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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .

Shabra and Shatila, September 1982
Bayan Nuwayhed, al-Hout

London: Pluto Press, 2004
225 pp PB 25.00 ISBN 0-7453-2302-2

Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hout provides five key objectives in writing Sabra and Shatila September 1982. They are 1) To ?conclusively? show what happened during September 16-18 1982, 2) To ?conclusively? show that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) did not renege on its promises by leaving 2,500 fighters in the Shatila district; 3) To ?conclusively? refute the reduced Israeli casualty list from both the secret Jermanos and Kahan reports; 4) To use primary sources to document the names of the murdered; and 5) To expose those militia and members involved in the murders.

Sabra and Shatila is the result of a twenty-year project that was designed, in the eyes of the author, to expose the truth about what happened during those three September days in 1982. These five objectives define how the book addresses this exposition. The key question for the reader is to assess how conclusively this is achieved.

This book is broken down into two parts; part one is comprised of six chapters that explore the demography of Sabra and Shatila and the events of the massacre predominantly from witnesses and survivors, and part two is comprised of two chapters and a conclusion that includes statistical data of the number and identity of the murdered that began with the field study carried out in spring 1984, as well as an analysis of culpability. Also included are four appendices that provide the raw data for part two and includes visual insight into the massacre.

The emotions driven by this massacre are the catalyst for this rational investigation. Further, Professor al-Hout is asking us how we can murder innocents, allow no full investigation, and expose who were responsible. This project reminds us of our responsibilities to humanity:

The principal aims are, first and last, linked to human conscience. Nor is this ?conscience? restricted to the citizens of one people; it extends to all human beings on the face of the earth, who will not tolerate the notion of killing children, pregnant women, the handicapped elderly, or even able-bodied adults with no weapons with which to defend themselves. (p. 246)

To be subjective is not a crime; to be openly honest of your position is a strength not a weakness, however this must be tempered with a rational logic. Former US Vice-President Spiro Agnew was correct when he suggested that truth is logically proved not revealed, and in this example, the truths of the massacres have been, in my view, logically proved.

The fact that I have used the term ?massacre? highlights how successful I accept this project is in providing the answers to the key objectives. Whether this is propaganda or not is a decision you will have to make in reading this book.

Matthew Hill is a Ph.D. student at the School of History and International Affairs at the University of Ulster.

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