Four Hours in Shatila Author(s): Jean Genet Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Spring, 1983), pp.

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Four Hours in Shatila
"Goyim goyim, kill the andthey cometohang Jews."
MenachemBegin 1982) (Knesset,September

can the no technique, putintowords six No one,nothing, narrative in which fedayeen the the and spent the weeks, months, especially first As the and mountains Jerash Ajlounin Jordan. forrelating events, of and of PLO,that the has the establishing chronology, successes failures the in The of beendonebyothers. feeling theair,thecolorofthesky, the the can the these be told;butnever faint of trees, intoxication, earth, the the in eyes, the the barely touching earth, sparkle the lightnessfootsteps of the between fedayeen alsobetween but not of openness relationships only the was and leaders. Under trees, them their everyone aquiver, everything, at withwonder thislife,so newforall, and in these laughing, filled watchful, reserved, strangely immovable, vibrations wassomething there to EveryEverything belonged everyone. protected someone like praying. And perhaps not. In theend,smiling and one was alonein himself. where The for theyhad withdrawn political haggard. area in Jordan to and by from Syrian border Salt, wasbounded the reasons extended the 60 and roadfrom Jerash Irbid. to About kilometers River the long Jordan
*Jean Genetis a French poetand playwright. also wroteon thePalestinians theAutumn1973 He in issueof theJournal.

they . it to me.theword"Palestinians.Palestinian others.For me. Butthere wereso many If flies.Since the fedayeen had left the as was of onlyrecently adolescence behind.withtheir against I theother.magicalbond had developed. or theArabnewspaper Infuriated placedovera head.The Europeanpressspokeoff-handedly.I disturbed by swarmed ontothebackofmyhandandtried feedthere. thesign and gave assurance of being. I lifted handkerchief the didn'tbother them. West Beirut. intensity thisjoy atbeingaliveis also called of beauty. Then suddenly. familiar old people.Betweeneach soldierand his weapon a loving. February.The artillery place. a tion. thismountainous and and thecamouflaged Jordanian villages sparsecrops. Itwasthen there thatI discovered Palestinian the The extraordinary Revolution. talked Israel.criticized their The rest thetime. and this their Some managed featofdisassembling reassembling weapons so blindfolded theycould do it at night. youngsoldierswould take care of theirweapons. thebodyof an article. themquickly.Underthetrees had tentsthefedayeen setup combatunitsand emplacedlight and semiin arms. Fromone wallof thestreet theother. little and 20 deep. blackandbloatedcorpsesthat hadto stepoverwere the against all Palestinian Lebanese. April197 1. disdainfully. fedayeen of leaders and and insulted therich. evidence the ofwhatwashappening. December 1970. Ten yearswentby. to myaction.January. whether a headline.and above all they in the wereinvolved and theone they abouttherevolution.disthenreassemble assemblethemto clean and greasethem. about thePalestinian people.walking through a wereso small. Sometimes dead childblockedthestreets: so they The smellis probably and thedead so numerous. to can be walkedthrough. appeared:teeth the dranktea.directed heavy mainly against possibleJordanian operations.4 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES area was coveredwithholm oaks. and forwhatremained thepopulaand of Shatilaand Sabra resembled gameofhopscotch. * * * A photograph twodimensions. narrow. " in in Forme. a weapon. Aggressiveness distriumphant virility showedbehindthesmile.and I heardnothing about them. exceptthatthe even fedayeen werein Lebanon. rifle. a handout. bentor one walland their heads pressing feetpushing arched.November. does a television has so neither screen. one they were about to enter upon.immediately to mindfedayeen a specific on calls in determined spot-Jordan-and atan easily date:October.

or rather itscontinuous to backing away." man about forty a answeredin French.As ifthewholebodywasnothing a bladder theshapeofa in but the of man. The beltwas unbuckled.These two wordsare quickly associatedwhenone of them written is down.ions. get downnextto it. blackunlacedarmy in bare. nor white of Neither does itshowhow you mustjump overbodies as you walkalong fromone corpse to the next. gestures. Slightly above theknee youcould see a thigh woundunderthetornfabric. His headwaslarger I a watermelon-ablack watermelon. to was facedown.Partoftheblackened next in to thethehead. a a Flies than knife.I had to go to Shatilato understand obscenity the of of love and theobscenity death. askedhis name.purpleand blue. belongto one and The bodyofa manofthirty thirty-five lying world to theother.In bothcases thebodyhas nothing more evensilences tohide:posit.iftheIsraelis. If you look closelyat a had become so bloated in thesun and through chemistry thatthepantswerestretched as decomposition tight thoughtheywere and thighs. dagger? on thewoundand aroundit. boots.The calveswere blackand swollen. single buttonheldthepants. He would years havehad a shockofwhite hairifa wound(an axe blow. perhaps had he at or beentaken surprise night at dawn.SHATILA 5 The first corpseI saw wasthatofa manfifty sixty or old."See what done. The onlypartof theface goingto burstopen at thebuttocks thatI could see was purpleand black. . "Who is it?" "A Palestinian. movean armor a finger. Thefeet. Thathappenswhen But youlook at it carefully." they've He pulledback theblanket covering feet the and partofthelegs. whereas nothing had beenoccupying building this sinceWednesdayafternoon? they A photograph doesn'tshowtheflies thethick smell death.he was a Muslim. contortions. signs. hadn'tsplithisskull. is Did theShatilamassacre take place in hushedtonesor in totalsilence. Love and death. it muchthere suddenly is very and almostfriendly. Cause ofthewound:a seemedto me) brainwas on theground. an odd phenomenon occurs:theabsenceof lifein thisbody corresponds the to totalabsenceofthebody. bothsoldiersand claimto haveheardnothing.Was he running He by away? was in to of lying a little to alleyimmediately theright theentry Shatilacamp the which acrossfrom KuwaitiEmbassy. havesuspected to officers. shouldyou makea movein itsdirection.The wholebody was lying a pool ofblackand clotted a blood.The dead man'sfeet and legswerebareand black.You feel that evenbycoming closeryoucan never touchit.

twoold Arab women.. a Palestinian who was stillin Beirut Sunday. but look at it yourself.Shamir. by menof twenty. thesetortured all victims. center a compasswhosequadrants of of I jot thisdown now. journalist In themiddle.Begin. I so asked themanof forty I could see theface." "Did you see himdie?" "Yes." "The Kataeb?" "I don't know." "Was it Haddad's men?" "I don't know. in . grotesque gestures thedead fermenting thesun underclouds of flies.Sharon. (an American)could geta good pictureof it. nearthem. Fromafarhe intoa side street. and of by positions.'Well.whichI was arranged thatMrs.6 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES and theanklesofbothfeet werevery tightly boundtogether theknotof by a strong rope-its strength obvious-about ninefeetlong." "The Israelis?" "I don't know.September on 19. mindcan'tget my ridofthis"invisible vision":whatwasthetorturer Who washe?I see like? himand I don'tsee him.He's as large life as and theonlyshapehe willever haveis theone formed thestances." "Who killedhim?" "I don't know. not knowing exactlywhyat thispoint in my "The French havea habitofusingtheinsipidexpression narrative: 'dirty orderedtheKataebor theHaddawork." "Did you knowhim?" "Yes. S. if "If you wantto. just like theIsraeliarmy had diststo do their work'doneby 'dirty work." "Would you helpme turnhis head?" "No.sir.sir." "Who tiedhimup?" "I don'tknow.'theLabor Party its'dirty theLikud."I have just quoted R. looked back at me and disappeared WhichalleyshouldI takenow?I wasdrawn menfifty by years old.and I felt ifI werethe as young by contained hundreds dead." He hastily walkedaway fromthe dead man and me." "Did they draghimthrough streets the withthisrope?" "I don'tknow.

Bashir Gemayel's and away. (American." a Lebanesewriter restoring "It willbe veryeasy forIsrael to clear itselfof all the accusations.Theirbrutality witha sight them.The intervention the threearmies Italian)comes to an end on Monday. French.The soldiers downon thesidewalk thirty intervals ahead.the Frenchparatroopers. preceded them. thePLO leaves circumstances.their leanedagainst embassy out twolegsstretched infront looked likeboas with their longtorsosthey of them. Palestinians are the to had Italians notbeenwarned clearoutprontoso as notto appearmixed of up in thebombing theKataebheadquarters? early. creating hiding as on in Beirut triumph. visitsBeginin Israel. West Beirut Tsahal [Israel DefenseForces]enters Bashiris assassinated.Then thejeeps.On Tuesday. Arafat Palestinian same promise. With rifles the pointedstraight wall. battlepreparedness. stancesto itsfavor. The tankscameafter they stoppednearthe march. Habib not to set "Israel had promisedthe Americanrepresentative of to the and populations the footinWestBeirut especially respect civilan in stillhas the letter whichReaganmade the camps. . With wereadvancing Beirut morning Bashir'sfuneral.The 'bloodbath'thatIsraelclaimedit wouldprevent told me. As if theywerecomingfromthe port. of the on soldiers in coming single from eighth the floorofmyhouse I sawthem binoculars. Tiredout by sucha longearly-morning into goingright the letting tanksgo on ahead of them. a Greekship. one a good rifle they could havebeen pickedoff.Habib supposedlypromisedArafatthatnine thousand in the On in prisoners Israelwouldbe freed.fledinHercules by (theItalians.Bashir. date. .SHATILA 7 and the Italian If the AmericanMarines. skill in turning in Let's see. Embassy. of best he can.Israeli on Wednesdaymorning.Israelbragsand boastsaboutits and very very quickly Theyleft circumits its combat efficiency. on thedaybefore wererunning and French if in really wrong wondering Americans. Thursday massacres Shatila by and Sabrabegin. French and at foot sat Hamra. no them: at of Journalists all theEuropeanpressarealready workclearing to and to from on Friday one willsaythat thenights Thursday Friday from . so forcein Lebanonleft quickly who bersagliere madeup an intervention airplanes!) whoarrived shiptwodayslate. orderto thecamps. becausewith else that file: column.witha ifthey departure their official hoursbefore one dayor thirty-six assassination.I wassurprised nothing happened.

out with whatsurvives froma destroyed piece of wall. of realhappiness perhaps had beencreated ofothers'throwaways.The the and me young man. turned towards the sky.Werethesebruises thenatural or result rotting of in thesun? "Did theystrike withthebuttof therifle?" her "Look.Soldiers. a either grin to or smileor else to cryout in a silentand unbrokenscream." The endsofthefingers. The Palestinian woman-for I couldn'tleave Shatilawithout going from corpseto another this del'oie* wouldinevitably up at one and jeu end thismiracle: Shatila Sabrarazed theground realestate and to and battles to rebuildon thisvery cemetery-the flat Palestinian womanwas probably elderly becauseherhairwasgray. first wassurprised a strange by braidmadeofropeandcloth whichwentfromone wristto the other.similar "snakesand ladders. The room of and gavean impression serenity even friendliness. without I At comfort. sir. again withthe delicate mauve tintsmatchedby a similarpurple and mauveinthecheeks. discovering using "Look.holdingthe two arms apart horizontally. like gardening laughing kids andgaily had had and these singing.we'll waitforyou outside.andherpinkandgray flowered dress. slightly hikedup or I too short.the bricks. topjoints.look at herhands. ifcrucified."Thatis whatanother Lebanese told me. probably fun shears.withwhatI first thought gameof goose.sir. teeth thatseemedvery white me. revealedthetops of swollenblackcalves. don't knowwhich." I hadn'tnoticed." gameof chanceusingdice-Ed.Her stockings were blackwool. Threeyoung menled me down an alley. nearhappiness.layinthedust.8 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES Saturday Hebrewwas spokenin Shatila.the twistediron rods. the with nail. She was stretched on herback.who was simply naturally showing how thedead had been tortured.laid out or leftthereon the rubble.a facethat to seemed.All I could distinguish now was a heap of pinkand graycloth.revealed open mouth. calmlyput a cloth back over the face and hands of the Palestinian woman. to a *Literally. "Go in." The first room was whatremained a two-story of house. an blackwith and flies. a pieceofcorrugated and cardboard overherlegs.hoveredover by flies. blackandswollen as Her face.The fingers thetwohandswerespreadoutand the of tenfingers werecutas ifwith shears. without moving muscle. sir. .

actually a material junkyard)." Itis time notethat suddenand quitemomentary to this madness which mademe countyards white of clothgavean almostbriskliveliness my to I step.which there were draft.The door swung. I no longerdisturbed gotten anything theseruins.The three meandafter young fairly from noses.This pile of shieldssmelled strongly.I thought myself there ofslight to But be boardsor carpenters makethecoffins.all I knownowis thewordkeys)whenan old manwent running by.The roomcontained the this in quiet.How many yards Whatwasmissing Andhow many many corpses? prayers? here. The smelland theflies but had.two unlitcandelabras. spiteof thecarpetof spentshells.the heel of a corpse lying its back.come quickly.and thatit mayhave been caused by a remark hearda Palestinian womanfriend maketheday before.I realized. of was therhythm prayers. I wascoming ofthehouse. neartwo other facedown. and duringthose from fromThursdayto Friday. then wouldnever enough were Muslims. They've . itdidn'tsmellbad. me for herhouse. used to me.itseemedto me thatsomeonehad visited their menwerewaiting far death. thesedead menbefore Yet. sir.without lockor/latch. "I was waiting themto bring mykeys(whichkeys:to hercar. 'Where are you going?''To get help. fairly as quiet room. couch withcushionscoveredwithgaudyflowered A withstylized a designs. Duringthe night Fridayto Saturday and Saturdayto Sundayno one had keptvigilwith I them. I steppedoverthebodiesas one crosseschasms. as ifeach one had takencare to protect one underhim. "Come.SHATILA 9 three seats(perhapsa Mercedes car a werethree from armchairs.all of themresting another on corpsesof menlying carpetof fell spentshells. I'm the itseemed. if I a and pushedthedoor.piledon top ofeach otheron a single bed.that hada suddenattack to that madness that mademealmostsmile. smallsilentradio. walkedon thespentshells the openedtowards otherroom.I nearly severaltimesbecauseof them.butI had to pushhard:theheelofa boot on blockedthe way. all needcoffins? dead menand women The why wouldthey wouldittaketo enshroud so whoaresewnintoshrouds. over thehouse withhandkerchiefs their I as out Itwasthen.or as iftheyhad been the caughtin a decaying orgiastic copulation. Atthebackoftheroomanother door wasopen.

at night. to I has where am staying. vegetables. needhelpgathering thebones'. children our off they carry soldiers. and myself was which neartheBeirut-Damascus AttheSportsStadium. a so-calledimplosionbomb. to cuts made this the day to graspand touch. everyone a radio." I She continued: is This friend a Christian.digging bodies and limbsas it. "We are linkedto Israel by manycurrents our soldiers. tanks. one imagined who and the fedayeen of no doubt fearedthe activity the Murabitoun* in remain sectionsof West Beirut. filled box. whichbringus bombs. Electricity times as two "(school theblind" Israeli deliverpiles of weapons. Radio-Jerusalem Radio-Murabitoun.10 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES I All bombedthecemetery. killedtwo people.ofthatwhite The telephone cutoff in water.wehad onlyone box. in Radio-Lebanon. The menduga massgrave hundred fifty and We the cemetery. to Palestine. it the The dayafter entrance theIsraeli caused a continualand unceasingcomingand going. itdid theclimbing. timein mylife. or three for all marble the stairway.I felt of contactwiththe restof the world.No soldierwas laughing smiling. see." during handshavehad a double function: Over thelastthree months. "When the vacuumbomb. was whenthe thecontainers thehousewith their Hebrewinscriptions. thebones are uncovered. one was throwing or flowers. thoseinsidescaredtheywouldbecomea fixed They target.The an and at thesametime showedtheywerekeeping eyeon thewholecity. rice deprived was and Sincetheroadshadbeencutoff thetelephone silent. Radio-Kataeb. alongwith entered West Beirut Israelisoldiers Merkava tankswhich stopped never So weretheroadsaroundBeirut. Lebanese destroyed by nearly completely already damaged. had to fill We cliff.and wentto empty in theOrthodoxChurch out underthebombs. highway. fruit. groupin thepro-Palestinian *A Nasserite . think.because LebaneseNationalMovement-Ed. they werelessfeared seemedto methattheinvaders or No less fearthandisgust. apartment. We back and forth bestwe could.forthefirst becomePalestinian hateIsrael.We listen In theapartment (in Radio-Amman. the aerialbombardment. eight-floor a day. doingthesamething every Theyareprobably French). might but we of army wereprisoners.all supposedlyvoluntarily officers.

"theyinvadeus. thecamps pervaded forest more muted beautyprevailedbecause of the presenceof a different. in the Palestinian bases." * * * The statement there a beautypeculiarto revolutionaries that is raises many problems.SHATILA II according them. Everyone knows. each one conjuredup or shapeda girllying the their againsthim.and therefore unknown. . a taskswas buta smallstepin theself-assured journeytowards new."he adds. Evenmorethanthemen.morethanthefedayeen toexplain in combat.A cystallizing gavea gentleness to every action." (A Palestinian in in fedai). thesame origins.movement gazesimilar that thefedayeen. They must be furiouswith us and with themselves. joy of blood flowing the through veins. it bases. have been linkedto themsince Abraham. us wouldliketohugus.and as forthewomen. a glowing for prideforthe men. they already men. his language.thefedayeen of it that though seems. order. that young children or adolescents in living old and harshsurroundings a beauty face. thatbeautysubtly In of a madealivebythefreedom thefedayeen. "In short.and fathers grandfathers the and will havea hardtimeextinguishing gleamin theeyes. In the springof 1971.their wasvisible. everyone suspects.thethrobbing the the in the temples. Theysaythey ourcousins.the Palestinian womenseemedstrong enoughto sustainthe with revolution. wouldtakea longand complexdiscussion their radiance. werenotonlyatthedawnof but frost pre-revolution ina sensuallimbo. new a freedom pushesthrough dead skin.hence the particular gracefulness. the a from combat The campsreceived sortoflight womenand children. have of and to of body. theystuff suffocate and us. ly uncovered. Perhaps may this in be explained thefollowing withtheancient way:breaking ways.They're are very to see sad us turn away from them. a that camealong and resistance acceptthechanges They had already in disobeyedthecustoms:theylooked themenstraight the hair sometimes refused weara veil. strength-with We the amusedlaughter-of armed fedayeen.rather.but whichgave thema hintof a cleansing and liberation themselves.they completeThe briefest mostprosaicof their and their voices steady. lineage. to eye. werefortheir wereperhapsdreaming girls In thewoods of Ajloun. his to we in . . They were as of to ready becomeboththewivesand themothers heroes.

Herfacewasseriousbutnotill-tempered.hastily erected permanent structure.I found and erect. sembledand used." mostjoyful becauseitis themost existedwhenthey desperate.. finally but undernoron they in a disturbing movement a wrong was one.and a barefoot very and to wouldreturn Jerash to Baq'a camp.they at gleefully referred as "our house.She wouldcome back thenextday.crouching theAndean in like Indians certain or BlackAfricans. untouchables Tokyo. he then wouldsignal her. to in ready takeoff suddenly case ofdanger.. The sun Palestinian resistance: theyweremirth its above them continued journey. running.She wouldenter room.but the the it. Turkey.everyone was in theArabiclanguage. but tired The commandoleaderwould preparea nearly not weary. They stillsaw a Palestinewhichno longer had a land. under trees front in a of theguardhouse. everyday for a month. in outthat theroomreserved herintheguardhouse usedto takeoff for she her two black skirts.laughing saying: "darna.but space where any and Under the bare feetof theseoctogenarian supremely eleganttragedienneswas the earthsolid? It was less and less true. withsuch childlike voices. timestheglowing and coals..theTziganes the of atmarket. One of themis reported have said: to . the werediscovering of movement.Butwhatland?Jordan. Other older women would laughbecause fora home theyhad only three blackenedstoneswhich. through administrative Amerand politicalfiction createdby France. Theyare laughing. Each ofthewomenspeaksin turn. "Mirthwhich has lostall hope..disasout nearly everyday cards. empty room..without wordor a smile. removethe envelopesand the letters sewninside. small." These old womenbelongedneither therevolution to the to nor whichhas lost all hope.An armor an extended created finger thin an an increasingly shadow.After havingfled the Hebron underIsraelithreats earthhereseemedsolid. top ofit. JebelHussein(Amman). bundlethemtogether knock once on thedoor.alwaysin Ajloun.12 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES and Constantly. notlocking Then she would come out. was She waiting barefoot herblackdresstrimmed in with braidat thehemand on theedgeofthesleeves. Turning letters and the overto theleadershe wouldgo out and leavewithout a saying word.closing door. pleasure ideasdealt like playing the weapons assembled.England.Theywereneither weresixteen. I saw a skinny strong but woman crouching thecold. peasant-farmers." Theyshowedme thethree to and somestones. walking. ica. timewent As and lighthearted movedsensuously this:thePalestinians werelessand less bytheearthseemedto experience bearable thesametime these as these at samePalestinians.

thefour wallsare aroundthehouse. * * * Here in the ruinsof Shatila thereis nothing left. whereas arebornintoa people. after Israelis the S. sister. and I can makesome more. wouldempty automatic his rifle intotheir skulls. justicehas no role. arrived. and house occupiedby soldiers. They crumblein different ways:like puff pastry squeezed of betweenthefingers some indifferent voraciousgiantKingKong. and Theyare in theright because I love them.Night.but I defendthe Palestinians wholeheartedly automatically.SHATILA 13 "Heroes! Whata joke! I gavebirth and spankedfiveor six of them to who are in thejebel. You can selecta particular community otherthanthatof yourbirth.The night like less something lightning thana hundred yards away.You knowthat us almost acrossfrom there a kindofIsraeli is command a post:four tanks.To and at whatthey they emphasize at say pointtheir finger theendofa sentence and the stress emphatic consonants.I knowwhatthey're madeof.I am French. And theclanking .theother withno cracks. Israelisoldier.butthisjusticeand the defense thiscommunity takeplace because of an emotionalentire of perhapsintuitive. ButwouldI love themifinjustice notturned had them intoa wandering people? Almostall thebuildings Beirut havebeen hit. and the leandeliciously an elegant in times topthree four or floors other pleat.These tragediennes remember imagine the same time. a giving sortofLebanesedraping thebuilding. my my was verydark. thevery young fedayeen. one facadeis intact. of an shouldhe see thesegoddesses.Withoutthesentences. All of a suddenthere was a loud clank. toldme:"Nighthad fallen. it musthavebeen seveno'clock.A few silentold behinda door where white a clothis whatthey in stillcall West Beirut.but it is still warm. clank.Everybody." In the ever-blue sky the sun has continuedits journey. sensual-attraction.As for womenhastily hiding I willmeetsome in Damascus. Should a Jordanian soldierhappenbyhe in would be delighted: therhythm thesentences would rediscover of he therhythm Bedouindances.the bomb dropped by the airplanefellin the standing center madea holeoutofwhatwasthestaircase theelevator and and shaft. And everyonce in a whiletherewas balcony. In WestBeirut. thisselection based on an irrational is you which notto saythat is affinity. brother-in-law I ranouton the and clank.I wipedtheir bottoms. officers guards. to If go If wallswillbe shell-pocked.

top vinehad grown.therefugees to theJews. Don't of two onlyblametheKataebwho replacedthem. or else.But thisland.)" H.The lightning.." H. again. which of didn'tbelongto theGod oftheJews (thislandwasfull gods).14 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES noise is getting closer.fewlittorches. had was from tobottom.this who had their own Kataebwa la yahoud (Thereis no God but Allah.The Jewsused to say and still say that God had promised a Abrahamand his descendents land of milkand honey. been shooting cleanedout Damascus. bringing themfood and encouraging of of the drink.or ifyou prefer. by the Arkofthe fought against Joshua's troopsandendedup stealing famous whichtheJews wouldnever havewon." . you as theheirto Solomon?" of In thecamps. Moroccanand Tunisianinfantry." "All thepans mustbe rusted: buyan emery-cloth.Israelis guilty allowing themordersand of companiesof Kataeb to enterthe camps. said to me: "When you came to Beirutand Damascus in 1928 Damascuswasdestroyed. And England." in He: "We blame Israelforthemassacres Shatilaand Sabra.professor history: 1917 Abraham's of "In trick brought was up to date. lighting campsat night.. They were La screaming. General Gouraudandhistroops." thetreaty giving a mandate .and who land was inhabited theCanaanites. God was alreadytheprefiguration Lord of Balfour.after dreamed their of twenty years exile. chanting: ilahilla Allah." "Oh no. without Covenant." to "Maybe we shouldhook up electricity thebarn. and no one dared to thinkor say thatIsraelhad destroyed it that where barley the field beenthere a bank.. didn'tyetruleoverPalestine (thatlandofmilkand honey)since it had not yetbeen signed. no more hand-embroidered dresses: you can get me one machine sewing for and one forembroidering.Whom had and did theSyrian people accuse?" Me: "The Syrians blamedFrance themassacres thedestruction for and in Damascus. a And forty fifty or kids about twelveor thirteen yearsold beatingrhythmically little on eitherwithrocksor hammers something jerrycans.of giving themforthreedaysand nights." "Beginclaimsthathe came to thecountry Does thatPole strike "That's thenameofa movie:TheLongAbsence. in to theKataeb. wherea climbing and a powerstation "Shall we replacethegateto thefield?" "We'll have to rebuildpartof thewall nextto thefigtree.

to solitary on The communicate.alongwith for has and impossible bitterness knowna joy whichis extreme. Dead and abandoned. thatwe old and are abandoning their How can we tellthemthat bodies without prayers? we don't knowwheretheyare buried?" The massacres nottakeplace in silenceand darkness. as what Whatpartying.on hatred. old how. the Beirut. probably of drunkon which listening. all the the and who affection. The solitude of the dead in Shatila camp was even more palpable had and had becausethey gestures poseswhich Dead any they notplanned.But"cleanedup" itwillbe worth ? per .ItrazesShatila..they be proudbecause this obviousdestitution veilsa hiddenglory. hunting down and destroying Palestinians? What did it by wantto gainin Shatila:thedestruction Palestinians. "What can we sayto their in trusting the promises Reagan. whohad assuredthem of Mitterrand Perini. giving them I didn'tsee thisIsraeliarmy on. . byIsraeli Lit did to the flares. saw whatit did.itkillscorpses.. butaroundthemthere a moredesolatebarrenness: is tents with shanties. reestablishing WhatdidIsrael Answer: what itgainby massacre? gainintheShatila did Whatdid itgainbybombing civilian the Lebanon? entering for population two months. tenderness love floatedin searchof Palestinians would neveranswer.Theymayremain prisoners thecamp'sunhappy of spell. To theargument: Whatdid Israelgainbyassassinating Bashir: entering orderand preventing bloodbath. families wholeft withArafat. in the camp. Yet around us.SHATILA 15 The old people ofthecampswerewretched. egging listening I watching. Israeliswerelistening Shatilaas earlyas Thursday evening.extreme In destitution makesyou yearn thepast. The man who has knownthis. and encouragement. people and womento be massacred. holes in theminhabitedby familieswhose pride glows. Jordanian campsperched therocky slopesarebare. thissense. was thejoy ofentertaining Israeliarmy the looking. of Itkillsmen. and that the How can we explainthat civilianpopulationof thecampswould be safe? we allowedchildren.Itis notcertain that thisPalestinan groupwillleavethecampswithregret.Itis notuninterested the in realestatespeculation theimproved on land: it's worth fivemillionold francs squareyard stillinruins.. they mayalso havebeen but so in Palestine there nostalgia playeda magical role. Anyonewho obviousdestitution deniesthatmencan becomefondand proudoftheir can understands of nothing thehumanheart. feasting wenton there deathseemedto takepartin and thepranks soldiersdrunkon wine.

a member theBeirut after massacres.She climbed see me whenshe foundout I was coming I theeight floorsof thebuilding-no electricity.whose spentshellsI kickedunderfoot (tens of thouskinbykilling? The Who wasrisking their sands).16 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES I amwriting in Beirut this where.acrossfromone camp entrance. upperclass. owes to itslongstanding Manyquestionsremain. is "We knewthatBashirhad goneto Israel.Very refined. furniture antique. is now whatit colonialist a way in a haslongbeenbecoming: loathsome. whichit become theDefinitive whichfewdare to imitate.He was wrong.weary tired beingan example. Bashir's before massacres.She is veryelegant. wereright tellme the to "Before death. whatdid they with slayers where But and have is. being as and of of untouchable.I am too highly strung." "Please don't tellme whatyou saw in Shatila. elected An head of stateshould not associatewithpeople like that.. on Thursday theywerealready theAkka Hospital. I mustkeep mystrength facetheworstwhichis stillto come.still lying theground. perhaps becausedeathis so close.I saw it. heardtheshotsfired lit by so manyguns.Louis XVI. of taking advantage whatit believesit has become-the vengeful of saint of the Inquisition-Israel had decided to allow itself to be judgedcoldly. and theystoppedthemimmediately. you thattheworstwas about to happen. the of of of the Mrs.listened it. Israelis campas soon as they knewabout themassacres. B. saw onlytwo unusedanti-tank weapons. IftheIsraelis to merely up thecamp.whowasactually firing? The Who? And how many? Phalangists? Haddadists? And for Whathappenedto theweaponsresponsible all thesecorpses? In themselves? thepartof whatabouttheweaponsofthosewhodefended I thecamp whichI visited. having Judge curseas muchas to itschosenstatus. do the that on Saturday. it Thanksto a skillful predictable but metamorphosis. but elegant elderly. temporal power. How did theassassinsgetintothecamps?Were theIsraelisat all the In at exitsto Shatila? anycase.cameto back from Shatila. on everythingtruer is thaninFrance: everything seemsto be happening if. I think.suppose she is elderly.I was surethat ." and to She livesalone with husband(seventy her years old) and hermaidina Her in largeapartment Ras Beirut. they gone? After assassination BashirGemayeland twenty his friends. entered Shatila to the According thenewspapers.

muchthat the so alive I wasunabletodetermine this of who. has Mrs.inthehallofa house. so thatsometimestwo people cannot walk are so skinny. and herhusband"don't quitebelievein metempsychosis. come.a little water. from end of thehall wherethere intothedust.B. dirty rags. ." in as The servants.hadleft trickle was a pool as faras the the driedblood. and in Arabic? phraseit fortheArab countries when? And exactly And how in English French? and Just think about the a precautions surrounding suspiciousdeath in the West. also speakFrench. Ambassadors. finally in their everyone goesto theshelter thebasement. You haveto knowthatthePalestinian campsofShatilaand Sabra are little eventhealleys madeup ofmiles and milesofnarrow alleys-forhere." "Carlos.menand womenwhowerestill at sinceblood had flowed from bodiesfora longtime. wounds. autopsies. the anddragged dying theend ofa rope.Was it a Palestinian man?A doorstepwhereit disappeared A woman? Phalangist whosebodyhad been removed? one FromParis.fifteen twenty or even well-armed Israeliflares out thisslaughter. be their their Itmay necessary look after to them.One can allowIsrael werethefirst report from to to claimthatthejournalists the Jerusalem How did they massacre. thread-like with unlessone walkssideways-strewn cement together rubbish. to wivesand daughters. doctors. underthelight the multi-colored of bricks.Bashir going givebackthat to callshim mydearfriend. transport the to or whata predicament! hospital thecemetery.myglasses. areaccepted theshelter they too." me "Carlos. and In ballistics testimonies counter-testimonies!Beireports.their a servants. canentertain doubtsaboutthewholething.withitssilentservants. The killers fighters would have been unableto carry werenumerous. "Carlos.The explosionsgetcloser to the buildingwherewe are." What willhappenifthey reborn Israelis? are as The dayof Bashir'sburialis also thedaytheIsraeliarmy enters West Beirut. probably and workedand they accompanied torture by cut squads who splitskulls. fingerprints. offarms." The upperclass. especially ifone knowsnothing about thelayoutofthecamps. UN representative Lebanon.bring a pillow.slashedthighs.handsand fingers. itsown wayof resisting.ButI don'twanttohearaboutit. whichlit up thecamps.I the have to save mystrength withstand terrible to blows thatare yetto was letter which Begin in Mr.and thatat night.SHATILA 17 awful something wouldhappento him. blocks.

pickedup an upper dentalplatein thedustand setit on whatremained thewindowledge. understood nothing? Because that'sjust whatBegindeclaredto the Knesset:"Goyim kill come to hangtheJews. and evenafter camerashad recorded the of brutality theslayings. was at lasta very between twobodies. He seemedcrestfallen. eyesas white porcelain bulging at out. heardnothing. As I looked closer.on becameclearthatit had been brutally off wrenched the thatusuallyhelditto thethigh amputated becausethestraps leg. He was a Palestinian who had been dead two or threedays. Thisartificial belonged thesecondbody. to It there another. wereall broken.then another.likeall theheadsand all thebodies.werelooking me. Akka Hospital. the to Shatila.mybeing. In the street perpendicular the one whereI leftthe threebodies.there the in living object.occupiedby theIsraelis. hisarmraised.butforty. abouttwoo'clock inthe rupted. of The palmofhishandopen towards sky. theshadowofa wall. In a narrow in body. No one had had theheart close his his as and eyelids. mistook for and black.intact the a carnage. street.18 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES rut. open nottwohundred yards Theysaw nothing.I walkednearhisfeet.apparently plastic.theone on whichI had to leg a noticedonlyone legwitha footwearing blackshoe and a gray sock. I thoughtI saw a black boxer sitting the ground." go-im. with this leaning aginst angleofthe wall.and they I mustconclude mydescription Shatila. translucent pinkobject whichcould stillbe used: an artificial in a leg. opening the his the in hispantswhere beltwas missing: hiveswhere the all flieswerefeeding. The stenchof deathwas comingneither froma house nor a victim: my seemedto emitit. If I himatfirst a blackboxeritis becausehisheadwasenormous. Red afternoon. and acrossfrom entrance an from camp. and wearing blackshoe and a gray sock.inthespace overone corpse. whentheInternational Crosscame in withitsbulldozers. Who ordered this haste? Especiallyafter thisstatement sweptthe worldthatChristians had and Muslimshad killedeach other. on to to surprised havebeenknockedout.butitwaslying at theentrance thestreet thatI had to walkbyitand turn of so aroundto .scarcelyhad the massacrebecome knownthanthe Lebanesearmy took of officially charge thecampsandimmediately eradicated ruins the of the houses and the remainsof the bodies. I stepped Thereinthedust.laughing.whichwas briefly of interHerearethebodiesI sawlast. wasnotcompletely was the blocking way.whether thesun swollen in I or intheshadowofthehouses.

moans. evenfriendly me. brother to a the very soft. I triedto countthem.butwhenI lookedat thosein West Beirut and ShatilaI saw fear.I looked morecarefully. it was fresh.I camecloserto her. hintof a bodies the something stillfragile whichwas goingto blindus whenthescalesfinally beauty fell fromtheirskin and our eyes. samecolorall over. on of In France. Virtue also there. I understood but by whom.butwhenI sawthoseinthecampsI perceived to onlythe hatred joy ofthosewho had killedthem. whatI thought or and was pinkwas not thetop layerof skinbut an underlayeredgedin gray skin. drunkenness. Withthefirst bodies. surrounded fairly by young silent and men a and honorofthevoyeurs whowerelaughing thetopfloor AkkaHospital. once theyhad escaped fromthe refugee camps.curses. sincethisbeautywas new. surrounded thesmell. between revolutions accord- . could havebeen she sixteenor sixty. freeingthemselves from shame. curiousthing happenedto thefacesand of theArab workers: liketheintimation.I don'tknowbywhat. becameconfused. dances.laments. had a She scarftiedaroundher neck. tender. their gaitwas awkward. We had to admit it: theyhad achieved in freedom orderto be seen as theywere:very beautiful.When I gotto twelve or fifteen. woman-in Arabdress-was sobbing.theArabsweren't beautiful. is was It I believe. everything I haveseen lotsofcrumbling buildings gutted and housesspilling out and eiderdown havenotbeenmoved. the In political same way. without but eyelashes eyebrows.Herwholefacewasburned.A barbaric and had party taken placethere: rage.The dead generally become veryfamiliar. sun. a little while victory assured. morethanhalfa millionFrenchsoldierswerestraining dying the and in Auresand throughout a Algeria.shallwe say pristine.stumbling each ruin. whodistinguishes HannahArendt.the werevery and fedayeen beautiful.and almostsuddenly they madethem victory but before was beautiful. fromthe and a morality alive that it discoveredat once what connected it to all the beauties of the world. before Algerian the war. naive.from morality imposedbytheneed to survive. the mourning deathof her next her.songs. once theyhad at the same timeescaped fromshame. shuffling. babypink.She was crying over her brotherwhose body almost blockedtheway. was the by over it impossible. Lots of Algerian pimps walking through Pigalleat nightused their charms theservice theAlgerian in of revolution. had uglymugs.SHATILA 19 see thesight: seatedon a chair.Herfacewaspink. She was crying.

And thewomen?Nightand day theyembroidered sevendresses the (one foreach day of the week) of theengagement trousseau givenby a older husbandchosen by the family. looks at it.cries. his thoughts leaped easilyhigh above the Palestinians who wereforty. He takesitbetween thumb his Hamza. I did the same thing.I removewhatI believeis one ofmywhite hairsfrom sweater putit on thekneeof and my nearme.It was on the in mountains Ajloun.Saltand Irbid.Butno. thenin Irbid." He was only twenty-two yearsold. he was alreadybearingthe but on signs-on himself.growth his actions-which linkedhimto the olderones. on theother a laughing insolence and beauty goadedbypastunhappiness.above all a laughing responsible unhappiness insolence is of whichrealizes freed shame. whichthey me taught without realizing.They wiped theirnoses on their which theend ofa month at werecoveredwith pearly corduroy a sleeves. obscurely-at discovering rediscovering beauty. but about theintangible-unnamable-joyof bodies.words I which no longer are that cheerless.puts it in the pocket of his black jacket." He takesa slightly deeperbreath and starts over: "A hairfrom Prophet's the beardis not worth morethanthat. unnamable hand:letus meanby exceptbythisword. did thefedayeen. meana sensualjoy so strong it chases all eroticism. systems men for and shame. So nosesthesamewaynoblemen Theyblewtheir and churchmen took snuff: slightly stooped over.faces.sitting and middlefinger. theforests of themselves sensualthat . smiles. his body. in Jordan. The Palestinian whentheyrevolted girlsbecame verybeautiful against their fathers broke theirneedlesand embroidery and scissors.and pats it saying: "A hairfrom Prophet's the beatd is worth less thanthat.20 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES or ing to whether theyaspire to freedom virtue-and therefore work. luster. away * * * Here I am againin Ajloun. Then theyflippedthe snot into the thorns. But on thispage we should also addressthefollowing question:is a a whenithas notremoved from faces bodiesthe revolution revolution and madethemugly? am notspeaking dead skinthat I aboutacademicbeauty. Perhapswe should also recognize thatrevolutions liberations or aimor thatis theintangible. In theold daysfarmers used to blow their nosesin their fingers. generally painfulawakening. that.

and for ManydiedinShatila. myfriendship.let'snot forget by and theguns.freed therevolution byguns. theclearer toneofvoiceharmonized withtheswiftness brevity the and of reply. " The voicewas dry. He "Yes. if thesefiveor six humanbeingshad not been this blackand swollenPalestinthere I haddiscovered butchered and city.I had spent four hours in Shatila. ofthem-and I meanall-had beentortured. a the probably against backdropofdrunkenness.Withoutrealizing the was it.Thatwasenough.Or did I? That citylyingin I whichI saw or thought saw." "Are yougoingto write about it?" "Yes. Theyhad done awaywithlongsentences." " And did you see?" " gunpoint.The three He me rifles were lowered. of of onlya twentieth Shatilaand Sabra.I would have gone crazy. learned glibrhetoric.laughter.had all thattakenplace?I had French: "Have youjustbeen there?" pointedto Shatila. of . and poorlyat that. affection their and my rotting corpses was also immense. askedhim: "Do you speakFrench?" " English. Blackened.they Aroundtwo o'clock in theafternoon Sundaythree on soldiersfrom to an was theLebanesearmy droveme." He gavemebackmypassport.witha fewyoung Palestinian to but unarmed fedayeen). I mean the only European (with a few old womenstillclinging a tornwhitecloth. said to me.SHATILA 21 ityhad come down. Withitsprecision too. smellof flesh. About forty bodies i6 All remained mymemory.maybebecause I had awakenedit witha start. decayedby thesun and by death. quickness brightness their the and of eyes. signaled to leave. werestillfedayeen. I and whosedeathstench wore.because I had known them. ians lying there. fedayeen-isit true?-wereperfectingnewbeauty: liveliness their a the of and actions their obviousfatigue. swollen. He and lookedat mypassport. smithereens felt. everyone happy.nothing Bourjal-Barajneh.nothing Bir Hassan. whichI walkedthrough. a jeep where officer I dozing. and of gunpowder already decaying I was probablyalone. song.

I had a premonition thefragility thestructure.22 JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES It's not because of my leaningsthatI lived through Jordanian the periodas ifit werea fairy tale.of beingthebrightest themost of the forward pointoftherevolution. I livedthrough long this for or spanofsixmonths. werecheckpoints where fedayeen the wereso sureof Jordan River.they At the Damascus airporton my way back fromBeirutI met some the who had escapedfrom Israelihell.The struggle a country filla very for can richlife. dragon a little What was it?Youth.there their of or rights their and might thearrival a visitor. of but in Everywhere Jordan where Palestinian the had nearthe army assembled.of Achillesin theIliad. joy ofbeingunderthetrees.of playing and conjuring awaya difficult problem.Protected weaponsthat by afraid anything. and often The wouldnotreturn).AlongtheJordan Riverthelandis inhigh relief. perhaps foreseetale the ingthatthisrevolutionary fairy might soon be defiled: fedayeen had freedom. werelaughing. light glassof wineor a hashish. wereliketheones in Ajloun.obliviousofdeathand with Czechand Chineseweaponsto fire we recall. that by was for at one ofthecheckpoints a pretext tea. Translated Daniel R. was the of withweapons. night byday. Dup&her by and Martha Perrigaud . All that possiblebecauseofyouth. of talkedso big.Theyweresixteen young fedayeen or seventeen.of beingaway fromwomen.I the of the discovered ethereality whatwas happening. didn' otherwords. All the fedayeen of liketheeffect a very slightly above theground.They They they willdie likethem.This whole escapade should have been subtitledA Midsummer Dream spiteoftheflare-ups in the between forty-year-old Night's leaders.fortalkmixedwith bursts oflaughter brotherly and kisses(theone they embraced wouldbe leaving crosstheJordan Riverto plantbombs in Palestine thatnight. beingphotogenic matter or no of and what. exceptional quality of of thefedayeen.thefedayeen weren't and knowsthat Anyreader whohas seena mapofPalestine Jordan the landis notlikea sheetofpaper.Europeansand NorthAfrican Arabshave As told me about thespellthatkeptthemthere. Thatwas thechoice. a but shortone. seemed to be walking theykept theirmouthsshut. onlyislandsofsilenceweretheJordanian villages. barely coloredbynight twelve thirteen hours. having approvalofthepopulation ofthecamps.

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