About a year ago, I had a vivid dream. Somewhere in the West Bank, on a hot and dusty day, I was standing with a news team filming a story at the Separation Wall. A correspondent with a microphone in his hand was watching in astonishment as a long line of young Palestinian men ran up and forcefully threw their bodies against the towering concrete barrier, followed by dull thud after dull thud.
This week marks the 26th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, one of the bloodiest events of the second half of the twentieth century. A Google search for recent news reports on this year’s commemoration of the atrocity, however, brought up very little. Yes, there were some emotional blog posts, as well as a link to the BBC’s “On this Day” page, featuring quick facts and figures about the massacre, alongside an archival, and iconic, photograph of twisted corpses lying in a heap next to a cinderblock wall, the victims of an execution-style killing.
Although I am now officially middle-aged, only once have I felt the excitement of waking up to the joyous news that my candidate won the US presidential elections. That was way back in 1992 when Bill Clinton was first elected.I was living in Nazareth, conducting my dissertation research. When I found out Clinton had been elected, I let out a whoop of joy and believed that a new era of sanity, justice and decency had dawned. Several months later, I began to wonder.
Finally, an international tribunal will be tasked with investigating and prosecuting murder and mayhem in an Arab country. For human rights activists who have railed against continuing impunity for grave crimes in the Middle East, whether committed by Israelis or Arabs, whether orchestrated by states or non-state actors, this should be an occasion for unalloyed celebration, or at least relief. After all, mass murderers such as Ariel Sharon and Saddam Hussein escaped international justice for their crimes, the former by narrowly avoiding prosecution in Belgium under that country’s now-rescinded universal jurisdiction law, the latter being tried in an improvised court devoid of international oversight that could have revealed past American support for Hussein in the late 1980s, when he was gassing Kurdish villagers with chemical weapons he probably obtained from the United States.
A survey of US television and radio news over the last 24 hours has told me the following:
• Bombings and gunfights in Lebanon. Again.
• Breathless analyses on US news programs about Al-Qaida’s spread to the shores of the eastern Mediterranean.
• Analysts using the “cookie cutter” approach to this new development by citing the events of 1975-1976 and the tensions between Lebanese and Palestinian refugees.
• CNN’s putative Lebanon analyst, Brent Sadler, characterized Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as “breeding grounds for terrorism,” but now, according to Mr. Sadler, it’s Islamic-flavored terrorism.