Occupation and Violence Mark Israel's Treatment Against Lebanese PeopleGuest column by Walid R. Fayad, Mona M. Fawaz, and Maha M. Yahya
Since March 14, 1978, Israel has illegally occupied over 10 percent of Lebanese territory. Over 20,000 civilians have been permanently displaced and dozens of villages eradicated, and part of the country has already been annexed with barbed wire. With the current changes in regional conditions, all justifications for this continued aggression have become even more absurd. Increasingly, Lebanon is referred to, mainly in the Israeli media, as Israel's Vietnam.
For the past six years, Lebanon, in the aftermath of a 16-year civil war, has been actively rebuilding its political, economic, social, and physical infrastructure. Needless to say, the conflict in the south of the country continues to act as a major impediment to peace and reconstruction. In addition to the occupation, Israel has carried out three massive assaults - which have included the capital Beirut - in 1982, 1993, and 1996, notwithstanding the weekly attacks on Lebanese civilian areas.
As a result of this recurrent violence, over 25,000 Lebanese civilians have been killed, and around one-fourth of the Lebanese population has been injured and/or displaced from their homes between 1978 and 1996. In the process, Lebanon's efforts to reconstruct and its future are held hostage to the threat of these attacks. As Maariv's Shalom Yirushalmi stated, "last April's operation Grapes of Wrath inflicted enormous damage on the Lebanese infrastructure but didn't cost the life of a single Israeli soldier and/or civilian" [MidEast Mirror, Feb. 10]. To this one can add at least $200 million of damage to homes and property just in the 1996 attack and 400,000 displaced civilians turned refugees.
Israeli attacks on Lebanon are in flagrant violation of the acts of the Geneva Convention, which regulates international humanitarian law and which states that neither "the civil population as such, nor civilians should be subject to attacks. Forbidden are acts or threats of violence aimed at terrorizing the civil population" [Geneva Convention IV, Title IV, section 1, Chapter 2]. "Security considerations," forever touted as the reason for Israel's actions, constitute a patently absurd explanation considering Israel's military superiority in the region. Israel's use of internationally banned weapons in its numerous attacks on Lebanon have been well documented by Reuters and Human Rights Watch among others.
Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation has been consistent throughout. Indeed, it has been left to Lebanon to implement United Nations Resolution 425 which "calls upon Israel immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory." Labeled as terrorists, Islamists, and fundamentalists in the Western media, this resistance has in fact been undertaken by various sectors of the population as well as different political parties, the most recent and notorious of which has been Hizbollah.
One aspect of the resistance often ignored in the media is that of the civilians who have adamantly remained in these occupied and shelled villages for 20 years under increasingly intolerable conditions. The fact is, both aspects of the resistance - military and civilian - cannot be dissociated from each another. The very same inhabitants of these villages constitute the heart of Hizbollah's resistance within the occupied zone. This basic fact is routinely skirted by the mainstream press when they characterize Hizbollah in this area as an agent of villainous "outside" countries rather than admitting that the local Lebanese population has good reason to resist Israeli repression and occupation and acts accordingly.
Israel's demand that the resistance stop for it to withdraw are nonsensical given the history of the country's actions in Lebanon. How can the occupier ask the occupied to stop resisting? Under what system of justice and through what kind of ethics is Israel allowed to use hundreds of thousands of innocent Lebanese civilians as pawns in a deadly game that risks abolishing the tattered remnants of an increasingly elusive peace?
For this senseless cycle of violence to end, we call upon Israel to comply with UN resolution 425, to "respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries, and withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory." On this 20th anniversary of the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, we ask that you - American readers in particular - consider the injustices perpetrated against the people in south Lebanon as it is your government that furnishes the weapons, financing, and diplomatic cover for Israel's continued and lawless wrath over our people. We deserve to live in our homes without the fear of being bombed, invaded, or ruled by others, just as all human beings do.
Walid R. Fayad G is the president of the Lebanese Club. This column was written on behalf of the club.