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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 05, 2003

Who cares about the occupation

In Lebanon, that is.

Claudia Rossett writing in the WSJ points out the obvious,
Following Lebanon's independence from France, in 1943, the country enjoyed for a time a civic framework that gave its many factions--Muslims, Christians and subdivisions thereof--ways other than war, or deference to tyrannical rule, to settle their differences.

What upset this balance was the arrival of Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization command, after Jordan kicked them out in 1971. Mr. Arafat set up shop in Lebanon, seeking to create, as many Lebanese describe it, "a state within a state," and bringing with him the havoc that has been the hallmark in many places of his long career. By 1975, Lebanon had descended into war. In 1976, with the blessing of the U.S., Syrian troops first arrived in the name of "stability." There followed many more years of violence, punctuated by a failed US peacekeeping attempt. In 1989, under a deal struck by Arab nations in Taif, Saudi Arabia, Syria became the de facto guardian--and occupying force--in Lebanon.

What followed has been a deeply sinister sort of peace, which has already cost both Lebanon and neighboring Israel dearly, and for which America itself may yet pay a nasty price.

On the matter of this outrageous occupation, there is from many quarters a disturbing indifference. From the Arab world, so full of dictators professing deep concern over democratic Israel's dealings with the Palestinians, there comes not a croak of indignation that despotic Syria continues to occupy Lebanon. From the democratic club of nations comes the occasional groan, including noises recently from both Congress and the European Union. But there has been no serious effort to lever Syria out of Lebanon, or to end Syria's support for Hezbollah--whose terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks here in the 1980s, and today carry out assaults on Israel and threaten the U.S. itself.
For the US, this is unfinished business. It let Syria in to restore order and it is up to them to get them out. It is quite true that Lebanon was a shining example to the Arab world of a nascent tolerant multicultural and democratic country and the US will no doubt continue after Iraq to restore its independence. As for Hezbollah, its payback time.