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Sonia Nettnin Film Review: 2000 Terrorists

Film Review: 2000 Terrorists

By Sonia Nettnin

Sunshine can be found in the faces of these children, who live in Shatila, a refugee camp just outside of Beirut, Lebanon. As Palestinians living in the Diaspora, their families are survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre.” (Photo courtesy of Corrino Media Corporation)

Several survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre share their testimonies in the documentary “2000 Terrorists.”

On September 15, 1982, a day after the assassination of Catholic Maronite, Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, Christian Phalangists entered the Sabra and Shatila camps. The Israeli Army sealed off all entrances and exits. Although the Israeli Army was supposed to protect the Palestinian refugees, they fired light bombs into the night sky so that the Phalangists could continue the slaughter of over 2,000 people. The Phalangists filed hundreds of people into the camp’s stadium and most of the people never came back.

The following year an independent, Israeli Commission concluded that Sharon was indirectly responsible for the massacres. A couple of reports differ as to whether or not he resigned as defense minister, but Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin assigned Sharon another cabinet post.

On June 18, 2001, lawyers of 23 survivors filed a complaint in the Hall of Justice in Belgium against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and nineteen other people. The plaintiffs’ lawyers accused them of active participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity. The legal team based their case on the 1993 controversial genocide law.

“In such a high profile case you cannot just accuse someone without solid proof,” Michael Verhaeghe said. Verhaeghe is a lawyer for the plaintiffs’ team. However, he affirmed “…there are strong indications of guilt…” against the members of the accused party.

According to, “On 11 September 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, the architect of the invasion, announced that ‘2,000 terrorists’ had remained inside the Palestinian refugee camps around Beirut.” The film did not make this statement.

However, Directors Hanro Smitsman and Peter SpeetJens focus on four survivors and their family members. While revisiting the actual places where the atrocities took place, the survivors retell what happened to them. Twenty years after the massacre, survivors feel the pain of loss and they experience post-traumatic stress.

In 1948, thousands of Palestinian refugees from Al-Nakba, the Catastrophe, forced to flee their land by Israeli militia sought refuge in Lebanon. As Palestinians living in the Diaspora, they live in over a dozen camps, including Sabra and Shatila. Although the Lebanese will not grant the Palestinians citizenship, generations of these people have no homeland. By law, Palestinians cannot work in at least 72 professions in Lebanon.

One of the survivors, UMM Hussein says the Lebanese Police will not allow her to repair her roof. Every time it rains, water floods their house.

“We are like drowning people who will hold on to anything,” she says.

She shows photographs of her husband when he was alive. “He gave me the most beautiful life,” she says. “He was so good to me.” She looks away and she cries.

Another survivor, UMM Ali, lost her husband and her young daughter, Zeinab. The Phalangists dug mass graves in the sports stadium. After they left, people entered the stadium to find their loves ones. UMM Ali describes the moment she found Zeinab’s body and she breaks.

When Phalangists killed people in their houses, they set the bodies and houses on fire. In their minds, they destroyed the evidence of their massacre. Another survivor, Sana, describes the beheaded corpses and people cut up in pieces lying in doorways and alleys. Smitsman and SpeetJens incorporate archival footage for the visual narration of events. The smooth transitions flow with the voice over by Bernard Oattes.

Although Israeli states that the Phalangists acted independently, one survivor, Mahmoud says he saw Israeli tanks hiding behind mounds of sand surrounding the camp. Israeli forces not only created conditions for the massacre, but they served as military and strategic catalysts. Their logistical coordination makes them liable for the atrocities.

In February 2002, less than a year after the survivors filed their complaint, two verdicts within The International Court of Justice in The Hague (Netherlands) determined that Sharon would not be prosecuted in Belgium. As long as he is prime minister, he has diplomatic immunity. However, the legal team continued prosecuting the second person in charge at the time of the massacre, General Amos Yaron, who is now Director-General of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

With patience and determination, the survivors wait.


Directed and produced by: Hanro Smitsman and Peter SpeetJens
Assistant Director: Fand Abdelnour
Voice Over: Bernard Oattes
Country of production: The Netherlands
Year: 2003
Language: Arabic, with English subtitles, voice over is in English
Minutes: 52
Production Company: Sens Production, in association with Corrino Media Corporation
Co-Produced: Atilla Meijs; Joyce Van Dieper; Michael John Fedien; Jasper Van Hecke
Cinematography: Annemarie Jacir, Suzy Salamy
Editing: Rob de Bruin; Marc Bechtold
Sound: Jan Schemer
Music: Odd Time Rabih Abou Khalil


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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