There are also a number of other non-governmental initiatives to secure justice for the victims of Israeli crimes, including the 1982 massacre. These include the work of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) (http://ccrjustice.org/) and citizen tribunals such as the just-adjourned Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, which worked on the case of IDF commander Amos Yaron, and the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTOP). The latter is an international initiative created in the 1960s to expose human rights abuses and to stir people to action in opposition to Israel’s clear but unpunished violations of international law. The RTOP’s current efforts include achieving justice for the victims of Sabra-Shatila.
As for the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, its indictment of Yaron read in part: “Defendant Amos Yaron is accused of perpetrating War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide in his capacity as the Commanding Israeli General in military control of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Israeli occupied Lebanon in September of 1982 when he knowingly facilitated and permitted the large-scale Massacre of the Residents of those two camps in violation of the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907; the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; the 1948 Genocide Convention; the Nuremberg Charter (1945), the Nuremberg Judgment (1946), and the Nuremberg Principles (1950); customary international law, jus cogens, the Laws of War, and International Humanitarian Law.”
This was not the first time the Amos Yaron case has been presented before the international public and may not be the last, as human rights advocates pursue justice for the victims of Sabra-Shatila.
True American patriots working at or with the CCR have prepared cases and a valuable Legal Handbook for Palestinian Activists (see CCR website above). These efforts have included work by Maria LaHood, Jamil Dakwar, cooperating human rights attorney, and Abdeen Jabara, civil rights lawyer and activist. The CCR has done historic work on the subject of Universal Jurisdiction and use American courts on behalf of Palestinian claimants to seek justice for alleged rights violations committed by Israeli officials, both in Palestine and internationally.
In a US federal court in 2008, CCR brought a class action suit against retired Israeli Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon, charging him with war crimes and extra-judicial killing for his role in the 1996 IDF attack on a United Nations compound in Qana that killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians who had taken shelter there, injuring many more. While presenting a very strong and factual case, the court upheld a dismissal of Belhas v. Ya’alon on procedural grounds, citing sovereign immunity.
Even so, CCR believes that as we are all citizens of an increasingly interconnected world, it is critical that all nations, the United States especially, recognize and incorporate the norms of international law into their systems of justice. And it was CCR, by the way, which also pioneered the use of the Alien Tort Statute to prosecute human rights abuses committed abroad in U.S. courts—an effort that has led to the creation of a body of law which helps to hold foreign officials and corporations accountable to the public—plus the organization has also brought cases against U.S. officials in foreign courts under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, all of this based in the belief that some crimes are so heinous they defy national boundaries. Such initiatives cannot be understated in their importance in educating both the public and legal community, as well as in developing remedies for those previously shut out of the American legal system.
As various aspects of the carnage at Sabra-Shatila continue to surface, they reveal the abject depravity and criminality of Israeli officials as well as the weak response to these crimes by US government officials, including President Reagan. Also discussed this week was the work of Seth Anziska, a doctoral candidate in international history at Columbia University, who has gained some limited access to the reportedly massive secret files guarded by the Zionist regime not only from public examination but also from the governments of its supposed allies.
Visiting the Israel State Archives, Mr. Anziska saw a few declassified documents chronicling key conversations between American and Israeli officials, discussions which took place both before and during the two and one half days of slaughter. Anziska concluded:
The verbatim transcripts reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of “terrorists” were in the camps, when both countries knew the camps’ residents were defenseless—since their PLO protectors evacuated Beirut the month before once Yassir Arafat received written assurances from Ronald Reagan that the US government guaranteed the safety of Shatila’s residents. When the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it did essentially nothing. As a result, Phalange militiamen were able to murder Palestinian civilians at their own pace. And they did.
A few summaries from the Israeli archives examined by Mr. Anziska:
“By Sept. 16, the I.D.F. was fully in control of West Beirut, including Sabra and Shatila. In Washington that same day, Under Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told the Israeli ambassador, Moshe Arens, that ‘Israel’s credibility has been severely damaged’ and that ‘we appear to some to be the victim of deliberate deception by Israel.’ He demanded that Israel withdraw from West Beirut immediately.
“In Tel Aviv, Mr. Draper and the American ambassador, Samuel W. Lewis, met with top Israeli officials. Contrary to Prime Minister Begin’s earlier assurances, Defense Minister Sharon said the occupation of West Beirut was justified because there were ‘2,000 to 3,000 terrorists who remained there.’ Mr. Draper disputed this claim; having coordinated the August evacuation, he knew the number was minuscule. Mr. Draper said he was horrified to hear that Mr. Sharon was considering allowing the Phalange militia into West Beirut. I.D.F. chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, also acknowledged to the Americans that he feared ‘a relentless slaughter.’”
All this occurred before the Massacre was launched by Amos Yaron and Ariel Sharon who oversaw the transfer of the killers from East Beirut to the airport just south of Shatila and then into the camps where they immediately sought out the 11 shelters that camp residents had identified the day before to some “foreigners who said they were from a European NGO and would repair the shelters”. Rather, they were agents of Mossad.
Just before the slaughter began, and on the evening of Sept. 16, the Israeli cabinet met and was informed that Phalange fighters were entering the Palestinian camps. Deputy Prime Minister David Levy worried aloud: “I know what the meaning of revenge is for them, what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to create order there, and we will bear the blame.” That evening, word of civilian deaths began to filter out to Israeli military officials, politicians and journalists but there was little if any reaction.
At 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir hosted a meeting with Mr. Draper, Mr. Sharon and several Israeli intelligence chiefs. Mr. Shamir, having reportedly heard of a “slaughter” in the camps that morning, did not bother to mention it.
The transcript of the Sept. 17 meeting reveals that the Americans were browbeaten by Mr. Sharon’s false insistence that “terrorists” needed “mopping up.” It also shows how Israel’s refusal to relinquish areas under its control, and its delays in coordinating with the Lebanese National Army, which the Americans wanted to step in, prolonged the slaughter.
Mr. Draper opened the meeting by demanding that the I.D.F. pull back right away. Mr. Sharon exploded, “I just don’t understand, what you are looking for? Do you want the terrorists to stay? Are you afraid that somebody will think that you were in collusion with us? Just deny it. We denied it.” Mr. Draper, unmoved, kept pushing for definitive signs of a withdrawal. Mr. Sharon, who knew Phalange forces had already entered the camps and were slaughtering everyone they came upon, some killers to the point of exhaustion, cynically told Draper, “Stop worrying. Nothing important will happen. Maybe some more terrorists will be killed. That will be to the benefit of all of us.” Mr. Shamir and Mr. Sharon finally agreed to gradually withdraw once the Lebanese Army started entering the city — but they insisted on waiting 48 hours (until the end of Rosh Hashanah New Year, which started that evening).
Continuing his plea for some sign of an Israeli withdrawal, Mr. Draper warned that critics would say, “Sure, the I.D.F. is going to stay in West Beirut and they will let the Lebanese go and kill the Palestinians in the camps.” Mr. Sharon replied: “So, we’ll kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism.” Mr. Draper responded with shocking words as an employee of the American people: “We are not interested in saving any of these people.”