications including Counterpunch,, Pacific Free Press in British Columbia, Dissident Voice and Information Clearing House, serving as senior editor for MWC News out of Canada, and contributing editor at the Palestine Chronicle, the Atlantic Free Press in the Netherlands, and the World Prout Assembly, his polemics against the Bush administration and the atrocities caused by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in Israel, now our 51st state, have been spread around the Internet world and translated into French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Italian. Cook also serves on the Board of the People’s Media Project, interviews on radio and TV in South Africa, Canada, Iran and the United States and contributed for five years yearly predictions to the Hong Kong Economic News. This volume follows his Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied: The Rape of Palestine and continues his scourge against the hypocrisy, deceit, and destructive policies that have characterized American mid-east policy and its destructive alliance with the Zionist forces that have turned Israel into an apartheid state determined to destroy the Palestinian people. In addition to his polemics, he writes plays (The Unreasoning Mask, co-authored with his wife, D’Arcy, and The Agony of Colin Powell), satires (see “Advancing the Civilized State: Inch by Bloody Inch” in The Rape), and poetry (Psalms for the 21st Century). His most recent fictional work creates a morality tale based upon real life figures that haunt our lives, The Chronicles of Nefaria He can be reached at or

The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction is a collection of voices from around the world that establishes in both theoretical and graphic terms the slow, methodical genocide taking place in Palestine beginning in the 1940s, as revealed in the Introduction. From Dr. Francis A. Boyle’s detailed legal case against the state of Israel, to Uri Avnery’s “Slow Motion Ethnic Cleansing,” to Richard Falk’s “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” to Ilan Pappe’s “Genocide in Gaza,” these voices decry in startling, vivid, and forceful language the calculated atrocities taking place, the inhumane conditions inflicted on the people, and the silence that exists despite the crimes, nothing short of state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians.

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Anonymous June 27, 2010 12:51 pm (Pacific time)

ok. going to be honest here. I support the Palestinians. But why do I? I have never been there, dont really know any Palestinians, Then why do I support them? A small part is because I know how much israel lies. They are the deceivers of the western world, who have brought nothing but havoc, and wars on lies, and have taken over our complete Republic government. The zionist Rothchilds who birthed the zionists have controlled thru media and the education system. They poison us with flouride and gmo food. The selfish truth why I support the Palestinians. Because the zionists, who control our government and military, will be coming for people such as me (Stephen) and Tim King next. And I like Tim. So there. I am not against jews, all jews are not zionists, and all zionists are not jews.

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