Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Deir Yassin/Kfar Etzion, Sabra-Chatila/Damour

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/12/2006

Why do people remember massacres? How are they reminded of them? Why and how do they commemorate them? What function does it serve a group or a state to remember a bloody day where people were slaughtered? How come some massacres are forgotten and others not? How come some massacres are remembered but never commemorated? What ties do massacres have with each others?
And to think that I ask myself these questions on a bright day when my mood is neither solemn nor macabre!
What triggered these thoughts and queries, is a site I stumbled upon inadvertently: an internet post reflecting on the Kfar Etzion massacre. I had never heard of it before, just like most Lebanese I reckon.
Not feeling particularly connected with the gruesome tale and cycle of events, I could easily see how the narrative functioned and to what aim; something I would have great difficulty doing in relation to the Damour massacre. So I wondered how many Palestinians have heard of this massacre… or of the Kfar Etzion massacre. Not many I guess. Yet we all quite familiar with the Dar Yassine and the Sabra-Chatila massacre. Not that we are better or more empathetic than the Palestinians, but because these two massacres are either frequently referred to in speeches and books, or commemorated every year, publicly and through every media. They have acquired a growing dimension and a central meaning to a group of people; they have become larger than the numbers or the identity of the victims they mourn or celebrate (a figure that is frequently unknown or readily forgotten). They have taken a political and cultural significance. They have become the cornerstones of an identity, the milestones of a historical narrative. A people defines its victimhood through them, but also designates its enemies (the perpetrators).
Sadly, these commemorations are not meant to mourn but on the contrary to express and revive old grievances. They serve a political purpose that prevents others from feeling any empathy towards the people who have witnessed such a suffering. They are an important ingredient in the cycle of violence. I wonder what could be done to break that cycle, how these massacres can be ‘bridged’. Maybe one can try to link them to a massacre they mirrored, one where the perpatrator was the victim and vice versa, hence the coupling:Deir Yassin/Kfar Etzion, Sabra-Chatila/Damour.

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