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|Israel slams Belgium for airing Sharon programme|
|11/19/01 at 08:18:35|
News / Reportage
Israel slams Belgium for airing Sharon programme
JERUSALEM, Nov. 16 — Israel condemned plans by Belgian television to air a documentary
on Friday examining whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should be tried as a war
criminal, ahead of a Brussels court ruling on the issue.
A Belgian court is due to start a hearing on November 28 on whether to admit a case in
which case Sharon has been accused of war crimes allegedly committed when he was in
Beirut with the Israeli occupying army in the summer of 1982.
The Israeli army surrounded the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut in
September 1982 and assigned ''searching and mopping up'' inside to its Lebanese Christian
Militia of the so-called Lebanese Forces entered the camps ostensibly to search for
Palestinian fighters, and massacred hundreds of unarmed civilians over three days while
the Israeli army ringed the camps.
The broadcast of the programme by the non-government RTBF television station also
comes just two days before a trip by European officials to Israel headed by Belgium, which
holds the rotating European Union presidency.
The documentary programme was originally made and aired by the British Broadcasting
Corp (BBC) in June, which also drew strong protests from Israel. The programme was due
to be broadcast in Belgium at 1855 GMT on Friday.
''We express our shock and dismay at the decision to show this biased documentary on
Belgian television,'' Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said.
''Especially given the timing two days before the visit of the Belgium Prime Minister and one
week before an important meeting concerning the judicial process that Mr Sharon is facing
ISRAEL SLAMS DOCUMENTARY
Israel slammed the documentary as scandalous and anti-Semitic on its first broadcast in
June presenting views for and against trying Sharon for crimes his accusers say he
committed in Beirut when he was defence minister.
Syria and Lebanon at the time praised the producers for their ''objectivity and bravery'' and
for confirming that ''Sharon does not deserve to be welcomed in international capitals.''
A 1983 Israeli state inquiry found Sharon indirectly responsible for the killing of hundreds of
men, women and children at Sabra and Shatila.
An Israeli political source, responding to the plan to air the documentary, criticised Belgium
for the ''double message'' coming from its government.
''On the one hand they are telling us they are making every possible effort to finish the
story of the trial against Sharon as soon as possible, and on other are contributing to an
anti-Israel and anti-Sharon atmosphere in Belgium,'' the source said.
Relations between Israel and Belgium have been strained since survivors of the
massacres asked a magistrate's court to put the Israeli leader on trial for crimes against
A 1993 law allows Belgian courts to prosecute foreign officials for human rights violations.
The European Union delegation is due to hold talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders at the
weekend, but an EU official has said the visit is unlikely to produce a quick fix to
Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed that has raged for 13 months.
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