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The Accused, Sunday 17 June 2001

Thank you for all the comments sent in. The site was inundated with your views, our apologies if we were unable to publish your comment. We received a broad range of views, as can be seen from the comments published below.

Thank you for that excellent piece of journalism, which must have taken a lot of courage. Atrocities committed by Israeli's are still highly subdued by our Western Media, I myself sympathised with them a great deal, until recently I researched the situation and opened my eyes in horror to what has been happening in a country that should not even be internationally recognised. The worst thing is the West is responsible, but I fear Britain will never have the guts to face up to what she has done. If only everyone in this country had their eyes opened to the real situation instead of being blinded by the biased media and our cowardly system. We have blood on our hands for letting this appalling situation of invasion, occupation and persecution to go on for over 50 years.
Anna Blackburn

Once upon a time the BBC used to stand for something and had a great following. Once the last bastion of TRUTH, HONESTY and INTEGRITY. But no more, you have gone the other way, and it's a disgrace on your long record. Those that have always "trusted" the BBC, will no longer do so, when they realise the biased content of your programming. Another one bites the dust. Shame, Shame, Shame.

I was reading some of the comments on the show, one-sided programme, anti-Israeli, and not considering the political nature of the middle east. Under what circumstance can we justify an army going into an area, kill children as young as young as 9 months old and etc... It is simply unjustifiable.

Any kind of human abuse is bad enough but it is even worse when it is carried out at top level organised by so called legitimate government, in this case Israel. What happened in Sabra and Shatila camps is the crime of worst kind against the humanity carried out by the Lebanese militia under the direct command of General Sharon. Sharon should be tried in an international court of law. Panorama did not took any sides it only brought the facts into the light, the facts the Israeli government did not want the World to know. Western governments i.e. America, always talk about human rights. Now is the time it should put words where its mouth is and call for Sharon to be tried for abuse of human rights. The rest of the Western world should also call for Sharon's extradition to the Hague as soon as possible because justice delayed is justice denied. I congratulate the Panorama team for raising this important issue.
Mohammed Jahangir

I wish to express my outrage at the blatantly anti-Israel programme against Prime Minister Sharon. If BBC were really concerned about the wanton murder of innocent civilians it would raise its voice against the terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli schoolchildren and civilians. What moral authority does the BBC claim to set itself up as the judge for events that transpired 20 years ago?
Anne Brody
Chicago, USA

This is the first time that I have seen such an honest report about the SABRA and SHATILA massacre of 1982 in your Panorama which was on the Internet. I wish that these types of broadcasts could be shown in North America (USA/Canada). I live in Canada and would be happy to see this type of programming on Canadian television. Perhaps you should contact the media in Canada and USA about getting your message out to a broader audience. Good luck as it is not an easy subject to deal with.
Ontario, Canada

Ariel Sharon should be sanctioned for his responsibility in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The people of Israel of the time were outraged with this and rightly took to the streets and this cost him his job as Minister of Defence. Sharon has a grave responsibility in all this, but lets face it, the Lebanese militiamen committed these atrocities and none of these cold blooded killers have even been brought to justice. The victims of this carnage want Sharon to be condemned for war crimes, but I can't understand why they focus everything on him and do not mention anything on the criminals that murdered, tortured and raped so many innocent people. In my opinion these sanctions should be taken in the right order, and just taking severe measures against Sharon alone would be like only punishing countries in Europe that collaborated with Germany in Word War II without even condemning the Nazis that bear the main responsibility for the atrocious crimes that we all know. Unlike far too many other documentaries and newspapers - Panorama is objective and really gives us this message.
Charles Bruce
Brussels, Belgium

I watched and I could not believe my eyes. I am an Israeli citizen, I want my leaders to behave in a responsible and moral manner, I participated in the demonstrations which ultimately lead to Sharon's resignation as Defence Minister in 1982. I believe that the Israeli Commission which investigated the massacre came to the correct conclusions, and Sharon's resignation was the proper course of action. Your description of the events leading up to and including the massacre were designed to deliver the conclusion you preferred. You ignored the fact that the Lebanese leader who directly ordered and participated in the massacre, Elie Hobeika, was later accused by his own people of being an agent for the Syrians who ordered the massacre in order to discredit Israel. You ignore the most obvious fact of all, that Israel stood to gain nothing but to lose much by such atrocities. A truly objective person can only ask what is the BBC's real motivation for such reporting. Can it be the you have chosen sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and are trying to influence it's outcome? It is clear to me that you reached your conclusions before you analysed all the facts and the facts you presented were the ones which supported your conclusions. It truly will be ironic, if your report succeeds in bringing an indictment against Sharon, that the impact on the "big picture" will be the total breakdown of whatever chance exists of restarting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. But you are not concerned with that? You are just concerned with reporting the "truth", BBC style. You have sunk to illegitimate, inaccurate, biased, and agenda motivated reporting.
Richard Goldstein
Kibbutz Ketura

Interesting journalism. Now let's see Mr. Keane apply his and the BBC's fair and objective reporting skills to a similar documentary about Arafat. Or perhaps a piece on what Assad did to his own people, or maybe what Jordan did to the Palestinians or even the way Arafat treats his own people. Lot's of this kind of thing going around in the Middle East.

I would like to congratulate the BBC and Fergal Keane on presenting an objective, factual report of the tragedy in Lebanon. If people knew how many UN resolutions have been broken by Israel, there would be much less support for the country. Of course, the Jews have suffered many atrocities in their history, but this doesn't excuse their own actions in Lebanon and Palestine. Surely, it's a double standard to use helicopter gunships to blast people they call terrorists, but not have indicted for war crimes, a man indirectly responsible for a massacre of 800 people.
Wissam Hussain

I think for the 1st time ever, the real story of what happened in Sabra & Shatila came out, and the real perpetrators are being pinpointed. The international community can no longer tolerate silence against Israeli atrocities. Yes, its a time of peace, but reconciliation is a dream.

One must wonder as to the motives guiding the BBC through the production of such a programme. Notwithstanding the tabloid manner of so called "fact presenting" the BBC plays prosecutor, judge, jury and indeed god in its so called "research". Being a Solicitor, I can plainly tell the opinions of the legal experts are controversial at best, one must wonder what prevented the BBC from bringing one of the many commentators who argue differently simply to show that the matters are not etched in stone. The conclusions of the programme can either be biased and unethical or plain slander. Perhaps it is the BBC that ought to face the Crown Prosecutor.

Well done BBC! Informative, objective and courageous reporting.
Ramy Tadros

The comments on this message board prove the power of the media. Not only was the story a complete distortion and manipulation of the real events but Panorama would never have the guts to accuse Yasser Arafat of the same. The programme was an absolute disgrace.

Well done BBC. I found the programme riveting but very disturbing. What a dreadful pity that we are still sitting back and allowing Ariel Sharon and the Phalanges to be free. Hopefully that your "well-put together" programme might get some action started in the likely hope of justice for all the innocent victims and families of this dreadful atrocity. Again well done and keep up the good work.
Eileen Mulcahy

Fergal Keane's comments on his live webcast were keen to stress that the programme was not solely focused on Ariel Sharon, but rather offered a view of the role of all main parties involved in the tragedy that took place in Sabra and Shatila. I wonder then, how Fergal must feel about the fact that the BBC News bulletin that immediately preceded the programme focused solely about the possible guilt of Ariel Sharon. It seemed that the Accused was only him. And this was not a one-off mistake. The same was the case on the BBC News Online site, the BBC News at Ten on the following evening, and on your own Panorama site.

I want to congratulate you on your programme The Accused. The world needs to see the true face of Ariel Sharon. Israel continues to try to be above the law by branding any honest reporting of it's brutality as a form of anti-Semitism. As no one wants to be branded an anti-Semite, Israel hopes to scare journalists off. Thank you to Fergal Keane and the Panorama team for your courage and honesty in reporting the facts in spite of the immense pressure and the false accusations of anti-Semitism that the BBC came under from Israel's strong lobby and Israel's apologists. I hope that your programme will move Sharon closer to facing justice. He needs to be indicted and tried as a war criminal.
Nabil Tarazi
Stoke Poges, Bucks

I was extremely concerned to learn that at such sensitive times in the Middle East the BBC has decided to upset the situation further by showing such a programme. Obviously the truth should always come out and I am totally open to free and democratic journalism. For everything, however, there is a time and a place and this is neither.
Edward Wojakovski

Many of the comments written complain that this is a bad time for such a programme to air when the Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating a stop to violence. This is a blind view of the reality of what Israel and Sharon's intentions are. The timing of "The Accused" could not have been any better. By shedding the light on Sharon's behaviour in one incident in his career, he and the other right-wing leaders will feel even more accountable to international voices. More focus should be put on Sharon's career and his invlovement in the following known massacres: - El Burj, September, 1953, - 15 dead; - Qibiya, Oct. 14, 1953 - 73 dead; - The 'Pacification of Gaza',1971 - Unknown number of dead; - Sabra and Shatila, September 16-18, 1982, Hundreds dead, total figure unknown (see the video clip);
George M.
New Jersey, USA

Fergal Keane's first reply on your live webcast was that the Panorama programme was very careful to focus not only on Ariel Sharon, but rather ensured that the tragic events in Sabra and Shatila in the wider context of what was happening in Beirut at the time. Herein lies his and the BBC's naivety. The majority of comments in this column are simply anti-Israeli in their nature. Were they as balanced as the programme itself was, this would not have been so. Naivety is not something I usually associate with the BBC. And if the showing of this (albeit balanced) programme at this time was not naivety, then I fear we are dealing with something more disingenuous on the BBC's part.

The BBC is to be thanked for having the courage to put forward the facts about Mr Sharon's involvement in the rape, torture, dismemberment and massacre of scores of defenceless human beings living in the Sabra and Shatila Camps. Mr Sharon should be on trial not because he is Israeli, but because he had overall responsibility for what happened to the civilians under his jurisdiction, and there are good grounds for doubting that he had any care as to their safety when their lives were clearly under serious threat from his country's closest allies in Lebanon. Quite on the contrary, his (in)actions APPEAR to have condoned this crime of genocide. As with all accused people, Mr Sharon remains innocent until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. However, until he answers to an appropriate court of law, we will never know the truth. On a more human note, I find it frankly astonishing, and deeply disturbing, that a man who is the prime minister of a country which came into being because of genocidal treatment of his people in Nazi Germany and occupied lands should be unable to find it in himself to say "I am sorry for what happened to these human beings while they were under my jurisdiction. I must share in the responsibility for what happened" - whether or not he personally fired a single shot. Certainly the Palestinians have paid an unspeakable price for immeasurable European crimes against the Jews. But I weep too, and no less bitterly, for the people of Israel who chose such a man as their leader.

Well done BBC and excellent work Fergal Keane. At last and after 19 years the children, women, and old men massacred at Sabra and Shatila can rest in peace and those who survived the massacre feel that their suffering did not fall on deaf ears in the west. For those who cannot bear hearing the truth, I pity them. Again, well-done BBC and we would like to see more of such objective programmes because truth does not belong to anyone, it belongs to everyone.

I don't think that programme was useful right now with all the tensions. If you have put up this programme maybe later it might have made more of a statement to people not to follow those actions by the Phalange and instead of making them hate the other side even more for those tragic events. Remember, the Israelis aren't the only people who cause massacres! Plenty of suicide bombings have occurred in the last year killing more Israelis total compared to the amount of people dead in Sabra & Shatila. It just didn't make it big because they were killed on separate occasion and in different style!
John Coley
New York

Broadcasting at its best, thank you BBC.
Leicester, England

Thank you for this very insightful programme.
Washington, DC

Before doing a one-sided documentary like this on the events of Sabra and Shatila, I would suggest everyone to read the following book: "From Israel to Damascus" written by Robert Hatem, alias "COBRA", who was extremely close to Mr Hobeika (his bodyguard, really responsible of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. This book also explains how and why PM Sharon is not responsible for what happened.

I am amazed at the response from many Israelis/British Jews at the programme. Numerous references have been made to Arafat - why has no documentary been made about him? Those bent on white washing history should remember that Arafat is a product of the initial act of terrorism in the Middle East - the creation of the State of Israel.

I was saddened by the BBC airing this very biased programme - especially during such a tense period of Israeli/Palestinian relations. Is Fergal Keane deliberately trying to inflame further unrest and hatred? It was a deliberate attempt to stage a TV trial of Israel's democratically elected leader. The BBC is not a court. The tragic massacres were thoroughly investigated, and the BBC is ignoring the findings of tribunals in the U.S. and Israel. Please can the BBC ensure its journalism becomes more objective.
Wendy Hogarth

I would like to thank Fergal Keane for this programme and I would like to say to all, that, when someone with actions like these and a history like this, he should be put on trial for violation of human rights. At last someone has the courage to say the truth.

I would like to thank Fergal Keane for this programme and I would like to say to all, that, when someone is even partially responsible of civilians massacres, he must not be at the head of a "democratic country" like Israel. The Kahan Commission itself found him guilty and recommended that he must not take the Defence Minster portfolio any more. Now, he has even more power as a prime minister. Before accusing others of civilian massacres, Israeli have to look first in their own camp.

Your answers in these forum are very balanced, in fact more balanced than your film. Why didn't you explain more precisely why 150 "phalangistes chrétiens" have been like "animals" during 40 hours? That was not a human behaviour and according to me your film didn't explain that scandalous cruelty.

Well done to the BBC for being brave enough to screen something like this. I say don't take any note of those people who cannot face the facts. "Israel" is a pariah state and it is about time for the whole world to know this regardless of false "anti-Semitism" charges or the very unfortunate casualties among Israeli children. After all, there is a lot of support for more unbiased reporting on the Middle East. I found it interesting that a Greek Cypriot friend of mine told me that it is obvious that coverage in the UK on the Middle East is biased (toward "Israel"). He said, Cyprus does not really care who does what in the Middle East so they just report the facts.

Fergal Keane's report about Sabra & Shatila was a gutsy programme that had to be made. It raises the important question of war crimes, and if we should be selective in which war criminals we pursue. It was made in a very sensitive and balanced way. Well done.

I think it is time that the Israeli and Jewish people came to the truth with themselves. They have been sufferers on atrocities and they should not be committers of the same. They should not have voted for Sharon and they should have tried him themselves. Trying Sharon is not a trial of the Jewish or Israeli people but a justice that should be made to humanities. The keys to resolving the whole Middle East problem lies with the Israelis. Simple and nice and no need for years of negotiation. All what is needed is respect for the Palestinian people and withdrawal and abiding by UN resolutions. Nothing more!
John Malco

As the creators of a very considered and professional programme such as Panorama, you usually generate a very objective programme that explains and presents both sides of the research. I was very surprised to see that from some reason you decided to issue a very professional one-sided campaign against PM Sharon, while ignoring totally from the explaining of the political background, the situation in Lebanon and other factors on the Arabic side. One should expect from a TV network like BBC, not to play into the Arabs hands and give up to the pressure to act against Israel. The timing of the programme also makes you raise an eye brow and wonder why 19 years after the incident, you decide to pursue Sharon in the middle of a middle-Eastern struggle, in which the Israelis are the moderate and the Palestinians are the aggressors.

I was reading the Israeli comments on the programme, what amazes me are the large scale of the Israeli denial of the Palestinian people. Most Israelis criticized the timing of the programme, but I still remember during the Oslo agreement when any reports condemn Israeli for building illegal settlements on the Palestinians occupied land, the Israeli reaction was the same, attacking these reports because of the peace process. The time of the programme is excellent, simply because if no-one is watching Sharon we will land up with new massacre. The time, also, for the Israeli is perfect to acknowledge the Palestinian political rights before "timing" is too late.
Mandy Fox

I want to congratulate you for a very well covered programme even it came a little late (19 years after). I want to tell all those who claimed that you are anti-Semitic. Its very strange how the Jews deal with the massacres Hitler did to them in the media. Although this issue is much more late than 19 years ago, and the man accused is dead (Hitler) they still keep on raising it in various kinds of media. I want to know how they would react if the BBC made a movie film out of Sabra and Shatila. All of them try to raise other issue about Arafat, and how Israeli children die because of bombing, and forgetting how many Palestinian children have died. Have they ever tried to compare figures, and the different means of killing?
M Sharaf

Few voices were raised in May 1985, when Muslim militiamen attacked the Shatila and Burj-el Barajneh Palestinian refugee camps. According to UN officials, 635 were killed and 2,500 wounded. During a two-year battle between the Syrian-backed Shiite Amal militia and the PLO, more than 2,000, including many civilians, were reportedly killed. No outcry was directed at the PLO or the Syrians and their allies over the slaughter. International reaction was also muted in October 1990 when Syrian forces overran Christian-controlled areas of Lebanon. In the eight-hour clash, 700 Christians were killed-the worst single battle of Lebanon's Civil War.
Peter Hebden

The point to be addressed is whether Sharon knew beforehand and during the massacre that the Phalange would react that way on entering the camp. Therefore the decision would be whether Sharon was culpable in the massacre because he knew the result or that he was incredibly naive. The programme rightly leaves that up to the watcher and I myself am inclined to collusion by Sharon being the likely cause. Having said that there have been many instances of incompetent intervention leading to this sort of tragedy. History is littered with ham fisted great (or regional) power intervention supporting one side in a civil war and providing further destabilisation. One only has to look at NATO's tacit support of the KLA in Kosovo and its new found confidence in taking on the Macedonians to show how incompetence alone can lead to these kind of terrible acts.
Alan Moorhouse

Congratulations on an excellent programme. I appreciate how the BBC is not biased with its reports/news/and documentaries. I found your documentary on the Lebanese Massacre deeply disturbing. Israel has played games with the International Community for far too long (breaking countless UN resolutions) - It is about time we wake up and put a stop to it.
Mr T Hursit

Congratulations for your courageous programme. The crimes and scale of brutality committed against the Palestinian refugees was truly horrific. All guilty parties must be brought before the international courts if the victims are to gain any sense of justice. It is very discouraging to see so many negative comments by Jews, and I think this misrepresents the attitudes of all but the most extreme Jewish elements. A substantial number of Jewish groups (ever heard of Jews for Justice?) condemned the actions of the Phalange and the orders of Sharon, and indeed there are many critical of Israel's policy of aggression against the Palestinians. Unfortunately, even their views are considered "anti-Semitic" and repressed from expression. Keep up the good work BBC!
Jonathon W.
Manchester, UK

May I commend the BBC for its objective reporting. I further support the BBC's stand to stand-by it's programme despite tremendous pressure by the Zionist regime to initially stop the broadcast of the programme and then subsequently, after the programme was aired, calling it anti-Semitic. No person, be he an ordinary layman or holding a post such as a prime minister, should be permitted to escape the accountability of his responsibilities and deeds. I support the BBC in its stand and urge you to continue your objective reporting for the service of mankind, as you truly have done so in the case for the Palestinians in your programme 'The Accused'.
Mohamed Bakar Bandali
Stanmore, UK

I am outraged by the blatantly anti-Israel diatribe of your programme on Prime Minister Sharon. If the bleeding hearts at BBC were really concerned about the wanton murder of innocent civilians they would raise their voice in condemnation of the murderous attacks against innocent Israeli schoolchildren and civilians perpetrated. What moral authority does the BBC claim to set itself up as the judge for events transpired some 20 years ago? If the BBC is really concerned about past atrocities, why not start at home with the atrocities and genocide perpetrated by imperial Britain?
Ernest Elovic
Cincinnati, Ohio

One cannot dispute the fact that Ariel Sharon resigned as defence minister in 1983 after an Israeli commission of enquiry criticised him for his role in the massacres. Nor can one dispute the fact that Israelis nearly 20 years later elected this very man has their leader.
Miss Sarah Andrew

I congratulate the BBC and at the same time feel sorry for them. Some people will always accuse reporters of being anti-Arab or anti-Jew, depending on which side the truth falls. The BBC, and British news coverage in general, is second to none in its unbiased and unabashed approach to reporting facts around the world.
London, UK

Isaac Deutscher summed up the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis, as like a man who jumps out of a burning building only to land on somebody in the street. The problem with the state of Israel is that instead of apologising or helping the poor man, they continue jumping on him as if he is a trampoline. So whenever a third party tries to point this out, the defenders of Zionism trot out the usual list of red herrings. Those of us who refuse to stay silent are called anti-Semitic, or our comments are maybe true, but somehow, now is always the wrong time to voice them, or that the state of Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Interesting too, is the similarity of phrasing in a lot of the pro-Zionist comments in this forum. Couldn't have been organised by anybody could they? We all know that Sharon will never be prosecuted for war crimes. What galls me is that the defenders of Zionism say he must not even be accused.

I wasn't at all surprised that you were so one-sided about Ariel Sharon. After all if you were really intent on justice you would have done it long ago for Arafat.
Elihu Shannon

Thank you for a much needed - if somewhat belated - contribution to search for justice for those victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Ultimately the conclusion to this unresolved issue can only benefit Israel and the quest for peace in the Middle East. Again my thanks and congratulations.
Ian Nelson

Your report was moving, tragic, informative, unbiased - excellent, even by BBC's own high standards. God bless you and all at BBC for persistently maintaining the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and impartiality - which is absolutely unrivalled on the international stage, ESPECIALLY in respect to Palestinian and Israeli issues! Keep it up!
Stephen Abi-Hanna

The essential defence of Sharon has been that he was not, and could not have been expected to be, aware that the Phalangists might carry out a massacre in the camps. But this was apparent to anybody who read the newspaper reports of events in Lebanon at this time; the notion that Sharon did not know, and that the Israeli forces overlooking the camps could not have told him - and they were under his authority - makes no sense. It is a pity that some of those who have objected to your programme have been less willing to face the truth than the 400,000 Israelis who demonstrated against Sharon at the time. The placard carried by one demonstrator, 'If I forget Sabra and Shatila, I forget Jerusalem', was moving testimony to their honesty and courage. As for the question, why is this issue raised now? - the real question is why was it not raised two decades ago, and raised again and again until it was properly answered.
Phillip Mallett
St Andrews

Unfortunately it is very easy to see that this is a one sided programme which was done for the purpose of accusing Sharon of war crimes. Throughout this programme the reporter found people who can accuse Sharon like Morris Draper, who is trying to throw all the blame on Sharon, and can even read Sharon's mind claiming that Sharon knew that the Phalange will disobey orders from Sharon and commit massacre. We must remember the facts that: It wasn't the Israeli military under direct commands from Sharon that committed the massacre, it was the Christian Phalange. It is not logical that Sharon knew that the Phalange would disobey orders, and commit massacre, he had no interest for such a scandal. Why would a man cause himself such a terrible scandal? What good could such a massacre could ever bring Sharon? - NONE ! Sharon was simply a military man who fought PLO terrorists, and while in war he made this unfortunate alliance with the Phalanges. The question is why did Fergal Keane make such a subjective distorted programme 19 years later in the middle of the Palestinian Israeli conflict?

Thanks to Fergal Keane for a fine piece of journalism. What happened in Sabra and Shatila is a clear example of the horrors of wars and why force should not be the way to resolve differences. I hope that the protagonists realize that peace is the only way to prevent similar atrocities from happening again.
C Hatem
New York

I really don't think you are brave, because I don't think that provocation is a brave action. I am a Russian Jew - 10 years in Israel and have an opportunity to watch Russian television, and believe me, even Russian television is much more balanced than BBC. You are accusing our PM of indirect responsibility. And people are asking you: "What about Arafat?". And your answer was that you produced reports about his corruption and torture. Please, don't be ridiculous , we are not asking about corruption. We are talking about an investigation into war crimes.

I would like to congratulate Panorama team for its courageous and factual programme on Sabra and Shatila massacres. I deeply regret that so many people, biased by their unconditional support to Israel can't see or refuse to see that some leaders of that country, like some others in the region, are responsible for what we can qualify as major crimes against humanity and war crimes. I am also profoundly shocked to hear once again accusation of anti-Semitism. If it happens that a Jew is a war criminal, his religion or ethnicity doesn't put him above the law. It is indeed time to integrate the idea that there is no monopoly of suffering. The terrible and horrifying treatments that Jews have suffered during the WWII, unfortunately indeed, do not immunize them against acting as criminals and do not allow them to do so neither.

The Accused was a refreshing piece on the Sabra and Shatila massacres. I would like to commend Panorama on its journalistic integrity. I hope you do not give in to any criticism by those who are trying to prevent the truth being told, and that you do not apologise to them for your high calibre reporting. Please continue to air such refreshing and unbiased programmes on this subject.
Olga Aburdene

The BBC's coverage of this human tragedy was conducted in a very professional fashion. For those who have actually paid attention during the programme, it's rather easy to pick up the contradictions in the speech of Sharon's apologists. Contradictions like fully admitting responsibility for civilians in the area they occupied but then "injecting" the Phalange in the refugee camp. Claiming that there are numbers of armed elements in the camp at the time the tragedy revealed that they were none. Claiming that the Phalange were their "trained" pariahs but then pretending to ignore the openly vindictive intentions of the Phalange towards the Palestinians civilians. Not to forget the simple fact that some Israeli positions were literally 100 yards outside areas of the camp where the carnage took place. In sum, to see that some sick minds could still find a way to blame the BBC and not the war criminals and their allies is absolutely outrageous.

I would like to encourage the Panorama programme not to succumb to orchestrated pressure on the critical issue of war crimes. Peoples' lives will depend on your continued honesty and objectivity. Thank you for having the courage to take the flak.
Hani Hamdi

I think it is really convenient that you choose to do a story such as this in a time when Israel is being portrayed so negatively in the media. Your programme was unfair, uncalled for, unnecessary and completely anti-Israel. This programme disgusted me and you should be ashamed of yourselves.
New York

Mr Keane's South African experience may actually be more relevant than some might think. A Washington Post reporter related the horror shown by Israeli officials in the 1980's when a visiting South African diplomat warmly equated apartheid with the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As to damaging the current peace process I would think that the Palestinians, like Israelis, do not need TV programmes to remember their own past. I had thought that the BBC was no longer capable of tackling highly contentious issues - I am very glad to have been proved wrong.
Mike Smith

I'm a journalist and I highly appreciate the great investigative journalistic effort in the programme. It would take months to gather all the information you presented and to meet all the people you interviewed. Thank you for a piece of artistic, noble, honourable journalistic work. Any journalist wish to be as good as you.

I have three comments to make about your Panorama programme. Firstly, right from the beginning of your programme, it was plainly obvious that your investigation into the Sabra and Shatila massacre was going to be heavily biased against Mr Sharon. Your programme started off by saying that Mr Sharon led his Christian allies into the Palestinian refugee camps, but later you (correctly) contradict this by confirming that Mr Sharon and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were not directly responsible for the massacres. A person who knows little or nothing about this tragic event and watches only the first ten minutes of the programme would be severely misled into thinking that the atrocities were committed by the IDF. Secondly, your programme totally focussed on pointing the finger at the Israelis rather than at the Phalangist militia who actually committed the crimes. If this is not biased journalism then I don't know what is. Thirdly, your programme comes at an extremely sensitive time when all supporters of peace are trying desperately to uphold a ceasefire in Israel. Such contributions from the BBC only serve to increase the tension and violence in the area.
Rami Jacob

I lived in Israel for many years. Everybody knew what Sharon was like. Your programme was excellent and I can't understand why Israelis have such short memories. Perhaps selective memories. They should never have elected him. They should be ashamed that they did.
Miriam Don

The controversial documentary aired on Sunday night claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should be tried for war crimes. Why now? After all this time? I watch the BBC News reports every day and they only report part of the story. They only report what they want the British public to hear. They are so pro- Palestinian that one would suspect that the head of the BBC is Islamic. This documentary was very distorted, unfair, and I view with great severity the tendentious manner in which the Panorama programme was presented. The timing, 19 years after the events, testify to a lack of good faith and an attempt to smear, at any cost, Israel's name and that of its Prime Minister. The BBC has placed itself as a television court while blatantly ignoring the findings of serious tribunals in the U.S. and Israel. According to Meir Rosen, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to the USA and France, there is no legal basis to the BBC's claim that Sharon should be indicted for war crimes. Israel may be accused of negligence, as was the conclusion of the Israeli Kahan commission in 1983, but in legal terms it cannot be conceived that Ariel Sharon committed any war crime. As noted by his then lawyer Dor Weissglas, there was no "deliberate or malicious intent" on Sharon's part.

As an Israeli that temporarily lives in London I can tell you I am not surprised at all by the "objective investigation" conducted by BBC's Panorama. Generally speaking, truth is far from being a cornerstone in the British culture - most British don't stick to the truth on a regular basis. Why should the media be different? Also, try to post a comment to this talkback - you will see the following note: "The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published"!!! Let's all applaud the free speech promoted by the BBC! The bottom line: I don't believe a single word coming from this source, which I generally consider unreliable and has clear anti-Israeli motivations in this specific case.
Moshe Zukmeer

I would like to give all my respect to BBC for their effort and work, to let the world know, that no one can escape justice. The truth can hurt, but killing innocent people should not be covered without punishment. BBC took the lead again to bring the truth to the world, and we all have confidence that there are still some humans living in our world.
Osama Elsharef

Judging by the letters to Forum, the BBC is attracting the congratulations and support of those who until recently have had to suppress their bigotry. You are providing them with a forum to legitimately vent their prejudices. What an indictment for a world news corporation. You would do well to heed the words of Winston Churchill - "...he who feeds the crocodile will be eaten last".
Rudolph Martin

Indictment of Sharon as a war criminal is justified as much as indictment of Robin Cook for responsibility for the massacres of Kurds in Iraq and American statesmen for similar things in recent history. They have all made the same mistake: allied with groups, with a common enemy, that ended up as bad as the original enemy. However, Sharon is less guilty because his government was under extreme pressure to do anything it could to save the lives of its citizens from continuous terror attacks, where as the western governments only do these things in an attempt to improve their position in the global power game. The Israeli government of the time has allied with the Christian militia because they shared a common goal: driving Palestinian terrorism out of Lebanon! It also had local knowledge, which made them ideal partners on paper. Sharon and his colleagues were not trained in forecasting massacres or spotting mad/barbaric potential. It is important to understand that their job was to do everything they can, to avoid risking the lives of their people and soldiers. Once this is understood, it becomes clear that the militia, and not Israeli soldiers, were the ideal candidates to go into the camps.

Interesting that all the responses you post are pro-BBC and anti-Sharon. Are you really SO biased as to not even show complaints? Now that you've strung up Sharon - I'll be looking forward to your tell-all on "Peace" prize winner Arafat.
Naomi Arram

Well done BBC for the back-handed compliment to Israel. What you have said, in effect, is that no one expects any better of Christians and Moslems in the area.
Elliot Brill

What a piece of history you put in evidence in this programme. Truth does hurt, and it did if you see the amount of feedback ( both negative and positive) that generated worldwide. Congratulations on such a well done production. At last, somebody, neither pro Arabs neither pro Jews come up to say the truth based solely on facts, interviews and evidence rather then on pre-judgement and bias. Sharon should be tried as a war criminal.
Wassim H
Paris, France

I found "The Accused" an excellent account: detailed and balanced, yet far from exonerating the obvious suspects. I am just surprised that it took so long to show this programme, when similar ones about Kosovo, for instance (where the toll appears to have been far below that of Sabra and Shatila) were very quick to point the chain of command up to the then Serbian President Milosevic. I can think of no reason why Mr. Sharon should not be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is no indication that Israelis are willing to pay any price when it comes to crimes or injustices committed against their Arab neighbours/enemies. After all, they have the world's only superpower as their unconditional supporter and guarantor.
Raul Abramo
Munich, Germany

It always fascinates me how Israel pours so much 'energy' into denying what is completely obvious to everyone. I suppose if you behave in brutal ends-justifies-the-means way, but don't wish to be seen in this dim light, it makes sense to deny. All the enquiries in the world don't mask the fact that Israel is a very fearful nation which frequently over-reacts towards it's enemies, once memorably described by Time Magazine as the 'eye for a tooth policy'. As a Lebanese Christian I am deeply ashamed of the Christian militia that perpetrated the unforgivable massacres at Sabra and Shatila, they however were a bunch of murderous thugs and are not in the same league as Israel's top brass who are frequently seen masquerading as statesmen.
Charles Abboud

For people to suggest that Mr Sharon has been "punished" by being sacked from his job at the time, quite honestly defies belief! The Phalange needed and indeed was given permission to enter the camps from the very top of the command structure. The BBC put forward its case and the facts speak for themselves.

Congratulations to the BBC team for continuing their uncompromising search for truth, in spite of the Jewish lobbying and labelling. Most of the criticisms seem to emanate from a people that consider themselves above the law, indeed above other people, and free from any blame or responsibility for their actions. No matter when this programme was aired, it would be bad timing for Israel that, understandably, refuse to acknowledge their past and present crimes. The only balanced argument acceptable to criminals, is one which exempts them from any blame. If the truth is biased, then one cannot expect the BBC to "balance" the truth to satisfy the culprits.
London, UK

There are thousands of people including non Jews who say you did a biased report. Are you saying that everyone including notables like Dennis Ross who say "It is hard to interpret it as anything but a step against the state of Israel."
Daniel James
Ramat Ha Sharon

The reaction of the Israeli government is very surprising from a country which prides itself from being the only democratic nation in the Middle east. Israelis know very well who Sharon is and they voted him because he is so brutal and blood thirsty. Israelis have voted against Peace. I have just come back from Europe and was glad to hear that the public opinion there is running very impatient with Israel. Only us Americans still back a state which behave above all international laws because our media feeds us with continuous lies. The Israelis should learn to accept criticism especially at a time when its Prime Minister calls Arafat a murderer and pathological liar. Coming from Sharon it sounds like a very bad joke. Israelis should stop there persecution complex, face their reality and realize that they are not prey to Arab terror.
New York

I watched this programme and has followed the debates so far. As an objective observer, I have to say that the reactions from the Jews to this programme has been disgraceful. If I was a Jew, having watched the horrors of the second world wars and the terrible, I repeat terrible, and systematic campaign against the Jews by Hitler, culminating in the Holocaust - my ambition in life would be to ensure that such man's inhumanity to man is never allowed to happen to anyone, irrespective of race, creed or religion. To see that the Jewish State has presided over the same treatment of the Palestinians in ways and manners similar to the holocaust is a tragedy in itself. Rather than condemn the BBC for daring to cover the story, the organisation should be congratulated. Even without the commentary, the pictures alone speak volume. The world must not allow extremists from both sides, either in suits with pen and paper or in terrorists clothing with stones or Molotov cocktail on their hands profit from this human tragedy.
Dr O.J Ebohon
Leicester, UK

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