South Lebanon will be liberated from Hezbollah
Written by Charbel Barakat
Sunday, 23 May 2010
Today, is the 10th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from what used to be known as the “security zone.” On May 23, 2000 – on the instructions of then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak – all Israeli units operating north of the border inside Lebanese territory were pulled back inside Israeli territory.
According to Barak it was in implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 issued in 1978 after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon (in response to PLO attacks across the border).
So, 23 years after it had entered the country to fight its enemies, Israel’s government decided to pull its troops back from Lebanon abruptly. Barak at the time said he was complying with UN resolutions and that he believed Lebanon was no longer a threat. That was the Israeli version of the Labor Government then.
But as IDF forces were pulling back, Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias were entering every single village and town evacuated by the Israelis. According to Hassan Nasrallah, the commander of Hezbollah, Israel withdrew because of the strikes by the so-called “resistance,” which in fact was the Iranian-backed militia. The Hezbollah story is that southern Lebanon was occupied by the Israelis, who had a proxy militia known as South Lebanon Army. And that Hezbollah struggled to liberate the land from its “Zionist occupiers.”
But there is a third version rejecting the first two and claiming it represents the struggle of the people of southern Lebanon who struggled against terror and were removed from their ancestral lands because of Barak’s policies on the one hand and the abandonment of western Lebanon last resisting free people against the hordes of Hezbollah and their Iranian and Syrian backers on the other hand.
Unfortunately, the third story has no tellers these days. Barak has Israel’s media at his service, so he can boast about his betrayal of southern Lebanon and his own Israeli people; and Nasrallah has his Iranian-funded media to claim his victories against the population that resisted him in southern Lebanon.
On this 10th anniversary of the betrayal of the people of south Lebanon, the truth is going to be blanched. It will take time for the witnesses of that drama to share the facts with the world, but it will happen no matter what.
The people within the so-called “security zone” are Lebanese citizens who have suffered at the hands of Palestinian terrorist groups since the 1970s and at the hands of Hezbollah since the 1980s. They are the sons and daughters of the land for centuries. The PLO then and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards today are foreign occupation forces. Israel entered Lebanon twice, first in 1978 and again in 1982, to strike back against terror forces shelling its territory from inside Lebanon.
The Lebanese citizens living in the border towns wanted the Lebanese Army only, neither the Israelis and certainly not the terrorist forces. But Lebanon’s government collapsed in 1975, and by 1990 it was controlled by Syria. The people of the south had no choice but to accept aid and support from Israel’s occupation forces. To be clear between the terrorists and barbarians who were slaughtering civilians and aiming at establishing a Jihadi regime and the forces of the state of Israel, an ally to the United States and at Peace with Egypt and Jordan, the choice was made against Hezbollah and the Syrian-Iranian axis.
The South Lebanon Army, under control of Israel, was by far better than ending up in the detention camps of the Iranian Pasdaran or in the torture facilities of Hezbollah and Syria. Hence, a large segment of the population of south Lebanon, Christian, Druse, Shia and Sunnis adhered to the SLA and stood by Israel’s forces as a common front against the terrorists. Israel’s successive governments stood in solidarity with the people of south Lebanon. A brotherhood between the IDF and the SLA was the cornerstone of the common defense against Hezbollah and Syria.
South Lebanon’s civil society would have preferred to be under the direct protection of the UNIFIL, a UN force dispatched to protect the Peace and the local population as of 1978. But UNIFIL’s bureaucrats refused to take the southern Lebanese under their auspices leaving them to strive for themselves. The SLA and the local population did the right thing by defending themselves and they did so under international law which grants them the right to fight for survival, hoping that when the Israelis wanted to leave, they would allow them to defend themselves and seek UN protection.
In 2000, then Israeli Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak betrayed an Israeli tradition of solidarity with the SLA and an Israeli natural friendship with the southern Lebanese. He not only ordered the abrupt withdrawal of IDF from the security zone but also a dismantlement of the SLA.
All that the southern Lebanese people wanted – as villagers living on their ancestral lands – was to defend it until they were free or die trying. Barak took away their most sacred right, the right to resist. He ordered his forces to shut off the borders as south Lebanon’s border populations were disarmed and about to be overwhelmed by the Jihadi barbarians. We know that a majority of the Israeli people were frustrated by that move, and we know that many in the IDF resented Barak’s stab in the back of the only population in the Middle East that actually stood by the Jewish people of Israel.
The southern Lebanese were forced to march during the night in a dishonorable exodus into Israel. In one night, Barak and his political allies in the government and abroad killed the last free enclave in Lebanon. In one night, he invited Hezbollah to the international borders. In on night, he terminated the only fighting force that was shedding blood shoulder-to-shoulder with the IDF in defending that part of the Middle East against the Jihadi terrorists. He took out the only friendship that could have told the world that Israel itself should not be betrayed or abandoned because it had not betrayed its own allies. Unfortunately, Barak’s reckless stab in the back of Israel’s only allies in the Middle East opened the path for the Jihadist forces to surround Israel further from the north and from the south. A few months later, the Aqsa intifada was shattering the myth of invincibility in Israel and from then on Israel was alone in a region filled with hatred. Barak took away the southern Lebanese people’s own ability to testify that Israel was doing good in the region, it was protecting its small and weak neighbors in southern Lebanon.
Today when Israel’s image is assaulted by the lethal propaganda machine of the Iranian petrodollars worldwide and in the United States, and when anti-semitism is running high in Western capitals, the only underdogs who would have told the world that Israel had been defending Christians, Druse, Shia and Sunni in that free enclave of Lebanon; those underdogs uprooted from their homes and lands because of the arrogance of a few politicians who thought they had it figured out, cannot testify to save the honor of their former allies. Blame Barak and his elitist friends in Israel and the United States for that.
This had to be said and it will be repeated as long as needed until some courageous leaders in Israel and the United States will apologize to the population of southern Lebanon for what has been done to them. History is unique in the ways it sends its messages. Three months after abandoning the people of south Lebanon, Israel was hit by a Jihadi war that has not stopped since, neither across the Lebanese border nor across the frontier of Gaza. And one year after that, America was hit by the beast of terror on 9/11. Offering the small villages of southern Lebanon to the Jihadists didn’t appease them. Just the opposite, it emboldened them. We hope the free world learned the lesson.
However, we do know that the majority of Israelis do not believe in Barak’s pragmatic miscalculations and they do want a friendship with their neighbors from the north. Naturally, it would have been better to have the SLA fending off the Iranian assault waves than having the enemy roaming the borders. Now they have to deal with Hassan Nasrallah’s 40,000 missiles to the north, Assad’s chemical forces, Hamas terror from the south and Ahmedinijad’s forthcoming nukes. Had Israel not dismantled the southern Lebanese resistance against terror, Hezbollah would have been dealing with a strong indigenous force to reckon with. Let’s see if Israel’s basic instincts correct the mistakes of its own leaders.
Meanwhile, we the people of southern Lebanon haven’t lost hope. We continue to struggle politically around the world for the liberation of Lebanon. We are now part of a vast Diaspora that stands firmly with the United States and the international community including Europe, Russia and the Arab moderates, in a campaign to defeat the terror forces. Our commitment to freeing Lebanon persists from generation to generation. We are still committed not only to peace with Israel but also to a friendship with the Jewish people in the Holy Land. Despite the betrayal by some of its politicians, Israel has a full right to exist in the region and all nations have right to freedom and democracy. We hope that the democratic forces among Arabs and other nations of the Middle East would soon rise against dictatorship and fascism and we will return to our occupied land and live in Peace.
May 23, 2000 was a hard benchmark in our history, but it is certainly not the end of it. We will return and we will live all in peace.
– Col. Charbel Barakat, Lebanese Army (Ret.) is an historian and a former civil society leader in south Lebanon. He is now a counterterrorism expert in Canada