Recently declassified documents discovered by doctoral candidate Seth Anziska at the Israel State Archives reveal key conversations between US and Israeli officials at the time of the 1982 IDF occupation of West Beirut, according to documents published by the The New York Times on Wednesday.
Thirty years later, Anziska has discovered transcripts that reveal American diplomats felt they were misled by Israel about events in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, and convinced them to accept the claim that thousands of terrorists were in the camps.
The massacres by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias on September 16, 1982 at Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut led to the slaughter of between 762 and 3,500 people. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.
After the assassination of then-president Bashir Gemayal, a Maronite, Israel reacted by quickly occupying West Beirut — ostensibly to prevent militia attacks against the Palestinian civilians. Israel had initially hoped that Gemayal would turn Lebanon into a Christian-ruled ally and neighbor, but with the growing militant presence of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Israel sought to intervene.
The documents convey heated discussions and repeated miscommunication between Israeli and US officials.
One such transcript between then-US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Israeli Moshe Arens, ambassador to the US at the time of the massacres, shows a heated discussion over Israeli policy in Beirut.
Eagleburger stated: "We got the impression your action would be of limited nature. Now we find you are across West Beirut. You know we objected to you going in."
Eagleburger continued, “Israel’s credibility has been severely damaged” and “we appear to some to be the victim of deliberate deception by Israel.”
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