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It is not well understood to what a great extent the Israeli Left was radicalized by Israel’s ‘Peace for Galilee’ invasion of Lebanon in 1982. This radicalization was very similar to the radicalization of the American Left over Vietnam.
Just as the American Left emerged from its ‘campaign’ against the war in Vietnam as little more than a movement of anti-Americanism (a phenomenon ever so evident in the pro-Saddam, anti-Bush demonstrations we all witnessed a few weeks back), so the Israeli Left emerged from the Lebanese war as little more than a movement of anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism, and increasingly even of anti-Semitism.
This is important to understand because it explains, among other things, what transpired in Israel over the past decade. It even explains the eagerness with which many around the world, Jews and non-Jews, vilify Ariel Sharon as nothing less than a murderous monster.
The Western media have long regarded Sharon as a war criminal and mass killer. But in reality, Sharon’s only ‘war crime’ was to upset the newly radicalized Israeli Left in the early 1980’s and their amen choruses abroad. Perhaps it’s time to refresh some poor memories about what exactly Sharon’s ‘war crime’ really was.
Before 1982, most of the Israeli Left was a patriotic Zionist Left, strongly pro-Israel, pro-defense and anti-Palestinian, wanting nothing to do with the PLO. (Elements of the Left were even strongly supportive of building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.)
The Israeli Left in those days differed from the Israeli Right only on secondary aspects of these matters (mainly on its insistence that Israel remain ‘contingently pro-peace'; that is, willing to
discuss a hypothetical partial withdrawal from the ‘occupied territories’ on the off-chance that the Arabs might some day hypothetically be willing to pursue peace).
Even the ‘Peace Now’ protest movement back then was not pro-PLO or pro-capitulation to the Arabs, and it did not call for a PLO-led Palestinian state (although no doubt some individual leftists did support this).
Meanwhile, the PLO had long turned Lebanon into an inter-Arab killing field, and all those do-gooders and bleeding hearts who today pretend to be outraged by the Sabra and Shatilla massacres have long forgotten the tens of thousands of people butchered in the Lebanese civil wars, in which the PLO played a leading role.
The PLO had also turned Lebanon into a launch pad and rocket base for attacking Israel under Syrian auspices. Syria was the puppet master behind the scenes, perpetuating the Lebanese butchery and civil war so that it could take over most of Lebanon with salami tactics.
Israel Goes Into Lebanon
On June 3, 1982, Palestinians from the Abu Nidal group tried to murder Israeli diplomat Shlomo Argov. The Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin used the attack as a basis for invading Lebanon and clearing out the Palestinian terrorists. Begin had already established ties with some of the Christian militia forces fighting the PLO in Lebanon, particularly the Phalange, a militia led by the Gemayal family. Because of their links to the
Gemayals, the Phalange was as close as one could find in those days to a legitimate governing force in Lebanon.
While the Gemayals and their fighters pretty much sat back, Israeli troops drove the terrorists out of southern Lebanon (and later set up their own Southern Lebanese Army, manned by
Christians and Shi’ites in southern Lebanon to patrol Israel’s security zone there).
When Israel first invaded southern Lebanon, polls showed that 92% of the Israeli public, including Israeli Arabs, supported the invasion. On the other hand, the proportion of the Israeli press opposed to the campaign was close to the same 92%. The Israeli media were already under the near-totalitarian domination of leftist extremists.
Quickly it became clear that Prime Minister Begin and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, did not intend to stop at the 40 km. marker they had originally announced as their target. They
continued up to the perimeters of Beirut and then conquered parts of the city. They had Arafat surrounded but, due to the usual U.S. interference, allowed him and his terrorocracy to evacuate for Tunis on American ships. There Arafat sat and rotted until Shimon Peres and the Israeli Left rescued the PLO from oblivion and invited it back into Israeli territories to resume murdering Jews.
While Israeli support for the Lebanon campaign was almost unanimous at first, the public started to waver as Israeli casualties mounted. Israel was fighting in built-up areas, and rather than pulverize these areas into smithereens with artillery to save Israeli lives, something that would have caused Lebanese civilian casualties, Begin and Sharon tried to mollify a hostile international media by taking these areas in house-to-house fighting. This pre-Oslo niceness cost Israel hundreds of soldiers. It also did not buy any good will for very long. (Indeed, if there was any ‘war crime’ for which Begin and Sharon should have been prosecuted, it was their decision to allow so many Israeli troops to die for the sake of public relations.)
Sabra and Shatilla
On Sept 14, 1982, Lebanese President Bashir Gemayal was assassinated by a bomb, probably planted by the PLO. His brother Amin was elected in his place. Two days later, the Lebanese Phalange troops entered Sabra and Shatilla, passing Israeli troops and checkpoints along the way. The camps were thought to contain 2000 fully-armed PLO terrorists. Israeli troops were not inside the camps.
All those Monday Morning Wiseacres who now think the massacres were clearly foreseeable did not foresee what would happen. They also ignore the fact that Israeli troops did not have a
legitimate basis to block the movements of the Phalange — the personal militia of the Lebanese president — in their own country.
What happened next is pretty well known. Enraged Phalange militia men went on a revenge killing spree. The exact number of Palestinians who died is unknown; it’s probably around 400, although the anti-Israel propagandists put it at 700-800 or more. It was still peanuts compared with the numbers murdered in the Lebanese civil wars by the PLO and the Moslem and Christian militias there. It was also tiny compared with the number of Belgian Jews murdered when the Belgian authorities collaborated with the German Nazis, those same Belgians now selectively judging the leaders of the world for “war crimes.”
The killings nevertheless shocked Israelis and galvanized the Israel-bashing street urchins around the world. It also was the trigger for a campaign by the Israeli Left to delegitimize and
demonize the Likud, Ariel Sharon, and indirectly the State of Israel itself..
The Israeli Left came out in force after Sabra and Shatilla, with banners screaming that Begin and Sharon were murderers and war criminals. These were the very same leftists who just a few years later would denounce Israel’s anti-Oslo Right as collectively guilty of killing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because of ‘incitement’ and because ‘words kill.’
Nanoseconds after the Israeli Left proclaimed Sharon and Begin war criminals, the anti-Semites of the world took their cue. It was also the precursor for the Solidarity-with-Saddam street protests in 1991 and 2002-2003.
The Sabra and Shatilla massacres were murders of Palestinian Arabs by Christian Lebanese Arabs. Not a single victim was killed by an Israeli or a Jew. The very most that Sharon can be legitimately accused of in all of this is possible foolishness — of not having the prescience to see what the Phalangists would due if they entered the camp. But foolishness is not a ‘war crime’ and it is not ‘genocide.’ If it were, President Bush should be in the dock for not
foreseeing September 11 and perhaps President Roosevelt could have been prosecuted for lacking the foresight to prevent Pearl Harbor.
And the fact is, the very same Israeli leftists who insist that Sharon is a murderer because he did not have such prescience did not have such prescience themselves. Not a single leftist, not a single Israeli journalist, and not a single Belgian warned that as a result of the assassination of Gemayal, the Phalange would massacre Palestinians. All these people insist Sharon should have known better, but none of them knew better.
As stated above, even if we were to concede that Sharon should have known better, that would make him guilty of poor judgement, not murder. It might mean he could be impeached for being a fool, but not prosecuted for the massacres.
The very same Belgians who made such noises about trying Sharon for “war crimes” have never sought to indict the Lebanese Phalange leaders — the very people who really did order the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla. Nor did they ever get around to prosecuting most of the Belgians who collaborated with the Nazis, nor the Belgians who supervised the massacres in the Congo. So what does that tell you about the ethical, high-minded Belgians?
The Left is Radicalized
The Israeli Left was radicalized because 400 or so Palestinians were murdered by a Lebanese Christian militia — one incident over more than a decade of civil war and atrocities. The Left was radicalized because more than 700 Israeli troops were killed in the fighting, a large number for a country as small as Israel. The same Israeli Left then morphed into an anti-Israel, defeatist, collaborationist, extremist movement that implemented the Oslo ‘peace process’ which has resulted in 1200 murdered Israelis, most of them civilians, many of them children.
After Sabra and Shatilla, the Israeli Left organized large street protests demanding Israel withdraw from Lebanon and condemning Begin and Sharon. In the most famous of these, Israel’s media simply invented that famous 400,000 number (for the size of the protest rally) and it became unchallenged myth, this to describe the 60,000 or so protesters who can physically fit in the Tel Aviv Square where the protest was held.
Israel’s Left did not rest. It demanded that Israel set up a Commission of Inquiry. The Likud acquiesced. The whole idea was to prove to the world how moral Israel really is, how it examines itself in the highest, most ethical manner and holds itself to the highest moral standards.
(The establishment of the commission, by the way, was endorsed at the time by the National Religious Party, for the same reasons of moral posturing. The NRP at the time was leaning left,
and several of its rabbis endorsed setting up the commission.)
The Kahan Commission sought to pass highly-demanding judgments, to the point of disqualifying people for office even if they engaged in no crimes but simply exercised poor judgement. It was thought this would cleanse Israel’s name by fingering those who might have prevented the incidents had they been wiser.
In reality, the establishment of the Kahan Commission of Inquiry did nothing of the sort. The only significant consequence of its investigations was to allow the Israeli Left to demonize the
Likud and indirectly all of Israel. The commission played Monday Morning Umpire and stated that Sharon should have known what the Phalange would do. But not a single member of that commission had foreseen what the Phalange would do.
The commission did state clearly that the Phalange was responsible for the killings in Sabra and Shatilla — not Sharon, not the Likud, not Israel. It definitively did not say Sharon had a hand in the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, but this is something that was long ago erased from the world’s memory bank. Not that the world ever cared about the facts in the report or about what really took place.
As in every other case where Israel tries to display its niceness and ethical superiority, it ends up being demonized and delegitimized.
The Israeli Left misused the report of the Kahan Commission to delegitimize the Likud and demonize Sharon. The commission’s recommendations were used by the U.S. State Department to declare Sharon persona non grata. And of course the Eurotrash utilized it to declare Sharon a genocidal war criminal. The jihad by Israel’s Left against Sharon has produced an internationalization of its own anti-Israelism.
The same Israeli Left that later imposed Oslo on the country has always misused the events at Sabra and Shatilla for partisan purposes to delegitimize Sharon. Their posturing has been exploited by every anti-Semite in the world.
The anti-Bush, anti-U.S., pro-Saddam Left in the U.S. and Europe has long been little more than a fifth column, composed of people who despise their own countries, who lend aid and succor to any dictatorial regime as odds with the West.
Israeli leftists have followed in their footsteps, even to the point of cheering on the Belgians and anyone else who seeks to portray the democratically elected prime minister of Israel as a
Nazi-like mass killer. Many on the Israeli Left have actually taken the lead in the campaign of vilification, seemingly not caring a whit about the horrendous implications of their actions for their own country.
Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available through Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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