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Lebanon After Israeli Eviction

By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter

After a 15-year civil war, two illegal Israeli occupations lasting two decades, all while only being an independent country for 80 years, Lebanon was on its way to independence.

israel_lebanon_mapAccording to BBC News, in 1985, a so-called “security zone” in southern Lebanon was set up, supposedly to stop “guerrilla attacks” on civilians living in northern Israel.  But the Hezbollah fighters’ main aim was to end the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.  Each year they killed dozens of Israeli soldiers, while hundreds of Lebanese and even more Palestinians were killed annually by the Israeli army.  Finally the human price of the war became too high, and after public pressure in 1999, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was elected on his pledge to withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon within a year.  Hezbollah emerged as a military force in the early 1980s during Israel’s second invasion, and subsequently branched out into civil and political activity.  According to its policy, “Islamic resistance units” are fighting “for the liberation of the occupied territories and the ejection of the aggressive Israeli forces.”  Though it must be said that this group has been denounced by the United States as a terrorist group.

On June 24th, 1999, February 7th, 2000, and May 5th, 2000, Israeli military aircraft attacked several power stations and bridges near Beirut, as part of more frequent air attacks on Lebanese infrastructure.  A significant issue relating to the withdrawal is regarding Alsheikh Mountain, known as the “Shebaa Farms”, which still remains unsettled.  It has been occupied by Israel since 1967, with the United Nations considering the area to be Lebanese territory and thus the withdrawal must encompass it.  It still remained under Israeli occupation.  Before dawn on the morning Tuesday, May 23rd, 2000, the Israeli Army began evacuating troops and weapons from Bint Ja Bail, its second-largest base near the Lebanese border. Barak ordered the abrupt eviction of Israeli troops later that night, with Hezbollah resistance fighters hot on their tails.  On May 24th, 2000, Israel officially withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon, which it had been occupying since 1978. 

That summer of 2000 was the first in decades where families were now free to visit their homeland.  Many families from all over the world went to go see what was left of the aftermath, as well as to introduce this beautiful Mediterranean paradise to their children.  July 5th, 2000 was the day my family and I left from Detroit Metro Airport, and went together for the first time, to Lebanon.  Though I went to Lebanon at the age of two, my sisters had never been, so now they were finally able to meet aunts, uncles, and first cousins.  But it was still too late to be able to meet the grandparents, as it was never safe enough to go to the country prior to this independence from Israel.

If you did not know about this withdrawal from the news, you would have heard about it by the celebrations held worldwide.  Specifically, in Dearborn, Michigan as it is the largest concentration of Arab-Americans outside of the Middle East.  Main roads within Dearborn were closed because they were covered with people cheering for the newfound peace in Lebanon, and the new hope of being able to soon return.  Though in Lebanon, while there were celebrations, there was also the grim reality that there are still hazards at every turn.  According to the UNIFIL, (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), July 2000 report from the Secretary-General, it was stated that southern Lebanon had seen dramatic change now that the guns had fallen silent after more than two decades.  Though he warned, “the situation in the Israel-Lebanon sector fell well short of peace, and the potential for serious incidents still existed.”

When Israel occupied Lebanon, they put landmines underground in specific target areas in efforts to mass-clear the land that they had planned for upcoming take-over.  And after their withdrawal in May 2000, in accordance with United Nations law, the Israeli government was ordered to hand over the map of where each landmine was placed.  But they did not, and with the United States assisting in taking the pressure off Israel, there was no push from the United Nations for this map.  So of course there were future incidents caused by these landmines.  Consequently, two weeks into our family vacation in Lebanon, my mom’s nephew stepped on a landmine while working in the fields.  Thankfully, he lived.

Coming back to the late 1990’s, “The generation of the fighters of Hezbollah were the children who witnessed the 1982 occupation, which lasted till the year 2000,” said Fawwaz Traboulsi, an Associate Professor of Political Science and History at the Lebanese American University in Beirut and American University in Beirut.  Also an author, his most recent book, A History of Modern Lebanon, discusses the two resistance movements that spurred post Israeli invasion of 1982.  The first resistance was a leftist resistance comprising of three Marxist parties, forming the Lebanese front for national resistance that began in September of 1982; the Islamic Resistance of Hezbollah followed this one year later.  The leftist resistance was weakening by the civil war, though “by the 90’s it was Hezbollah mainly that was the official resistance movement with great success, culminating in the year 2000 with the withdrawal, or let’s say the eviction, of the Israeli troops from Lebanese territory,” said Traboulsi. 

This is why Hezbollah is the only party within Lebanon that is legally armed.  Even though they represent the Shia of Lebanon, people of all sects and faiths relate to this movement.  Even famous singer Julia Boutros dedicated her career to the resistance movement.  She wrote a song titled the loved ones, in which she actually recorded the music video for it in Bint Ja Bail.  The southern village of Bint Ja Bail is a landmark for a major victory when the village was regained for its citizens.  With lyrics such as “Thanks to your fighting, we’ll free our prisoners and our conquered land.  Our homes and our honor will be saved by your devotion” there’s no wonder why Boutros, whom is Christian, also founded a non-profit organization with all proceeds going for the resistance movement.  Due to the Hezbollah resistance came libration of Lebanese land; 10 percent of Lebanese territory that was occupied by Israel was re-gained.

Syria’s claim for their continued presence in Lebanon was to halt the internal violence in an otherwise divided land.  So in June 2001, a year after the eviction of Israeli troops, when Syria saw that things were on its way to stabilization, they withdrew 6,000 troops from Beirut.  About 20,000 still remain in northern and eastern Lebanon, which is the boarder that they share.  Syria itself, which had controlled most of the non-occupied territories, did not withdraw the rest of its troops until 2005, when it was pressured out by powerful diplomatic intervention from the United States and the United Nations.  This happened after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister.  Hariri was assassinated in February 2005 by a car bomb in Beirut.  This sparked anti-Syrian rallies and the resignation the of the cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami.  Though it just so happens that the following year is when Israel invaded Lebanon yet again.  Next week’s issue, part six, will be on this invasion of 2006, better known as the July war.  Since it was in the summer time, many families of Lebanese decent, from all-over the world, were their visiting.  So we’ll have first-hand accounts of this terror they lived, as well as how it just may hint to current politics.


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