CNN report: Lebanon golf club may lie atop mass grave

Lebanon has one golf course, The Golf Club of Lebanon, located in the poor Beirut district of Dahiyeh. With its manicured fairways, well-maintained pools and high-end facilities, it's a stark contrast to the bombed-out and poverty-ridden buildings around it. And, as notes, the club may hold a darker secret:

CNN's James Montague has researched the recent history of the course and come up with some disturbing allegations about what -- or who -- may be buried underneath its greens.

The course was destroyed by Israeli tanks in 1982, but later rebuilt. Construction took as long as three years, as crews had to work around mines and bombs.

However, several journalists have alleged that the golf course may also be a mass grave, serving as a burial ground for dozens, perhaps hundreds of Palestinians slaughtered by Christian militias after the 1982 invasion. The massacre claimed anywhere from 700 to 2,000 Palestinians, depending on the agency doing the counting, and CNN reported at the time that 800 bodies had been accounted for.

Robert Fisk, author of "Pity the Nation," a book about Lebanon's civil war, claimed in a newspaper article for The Independent that as many as 1,000 Palestinian civilians may have been buried under the golf course. "No one will dig them up," Fisk wrote. "Golfers play without reflecting upon what lies beneath the verdant 18th hole."

However, others contend that the course may have bodies beneath its surface, but not at a massacre level. "This particular spot, among other spots, were famous for the killings inside big pits," Dr. Bayan Nuwayhed al Hout told CNN, but added that "there is no one big mass grave."

Club officials contend that the burial spots lie outside the club's walls and have no connection to the club itself. "What happened by the club is an area that is really a cemetery, which we don't see," said Lebanon Golf Club president Jihad Husseini.

While the golf club, ringed by tall walls, projects an image of elitism, club officials say they are trying to reach out to the public via relatively inexpensive greens fees ($40) and free lessons.

Golf, obviously, is of little importance in an area as torn by war as Lebanon. But its symbolic value could mean far more to the country -- as long as it's not symbolizing the continued concealment of ugly secrets.

The graves and the greens of the Lebanon Golf Club []