68 women gave birth on checkpoints,
34 infants and 4 women died

By Saed Bannoura
IMEMC
April 11, 2007

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights (PICCR) reported that Israeli troops stationed at hundreds of roadblocks in the occupied territories barred dozens of pregnant women from crossing the checkpoints while in labor; 34 infants and four women died on their roadblocks.

The Commission reported that soldiers forced 68 pregnant women to give birth on road blocks after barring them from crossing as they were being transferred to hospitals and medical centers.

Also, the PICCR said that the Israeli procedures complicated the lives of the Palestinian civilians including pregnant women by enforcing harsh conditions and carrying illegal practices at these checkpoints.

Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada on September 28 2000 until July 2006, 68 pregnant women had to give birth at checkpoints, and that 34 infants and 4 pregnant women died on these checkpoints.

Source: International Middle East Media Center

The Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches in Jerusalem released a statement Saturday that the Israeli authorities have threatened to force the demolition of 500 buildings owned by the churches in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Church buildings under renovation in Jerusalem (photo by Herbert Bishko)
Church buildings under renovation in Jerusalem (photo by Herbert Bishko)

Israeli forces have recently stepped up demolitions in the Old City of Jerusalem, in accordance with the Municipality’s published E1 plan for the city, in which officials articulate a detailed plan to push out the Palestinian Christian and Muslim populations, while simultaneously increasing construction of Jewish-only homes and housing developments.

The church buildings in question are mainly homes owned by the church and leased to Palestinian Christian priests, nuns and families. Israeli authorities claim that renovations were done on these buildings without permits, but failed to acknowledge the lack of a permitting process for the Church to obtain the necessary permits.

In addition, many of the supposed ‘renovations’ listed on the demolition orders are questionable, such as one that lists a 50-square meter apartment as an ‘addition’ to the home of Bassam Ayyash, but in fact Ayyash’s entire home is the 50-square meter apartment. Ayyash has been trying to get Israeli officials to investigate this alleged violation, but they have thus far refused.

In another example mentioned in the church statement, renter Sami Wakileh tried to go through the process to obtain a permit for a small renovation on his home. He was told by the Israeli judge, “It is a waste of your time. Do not dream of receiving any permit…”.

He tried to obtain the permit and failed, but, given the historic antiquity of his church-owned home, he had to do renovations in order to keep the home from falling down. He ended up spending over $100,000 on renovations. Now, due to the Israeli demolition orders, the whole house will end up demolished by an Israeli bulldozer.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of church-owned buildings were seized by Israeli forces during the 1948 takeover of Palestine for the creation of the state of Israel, and again during the 1967 War of aggression by Israel. These buildings were taken over by the Jewish National Fund, which owns more than 90% of the land inside what is now Israel, and rented to Jews who immigrated to Israel.

Now, Israeli forces have again declared their intent for a large-scale demolition of church-owned buildings in Jerusalem.

One church official blamed the Israeli authorities for making it increasingly difficult for the churches to obtain building permits. Both the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, church administrative bodies for the two main Christian branches, have received the demolition orders totalling 500 buildings.

What an irresistible headline!

Source: A Bush in sheep’s clothing (www.voltairenet.org)
4 June 2009

A reaction by Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, to Barak Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo addressing the Muslim world: “Obama’s speech shows little real change. In most regards his analysis maintains flawed American policies.”

Once you strip away the mujamalat – the courtesies exchanged between guest and host – the substance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo indicates there is likely to be little real change in US policy. It is not necessary to divine Obama’s intentions – he may be utterly sincere and I believe he is. It is his analysis and prescriptions that in most regards maintain flawed American policies intact.

Though he pledged to “speak the truth as best I can”, there was much the president left out. He spoke of tension between “America and Islam” – the former a concrete specific place, the latter a vague construct subsuming peoples, practices, histories and countries more varied than similar.

Labelling America’s “other” as a nebulous and all-encompassing “Islam” (even while professing rapprochement and respect) is a way to avoid acknowledging what does in fact unite and mobilise people across many Muslim-majority countries: overwhelming popular opposition to increasingly intrusive and violent American military, political and economic interventions in many of those countries. This opposition – and the resistance it generates – has now become for supporters of those interventions, synonymous with “Islam”.

(more…)

Bedouin Baby’s Power Struggle With Israel

by Jonathan Cook
March 19, 2009 Antiwar.com

Little Ashimah Abu Sbieh’s life hangs by a thread – or more specifically, an electricity cable that runs from a noisy diesel-powered generator in the family’s backyard. Should the generator’s engine fail, she could die within minutes.

Ashimah suffers from a rare genetic condition that means her brain fails to tell her lungs to work. Without the assistance of an electric inhalator, she would simply stop breathing.

That nearly happened late last year when the generator broke down during the night. Her parents, Siham and Faris, woke to find the 11-month-old’s face blue from a lack of oxygen. They reconnected the inhalator to a set of car batteries and then battled to fix the generator before the two hours of stored power ran out.

The desperate plight of Ashimah’s parents is shared by thousands of other Bedouin families caring for chronically sick relatives who live in communities to which Israel refuses to supply electricity, said Wasim Abas of Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.

(more…)

Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.

Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus

The World Union of Jewish Students produces a book on how to promote Zionism through manipulations worthy of Goebbels. Here are some extracts.

SEVEN BASIC PROPAGANDA DEVICES

Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.

This article applies a list of seven propaganda devices to the Israeli situation, and by doing so allows an understanding of some of the ways in which public opinion is fought for in the International arena.

Name Calling

Through the careful choice of words, the name calling technique links a person or an idea to a negative symbol. Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try and get the audience to reject a person or idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing a real examination of that person or idea. The most obvious example is name calling – “they are a neo-Nazi group” tends to sound pretty negative to most people. More subtly, name calling works by selecting words with subtle negative meanings for some listeners. For example, describing demonstrators as “youths” creates a different impression from calling them “children”.

For the Israel activist, it is important to be aware of the subtly different meanings that well chosen words give.
Call ‘demonstrations’ “riots”, many Palestinian political organizations “terror organizations”, and so on.

Name calling is hard to counter. Don’t allow opponents the opportunity to engage in point scoring.

Glittering Generality

Simply put, the glittering generality is name calling in reverse. Instead of trying to attach negative meanings to ideas or people, glittering generalities use positive phrases, which the audience are attached to, in order to lend a positive image to things. Words such as ‘freedom’, ‘civilization’, ‘motherhood’, ‘liberty’, ‘equality’, ‘science’, and ‘democracy’ have these positive associations for most people. These words mean different things to different people, but are used to gain the approval of an audience, even when they aren’t used in their standard ways. Consider the use of the term ‘freedom fighter’, which is supposed to gain approval for terrorism by using the word ‘freedom’. Or, consider why it is so beneficial to bring home the point that Israel is a democracy.

Enemies of Israel will be keen to cast doubt on Israeli claims to be democratic, to guarantee freedom for all, and so on. In place of these ‘glittering generalities’ favourable to Israel, they will associate Palestinian behaviour, including terrorism, with terms like ‘anti-colonialist’ and ‘freedom’.

Transfer

Transfer involves taking some of the prestige and authority of one concept and applying it to another.
Jewish student groups in the Diaspora can use the flag of their own country side by side with the Israeli flag, where appropriate, to lend support to Israel. In a sports-loving country (such as Australia), students can make people aware of famous Israeli sportsmen and sportswomen, in order to transfer positive feelings (about a football team) to Israel.

Testimonial

Testimonial means enlisting the support of somebody admired or famous to endorse an ideal or campaign. Testimonial can be used reasonably – it makes sense for a footballer to endorse football boots – or manipulated, such as when a footballer is used to support a political campaign they have only a limited understanding of. Whilst everybody is entitled to an opinion, testimonial can lend weight to an argument that it doesn’t deserve: if U2’s Bono condemned Israel for something that it didn’t do, thousands would believe him, even though he was wrong.

Enlisting celebrity support for Israel can help to persuade people that Israel is a great country.

Obviously some celebrities are more useful than others. Students are probably a little too sophisticated to be affected by Britney’s opinion on Israel, but those associated with intelligence like professors, actors, radio hosts, sports managers and so on can be asked to offer testimonial.

A celebrity doesn’t have to fully support Israel to be useful. Quotes can work as testimonial, even when they might be old or out of context.

Most celebrities will care more about their public image than they do about the Middle East. Threats of tainting a celebrity’s image will usually persuade them to back away from controversial political issues.

Plain Folks

The plain folks technique attempts to convince the listener that the speaker is a ‘regular guy’, who is trust-worthy because they are just like ‘you or me’. Often politicians present themselves as being from outside the standard ‘political cliques’ and above political bickering, and then call for tax cuts to help the ‘regular guy’. More often than not these politicians are multi-millionaires financed by large corporations, but the plain folks technique allows them to obscure that fact by presenting their ‘common’ characteristics.

Support for an alleged underdog in a certain situation can often be part of a ‘plain folks’ agenda.

Pro-Israel activists can use the ‘plain folks’ technique by speaking as a ‘person from the street’ whilst supporting Israel. The ‘average guy in the street’ would happily condemn terrorism in all its forms and support ‘Western ideals’. In the context of a debate on the Middle East, this can easily be equated with support for Israel.

Care must be taken when adopting populist positions. There are some ethical boundaries that ought not to be crossed – for example tapping in to general anti-Arab feeling, or Islamaphobia. Remember that Israel can be supported without resorting to mass generalizations or racism.

Fear

When a speaker warns that the consequences of ignoring his message is likely to be war, conflict, personal suffering, and so forth, they are manipulating fear to advance their message. Listeners have deep-seated fears of violence and disorder, which can be tapped into by creating false dichotomies – ‘either listen to me, or these terrible things will happen’. Listeners are too preoccupied by the threat of terrible things to think critically about the speaker’s message.

Fear is easily manipulated in a climate that is already steeped in fear by the threat of global terror.

Fear can be successfully utilized by pointing out the consequences of terror.

Bandwagon

Most people, when in doubt, are happy to do what other people are doing. This is the bandwagon effect. People are happy to be part of the crowd, and subtle manipulators can play on this desire by emphasizing the large size of their support. Although it is reasonable that people are given a chance to find out how many other supporters a speaker or movement has, often it is possible to create the impression of extensive support – through gathering all supporters in one place, or through poorly conducted opinion polls – in an attempt to persuade people who are keen to follow the crowd.

Israel activists can commission opinion polls amongst groups who favour Israel, and use these to give the impression that Israel is the ‘team to support’.

Demonstrations, and even photos that give the impression of large numbers can help to create the impression that Israel is even more popular than it is.

* * * * * * *

Influencing Public Opinion

The first aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public opinion. Public opinion is very important to Israel, and Jewish communities around the world. Firstly, in the field of international relations, foreign policies are heavily influenced by politicians’ perceived electoral interests. If politicians detect public support for Israel, they will be likely to support Israel themselves. Secondly, Israel benefits from public support economically – in terms of willingness to visit Israel and buy Israeli goods.

Influencing Public Leaders

The second aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public leaders. It is possible for citizens to influence public officials and leaders directly. Politicians respond to public pressure. If politicians receive dozens of letters calling upon them to support Israel, they will be more likely to do so. Israel benefits from political support abroad, because it ensures a more sympathetic response to Israeli policies.

Influencing the Leaders and Opinion Formers of the Future

Campuses are the breeding ground for the next generation of politicians and opinion formers. For this reason, the third aim of student Israel advocacy is to influence campus leaders. Student union leaders might end up as government ministers, student journalists might end up as national newspaper editors. Because people often form and refine many of their political ideas at university, it is important for the long run security of Israel to try to influence student leaders and journalists to understand Israel and to be favourable towards her. In the years to come, Jewish communities will be glad this has been done.

Approaches to Israel Advocacy

There are two main approaches to Israel advocacy that allow Jewish students to achieve the aims outlined above. These approaches apply to everything Israel activists are trying to achieve in their advocacy for Israel. These approaches can be called “neutralising negativity” and “pushing positivity”.

Neutralising negativity is about attempting to counter harmful impressions and accusations. This is the side of hasbara that is concerned with the defence of Israel.

“Israel is not bad because….” “This action was justified because…”

This often involves arguing over sequences of events, attempting to reframe debates to focus on different issues, and placing events in a wider context, so that the difficulty of Israel’s situation is understood in a more positive light.

Neutralising Negativity is usually reactive and responsive. Pushing Positivity attempts to demonstrate the good things about Israel’s case. The aim to is make people see Israel in a good light and have sympathy with her.

“Israel is a democracy” “Israel wants peace”

This often involves setting the agenda, focusing on some of the more positive features of Israel, and taking the lead in attacking the Palestinian leadership in an effort to allow people to view Israel favourably in comparison.

BEING PROACTIVE AND PROMOTING ISRAEL

Much of Israel advocacy concerns being reactive and defending Israel against unfair accusations. However it is important that Israel activists are proactive too. Proactivity means taking the initiative and setting the agenda. It means being on the “attack”, trying to create positive impressions of Israel. Audiences who have a favourable general impression of Israel are likely to respond favourably when specific issues arise. It is a mistake to only try to promote Israel when she is being strongly criticised in the press.

Why Be Proactive?

Agenda Setting

The person who sets the agenda will usually win the debate. Reactivity forces Israel activists to be constantly on the defensive (“no, Israel is not all that bad”). However by setting the agenda Israel activists get to determine what to talk about, and can therefore discuss the things they feel help promote the pro-Israel message. Being proactive keeps the right issues in the public eye, and in the way Israel activists want them to be seen. It is much easier to get Palestinian activists defending Arafat against charges of being a corrupt terrorist than it is to explain to disinterested students that Ariel Sharon didn’t kill anybody at Sabra and Chatilla (which of course he didn’t). It is much easier to feed students falafel at a party than to explain why Zionism isn’t racism to a student who doesn’t even know what national self-determination is.

For more on this point see “How to score points while avoiding debate” in Communication Styles: Point Scoring and Genuine Debate

People Believe What they Hear First

Uncritical audiences believe something if they hear it first and hear it often. People tend to believe the first thing they hear about a certain issue, and filter subsequent information they hear based on their current beliefs. Once people believe something, it is hard to convince them that they were wrong in the first place.

COMMUNICATION STYLES: POINT SCORING AND GENUINE DEBATE

There are two major approaches to communication to use during Israel advocacy. These two approaches are used in different situations, and are designed to achieve very different things. These two approaches – ‘point scoring’ and ‘genuine debate’ – require different techniques, and the Israel activist must know how to use each technique at the correct time.

Point Scoring

Point scoring is a method of communication that prioritises making certain points favourable to the speaker, and attacking opponents of the speaker by trying to undermine their positions. Point scoring communication ought to give the appearance of rational debate, whilst avoiding genuine discussion.

The aim of the Israel activist point scorer is to try to make as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible, whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance.

Point scoring works because most audience members fail to analyse what they hear. Rather, they register only a key few points, and form a vague impression of whose ‘argument’ was stronger.

How To Score Points Whilst Avoiding Debate

Central to point scoring is the ability to disguise point scoring by giving the impression of genuine debate. Audience members can be alienated by undisguised attacks, so all point scoring needs to be disguised. To disguise point scoring, comments need to seem to be logical, and to follow from what was said before.

What Points To Make

Point scoring needs to be focused. Because the people listening to ‘point scoring’ are only paying partial attention, only two or three points have a chance of ‘sticking’. For this reason, focus point scoring on a few points supporting Israel, and a few points pointing out weaknesses in Palestinian positions. These points should be made again and again, in as many forums as possible. If people hear something often enough they come to believe it. Attempts to make too many different points will result in the audience remembering nothing.

A Field Guide to Hasbara

Turkey’s fallout with Israel deals blow to settlers
Ottoman archives show land deeds forged

by Jonathan Cook

Global Research, March 25, 2009

A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighbourhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.

After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.

On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.

The families’ unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.

Interest in the plight of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents peaked in November when one couple, Fawziya and Mohammed Khurd, were evicted from their home by an Israeli judge. Mr Khurd, who was chronically ill, died days later.

Meanwhile, Mrs Khurd, 63, has staged a protest by living in a tent on waste ground close to her former home. Israeli police have torn down the tent six times and she is facing a series of fines from the Jerusalem municipality.

The problems facing Mrs Khurd and the other residents derive from legal claims by the Sephardi Jewry Association that it purchased Sheikh Jarrah’s land in the 19th century. Settler groups hope to evict all the residents, demolish their homes and build 200 apartments in their place.

The location is considered strategic by settler organisations because it is close to the Old City and its Palestinian holy places.

Unusually, foreign diplomats, including from the United States, have protested, saying eviction of the Palestinian families would undermine the basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The help of the Turkish government has been crucial, however, because Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire when the land transactions supposedly took place.

Israel and Turkey have been close military and political allies for decades and traditionally Ankara has avoided straining ties by becoming involved in land disputes in the occupied territories. But there appears to have been an about-turn in Turkish government policy since a diplomatic falling-out between the two countries over Israel’s recent Gaza operation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, accused his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, of “lying” and “back-stabbing”, reportedly furious that Israel launched its military operation without warning him. At the time of the attack, Turkey was mediating peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Days after the fighting ended in Gaza, Mr Erdogan stormed out of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, having accused Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, of “knowing very well how to kill”.

According to lawyers acting for the Sheikh Jarrah families, the crisis in relations has translated into a greater openness from Ankara in helping them in their legal battle.

“We have noticed a dramatic change in the atmosphere now when we approach Turkish officials,” said Hatem Abu Ahmad, one of Mrs Khurd’s lawyers. “Before they did not dare upset Israel and put us off with excuses about why they could not help.”

He said the families’ lawyers were finally invited to the archives in Ankara in January, after they submitted requests over several months to the Turkish consulate in Jerusalem and the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Officials in Turkey traced the documents the lawyers requested and provided affidavits that the settlers’ land claims were forged. The search of the Ottoman archives, Mr Abu Ahmad said, had failed to locate any title deeds belonging to a Jewish group for the land in Sheikh Jarrah.

“Turkish officials have also told us that in future they will assist us whenever we need help and that they are ready to trace similar documents relating to other cases,” Mr Abu Ahmad said. “They even asked us if there were other documents we were looking for.”

That could prove significant as the Jerusalem municipality threatens a new campaign of house demolitions against Palestinians. Last week, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the recent issuing of dozens of demolition orders in Jerusalem “ethnic cleansing”.

Palestinian legal groups regularly argue that settlers forge documents in a bid to grab land from private Palestinian owners but have great difficulty proving their case.

Late last year the Associated Press news agency exposed a scam by settlers regarding land on which they have built the Migron outpost, near Ramallah, home to more than 40 Jewish families. The settlers’ documents were supposedly signed by the Palestinian owner, Abdel Latif Sumarin, in California in 2004, even though he died in 1961.

The families in Sheikh Jarrah ended up living in their current homes after they were forced to flee from territory that became Israel during the 1948 war. Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem until Israel’s occupation in 1967, and the United Nations gave the refugees plots on which to build homes.

Mrs Khurd said she would stay in her tent until she received justice.

“My family is originally from Talbiyeh,” she said, referring to what has become today one of the wealthiest districts of West Jerusalem. “I am not allowed to go back to the property that is rightfully mine, but these settlers are given my home, which never belonged to them.”

In 1948, 750 000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland. One hundred thousand of them fled to Lebanon. They live there now, in crowded refugee camps where disease runs rife. This documentary visits the camps. Survivors of Ariel Sharon’s Sabra and Shatilla camp massacre tell their story.

SABRA AND SHATILA

By Robert Fisk
Counter Currents

What we found inside the Palestinian camp at ten o’clock on the morning of September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to re-tell in the cold prose of a medical examination. There had been medical examinations before in Lebanon, but rarely on this scale and never overlooked by a regular, supposedly disciplined army. In the panic and hatred of battle, tens of thousands had been killed in this country. But these people, hundreds of them had been shot down unarmed. This was a mass killing, an incident – how easily we used the word “incident” in Lebanon – that was also an atrocity. It went beyond even what the Israelis would have in other circumstances called a terrorist activity. It was a war crime.

Jenkins and Tveit were so overwhelmed by what we found in Chatila that at first we were unable to register our own shock. Bill Foley of AP had come with us. All he could say as he walked round was “Jesus Christ” over and over again. We might have accepted evidence of a few murders; even dozens of bodies, killed in the heat of combat. But there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey.

Where were the murderers? Or to use the Israelis’ vocabulary, where were the “terrorists”? When we drove down to Chatila, we had seen the Israelis on the top of the apartments in the Avenue Camille Chamoun but they made no attempt to stop us. In fact, we had first been driven to the Bourj al-Barajneh camp because someone told us that there was a massacre there. All we saw was a Lebanese soldier chasing a car thief down a street. It was only when we were driving back past the entrance to Chatila that Jenkins decided to stop the car. “I don’t like this”, he said. “Where is everyone? What the f**k is that smell?”

Just inside the the southern entrance to the camp, there used to be a number of single-story, concrete walled houses. I had conducted many interviews in these hovels in the late 1970’s. When we walked across the muddy entrance to Chatila, we found that these buildings had been dynamited to the ground. There were cartridge cases across the main road. I saw several Israeli flare canisters, still attached to their tiny parachutes. Clouds of flies moved across the rubble, raiding parties with a nose for victory.

Down a laneway to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. Some had vivid crimson or black scars down the left side of their throats. One had been castrated, his trousers torn open and a settlement of flies throbbing over his torn intestines.

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 correct time, the second hand still ticking round uselessly, expending the last energies of its dead owner.

On the other side of the main road, up a track through the debris, we found the bodies of five women and several children. The women were middle-aged and their corpses lay draped over a pile of rubble. One lay on her back, her dress torn open and the head of a little girl emerging from behind her. The girl had short dark curly hair, her eyes were staring at us and there was a frown on her face. She was dead.

Another child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old. The back of her head had been blown away by a bullet fired into her brain. One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed into her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror.

“…As we stood there, we heard a shout in Arabic from across the ruins. “They are coming back,” a man was screaming, So we ran in fear towards the road. I think, in retrospect, that it was probably anger that stopped us from leaving, for we now waited near the entrance to the camp to glimpse the faces of the men who were responsible for all of this. They must have been sent in here with Israeli permission. They must have been armed by the Israelis. Their handiwork had clearly been watched – closely observed – by the Israelis who were still watching us through their field-glasses.

When does a killing become an outrage? When does an atrocity become a massacre? Or, put another way, how many killings make 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?

That, I suspected, was what this argument was about. If Syrian troops had crossed into Israel, surrounded a Kibbutz and allowed their Palestinian allies to slaughter the Jewish inhabitants, no Western news agency would waste its time afterwards arguing about whether or not it should be called a massacre.

But in Beirut, the victims were Palestinians. The guilty were certainly Christian militiamen – from which particular unit we were still unsure – but the Israelis were also guilty. If the Israelis had not taken part in the killings, they had certainly sent militia into the camp. They had trained them, given them uniforms, handed them US army rations and Israeli medical equipment. Then they had watched the murderers in the camps, they had given them military assistance – the Israeli airforce had dropped all those flares to help the men who were murdering the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila – and they had established military liason with the murderers in the camps.