an area of the map for world news.
April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
The Usual Suspects
World Press Review contributing editor
Not long after
the smoke cleared from the Beirut car bomb that killed former
Lebanese Christian warlord Elie Hobeika on Jan. 24, Lebanese
and Arab commentators were quick to blame Israel and Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon for the hit. It was Hobeika and his Israel-backed
Lebanese militia who were fingered by an Israeli commission
of inquiry for carrying out the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres
in Beirut. With Hobeika apparently poised to testify before
a Belgian court about Sharons role in the massacre, Hobeikas
assassination raised some eyebrows, to say the least.
commentators were quick to blame Ariel Sharon for Hobeika's
assassination (Photo: AFP).
Al-Quds al-Arabi observed (Jan. 25) that Hobeikas
bloody demise had been long in coming: [This] closes an
important page in the Lebanese civil war, but also opens a new
one...regarding who was behind the...operation. Most Lebanese
and Arab pundits agree that Hobeika had many enemiesamong
them Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syriansbut none seemed
more suspect than Israel, given the timing. Who benefits
from this crime? asked Joseph Samaha of Al-Safir (Jan.
25).This is the obvious question to raise after the assassination.
And the equally obvious answer is: Ariel Sharon and consequently
the Israeli state. According to Samaha, the assassination
cannot be explained within the context of internal Lebanese
politics in spite of Hobeikas dubious past. The remarkable
coincidence between the assassination and the Belgian
prosecution and the way in which Sharon so clearly benefits
from Hobeikas disappearance makes Sharon suspect
In its lead editorial, Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Jan. 25) concurred
that Lebanese and other observers were pointing blame in the
direction of Israel. After all, Israel did not hide its
strong annoyance at Hobeikas willingness to unveil many
details before the Belgian court. Israel is the primary
beneficiary of Hobeikas silencing, the paper claimed.
For commentators like Al-Sharq al-Awsats Iyad Abu
Shaqra (Jan. 25), Israels charge that Syria was involved
in the assassination is unlikely, since no advantage
was to be gained by Syria. But perhaps there were others who
had different motives.
Writing in The Daily Star (Jan. 25), columnist Michael
Young opined that Sharon certainly had a stake in killing Hobeika,
but there were doubts that Hobeika actually intended to testify
in the first place. Others had the same reason as the
Israelis for fretting about Hobeika, he surmised, adding
that his testimony in Belgium might have exposed others for
their misdeeds. Hobeikas indictment in Belgium would
have reflected badly on those who collected him in 1986, after
his ouster from East Beirut, he added in apparent reference
A similar point was made by Zoheir Qusaibati in Al-Hayat
(Jan. 27), saying that one can point fingers in the direction
of Sharon as well as others in Lebanon who are afraid of revealing
secrets of another kind.
It is unclear whether the full truth of Sabra and Shatila will
ever emerge and whether Hobeikas death will benefit Sharon
in the court proceedings in Belgium. As a result of the killing,
however, The Daily Star noted that Hobeika once told
its editors he made tapes of his own testimony regarding the
massacres and entrusted them to his lawyerstestimony he
said that would implicate Sharon even more in the massacres
than is widely believed. If the tapes ever emerge, questions
will certainly remain as to whether Hobeikas word is one
that can be trusted.