Israel’s Legacy in Southern Lebanon

Excerpt from HEZBOLLAH: A SHORT HISTORY (Princeton University Press, 2007), pp.85,87

But in 1996, after Hezbollah fired katyusha rockets into Israel in retaliation for the killing of Lebanese civilians, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) again launched a major campaign into Lebanon. “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” initiated in April of that year, was intended to undermine popular support for Hezbollah among the Lebanese, as well as to prompt Syria to reign in the organization. The strategy failed, largely as a result of the horrible slaughter at Qana, an ancient village some locals like to claim as the town cited in the Bible where Jesus turned water to wine (John 2:1-11). (In fact, the actual site is probably Cana in the Galilee.) At the UN base in Qana – a protected zone in international law – civilians sought refuge from IDF air and ground attacks. But rather than finding safety, 106 civilians were killed by Israeli artillery. Authoritative reports by the UN and Amnesty International challenged Israeli claims that the shelling of the UN base was unintentional, and these findings are well known in Lebanon (see Security Council document S/1996/137, May 7, 1996). However, the report of the UN Secretary-General’s military advisor demonstrated that the Israeli shelling of the UNIFIL site was not accidental, and the thirteen shells that fell on the compound had exploded where they had been aimed.

No incident in recent memory has inspired more hatred for the Jewish state than the Qana attack. Close to the UN base, a memorial cemetery has been created where the victims are buried, and the site has become a popular memorial for many Lebanese to visit…

As CNN broadcast horrific pictures of mangled and burned civilians in the wake of this massacre, the then U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher succeeded in persuading all sides to abide once again by the same rules that had been in place since 1993… A noteworthy point is that in the course of negotiations Israel never challenged the right of Hezbollah to attack its soldiers in Lebanon, thus tacitly conceding that the IDF was an occupation force in the country…

The IDF, on a day-to-day basis, often adopted a policy of shoot first and ask questions later, which made daily life more than a bit risky for those living in the shadow of the Security Zone. Thus civilians were regularly killed “by accident” and in greater cumulative numbers than either members of the resistance, the IDF, or the SLA. In all, more than five hundred Lebanese and Palestinian civilians were killed in southern Lebanon from the time of the 1982 invasion to the Israel withdrawal of 2000, or more than thirty times the number of Israeli civilian fatalities during this time. Human Rights Watch has carefully analyzed the deadly civilian toll (see, for example, Hilterman 1996).

[emphasis LR’s]

From the back cover of the book: Augustus Richard Norton is professor of international relations and anthropology at Boston University. A former U.S. Army officer and West Point professor, he has conducted research in Lebanon for close to three decades.

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