Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Haig

Declassified secret British government documents: On Israel preemptive war on Lebanon in 1982, and genocide of Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila

The UK National Archives released war material on Lebanon.  The most riveting document is a secret “UK Eyes Alpha” assessment by the Joint Intelligence Committee on June 22 1982.

Its insights remain valid, mutatis mutandis, to this day.

“Much of the Arab world sincerely believes that the United States administration had connived in, if not positively blessed, the Israeli invasion.

Many of the moderate Arab leaders, including the Jordanians, Saudis and Egyptians are dismayed that the United States has failed to use its leverage over Israel effectively to deter new aggression and to prevent occupation of more Arab land.

The perception that the United States has acquiesced in the Israeli action will be seen as evidence of double standards when the administration is condemning the use of force to settle disputes in other parts of the world.

“It will undermine faith in United States ability and willingness to defend other moderate Arab states from Iranian as well as Israeli aggression. It has all but destroyed, for the time being, Arab faith in the willingness of the United States to use its leverage with Israel to obtain a solution to the Palestinian problem which takes account of Arab needs.”

Ian Black posted on Jan. 4, 2013 in The Guardian

It’s reasonable to describe journalism as the “first rough draft of history“.

And it’s always interesting, when secret government documents are released, to see how far that early version stands the test of time.  For example:

The Falklands conflict with Argentina dominated the headlines about British state papers declassified from 1982 – the traditional three decades after the event. But those dealing with that year’s Lebanon war provide some fascinating and still relevant insights.

The war began in a sense in London, where, on June 3, a Palestinian gunman shot the Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Argov. It was clear from the start that the hit team was not from the PLO but from the dissident Iraqi-backed outfit run by Abu NidalYasser Arafat‘s sworn enemy.

Israel‘s prime minister, Menachem Begin, egged on by his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, went to war against the PLO in Lebanon anyway. “Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal,” another Israeli minister said.

The documents generated at the time by British embassies, the foreign office and Downing Street provide evidence of continuity and change at a crucial moment.

Margaret Thatcher, fresh from her Falklands triumph, refused to talk to the PLO on the grounds that it had neither recognized Israel nor renounced terrorism.

But there was movement nevertheless: Thatcher received an Arab League ministerial delegation but allowed Douglas Hurd, a foreign office minister, to meet Farouq Qaddoumi, Arafat’s foreign minister. It was the first encounter of its kind and a landmark on the way to international recognition of an organization whose hard-fought claim to be the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians must now be in doubt.

“A balance would thus be struck between the United Kingdom’s sympathy with the Arabs over the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and the fact that the Israeli Ambassador in London, Mr Argov, had been attacked by a splinter group of the PLO,” the secret cabinet minutes recorded.

Britain’s Arab friends looked on in alarm as the crisis deepened, the documents show.

King Hussein of Jordan was terrified that Palestinians would be driven from Lebanon into his own security-conscious realm. Only those with Jordanian passports would be admitted and only after being “thoroughly screened to weed out undesirables.” Hussein warned Thatcher of an “unprecedented holocaust” and a “bloodbath.”

In Cairo, Hosni Mubarak, just a few months in office, was horrified at the idea that the PLO might set up a government-in-exile in Egypt.

The Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal lobbied Thatcher to use her influence with Ronald Reagan. But she declined a suggestion that she ask the US president to pressure the Israelis not to enter west Beirut –as they eventually did.

Then, as now, Washington was where things happened, and it was American envoys who tried to cobble together a ceasefire. There was also some discomfort.

“The Americans are concerned at the extent to which the Israelis have misled them at every stage of their Lebanese operation,” the British ambassador reported after meeting Alexander Haig, Reagan’s secretary of state. “There are continuing divisions within the administration but it looks increasingly likely that, as usual, the pro-Israeli faction will have its way.”

Brian Urquhart, a senior British UN official, had a “blazing row” with a US diplomat and demanded pressure on the Israelis to allow humanitarian access since “the Americans and the other Arabs were apparently not prepared to do anything in the face of what looked like mass murder of the Palestinians by the Israelis.”

Like many government documents these British papers confirm what was widely reported at the time about a conflict which has always attracted intense media attention.

Even in the post-WikiLeaks era, there is a frisson in reading confidential reports and reflections, some of them piercingly perceptive. Small indiscretions – about French arrogance, Israeli influence over the US, Arab frustration and British manoeuvring – add colour, nuance and understanding to enrich the historical record.

Note: Israel war that ended in entering the Capital Beirut left 20,000 killed (mostly civilians of Lebanese) and injured 60,000.

Israel perpetrated the genocide in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila for three days and two night (slaughtering 2,000 women, children and elder people), even with the promise of the USA that Palestinian civilians in the camps will be safe from Israeli aggression.

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30 years later: Uri Avnery on Israel 1982 war against Lebanon Background: THIRTY YEARS ago this week, the Israeli army crossed into Lebanon.

That was the most stupid war in Israel’s history.

It lasted for 18 years. About 1500 Israeli soldiers and over 40, 000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed, and four folds suffered serious injuries and handicapped.

Uri Avnery published “The war of Lies” on June 9, 2012 (with slight editing):

The War of Lies
Almost all wars are based on lies. Lies are considered legitimate instruments of war. The 1982 war on Lebanon is a glorious example.From beginning to end it was a war of deceit and deception, falsehoods and fabrications.THE LIES started with the official name: “Operation Peace in Galilee”.

If one asks Israelis now, 99.99% of them will say with all sincerity: “We had no choice. They launched Katyusha at the Galilee from Lebanon every day. We had to stop them.”

TV anchormen and anchorwomen, as well as former cabinet ministers have been repeating this throughout this week. Quite sincerely. Even people who were already adults at the time.

The simple fact is that for 11 months before the war, not a single shot was fired across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

A cease-fire was in force and the Palestinians on the other side of the border (south Lebanon) kept the peace scrupulously.

To everybody’s surprise, Yasser Arafat succeeded in imposing strict military operations on all the radical Palestinian factions, too.

At the end of May, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon met with Secretary of State Alexander Haig in Washington DC. He asked for American agreement to invade Lebanon. Haig said that the US could not allow it, unless there were a clear and internationally recognized provocation.

And lo and behold, the provocation was provided at once. Abu Nidal, the anti-Arafat and anti-PLO master terrorist, sent his own cousin to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London, who was grievously wounded.

In retaliation, Israel bombed Beirut and the Palestinians fired back, as expected.

The Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, allowed Sharon to invade Lebanese territory up to 40 km, “to put the Galilee settlements out of reach of the katyushas.”

When one of the intelligence chiefs told Begin at the cabinet meeting that Abu Nidal’s organization was not a member of the PLO, Begin famously answered: “They are all PLO”.

General Matti Peled, my political associate at the time, firmly believed that Abu Nidal had acted as an agent of Sharon. So do all the Palestinians I know.

The lie “they shot at us every day” has taken such a hold on the public mind that it is nowadays useless to dispute it. It is an illuminating example of how a myth can take possession of the public mind, including even of people who had seen with their own eyes that the opposite was true.

NINE MONTHS before the war, Sharon told me about his plan for a New Middle East.

I was writing a long biographic article about Sharon with his cooperation. He believed in my journalistic integrity, so he told me his plan “off the record” and allowed me to publish it – but without quoting him. So I did.

Sharon had a dangerous mental mixture: a primitive mind unsullied by any knowledge of (non-Jewish) history, and a fatal craving for “grand designs”.

Sharon despised all politicians – including Begin – as little people devoid of vision and imagination.

Sharon design for the region, as told me then (and which I published nine months before the war), was:

  1. To attack Lebanon and install a Christian dictator who would serve Israel,
  2. Drive the Syrians out of Lebanon,
  3. Drive the Palestinians out of Lebanon into Syria, from where they would then be pushed by the Syrians into Jordan.
  4. Get the Palestinians to carry out a revolution in Jordan, kick out King Hussein and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state,
  5. Set up a functional arrangement under which the Palestinian state (in Jordan) would share power in the West Bank with Israel.

Being a single-minded operator, Sharon convinced Begin to start the war, telling Begin that the sole aim was to push the PLO 40 km back. He managed to vote in Bashir Gemayel as the President/dictator of Lebanon.

After the assassination of Bashir, Sharon facilitated the genocide that the Christian Phalanges carry out the massacre in Sabra and Shatila in order to terrify the Palestinians into fleeing to Syria.

The results of the war were the opposite of Sharon expectations:

1. Bashir was killed by the Syrians and his brother, who was then elected by Israeli guns, was an ineffective weakling.

2. The Syrians strengthened their hold over Lebanon. The horrible massacre did not induce the Palestinians to flee.

3. Hussein remained on his throne. Jordan did not become Palestine.

4. Arafat and his armed men were evacuated to Tunis, where they won impressive political victories, were recognized as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people” and eventually returned to Palestine.

THE MILITARY plan went awry right from the beginning, no less than the political one. Since the war was celebrated in Israel as a glorious military victory, no military lessons were drawn from it – so that 2006 preemptive war on Lebanon was an even greater military disaster.

The simple fact is that in 1982, no unit of the army reached its goal at all, or certainly not on time. Valiant Palestinian resistance in Sidon (Saida) held the army up, and Beirut was still out of reach when a ceasefire was declared.

Sharon simply broke it, and only then did his troops succeed in encircling the Capital Beirut and entering its Eastern part.

Contrary to his promise to Begin (repeated to me at the time by a very senior coalition partner), Sharon attacked the Syrian army in order to reach and cut the Beirut-Damascus road.

The Israeli units on that front never reached the vital road, and instead suffered a resounding defeat at Sultan Yacoub in the Chouf.

The Chief of Staff was Rafael Eitan, called Raful. He was appointed by Sharon’s predecessor, Ezer Weizman. At the time, I asked Weizman why he had appointed such a complete fool.

Weizman typical answer was: “I have enough IQ for the two of us. He will execute my orders.” But Weizman resigned and Raful remained.

ONE OF the most significant and lasting results of this war concerns the Shiites.

From 1949 to 1970, the Lebanese border was the quietest of all our borders. People crossed by mistake and were returned home.

It was commonly said the “Lebanon will be the second Arab state to make peace with Israel”, not daring to be the first.

The mostly Shiite population on the other side of the border was the most downtrodden and powerless of Lebanon’s diverse ethnic-religious communities.

When King Hussein, with the help of Israel, drove the PLO forces out of Jordan in the “Black September” of 1970, the Palestinians established themselves in South Lebanon and became the rulers of the border region, which was soon known in Israel as “Fatahland”.

The Shiite population did not like their overbearing new Palestinian lords, who were Sunnis. When Sharon’s troops entered the area, they were actually received with rice and candies by the Shias (I saw it with my own eyes.)

The Shiites, not knowing Israel, believed that their liberators would drive the Palestinians out and go home.

It did not take them long to perceive their mistake. They then started a guerrilla war, for which the Israeli army was quite unprepared.

The Shiite mice quickly turned into Shiite lions. Faced with their guerrillas, the Israeli government decided to leave Beirut and much of South Lebanon, holding on to a “security zone”, which duly became a guerrilla battleground.

The moderate Shiites were replaced by a much more radical new Hizb-Allah (“Party of God”), which eventually became the main political and military force in all of Lebanon.

To stop them, Israel assassinated their leader, Abbas al-Musawi, who was promptly replaced by a vastly more talented assistant – Hassan Nasrallah.

At the same time, Sharon’s clones in Washington started a war that destroyed Iraq, the historic Arab bulwark against Iran.

A new axis of Shiite Iraq, Hezbollah and Alawite Syria became a dominant fact. (The Alawites, who rule Assad’s Syria, are a kind of Shiite. Their name derives from Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet, whose descendants were rejected by the Sunnis and accepted by the Shiites.)

If Sharon were to wake up from the coma which has been his lot for the last six years, he would be shocked by this result – the only practical one – of his Lebanon War.

ONE OF the victims of the war was Menachem Begin. Many legends have been woven around his memory, blowing it out of all proportion.

Begin had many excellent qualities. He was a man of principle, honesty and personal courage. He was also a great orator in the European tradition, able to sway the emotions of his audience.

But Begin was a very mediocre thinker, completely devoid of original thought. His mentor, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, treated him with disdain. In his way, he was quite naive. He let himself be easily misled by Sharon. Being single-minded and devoted to defeating the Palestinians and extending the rule of the “Jewish” state to all of historical Palestine, he did not really care about Lebanon, Sinai or the Golan.

Begin’s behavior during the Lebanon War bordered on the ridiculous. He visited the troops and asked questions that became the butt of jokes among the soldiers. In retrospect, one wonders whether by that time he was already mentally affected. Soon after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which shocked him to the core, he retreated into deep depression, which lasted until his death ten years later.

THE MORAL of the story, relevant today as ever: Any fool can start a war, only a very wise person can prevent one.

 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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