"I want to tell you something very
clear, don't worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control
America, and the Americans know it."
More about "Israel"
'We control America.'> Sharon to Peres:
> Don't worry about American pressure; we control America
> Palestinian Information Centre
> Wednesday, October 3, 2001
> OCCUPIED JERUSALEMï¿½ï¿½An acrimonious argument
> erupted during the Israeli cabinet weekly session
> last week between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
> and his foreign Minister Shimon Peres during which
> Sharon reportedly yelled at Peres, saying "don't worry
> about American pressure, we control America."
> According the Israeli Hebrew radio Kol Yisrael
> Wednesday, Peres warned Sharon that refusing to
> heed incessant American requests for a cease-fire
> with the Palestinians would endanger Israeli interests
> and turn the US against us.
> At this point, a furious Sharon reportedly turned toward
> Peres, saying "every time we do something you tell me
> America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell
> you something very clear: Don't worry about American
> pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control
> America, and the Americans know it."
> The radio said Peres and other cabinet ministers
> warned Sharon against saying what he said in public,
> because "it would cause us a public relations disaster."
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Vanished victims of Israelis return to accuse Sharon
The men who 'disappeared' in the aftermath of the 1982 massacres in Lebanon's Sabra and Chatila refugee camps could get revenge against Tel Aviv's defiant strongman.
Julie Flint in Beirut
Sunday November 25, 2001
Early on 18 September 1982, in the closing moments of the Sabra and Chatila massacre in which Israel's Lebanese Christian militia allies slaughtered up to 1,500 Palestinian refugees, Sana Mahmoud Sersawi thought she was finally about to die.
The militiamen withdrawing from the Palestinian camps in Beirut had marched her, together with several hundred other unarmed civilians, to the edge of the Shatila camp. There they levelled their guns.
On that desolate corner, in the fourth month of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, Sana believes that Israeli soldiers saved her life. It was 36 hours since the Israeli commanders who sent the Lebanese Forces militia into the camps had received the first reports of atrocities.
But now, as the reports began to circulate more widely, Israeli soldiers shouted to their allies: 'Give us the people and leave the camps!'
The Lebanese obeyed and handed their prisoners to the Israelis, who then marched them along the main road towards Beirut's sports stadium. Sana looked over her shoulder as she went into the stadium and saw her husband, Hassan Hashim, and her sister's husband, Farraj Ali Sayyed, behind her.
Inside the stadium, a sprawling complex fully controlled by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), women were led in one direction and men in another. Sana, her sister, mother and their eight children were released an hour later. Hassan and Farraj vanished.
The people who disappeared - during and after the massacre - are the forgotten victims of Sabra and Chatila. Almost every family in the camps has a relative or friend among the disappeared.
What is crucial is that they disappeared while in the hands of the Israeli army, during an operation under the direct control of Israel's then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, now Prime Minister.
The fate of the disappeared of Sabra and Chatila will come back to haunt Sharon when a Belgian court hears a suit brought by their relatives alleging his involvement in the massacres.
But while Sharon has always denied responsibility for a massacre carried out by Israel's Lebanese Christian allies, he has never had to answer for the fate of those who disappeared while in the hands of his Israeli soldiers.
Bahija Zrein lost her brother; Imad Ali his great-uncle and cousin; Fadi Abdel Qader his father and uncle.
'We went into the stadium and then never saw them again,' says Sana. 'We asked about them and they said: "There's no one here!" No one talks about them. No one knows about them. No one knows whether they are alive or dead.'
Overlooked for almost two decades, the disappeared now seem likely to emerge as a key element in the efforts of 40 Lebanese and Palestinians who lost relatives in the massacre to bring Sharon to trial for war crimes committed when, as Defence Minister, he had overall responsibility for the IDF.
A suit filed in a Belgian court in June - under legislation that allows Belgium to prosecute foreigners for war crimes regardless of where they were committed - charges that Sharon had command responsibility in the massacre.
'In international law, command responsibility - also known as indirect responsibility - is more severe than the direct responsibility of those who actually do the killing,' says Chibli Mallat, one of three lawyers representing the plaintiffs. 'Whether in the Yugoslav massacres or in Germany or Japan in World War II, those who sat at the top, often miles away from the death camps, are more responsible than those who pulled the trigger.'
In February 1983, Israel's Kahan Commission of Inquiry found that no Israeli was 'directly responsible' for the massacre, but determined that Sharon bore 'personal responsibility'. Sharon resigned his portfolio, but stayed in the Cabinet.
The massacre began during the evening of 16 September, two weeks after PLO fighters completed their evacuation from Beirut and two days after the assassination of the Lebanese Forces' leader, President-elect Bashir Gemayel. On the eve of the massacre, Sharon blamed Palestinians - incorrectly - for the assassination.
As the Lebanese entered the camps to 'mop up' 2,000 'terrorists' Sharon claimed were concealed there, Israeli soldiers surrounded and closed them off and lit the sky with flares. Three days later, at least 900 civilians were dead.
In a Belgian appeals court on Wednesday, Sharon's lawyers will argue that the suit should be dismissed on procedural grounds. They will say that Sharon has immunity as a head of government; that the Belgian law, first enacted in 1993, cannot be used retroactively; and that Sharon has already been judged by Kahan.
Mallat and his colleagues say their case is 'very orthodox' under Belgian international law. There is no immunity for war crimes, no 'legal acrobatics'. They will argue that Kahan was not a court: it had no criminal dimension. And it ignored a lot of elements - particularly the disappearances.
'Hundreds of people were rounded up under the supervision and control and with the involvement of the Israeli forces,' says Mallat. 'They were interrogated, then put on trucks and a lot of them did not come back. The sports stadium is probably one of the places that carries one of the largest elements of horror. The Israelis were in force there, interrogations took place there and people were trucked away from there never to appear again.' In the Kahan report, the stadium is mentioned only once - as a place where survivors were given food and water.
A cameraman who filmed there on 19 September says Israeli soldiers were doing more than giving food and water: they were identifying Palestinians from a list they carried and taking them inside the stadium for interrogation.
Siham Balqees still lives in Shatila and offers one clue as to what may have happened to the men who disappeared. She says she ran inside the stadium and saw her brother standing on a truck. An Israeli soldier threatened to kill her unless she left immediately, but she refused. Instead, she pulled her brother off the truck and walked out with him.
He told her he had been beaten and quoted his interrogators as saying: 'Tell us where the terrorists and the weapons are! Tell us or we will give you to the Lebanese Forces!' He was refused food and water.
Asked whether Palestinians did indeed disappear from the stadium, an Israeli government spokesman refused to comment. 'We are arguing that this is politically motivated manipulation of Belgium's legal system.'
Almost 20 years after the fact, it seems unlikely that Belgium's investigating judge will be able to establish where the disappeared went and what then happened to them. But one thing is certain.
'Israel was in full control from the border to Beirut,' says Mallat. 'Sharon's allies will fight tooth and nail to stop this case from getting to trial because they know that, once it comes to trial, Ariel Sharon has no chance of escaping justice.'
ï¿½ Julie Flint's report on the disappeared of Sabra and Chatila can be seen on Channel 4 News at 7pm tomorrow.