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Ariel Sharon Is Responsible For
The Sabra And Shatilla Massacres

The great massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla camps came back onto the agenda with the BBC program "The Accused" broadcast on June 17, 2001. In that documentary, which looked into Ariel Sharon's role in the massacre in which 3,000 people lost their lives, living witnesses who escaped the slaughter spoke at first hand of the savagery, which lasted nearly 3 days. The program concluded by saying that Ariel Sharon, who was then defense minister, was responsible for the massacre and must face trial for it.

"The Accused" Was Broadcast
Despite Pressure From The State
of Israel

People who escaped the massacre, the Phalange leaders who carried it out, representatives of the Israeli Army, lawyers, and academics participated in the documentary, which was prepared by journalist Fergal Keane. However, before it had even been broadcast it met with a strong reaction from Israel and radical Jewish communities. Right up until the last moment, everyone expected that it might be cancelled. However, according to statements by Keane, the program was screened "under thousands of e-mails, threatening messages, and warnings of boycotts." Furthermore, because of the wide interest it received, it was repeated several times on the BBC and shown on television channels in a number of foreign countries.

What Panorama Revealed

The Sabra and Shatilla massacre was carried out by the Lebanese Christian Phalange groups with whom Lebanese Muslim Arabs had been at war for a long time. Yet it was Israel that supported, organized and armed these groups from the beginning. In his program, Keane described the relationship between the Phalangists and Israel in this manner:

The Phalange were led by the charismatic and ruthless Bashir Gemayel. He was Israel's main ally in Lebanon. Israel's Mossad knew from meetings with him that he wanted to "eliminate" the Palestinian problem, and now he was about to become President of Lebanon. Bashir's election worried the people of the camps, but they'd been promised security.

The Israeli Army, which guaranteed the Palestinians in the camps that nothing would happen to them, was firmly behind the Phalange, the force that carried out the massacre. Before the massacre, the Israeli Army took the camp under its control by bombing it for days. It later closed all the gates to the camp, forbidding anyone without permission to enter or leave. It gave the Phalange the time and the means to carry out the slaughter by firing flares all night long that lit their way, and by not intervening for 40 hours. It made it easier for the massacre to continue by issuing death threats, and by turning back those Palestinians who tried to leave and who got as far as the exits and sought help. In Keane's words, "in the rubble were children who'd been scalped, young men who'd been castrated." One of the living witnesses of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre who spoke on the program, Nabil Ahmed, described what he went through in this way:

I was hoping to find my family alive. Then, when I started seeing the bodies in the streets, I accepted the fact then that I'll be grateful to find their bodies. You see what happened. They put them in a house, they killed them and they bulldozed the houses on them, so we were digging the rubble to identify. So we pulled the hair of my relative and that's when we realised that this is the spot where they are there.

The massacre perpetrated by the Phalange was indescribable. Statements of an Israeli officer in the program clearly that the Phalange were enemies of the Muslims. Israeli paratroop brigade commander Yoram Yair recounted the shocking request he received from a Phalangist:

He say "Do me a favour, make sure to bring me that much." I say: "What is it?" He say: "Listen, I know that you will sooner or later go inside West Beirut. Promise me that you will bring me that much Palestinian blood. I want to drink it."

Israel's then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon knew about every stage of this massacre which was carried out under an Israeli Army security umbrella. Keane explained Sharon's role in these words:

Ariel Sharon arrived in Beirut on Wednesday morning insisting there were PLO forces in the camps. And so after conferring with his senior officers, including Amos Yuron, the Commander for Beirut and the refugee camps, Ariel Sharon agreed a fateful order. "Only one element, and that is the Israeli Defence Force, shall command the forces in the area. For the operation in the camps the Phalangist should be sent in."

Ariel Sharon went to see the Phalange at their headquarters to discuss the Beirut operation… Now, a day after their leader's murder, the Israelis were asking the Phalange to fight in Palestinian camps. Could Ariel Sharon have been in any doubt about what would have happened if you sent the Phalangists into a Palestinian refugee camp, an undefended camp?

Keane put that question to many officials, to Morris Draper, the U.S. Middle East representative at the time; Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal; Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University; and others…They all agreed that Ariel Sharon was responsible in the first degree for the massacre and that he was a war criminal. For instance, Goldstone revealed his thoughts in these terms:"If the person who gave the command knows, or should know on the facts available to him or her, that is a situation where innocent civilians are going to be injured or killed, then that person is as responsible, in fact in my book more responsible even than the people who carry out the order." Space was given in the program to a telephone conversation that supported these opinions. Israeli journalist Ron Ben Yishai reported a conversation between himself and Sharon on the second day in this way:

I found him at home sleeping. He woke up and I told him: "Listen, there are stories about killings and massacres in the camps. A lot of our officers know about it and tell me about it, and if they know it, the whole world will know about it. You can still stop it." I didn't know that the massacre actually started 24 hours earlier. I thought it started only then and I said to him: "Look, we still have time to stop it. Do something about it." He didn't react.

In short, although he has denied it for years, Ariel Sharon knew about the massacre, decided on it together with the Phalangists, and made no effort to stop the killings in the camps, which were under his responsibility.

This reality that Panorama revealed was one that had been expressed for years by those who have studied the event closely and those who lived through it. However, the reason why the program attracted so much attention was that it was the first time that such a respectable channel as BBC had broadcast statements directly accusing Israel, and because it also accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Death Threats To Those Who Declare
Ariel Sharon To Be A War Criminal

There was a most interesting reaction after this broadcast. Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University, who said that Ariel Sharon should be indicted as a war criminal, further noted:

I think there is no question in my mind that he is indictable for the kind of knowledge that he either had or should have had.

Falk began to receive death threats after that statement. Shortly afterwards, his home and family were given police protection. Israel was once again attempting to silence people and prevent the truth from being told by means of violence, pressure, and threats. However, Falk stated in The Independent that his conscience was easy and that he had told the truth.


Ariel Sharon knew about every
stage of this massacre which was
carried out under an Israeli Army
security umbrella.

After the program, debates began over whether or not Ariel Sharon could be tried. Several international jurists joined in. However, these debates were an example of insincerity. The genocide of the Palestinians, which most states had ignored for more than half a century, was now being talked about 20 years after it happened. Those who had ignored it at the time, and those who made no effort to stop Israel, were behaving as if these massacres were being revealed for the very first time.

In fact, this charge is not limited to Sharon but extends to Zionism itself, Israel's official ideology. It is enough to look at Israel's basic principles to see this, and to understand the philosophy behind the bloodshed at Sabra and Shatilla.

Will Ariel Sharon Be Tried
As A "War Criminal"?

When the BBC program "The Accused" was aired, 28 Palestinians who survived the Sabra and Shatilla massacre sued Ariel Sharon in Belgium so that he could be tried as a war criminal in Belgian courts. Belgium is one of the few countries whose law permits the trial of anyone who commits human rights violations in any country.

The indictment sheds a great deal of light on Sharon's and Israel's bloody history. The indictment, which presents commission reports and research by important historians and writers as evidence, contains important information that Sharon knew about the massacre, that he supported those who carried it out, and even that he was working with them:

Historians and journalists agree that it was probably during a meeting between Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel in Bikfaya on 12 September [1982] that an agreement was concluded to authorise the "Lebanese forces" to "mop up" these Palestinian camps.1

The intention to send the Phalangist forces into West Beirut had already been announced by Mr Sharon on 9 July 1982 2, and in his biography [called "Warrior"], he confirms having negotiated the operation during his meeting with Bikfaya.3

According to Ariel Sharon's 22 September 1982 declarations in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), the entry of the Phalangists into the refugee camps of Beirut was decided on Wednesday 15 September 1982 at 15.30.4 

Also according to General Sharon, the Israeli commandant had received the following instruction: "The Tsahal forces are forbidden to enter the refugee camps. The 'mopping-up' of the camps will be carried out by the Phalanges or the Lebanese army."5

At that point, General Drori telephoned Ariel Sharon and announced, "Our friends [the Phalangists] are advancing into the camps. We have coordinated their entry." Sharon replied, "Congratulations! Our friends' operation is approved."6

(For the whole text of the indictment and detailed statements by the victims, see http://www.mallat.com/complaint.htm)

The above details are only a part of the evidence revealing the relationship between Sharon and Gemayel. Sharon's autobiography, Warrior, provides many more details of the massacre carried out by the Phalangists. In any case, the fact that Israeli soldiers did not enter a camp under their control for 3 days, that they did not know what was going on inside, while all the time preparing logistical support and bulldozers to open graves and demolish houses, means that the claim that they were "well-intentioned" is false.

The charge of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre is not limited to Sharon but extends to Zionism itself, Israel's official ideology. It is enough to look at Israel's basic principles to see this, and to understand the philosophy behind this bloodshed.

What Will Ariel Sharon's Being
Tried As A War Criminal Change?

The trial of Ariel Sharon for the Sabra and Shatilla massacre would be an important initiative. However, the current campaign by some survivors is not receiving sufficient world support. Apart from a few human rights organizations, nobody is supporting them. The most important thing is that massacres in Palestine are still ongoing.

In Palestine, hundreds of innocent Palestinians are being forced out of their houses and exiled from their land. Bulldozers run over their homes. Again a defenceless father is killed, together with the child in his arms. Israeli troops carry out new killings and attacks every day. And the man giving the orders is Ariel Sharon. Even if someone else replaces him, the massacres will continue, for Israeli violence is based upon such a deep-rooted ideology that just bringing Sharon to trial will not expunge it. And until Israel abandons its Zionist ideology, it will continue to bring death and blood to the Middle East.

Of course getting past massacres onto the agenda is an important initiative. But for this to be a statement of sincerity, the commitment displayed must continue until the cruelty ends. Therefore, all sincere people need to pursue wide-scale international legal sanctions (for instance an embargo) and a policy of isolation to force an end to the killings committed by the Zionists in the name of their ideology.




1 Benny Morris, The Righteous Victims, New York, A. Knopf, 1999, p. 540

2 Schiff & Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1984, p. 251

3 A. Sharon, Warrior: An Autobiography, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1989, p. 498

4 Sharon à la Knesset, Annexe au rapport de la Commission Kahan, The Beirut Massacre, The Complete Kahan Commission Report, Princeton, Karz Cohl, 1983, p. 124. (Ci-après, Kahan Commission Report)

5 Kahan Report, p. 125: "mopping-up"

6 Amnon Kapeliouk, Sabra et Chatila: Enquête sur un massacre, Paris, Seuil 1982, p.37


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