There are so many inaccuracies in Charles Krauthammer’s recent column “The Danger in Lebanon” (Washington Post, April 10, 2002) that it’s difficult to know which ones to highlight. First of all, Israel’s 22-year occupation (it began in 1978) of southern Lebanon was illegal under international law. Krauthammer writes that Israel’s military presence in Lebanon was a “classic defensive occupation”-yet this occupation itself is what initially provoked the formation of Hizbullah, a group originally established in order to resist Israel’s occupation of Lebanese land. The right to resist a military occupation of one’s country is included in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. People lived on the land Israel’s army occupied- people who had homes and farms and families to support. For 22- years these families lived with Israeli soldiers and proxies controlling their movements, imprisoning them, confiscating their property, and worse. For 22-years they lived with constant and regular Israeli bombardment. Hundreds of civilians were killed in Lebanon due to the Israel’s “classic defensive occupation”, most notably at Qana in 1996, where Israeli planes destroyed a U.N. bunker filled with women and children-civilians seeking refuge from Israeli bombardment of their nearby villages.
Second, Krauthammer writes that post-withdrawal, Hizbullah began “sporadic cross-border attacks” on Israel. Since Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 and until Israel’s current operations in the West Bank began, Hizbullah attacks were confined to Israeli military posts in an area of land where the borders are still under dispute. Until two weeks ago, there had been no cross-border attacks on Israel. Krauthammer’s description of this border dispute is limited to: “Hezbollah concocted a territorial claim on a few acres called the Shebaa Farms.” Since he brought it up, it is worth reviewing the claims on both sides: Shebaa Farms is a 40 square kilometer area that includes 14 farms owned by Lebanese nationals. When the Lebanese-Syrian border was drawn in the 1920s, this area was included inside Syria. Lebanon and Syria both claim that the Shebaa Farms region was later ceded to Lebanon in the 1950s, but there is no official documentation of this agreement. During the 1967 war, Israel occupied this area, along with the Golan Heights. The U.N.-drawn borders place Shebaa Farms in Syria (therefore under Israeli occupation). Lebanon and Syria continue to dispute this.
In addition, Krauthammer brings up Hizbullah’s October 2000 capture of three Israeli soldiers-which occurred in Shebaa Farms. Hizbullah also holds Elhanan Tennenbaum, who they claim is a Mossad (Israeli intelligence service) agent. Israel in turn claims he is a reserve Israeli army colonel. But since we’re discussing kidnappings, we might as well mention the estimated seventeen Lebanese that remain in what Israel terms “administrative detention.” Under “administrative detention,” detainees may be held without charges or a trial for an indefinite string of six-month periods. In The Christian Science Monitor (8/29/01), Nicholas Blanford writes that “Securing the release of the detainees is a key motive behind Hizbullah’s sporadic guerrilla campaign against Israeli troops occupying a disputed strip of territory along Lebanon’s southeast border, known as the Shebaa Farms.” These detainees include two prominent political figures affiliated with Hizbullah, Sheikh! Abdel-Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani. Both of them were kidnapped from Lebanon by Israel, Obeid in 1989 and Dirani in 1994. Dirani has filed a lawsuit against the Israeli authorities for torture during interrogation.
And lastly, a very small point, but one correcting a mistake that is consistently repeated in much of the mainstream media: Sayyid (not Sheikh, there is a difference) Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah is not “the spiritual leader” of Hizbullah. Officially, Hizbullah looks to Sayyid Khamenei of Iran for spiritual leadership. Individuals affiliated with the party look to several different Shi’i religious authorities for spiritual guidance, Sayyid Fadlallah is one of the most prominent of these Shi’i clerics, but not the only one.