Today in 1982: 400,000 Israelis protest Sabra and Shatila massacre
25 September 2017
On this day, nearly half a million Israelis assembled in what is today Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s involvement in the killing of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims by Christian Lebanese Phalangists in Beirut between September 16-18, 1982, known as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre. The protest – the largest in Israeli history until then, constituting 10 percent of the population at the time – was spearheaded by Peace Now, founded in 1978 to advocate for the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Israelis from across the political spectrum took to the streets to demand the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into Israel’s role in the massacre and for the removal of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. The protest led to the establishment of the Kahan Commission, whose report in February 1983 pointed to government complicity and held Sharon personally responsible, calling for his resignation. When then Prime Minister Menachem Begin refused to dismiss Sharon, Peace Now organized another demonstration a few months later in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, in which peace activist Emil Grunzweig was killed by a hand grenade thrown by rightist Yona Avrushmi. The ensuing public pressure eventually led to Sharon’s resignation as defense minister.
The protest marked the first time in Israeli history that a critical mass of Israelis rallied together to lobby for Israeli government actions. There were no protests of this size in the left or progressive movement until the summer of 2011, when the Social Protest movement J14 mobilized similar and larger numbers of Israelis to demand social justice and protest rising costs of living.
Learn the history of the occupation so that we can overcome it, because #50isEnough.
The occupation has gone on for 50 years. It’s a problem that must be addressed for Israel’s sake and for the Palestinians. Over 5 decades and in every month of the year, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and others have made their mark on reality. Telling these stories is part of how our movement grows stronger. This series marks the watershed moments we all need to know about.