Palestinians have lauded a BBC documentary, broadcast June 17, and concluding that there is sufficient evidence to indict Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a war criminal for his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees in 1982.
PA official Ahmed Abdul Rahman voiced satisfaction that the world “is finally beginning to hear our crying after so many years of massacres of our people by the Israeli state.”
“We have been crying and screaming to the world for more than five decades that Sharon and other Zionist leaders are war criminals It gives us some solace that the world is beginning to listen to us.”
Abdul Rahman urged “all justice-loving people and human rights organizations around the world to start a legal action against Sharon now, making use of this significant international document.”
The Palestinian official dismissed the view that starting legal procedure against Sharon now would undermine peace efforts and harden Israel’s already hostile posture towards the Palestinians.
“The opposite is true. Peace can only be achieved when the criminals are brought to justice and tried for their crimes against humanity.”
He added “we owe it to those children who were slaughtered like sheep, the young women who were raped, humiliated and slaughtered, the helpless souls who were murdered so callously, we owe it to them to try the criminals.”
However, while welcoming the screening of the documentary 22 years after the massacres, most Palestinians harbor no illusions about the vast distance between indicting Sharon in a television documentary and prosecuting him before an international tribunal.
“The question is not whether Sharon is a war criminal or not, the real question is whether the world, particularly the United States, has the political will to try Sharon as a war criminal,” said Hanna Issa, a Palestinian expert on international law.
Issa argued that the condemnation of Sharon as a war criminal by a television documentary was late but not too late.
“Crimes against humanity don’t lose relevance with the passage of time, and it is never too late to try Sharon and other Israeli leaders for their hideous crimes against the Palestinian people and other Arab peoples.”
Issa suggested that legal steps by Arab states, the Palestinian Authority and human rights organizations be taken immediately against Sharon.
“It would be self-defeating and humiliating for the Arabs and the Palestinians to stop at this documentary and celebrate victory. They must pursue this paramount issue, because if they don’t, then the Sabra and Shatila massacres will be repeated once, twice and thrice as long as the Israelis think that they can get away with it.”
“The matter (prosecuting Sharon) will take time, a long time,” said Issa.
“Justice without power is powerless, and power without justice is oppressive,” he added.