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Self-destructive PLO still untrustworthy

I was reading The New York Times over lunch a little while ago and in between french fries I noticed a little article, wedged up in the corner of page 2. The headline summed up the story: "P.L.O. Tells Beirut It Will Not Disarm Its Lebanon Forces."

Until recently Lebanon ranked as one of the bottom 10 tourist magnets of the world. The Palestine Liberation Organization was one of half a dozen or so armed guerrilla factions that had turned Beirut into a free-fire zone, nearly leveling the city and destroying much of Lebanon's national government. While the PLO was primarily interested in using Lebanon as a staging area for missile and terrorist attacks against Israel, other groups fought for such mundane goals as fundamentalist Islamic governments and beating the PLO in the competition for the highly coveted "Most Dangerous Faction in Lebanon" prize.

Then a few months ago, it all stopped. Well, not really, but after some Syrian intervention and some considerable political lobbying, the Lebanese army began to disarm guerrillas and grant them amnesty and protection. The PLO, its goal of a Palestinian homeland within Israel not achieved, has ignored the Lebanese government, and refuses to demobilize, even if that means that thousands more Lebanese will lose their lives.

People generally will refrain from killing their neighbors unless threatened. By holding on to a great deal of Soviet weaponry (including some Scud-like surface-to-surface missiles) the PLO may perpetuate a civil war that shows every indication of reaching a cease-fire.

I am not going to address whether or not I believe that the PLO is just in its claims of sovereignty over territory in the Middle East. That is not the issue here. What matters is the observable truth that peace without victory is the arch nemesis of the PLO. A group that prefers physical aggression to diplomatic patience is motivated primarily by a desire to promote continuing hostilities until its goals are achieved. The Lebanese, like the Kuwaitis and Saudi Arabians before them, are a people whom the PLO would quickly call upon as allies, yet would quickly fall victim if the PLO believed it had something to gain from their demise.

Refusing to disarm under Lebanese control, the PLO has offered instead to form independent military units coordinated with the Lebanese army, a proposal Beirut has courageously and wisely rejected. By remaining armed and autonomous, the PLO could conceivably dominate the Lebanese military and government, bending the national agenda towards the goals of an unscrupulous foreign terrorist organization. Turning Lebanon into a permanent base would suit the PLO nicely.

Secretary of State Baker's Mideast peace initiative has unearthed many old questions concerning the PLO's legitimacy as a political organization. I have heard many excuses for the PLO's recent actions, its stubborn use of terrorism, and its support of Saddam Hussein, but none of them make sense. "The PLO was driven to use terrorism and support Saddam by Western imperialism," many say, "how can we blame them for their frustration?" I'll tell you how.

By supporting Saddam, the Palestinians insulted the Kuwaitis and Saudis, the PLO's leading financial contributors. The PLO committed an act of suicide out of frustration. How can the world trust an organization so blinded by hate that it is self-destructive? How can we give land to an organization that refuses to acknowledge the autonomy of another nation, even a state like Lebanon which it considers to be its ally? How can we trust an organization that would so irresponsibly blame the West for causing it to commit acts of unspeakable brutality? How can we trust an organization that months ago chanted for our destruction? How can we trust the PLO, when nobody else does?


Matthew H. Hersch, a sophomore, is associate opinion editor of The Tech.