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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1127

Mr KENT(7.35) —We witnessed yesterday a large demonstration in front of Parliament House by the Lebanese community, protesting against foreign involvement in the war in Lebanon. The fighting involves United States naval forces, Syrian forces, the fascist Phalangist supporters of Gemayel, and the Druze community. However, one must not forget that it was the Israeli invasion that plunged Lebanon into the current war. It was Israeli aggression that caused the death of many thousands of civilians and brought devastation to that unfortunate country.

It is over a year since the Begin forces invaded Lebanon. Last Thursday was the first anniversary of the massacre of 2,000 Palestinian men, women and children in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut. On 15 September 1982 Israeli forces moved into West Beirut, and on that day the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps began and continued into the morning of Saturday, 18 September. According to the Israeli Defence Minister's admission, on 15 September the Israeli forces allowed two armed battalions of Christian fascist militia forces, accompanied by tanks, through its lines into Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. News reports at the time confirmed that the militia of Saad Haddad was flown in by the Israelis to commit the atrocities. As a result, under the oversight of Israeli forces which were only 400 yards away, over 2,000 unarmed Palestinian men, women and children were massacred in the most brutal face to face killings of innocent civilians.

In its news release the Zionist Federation of Australia, when commenting on a judicial inquiry that Begin was forced to institute, stated:

No Israeli soldier could ever support or acquiesce in such hideous crimes against those tragic Palestinian families.

The Zionist Federation of Australia was proven wrong, not only by the massive evidence of eye witness reports from Beirut, but even by Begin's own inquiry which was set up to do a whitewash. There is no doubt today that Israel, led by Prime Minister Begin, stood condemned by the world for the massacres of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla camps in West Beirut. Even the Reagan Administration, which is usually uncritical of Israel, admitted that Israel was in full control of West Beirut when the killings occurred. Begin and Sharon stood condemned by the whole world as well as by many Israeli Jews. There were widespread demonstrations in Israel following the massacres. Demonstrators outside Begin's house, where an emergency Cabinet meeting was taking place at the time, called for the resignation of Begin and Sharon. Tear gas was used by the riot police to disperse the demonstrators and a number of them were arrested . Another 48 demonstrators were arrested in Tel Aviv. On the weekend of 25 and 26 September between 300,000 and 400,000 people, one-seventh of Israel's population, demonstrated, requesting an inquiry.

It is especially saddening to me that a nation which suffered so much from racism during its history organised the genocidal massacre of unarmed Palestinians. Forty-three years ago, in 1945, I saw the survivors of the holocaust returning to their destroyed homes, looking in vain for members of their families who were murdered in Hitler's concentration camps. It is incomprehensible to me that the same people who suffered so much would condone the racial killings in Sabra and Shatilla. I hope that sanity will soon prevail in the Middle East and that the pressure of world opinion will force Zionists to abandon their expansionist policies. There cannot be, and there will not be, peace in the Middle East until the right of Palestinians to their homeland and their right to self-determination is acknowledged.