South Lebanon — free at last
Israeli troops scuttled out of south Lebanon on Tuesday, taking their Arab quislings with them. In a panic move prompted by the collapse of their puppet "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) auxiliaries, the Israelis pulled out six weeks ahead of schedule. They were racing to the border while the Lebanese resistance advanced to the cheers of the villagers who have endured occupation and Israeli terror for 22 years. Stopping only to blow up fortifications and equipment to prevent the resistance or the Labanese army using them, the hated Israeli army drove south and the Lebanese people hope they will never see them again. Lebanese villagers stormed the prison in the village of Khiam, freeing the 140 patriots jailed by the SLA on Israeli orders. Some had been inside for over ten years. Throughout what was once Israel's "security belt" villagers greeted the resistance and returning refugees with Lebanese flags and the yellow banners of the Hezbullah (Party of God) militia. In Israel there is relief at what the people hope is the end of a conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and a realisation that their much vaunted army was brought to its knees by the determination and courage of Lebanese guerrillas. "We have always wanted to leave Lebanon, but now it is happening we cannot escape the feeling that events are being forced on us," claimed Israeli General Shaul Mofaz. Torn apart In the 70s, when Lebanon was torn apart by civil war, many Israeli leaders thought they could seize southern Lebanon for themselves. Tel Aviv ordered the troops in to back the Lebanese right-wing Falange organisation in the civil war. They briefly occupied West Beirut and the whole of the south. But they were bombed out of Beirut and the rest of south Lebanon, apart from a border strip which has been the scene of continuous fighting with the resistance. "This tragedy is over," Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Israel Army radio on Tuesday. He won the election last year pledging to pull-out of Lebanon within a year. The fulfillment of this promise has been forced on him by the Lebanese resistance. Barak has granted escaping members of the South Lebanese puppet army a 12 months asylum-status in Israel but their long-term future is in doubt. They will demand Israeli citizenship as a reward for their loyal service — they, after all, have nowhere else to go. But Israel has no further use for them. But there is other unfinished business left over from the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 following which Israel occupied parts of Lebanon, the Golan Heights, the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip and large parts of Egypt. An immediate flash point is the Shebaa farms, an area on the tip of the Lebanese border. Lebanese premier Saiim al-Hoss stressed on Monday that any pull-out that does not include them will be considered a redeployment and not a withdrawal. The Shebaa farms were Lebanese and Lebanon has the right to fight to regain them, he said. This is also the view of Hezbullah, which announced last weekend that the Shebaa farms had become a new focus for resistance action. New flashpoints Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights is an even more dangerous flashpoint now. Barak could have had a negotiated agreement if he had responded realistically to Syrian peace proposals. Syria insists that there can be no peace unless Israel gives up every inch of occupied Syrian territory as well. Barak still wants to retain part of the occupied Golan Heights, regardless of the dangers ahead. Maybe now he's having second thoughts. It is also clear that the defeat of the Israeli forces in South Lebanon will intensify the struggle by the Palestinians for restoration of their stolen lands.
* * *Material from New Communist Party of Britain