Last Updated: Thu Sep 20, 2012 22:32 pm (KSA) 19:32 pm (GMT)

Shocking revelation: U.S. could have prevented Sabra and Shatila massacre

An archive picture of prayers held over the bodies of martyrs of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre. (AFP)
An archive picture of prayers held over the bodies of martyrs of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre. (AFP)

An American reporter has revealed previously unpublished documents on U.S.-Israeli relations during attacks on Palestinian refugee camps just outside of Beirut in 1982.

According to an article published by the French newspaper Le Monde, Washington refused to pressure Israel at the time of the massacre.

The exchange between American and Israeli officials concerning attacks on Sabra and Shatila occurred almost thirty years ago to the day.

The American Ambassador, Morris Draper, is recorded to have reminded the Israeli officials of the “basic position” of the United States: “We do not think that you need to enter – in Beirut – you must stay out.”

Ariel Sharon, the then Israeli Minister of Defense responded saying: “Whether you have thought or not…. When there is a security issue – Israel- at stake, it is our responsibility, we do not let anyone else decide for us.”

The above exchange is based on a series of five documents, dated from Sept. 15 to Sept. 20 1982.

This week, Seth Anziska, a U.S. researcher at Columbia with access to Israeli archives, wrote an article for the New York Times, casting a harsh light on Lebanese politics in Washington at the time and on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

In the documents, 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: “We are not interested in saving any of these people.” Mr. Sharon declared: “If you don’t want the Lebanese to kill them, we will kill them.”

Mr Draper’s shocked retaliatory remark included a reminder to the Israelis that the U.S. had facilitated the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (P.L.O.) exit from Beirut: “so it wouldn’t be necessary for you to come in.” He added, “You should have stayed out.”

Mr. Sharon replied: “When it comes to our security, we have never asked. We will never ask. When it comes to existence and security, it is our own responsibility and we will never give it to anybody to decide for us.”

The meeting ended with an agreement to coordinate withdrawal plans after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).

On Sept. 18 1982, Ronald Reagan pronounced his “outrage and revulsion over the murders.”

Secretary of State George P. Shultz later admitted that the U.S. was partly responsible because “we took the Israelis and the Lebanese at their word… Now we have a massacre.”

The transcript of Mr. Draper’s meeting appears to demonstrate the United States’ unwitting complicity in the atrocities that took place in Sabra and Shatila.

The massacre severely undercut American influence in the Middle East. In a delayed show of support, shortly after the tragedy, the U.S. redeployed Marines to Lebanon; a large proportion were killed in the bombardment of the barracks in Beirut.

The U.S. Department of State did not respond when contacted by Al Arabiya English.

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