10th anniversary of Lebanese liberation

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day on which Israel’s forces, acting on orders from then-PM Ehud Barak, undertook a chaotic, humiliating retreat from South Lebanon, bringing to a nearly complete end their 22-year-long military occupation of the area.
That retreat was important for a number of reasons:

    1. It marked the first time Israeli forces ever retreated from occupied territory in the absence of pressure from the United States (as had happened in 1956, from Sinai and Gaza) and also in the absence of a peace agreement with the government of the country occupied (as happened with Egypt in 1979.)
    2. The 2000 withdrawal therefore marked a new phase in Israeli strategic decisionmaking, one in which the stress that all Israeli leaders had previously placed on the need to secure strong, binding peace agreements with their neighbors in “return” for Israeli withdrawal from their lands was now replaced by a disdain for peace agreements and an insistence that Israel would “draw its own borders.” This preference for unilateral rather than negotiated action marked Israel’s evacuation from the body of the Gaza Strip (though not its international borders) in 2005. It also marked the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank from 2002 on, and the arrogance and almost palpable disdain with which Israeli leaders have approached the tasks of peace diplomacy from the premiership of Barak until the present.
    3. Israel was not the only party to eschew negotiations. Hizbullah’s leaders have always refused to engage in direct negotiations with Israel. On occasion they have taken part in indirect negotiations with it– as happened in 1996, which marked the strategic turning-point in the balance between the two forces. Hizbullah has also remained extremely wary of the readiness of the U.N. to take any decisive action to liberate occupied lands. The fact that Hizbullah and its Lebanese allies liberated South Lebanon without engaging in negotiations and without relying on the support of the U.N. provided a new example for Arab communities chafing under foreign occupation– primarily, the Palestinians. Four months after Hizbullah’s supporters liberated South Lebanon, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza launched the Second Intifada, with many participants citing south Lebanon’s example as their inspiration.
    4. The Lebanese people’s liberation of their land marked a real achievement for “people power” at both the tactical and the strategic levels. Tactically, the development that in May 2000 set off the final rout firstly of Israel’s proxy forces in south Lebanon, and then of the IDF forces themselves, was a cavalcade of unarmed villagers returning to their homes and farms in south Lebanon. Strategically, the will, unity, and pro-liberation determination of south Lebanon’s civilians formed the essential sinews of the entire resistance movement that grew up after Israel’s second major offensive into the country, in 1982. Yes, Hizbullah also used many violent tactics throughout the years against both the Israeli occupation forces and the Israeli proxy forces of the SLA. And that violence seemed to have some effect: The steady and unstoppable toll of losses among Israeli soldiers in Lebanon slowly incubated a strong desire among Israelis to withdraw– on almost any terms. But throughout the years of occupation, the IDF and the SLA had enacted horrendous violence against Hizbullah fighters, suspected Hizbullah sympathizers, and the South Lebanese population in general. Hizbullah could never have developed and maintained its capabilities if it had not also been able to organize the civilian population with great effectiveness.
    5. Hizbullah had shown its talents as an effective and disciplined force– both on the battlefield and in civilian affairs– on numerous occasions before 2000. (For example, it participated successfully in Lebanese elections since 1992, and helped to democratize the country’s internal political life significantly, throughout the 1990s. It also participated skilfully in those indirect ceasefire negotiations that halted the big Israeli assault of 1996.) But in masterminding the civilian-led recovery of south Lebanon in 2000, Hizbullah’s leaders demonstrated their smarts, and the discipline of their followers, in another extremely important way: They laid great stress on urging their victorious followers not to undertake any extrajudicial retaliations against the numerous Lebanese who had been part of Israel’s proxy-force structure, and expressed pride in the near-total absence of any such retaliations after liberation.

In sum, Hizbullah’s emergence into the Lebanese and Arab body politic marked the arrival of a force of considerable depth and sophistication. It has also served as a new example of a specifically Islamist, specifically anti-colonial form of Arab modernism.
Western analysts who look at only at superficial phenomena such as whether women wear head-veils or not tend to miss completely the modernizing nature of Hizbullah’s project in Lebanese politics and society. Those who look only at the organization’s military prowess tend to miss the importance of its sturdy, mass-organizing underpinnings. Those who spout off about “implacable Sunni-Shiite hatreds” have no understanding of the degree to which Hizbullah’s victories of 1996, 2000, and 2006 served to inspire millions of Arabs and Muslims from the whole Middle East region, regardless of of their form of worship.
Here’s hoping– and working– for an end to all military occupations, everywhere!

12 thoughts on “10th anniversary of Lebanese liberation

  1. bevin

    Excellent. Thank you for this. Hezbollah’s example, is spreading far beyond the Arab and muslim worlds, just as Preacher Casey prophesied.

  2. traducteur

    This reminds us all that there is hope. The genocidal Zionist enterprise is not all-powerful, and will eventually pass away. Nil desperandum! Vive la Palestine !

  3. Michael W.

    Hasn’t Hezbollah used its arms against other non-Shiite Lebanese ethnic/religious groups even after the civil war? Having one political party (strongly rooted in religious identity) having its own army apart from the country’s army is anything but democratic.

  4. Helena

    Michael, all parties/factions in Lebanon’s very anarchic system have on occasion used arms against fellow Lebanese. But Hizbullah has shown much more restraint in this than any other party. As alluded to above, the party has always placed high value on trying NOT to fight compatriots– even including those who caused grave harm to the country by their collaboration with the (considerably more violent and lethal) Israeli occupation forces. Yes, indeed, it would be great if all the parties and countries of the region would turn aside from the use of violence in the conduct of their affairs.

  5. John R

    One man’s defeat is another man’s victory!
    And vise versa.
    I would prefer to look at accomplishments from the violence they stop and the freedoms they provide. I see this as the occupation of one force leaving for another occupation force. Is one a benefit to ALL the people?
    Clearly Hizbullah is not a benevolent force, I mention this as the blog is very one sided in this regard. One man, one vote, one time is their most likely form of democracy (a tool to their ends, a one party system as fairly mention). The methods of both forces are terrible, bombing cities and towns is an extreme example on both sides (you glossed over that!).
    The reports I read piont to economic and political progress (and others) leading to real improvements giving hope to peaple as a key factor in stopping the fundamentals (dispair)that lead to extreme views and actions….is there any data on changes in these areas to use as a measuring stick for success?
    Back to one of my measuring sticks…..has the withdrawl led to less violence in South Lebanon (objective data)? Less in North Isreal?
    Are less bombs falling now and what data does anyone have? Is the oppression gone or just directed in a different direction and form?

  6. mo

    John R, Your beliefs are based on an oft propogated peice of propoganda. Hizballah does not “occupy” Southern Lebanon, they are Southern Lebanon. Hizballah’s core is made up of Southern Lebanese.
    By benefit to ALL the people what do you mean? The investment they make in the region in one year is more than the Lebanee Govt. invested in decades.
    The withdrawl led to an end of occupation, thats the only measuring stick that is important in this context. But to answer your question, since the withdrawl, Lebanese homes are no longer looted, villages are no longer tortured for inormation and are women are no longer raped with impunity as they were during the occupation. I would imageine by your stick, for the Southern Lebanese, that is progress.

  7. Helena

    John, you really don’t seem to have much of a clue about the matters you’re writing about.
    I see this as the occupation of one force leaving for another occupation force. What does this mean? A “foreign military occupation” is a completely well-defined category in international law; and that was what was there in S. Leb from 1978 thru 2000. Now, the indigenous citizens of the country and their legitimate governing institutions govern it. How can you say that is “another occupation force”?
    One man, one vote, one time is their most likely form of democracy … What the heck are you referring to there? Hizbullah has participated in three or four parliamentary elections from 1992 on. And no, they have never won any of them– but they’ve continued participating. Just this past week they were participating in municipal-level elections– a practice that they themselves helped resurrect in the 1990s, given that municipalities had not held elections for some 20 years previously.
    If you want to sound off about matters that you seem to know little about, that’s your privilege. But I don’t need to provide you space to do so here.
    As for the data regarding violence rates, before and since 2000– there are huge amounts of it! Go to the records of UNIFIL, other UN bodies, or human rights organizations. Hizbullah has without a doubt raised the socioeconomic level of the people of south Lebanon and Beirut’s southern subrubs considerably. The Israeli occupation force oppressed the vast majority of the south Lebanese throughout all the years of occupation– and then battered the whole darn country really badly once again in 2006.
    Have you ever read any books or newspapers?

  8. Inkan1969

    It’s incorrect to label the end of just the Israeli occupation as the Liberation of Lebanon. The Syrian occupation should’ve ended at the same time as the Israeli occupation to have had a true liberation, but it continued for years after.
    Point 2 gives me the impression that it was a mistake for the pullout to have been unilateral. The pullout established the precedent of Israel making military decisions without negotiation. Both Hezbulloh and Israel erred in failing to reach a negotiated accord that would’ve alleviated ongoing antagonism between the two parties.
    A recent BBC News article talks about a deterrence situation currently existing between both parties. The deterrence situation between the US and the USSR during the Cold War allowed for both countries to conduct detante negotiations. Perhaps negotiations to cease hostilities can begin here. There’s no justification for Hezbulloh to hold to an official goal of the destruction of Israel. If they’re the protectors of South Lebanon this blog entry makes them out to be, they can restate their goal as the defence of Lebanese sovereignity and integrity against any foreign aggression.
    I don’t see the imposition of religious values through force as a superficial phenomenom. I am just as disturbed by Hezbulloh’s embrace of a fundamentalist ideology as I am of the Christian conservative wing of the U.S. Republican party; the need for the people to be free of an occupier can’t justify the permanent embrace of such inhuman ideologies. I don’t feel Hezbulloh deserves the one dimensional romanticization that this blog entry uses to characterize the group, not so long as they insist on Islamist dogma as their core belief.

  9. traducteur

    The Zionists and their American flacks are constantly snivelling that Hizbullah should be disarmed. Yet an armed and militarily competent Hizbullah was all that saved southern Lebanon from being ethnically cleansed and annexed to the Zionist entity in 2006. The plan had been to empty the southern part of the country of its inhabitants (to avoid being left with a “demographic problem”, of course), annex the whole area, and then sluice off every drop of the waters of the Litani River for the benefit of Jews only. The first part of this programme was largely attained: by carpet-bombing the villages and saturating the countryside with cluster bombs and fléchettes, the Zionists were able to drive the people out. But they never reached the Litani. Why not? Because Hizbullah defeated them on the ground. If they try again for the Litani (it drives them mad with rage and frustration, a perfectly good river running to waste out into the Mediterranean, supplying the needs of no one but a lot of goyim), I predict they’ll get another bloody nose.

  10. Helena

    Inkan, honestly, I haven’t seen HA trying at all to impose their religion by force. They know that Shi-ites are not a simple majority in Lebanon and have therefore, from the get-go, engaged in very sustained and v. systematic interfaith outreach. They’ve also played the Lebanese ‘confessional’ system, which essentially mandates building cross-faith alliances for any party that wants to maximize seats and votes, in an extremely smart way.
    Fwiw, Syria’s military presence in Lebanon, which started in 1976, was at the invitation of the then-govt of Lebanon and therefore not an occupation, and as it happens was also supported by the US govt at the time. Also, perhaps most importantly, it ended in 2005.

  11. John R

    The force is an irregular force, not a Government and National military force, that is what I meant.
    I am sure I would say the exact same thing about the Christian/Druze/other forces and they do uccupy other areas.
    I hope that Hez is committed to a multiparty system, history has many cases of parties using this to gian single party status.
    I do understand. Two sides dropping bombs, killing, killing, killing. The other guys to blame! Both sides are to blame! In a relatve world….niether side is to blame? I was looking for some data that supports the improvements.
    Thank you

  12. Eurosabra

    What negotiated accord? Hezbollah cannot recognize Israel because of its raison d’etre as an Islamist organization dedicated to Islamic rule over Palestine, one that many Israeli Jews view as dedicated to the genocide of Jews worldwide, nor will Israel sign an accord that designates it as “the Zionist government of Occupied Palestine.” Any evolution towards recognition of Israel by Hezbollah would be quashed by Iran, which either wants Israel’s total replacement by Islamic Palestine or the leverage given it by constant instability on Israel’s northern border in building Iran’s atomic bomb. Otherwise, perfect.

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