Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘belt of misery

Can we learn anything from Lebanon civil war (15 years)?

Note: re-editing this old article “Lebanon civil war revisited (Written in Jan 8, 2006 and published in 2008)”

I wrote in 1976 a lengthy article that was published, in two successive issues, by the university students’ newspaper of the Oklahoma Daily at Norman, on the subject of the civil war in Lebanon (the war has been less than a year in activities).

Unfortunately, I misplaced a copy of that article to compare my views with my current understanding of this calamity, although I think that I was on the right track even then.

Simply, the main facts of the civil war of Lebanon (1975-1991) points to the direction that it was an internally ignited and executed war, and entirely reinforced by external regional States in later planning, supply and logistics.

Since 1973, the Syrian regime of dictator Hafez Assad harassed Lebanon with almost impossible demands, and closed the borders for trade for 6 months in a stretch.

Basically, Assad was pissed off that the Lebanese government had decided not to declare war against Israel in September 1973, and refused to join the armies of Syria and Egypt of Sadat.

Hafez Assad wanted to have total control of the Palestinian Resistance Movement, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat (based in Lebanon).  Finally, Assad managed to control the major arms and arsenal depots of the Palestinian resistance through the Palestinian faction called Saika under the total control of Syria.

When the civil war in Lebanon started, the Palestinian forces could overrun the Lebanese army and the Phalanges Christian forces within a week, but Assad refused to open the arms depots to Arafat.

And the civil war dragged on for the coming 17 years, resulting in “religious cleansing” of major regions into self-autonomous cantons.

Since the Independence of Lebanon in 1943, our political system has been contained and maintained through the tacit alliance of the feudal, confessional and mercantile powerhouses of both the Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims.

Then and now, I am convinced that the sectarian and conservative Christian Maronite political parties, with the complete support of then President Suleiman Frangieh and the high-ranking officers of the army, decided that a civil war was the only alternative solution remaining in their hands to salvage the crumbling confessional political and social status.

I reluctantly insert reviews of our past political system, solely for the benefit of the new generations of Lebanese, who cannot perceive the continuation of the past in our worsening present system.

We can reach as far in our past and attest to the vicious cycle of short periods of self-determination, lasting half a human life, making room to centuries of subjugation.

These cycles keep springing up as unbreakable as if our destiny is a series of hopeless attempts for independence from the neighboring power houses in Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, or even Iraq before the 10th century.

I might as well start in 1969, with the unpublished agreement between Yasser Arafat and the Lebanese government on the location of the military bases of the Palestinian Resistance Movement.

The “Arkoub Land” in south Lebanon (bordering Israel) was to become a secured islands  from Lebanon law, army, and forces of order.  This agreement was signed in Cairo by Jamal Abel Nasser, Yasser Arafat, the Lebanese army chief Emil Bustany, the Prime Minister Rashid Karame and the minister of the interior Pierre Gemayel who was also the leader of the Phalanx (Kataeb) party.

Under the motto that “The strength of Lebanon is in his weakness”, secured by the charter of the United Nations, Lebanon successive governments, as early as its independence in 1943, could not agree on forming a strong army able to defend its border.

The successive governments refrained from investing in the southern regions, in the Bekaa Valley and in Akkar.  the southern “citizens” or more accurately inhabitants, of  Muslim Shia majority, did not receive any attention from the central government in the budget or development planning.

The Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims feudal and conservative leaders figured out that any troubles in the south will not significantly affect the rest of Lebanon or destabilize its confessional political system.

When Israel started to retaliate for the Palestinian rocket launching attacks from the Arkoub Land and under various pretenses, the citizens in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut forming what was called the “belt of misery” The “Dahiyat”, currently the stronghold of the Hezbollah Party.

These suburbs would have major impacts on the process of the civil war in many respects.

In the years 1969-1975, the Lebanese university students were the vanguard for significant reforms of our outdated political confessional system, and the Capital Beirut was the scene of multiple demonstrations per month demanding the governments to pay more attention to the dreams and drives of the youth for a modern and fair political system.

The Lebanese University was the hub of these demonstrations, lead by the Communists and left leaning students who succeeded in winning the elections of the student councils throughout the University branches.

The popular support for drastic reforms signaled the feasibility of changes through democratic means, which scared the confessional forces to bypass the real issues and lay our problems to the existence of the Palestinian resistance factions.

In order to rally the moderate Lebanese citizens around their status quo system, the confessional forces hammered on the prerequisite of uniting around the army, whenever premeditated incidents led to direct military confrontations on a few refugees’ camps in the Christian enclave like Dbayeh and Jesr El Basha; those same camps that former President Camille Chamoun opened and later extended the Lebanese Nationality to the Christian Palestinians to vote for him and his coalition during the Parliamentary elections.

In few instances, the army air force dusted off its archaic and limited war planes as a show of force, and twice determined to enter the camps without much political success.

It is a fact that the Maronite political parties, lead by the Phalanges party, planned the civil war, started it and refused to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.

They initiated the mass killing and genocide tactics based solely on confessional status, with the strategy of cleansing the areas of Christian majority from any Muslim or Palestinian elements.

The cleansing process went two steps further as the war continued;

First, they evacuated their areas from every Christian members affiliated to secular political parties like the Communists and the Lebanese based Syrian National Social party, and

Second, turned the guns to the Christian confessional party members (The Tiger forces and Arz forces…) who refused to unite under the banner of the unique party of “The Lebanese Forces” headed by Bashir Gemayel.

They also invited the Syrian forces to cross the Lebanese borders once their war plans failed to produce the equilibrium in military forces: The phalange territories were close to be sacked by the Nationalist and “progressive” coalition forces.

They negotiated directly with Israel, the enemy of Lebanon, and secured military logistical support in arms, ammunition and training.  In 1982, they encouraged Israel to extend their invasion to entering our Capital Beirut in order to chase the Palestinians out of Lebanon.

If it were not for Sharon’s foolish decision to chase Palestinian resistance out of Lebanon, it is very probable that Lebanon would have become a substitute de-facto State for the Palestinians.

Note:  You may select category “Testimony of civil war” in my blog for many articles on that subject.

Uncontested Palestinian Leader: late Yasser Arafat (Abu 3Ammar)

Known as Yasser Arafat; code named “Abu Ammar”; full name Muhammad Abdel Raouf Arafat Al Koudwa Al Husseiny was born in Jerusalem in 1929.

Yasser studied civil engineering at Cairo University and worked in Kuwait. In the summer of 1965 he started guerilla activities inside Israel with 10 feddayins, among them the future leaders Khalil Wazeer (code named Abu Jihad; assassinated in Tunisia by an Israeli air raid), Salah Khalaf (code named Abu Ayad), and Abu Ali Ayad (died in battle fighting the onslaught of the Jordanian army in 1970).

After the defeat of the Arab armies in June 1967, Arafat decided to take matters into his own hand: the Arab States can no longer be counted on to reclaim the Palestinian rights to a homeland and the return of the refugees since 1948 (date of recognition of Israel as a State).

Arafat set out to organizing the Palestinians into a resistance force called “Hurricane” (Al 3asifat) and resumed incursions into Israel at higher rates. An acceptable resolution would be a secular State on the West Bank with East Jerusalem as Capital.  He would repeat:

“As I liberate a single square meter then I would raise the Palestinian flag.  One day, a boy or a girl will hoist the flag in Jerusalem. We may differ as Christians and Moslems on many issues but we are unified on liberating Jerusalem and consecrating it our spiritual and political Capital”

Jerusalem was the cornerstone in any negotiation of more importance to him than the “right of return” of the UN resolution 194.

In fact, during the Arab Summit in Beirut 2002 Arafat was ready to accept the Saudi proposal of “land for peace” that did not mention the right of return.  Luckily, the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud was adamant on including this cause since the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon question is “a time bomb ready to detonate anytime”.

The uncontested Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser recognized that the nascent Palestinian resistance activities are reactions to the failure of his leadership, and he met with Arafat.  Gamal Abdel Nasser gave Arafat’s organization political cover to preserve control of Arab politics and introduced Arafat to other Arab State leaders. Thus, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1968, which included many Palestinian factions such as the national and Marxist faction of George Habash and the splintered faction of Nayef Hawatmed.

Syria would later include another faction with a military wing called Al Sa3ikat (Thunderstorm).  Arafat was the leader of the largest faction called Fateh (Conquest) and thus was elected Chairman of the PLO; Arafat was to hold the purse or the treasury of this organization to keep all factions in line.

King Hussein of Jordan defeated militarily the PLO in 1970 and the resistance fighters had to flee to Lebanon and Syria.  The Egyptian leader forced the hand of the Lebanese government to allocate a strip of land in south Lebanon called “Al 3arkoub” from which the PLO could wage guerilla attacks on Israel.

This was a top secret deal; Deputy Raymond Eddeh would persist and insist in the parliament to divulge the details of the deal at no avail.

The mostly Shi3a Lebanese citizens in south Lebanon were caught in between the military retaliations of Israel, the exactions of the PLO and the non-existence of the weak Lebanese government in that region. South Lebanon was de facto controlled and governed by the PLO.  The Lebanese army controlled every resistance movement in the south before 1970 but relinquished its hold after that secret deal.

The PLO quickly established political and administrative headquarters in the Capital Beirut and was immersed deeply in Lebanon internal politics. The Palestinian resistance fighters occupied all the Palestinian camps and transformed them into bunkers.

Israel didn’t mind the transformation and the involvement of the PLO in Lebanon’s politics. Israel goal was to displace the Lebanese citizens from the south and then conquer it. In fact, thousands of citizens in the south moved to the southern outskirts of Beirut in Haret Hrik, Ghobeiry, and Dahieh.  These areas would become the “belt of misery” and shantytowns.

In April 1973, an Israeli commando (headed by Ehud Barak) assassinated 3 Palestinian leaders in Beirut Kamal Edwan, Kamal Youssef, and Abu Youssef Al Najjar; it failed to locate Arafat.

In May 1973, the Lebanese army was encircling the Palestinian camps and Arafat took refuge in Embassies.  Arafat had a sixth sense on personal dangers and he did sleep in Embassies when the tough got going.  His best strategy for avoiding detection and maintaining security is to be “unpredictable”; thus he frequently moved from one residence to another and never informed anyone of his displacements, even his driver or bodyguards.

Arafat highly valued Medias and used it to the hilt. He also lavished on and befriended the cheikhs of mosques so that their Friday preaches increase his positive exposure. Arafat was not that good in rhetoric, but his charisma and large smile compensated greatly on other verbal deficiencies.

Arafat was super patient, like fish hunters.  He didn’t mind waiting for years until his enemy is caught in his nets.  He fundamentally used persuasion and then extending financial bait and then blackmailing when everything failed.

Arafat could focus under extreme dangerous situations and keep his cool for the sake of his surrounding assistants. He slept a few hours on early morning and then had siesta after lunch.  He extended aid to the needy and took excellent care of the martyrs’ families.  He owned only two military suits.

Arafat read every piece of mail and replied in details.  He carried a small booklet and noted down information. He once said “if one of my small notebooks is published monarchies would disappear and Presidents fall.”  Arafat was feared by Arab leaders because of his wide connections and the vast intelligence pieces he had on each one of them; thus, the PLO coffer was replenished on demand.

Arafat visited India PM Indira Ghandi. A guru asked Arafat “How many Palestinians are there?”  Arafat replied 8 millions. The guru retorted “I have 9 million followers who worship me as their God.”  Arafat said with a large smile “The difference is that everyone of the 8 million Palestinians thinks that he is indeed God

On November 1974, Arafat delivered a speech to the UN assembly and offered two alternatives: the olive tree or the gun.  He also talked to the UN General assembly in Geneva on December 1988 and declared his willingness to end armed struggle and the recognition of Israel; the USA decided then to recognize the PLO.

Arafat played a central role during the Lebanese civil war that started in April 13, 1975.  He tried to maintain a balanced position in the tag of war between Hafez Assad of Syria and Sadat of Egypt at the expense of the Lebanese civilians.  The leftist Lebanese organizations relied on Arafat for logistics in arms and ammunition and he controlled them completely.

Arafat once declared in Ramallah around 1998 that he was the de facto governor of Lebanon for over 20 years, even before the civil war. Lebanon would have been saved 13 years of mindless civil war if Arafat had decided to relinquish Lebanon to Syria and dealt with Israel in 1977 instead of 1993 for part of Palestine as he was forced to do later.

After the signing of the Oslo agreement with Rabin, Arafat returned to Gaza on July 1994.  He signed an agreement for the return of the West bank in September 1995.  Rabin was assassinated by one of his body guard. Netanyahu refused to go along with the agreement but finally submitted to the USA pressures and retuned Hebron (Al Khalil) after the negotiation of Wy River in 1998.

On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon entered the Masjed Akssa during the tenure of Ehud Barak PM.  The second intifada started.  Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February 2001 and he invaded Rammallah (headquarter of the Palestinian Authority) and encircled Arafat in his quarter. George W. Bush said to Sharon “Leave Arafat to God” and Sharon relied “I will give God a nudge

Arafat had food delivered through Israeli check points. He suffered acute ailment and knew that he has been poisoned by small doses.  Before being hospitalized in France Arafat said to his personal physician Ashraf Kerdi “The Zionists got me…”  Mohammad Dahlan (Fateh officer) told Arafat “When you are back your authority and power will remain intact” Arafat replied “In that case you are coming with me to France

Mahmoud Abbass replaced Arafat and refused to have an autopsy performed on the body of Arafat.

Arafat managed to hold together an organization of many factions for 40 years by centralizing the disbursement of the financial import he secured from the Arab States and from investment.  Arafat struggled hard to keep the Palestinian decisions independent of the vagaries of the multiple Arab States leaders’ interests of abusing of the “Palestinian cause.”  Probably, most of Arafat’s “peace deals” with Israel emanate from the disunity of the Arab States toward a strategic plan for checking the Zionist plans.  Arafat had to juggle Arab States priorities concerning their people interests.

Arafat sculpted an image of Palestinian resistance by wearing the special “koufieh” headdress and the military attire. He forged a logo for the Palestinian cause.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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