Archive article from The Socialist Issue 450
When Israel occupied Lebanon (1982-2000)
THE JUNE 1982 invasion - "Peace in Galilee" - was the plan of the then Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon, the 'Butcher Of Sabra And Chatila', (Sharon was later to become prime minister) and prime minister Menachem Begin. The main aim of the invasion was to destroy the PLO bases in Lebanon and its political influence, to better intimidate the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
But the brutality of the Israeli invasion created widespread anger and resistance. Around 18,000 people were killed and 30,000 injured and between 500,000-800,000 made homeless in the first three months.
Then came the horror of the massacres at the Chabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps where 3,000 men, women and children were slaughtered by the right-wing Christian Phalange militia under the gaze of Ariel Sharon's troops. It was "the worst single act of terrorism in modern Middle East history" as Robert Fisk, renown journalist, called it (The Independent, UK 2-6-01.) Sharon's "name is synonymous with butchery; with bloated corpses and disembowelled women and dead babies, with rape and pillage and murder... "
In the south, the occupying Israelis set up a militia force which extorted money from Shia villages. At the same time, they began arresting, torturing and imprisoning Shias in jails like the notorious Khiam prison, under the direction of Israel's Shin Bet security force.
This propelled the Iranian Iman Mousa Sadr's 'Movement of the Deprived' to the heart of the Shia resistance and gave rise to the Hizbollah guerrilla movement and the tactic of suicide bombing, (which it since abandoned.)
One of the first targets was the Israeli army command building in Tyre. This served to show that the Israeli defence force was not impregnable and further attacks led to a growing death toll amongst the Israeli troops.
Also, the attempt to establish a regime in Lebanon friendly to Israel through Bashir Gemayel (head of the Phalange militia) failed after he was killed by a bomb.
US, FRENCH and Italian troops sent to counterbalance the USSR-backed Syrian troops in Lebanon were eventually forced out. One factor was the suicide bomb attacks on the US and French bases in 1983, where over 300 troops were killed and the suicide attack on the US embassy which killed 63.
The deaths of Israeli troops and the horror, in particular, at the massacre at Chabra and Shatila, led to unprecedented mass protests in Israel against the war. At one point 90% of the population opposed the war. One peace demo in Tel Aviv numbered 400,000, including protesting soldiers.
This pressure, both from attacks by Hizbollah and the growing anti-war movement within Israel, not only forced the resignation of Begin and the removal of Sharon as defence minister but also led to the removal of Israeli forces from all but a southern Lebanon buffer zone. Eventually Israeli troops left in 2000, some 18 years after the invasion.
Compiled by Chris Newby in May 2003
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