One Village at a Time

leba0001.GIFWhile the Hariri and Junblatt clans, and their dog on a tight leash, warlord Samir Ja’aja’a, continue to bark about HezbAllah’s arms, Basshar al-Assad’s regime (but not the Saudi regime), and Iranian “interference” (but not American, French, etc. interference), the Israelis continue to steal water from the Wazzani river and transport fertile soil from south Lebanon to Israel. But it doesn’t end there. Encouraged by the (political) battlefront that its under-the-table allies have opened in Lebanon, the Israelis have been finalizing their take-over of the Lebanese town of Al-Ghajar, half of which was handed to Israel during the drawing of the Blue Line. The Daily Star reports:

The once divided Southern town of Ghajar, half occupied by Israel and half within Lebanese territory, appears to have been finally reunited under one flag. “Khalas, it is gone. It is a new Israeli town and they are even repainting it in Israel’s favorite colors, pink and yellow,” said 16-year-old shepherd Walid Ain Zat, who along with his two younger brothers regularly tends his flock of goats in the open fields near the border town.

Ghajar appears to be excluded from reports that circulated Tuesday announcing that Israel has withdrawn from 90 percent of the territory it held in the South after the recent month-long war on Lebanon.

“I guess no one will ever be coming out of or going in there again,” said Ain Zat, who wasn’t the only Southern resident to notice “changes” in Ghajar, such as the raising of an Israeli flag and an increase in the “pinkness” of its homes, a color often associated with Israeli settlements.

Israel seems to be using Al-Ghajar as a revenge card to make up for its losses on the battlefield. The UNIFIL seems to be towing the line and upholding the status quo, which favours Israel in Al-Ghajar. See, for example, Alexander Ivanko’s statement: UNIFIL is “working on a solution amiable to all the parties involved.” Amiable to all the parties involved? Either there is a Blue Line at this point, or there isn’t. Should the Blue Line collapse or be redrawn, the ceasefire would be rendered more volatile (if not completely irrelevant) than ever. But let’s not be overly appreciative of the Blue Line; it was, after all, a perfect case of reverse thinking. Its drawing was not a result of Israeli compliance with UN SCR 425; rather, the line was drawn in such a way to confirm Israeli compliance with the resolution. The line, as such, was drawn in a manner that would satisfy Israel. In other words, the Blue Line mostly adopted the line of withdrawal that was decided on the ground by Israel. Annan’s statement merely confirms such a reading. He insisted that the UN was not seeking to “establish an international border”, but rather attempting “to identify a line for the purpose of confirming compliance with resolution 425”. The implications of such a statement can be translated as follows: the line could’ve possibly excluded several Lebanese villages, placing them in Israel, and confirming that Israel had “withdrawn” from Lebanon. Al-Ghajar is just such a case.

In Al-Ghajar, they did what they did not do in the Israeli town of Misgav ‘Am: they divided the town into two. In “A practical line: The line of withdrawal from Lebanon and its potential applicability to the Golan Heights”, Frederic Hof quotes UN Chief Cartographer Miklos Pinther on the issue of dividing Misgav ‘Am: The language of the 1950 report had the ADL [Armistice Demarcation Line] going to the west of the [Israeli] town. The coordinates would have divided the place. We simply couldn’t verify whether or not the town itself had grown to the west since 1950 into Lebanon. It was very difficult terrain on which to work, so we simply decided in the end not to partition Misgav Am. The way we drew the line may have encroached a bit on [the Lebanese village of] Addaisseh, but not in a way that would establish an Israeli presence.” Hof points to the deliberate expansion of the Israeli town into Lebanon for the purpose of capturing high ground between Addaisseh and Houla. Moreover, he argues that “[t]o run a line straight through the place could have handed the architect of Lebanon’s unilateral withdrawal – Prime Minister Ehud Barak – a gratuitous political crisis punctuated, in all likelihood, by a local mutiny.” In this case, as in the case of Al-Ghajar today (and Ivanko’s statement on an “amiable” solution for all sides), the UNIFIL bowed to Israeli domestic and strategic considerations rather than an actual, objective delineation of the border.

So what is next? What will the UNIFIL do while the Israelis are still pumping water, transporting soil, arresting journalists and farmers, and officially incorporating the Lebanese side of Al-Ghajar into Israel? And what is the Hariri-led government doing? Siniora still places his hopes on UN resolutions, as if Israel has respected any of them: “Israel has to withdraw from all Lebanese land as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1701, without any exceptions.” Israel for its own part insists that it will continue its overflights as long as 1701 is not fully implemented (as if it respects it – so which came first, the chicken or the egg? Lebanese violations [what violations?] or Israeli violations? Quite a Byzantine question), not to forget 1559, which is a purely Lebanese issue!! So Israel is demanding that Lebanon disband “militias” (I thought Israel never really accepted the term “militia” as applying to HezbAllah) on its own soil, and that Syria put an end to its interference in Lebanon, but what is this if not Israeli interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs and external relations with other countries?

Israel continues to occupy villages one at a time. All that this impotent Lebanese government can do is point to UN resolutions, as if pointing to UN resolutions has returned occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands! The latest experience has shown that diplomacy has never won and will never win with Israel. Nasrallah is aware of this, but he is also aware, given the current sectarian division of seats in the parliament, that he cannot really command a solid majority, even if Aoun supports him, unless he wants to risk deep fractures and possible civil war. So he calls for a “national unity government”. What national unity government??? You mean, more of the same. And how is this “more of the same” going to solve anything? Please enlighten us.

6 responses to “One Village at a Time

  1. I used the same story on my blog is every on sleeping? If you think back to all the spinning on the news that was going on during the war in Lebanon one thing that was said over and over again is that the Israeli’s did not want to stay in Lebanon or occupy any more land in Lebanon. Well who is in charge of making sure they do not? Why isn’t the Government doing something? If the people of Lebanon decided to march into that town by the thousands what would they do?

  2. Why isn’t the Government doing something?
    They have other priorities. Like barking about Basshar el Assad and working to change the regime in Syria…
    If the people of Lebanon decided to march into that town by the thousands what would they do?
    I am sure the army of tea-servers will act as Israel’s “border” guard and prevent them from doing so. They would not hesitate to shoot, just like they did not hesitate to shoot protestors at Hay el Sellom. The army and internal security (sic) forces(of tea-servers) can only flex their muscles on innocent civilians. I am sure the Israeli army would not hesitate to shoot them either, like it shot and killed a number of protesters at the border fence (protestors were on Lebanese territory) a few years ago..
    The media is mostly covering Israel’s back, as it did throughout the war.

  3. I’m sure UNIFIL will be much too occupied with disarming Hezbullah to worry about a single town on the border…

    Yeah, I know, Hezbullah’s arms are the god given right of a “resistance ” movement, as is it’s right to capture and kill Israel soldiers, shell Arab Israeli towns and demand the release of child killers.

    But paint a building PINK for god’s sake!! Oh the humanity!

    The answer, of course, is that nothing much has changed. Hezbullah has 20,000 rockets but can’t hit Tel Aviv. Israel has nukes, but can’t use them. Hamas won’t recognize Israel. Lebanon doesn’t recognize Israel. Israel won’t give back Sheba’a. Isreal is building more settlements instead of withdarwing from West Bank –

    Hezbullah wants a legitimate government, not the one that was actually elected. Israel will negotiate with Syria. The soldiers are still missing.

    The war goes on.

  4. shell Arab Israeli towns
    Ah, so now all of a sudden you care about the Arab Israeli towns, eh? And btw, “Arab Israeli” is the politically correct term, they are *gasp* Palestinians (who *gasp* don’t want to throw Jews into the sea).

    Hezbullah has 20,000 rockets but can’t hit Tel Aviv.
    Can’t hit Tel Aviv? Or didn’t/won’t? There’s a big difference. It can definitely hit Tel Aviv and as far as south as Jerusalem, if not further south than Jerusalem…

  5. I, in fact, have always cared about Arab Israeli/Palestinian Israeli’s, and can’t/won’t is missing the point. The point is that this is not really any sort of end-game, but a lull in the fighting. I doubt there has been no real change in Hezbullah or Israeli attitudes that has changed the situation on the ground enough to prevent another “incident” eventually.

    It does seem Hezbullah is chastened enough by the reaction to the Israeli repsonse that it will concentrate on consolidating power internally at th e moment and will likely not turn its attention back to border issues for the immediate future, but I have no confidence that 2000, 2002, 2006 won’t be repeated at some point.

    Or that Israeli will not feel that Hezbullah’s refusal to disarm won’t give them the pretext to invade again when domestic politics make it advantageous for someone to do so.

    Add to that the clear challenge of Hez and Auoun to the current government and I can’t say that, aside from the large Unifil presence there seems to much that has made the situation seem as though it will remain peaceful for very long.

    One thing Hezbullah’s rise has likely done is inch the major Sunni players more sympathetic (even if only in a silent, pragmatic sense) to maintaining Isreali strength. The House of Saud is talking about a border fence with Iraq. The Shia’a line from Lebanon to Iraq to Iran clearly concerns a number of the other Arab players.

  6. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Lebanon: Men, Women and Post-War Issues

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