Friday, April 11, 2008


June 25, 1999

Recently we had the opportunity to attend a symposium on Southern Lebanon. I would like to share with you some of what was conveyed (and more). One of the participants was Abu Arz, who for many years has led the resistance against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. He shared with us that when he first visited Israel, back in 1977, the impression he received quite remarkable and made him hopeful, especially following a long meeting with the then Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. After returning to Beirut, he and his staff made the decision to cooperate with the State of Israel, which they saw as a strategic and historical ally. This decision was based on the fact that the Christian Lebanese and Israeli Jews had common enemies, common goals, and shared a common destiny.

When Israel invaded Southern Lebanon in 1982 (in an effort to repel the Palestinian terrorists who were constantly shelling Northern Galilee), the hopes of the Lebanese communities rose sky high; they believed that this would spell the end of Syria's and the terrorists' presence in Lebanon. However, the (then) Soviet Union threatened to support Syria, if the United States did not put a stop to Israel's aggression. Thus, under U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Begin halted Defense Minister Ariel Sharon's attempt to "get the job done". As a result of this capitulation Israel was allowed a buffer zone in Southern Lebanon, from which, together with the SLA (South Lebanese Army), it could monitor (with varying success) the northern boarder and aid the Lebanese freedom fighters. Since then there has been a continual growing occupation, not only by Syria, but also by the Iranian backed Hezbollah terrorist organization. (By the way, as long as Israel does not return the Golan Heights to Syria, the latter will also make use of the Hezbollah, as a means of extorting Israel.) The worldview has it that the Lebanese government (a puppet government set up by Syria) invited the Syrian troops to help control the situation created by the Palestinian terrorists. Over the 25 years of Syria's control of Lebanon there has been a slow genocide of the Christian communities; several million of which have fled the country, and have been replaced by 2 million Syrian workers and 45,000 Syrian troops. Under Syria's shadow the Iranian backed Hizbulla has continued to batter the SLA and the Israeli troops in South Lebanon, and is able to reach Northern Israel easily with katyusha rockets. But saddest of all is the fact that it is the Hizbulla terrorists who are now regarded as Lebanon's freedom fighters, while the Southern Lebanese Army is being viewed as a tool to aid Zionist Israel in its "expansionistic aspirations." With everything reversed, the Syrians have won their battle in the take over of Lebanon, and it only remains to get rid of the "security zone" and the renegade SLA. The fall of Jezzine, in the last couple of weeks, and the pledge of the new Israeli Prime Minister elect to withdraw from the security zone within a year, has left the Christian community without a future or a hope.

Abu Arz had to flee East Beirut in 1990, when the Syrians took control of the city. He, and other (Christian) political leaders, came to Jezzine to continue to fight side by side with Israel against the common enemies. That decision was very costly, as he and his colleagues were sentenced to death by the puppet Syrian-controlled government in Beirut. The Jezzine Christian enclave was looked upon as the last hope of regaining power in Beirut for a free Lebanon. But now, with its downfall and the shameful retreat of both armies, the feelings among the population can be summed up in a few words: humiliation, hopelessness and betrayal. They feel that their extraordinary effort has not been appreciated. The rest of the Southern Lebanese Christians are anxious about the future, and are wondering if they are going to suffer the same fate as that of Jezzine. The speaker said that they felt as though they had been sold out in Jezzine, and that tomorrow the same thing is likely to happen in Marjayoun (a town within the Israeli "occupied" security zone). They did not want to be sold twice.

It was a sobering testimony, as Abu Arz confessed that the friends of Israel are paying a great price, while being squeezed between the aggressive policy of Syria and the depressive policy of Israel. They had to ask themselves if they had not made the wrong choice in joining Israel. From their perspective they have two options, either living in humiliation in a refugee camp inside Israel, or dying with dignity with other martyrs on their own soil. In their own words, they "do not want to be used or exploited as sandbags, just to protect the northern borders of Israel, or to be a subcontract in the peace talks between Israel and Syria."

Time is running out for the Southern Lebanese Christian communities. If Israel withdraws unconditionally from Lebanon, without insisting that the UN resolution 520 is implemented, it will not only spell the end of the SLA, but will also bring the Hizbulla and Syrian troops down to the northern borders of Israel. Resolution 520 states that all foreign forces must leave Lebanon, including Syria's.

In conclusion, Abu Arz (the "father of the cedars") quoted a Lebanese poet and philosopher, who wrote: "I admire more the conscience of Israel then the science of Israel." His closing words were: "Ladies and gentlemen in the name of conscience, we ask you not to sell us at a cheap price."

As I left the meeting that night, I had the thought that just as Southern Lebanon is a security zone for Israel, so is the Land of Israel a security zone for the Jews and many Christians living in the West. What will be its fate? Will the Jews and Christians, outside of Israel stand with us, or will they sell us out for a cheap price, especially those of us who are living in Judea and Samaria?

While writing this, more katyusha rockets are falling on the Galilee. Today, as this is being sent, two people are reported dead and one critically wounded in a Northern Galilee town, while the residents are sitting in bomb shelters, and others are packing up and travelling south.