Our Lebanese People in Israel: Does Anyone Care?
By: Elias Bejjani
May 26, 2006
May is the month of roses, but for us it is the month of thorns because on the 22nd of it in 2000, Israel withdrew its army from south Lebanon in application of UN resolutions 425 and 426, a full 22 years after the two resolutions were adopted by the Security Council (in 1978). At the time, the Lebanese government was derelict in its national and humanitarian responsibilities because of its absolute servitude to the dictates of the Syrian occupier, and failed to fill the security gap and extend its authority, embodied in its own army and security forces, over the territory of the south. Basically, the authorities buried their head in the sand and completely abandoned their responsibilities to others.
Thousands of our southern Lebanese people, in the absence and absenteeism of the State, and fearing for their lives and the lives of their families from the threats hurled at them, were forced to leave their homes and lands and found shelter in Israel. Since that time, they have been forgotten and their case has been handled superficially and selectively under a shroud of an enormous injustice, wrongful charges and blatant disregard for the humanitarian and social implications of this case. Those of them who dared to come back were subjected to humiliating and ridiculous kangaroo courts that do not stand up to judicial and legal international norms. They were accused of treason, “dealing with the enemy”, and basically of every possible heinous label in the doublespeak lexicon of totalitarian regimes.
Since the "Taef Accord" was imposed on Lebanon, and the legitimate Lebanese military government of Prime Minister General Aoun was toppled in 1990 by force of weapons and treachery, more than one amnesty law has been issued to the benefit of militia leaders, war criminals, murderous fundamentalists and Bin Laden followers who attacked the Lebanese army and cut off the heads of its officers, and a horde of Mafiosi, drug runners and such others. All this was done on the basis of the “Forget and move on” amnesty approach to the war files.
What is required after years of destructive wars is to turn a new page that lays the ground for a reconstruction of a Lebanon of justice, law and equality. Let us not wander here in the maize of theorizing and accusing others of treason, or stubbornness and illusions, or in the doublespeak of liberation, conquest and other grandiose, but fake, slogans.
“We want to eat grapes, not kill the vineyard guard.”
After its liberation from the Syrian Baath yoke, Lebanon has entered a new phase of its modern history that requires the use of one standard for justice, one standard for amnesty, and one standard for “dealing with the enemy” and “treason.” Therefore, we demand that the Parliamentary majority, which is also a majority in the Saniora Government, conduct itself in this matter without fear, bias or procrastination, and take the initiative of a bold step.
We demand that the government adopt a general amnesty law for all our people who are refugees in Israel, particularly that the parliamentary opposition represented by the Change & Reform Bloc has adopted this platform publicly and with absolute transparency since the firs session of the current Parliament. In this context, what is required specifically from the Christian factions that are part of the parliamentary majority is to adopt this amnesty project and work hard to let it pass in the Council of Ministers and Parliament with persistence and determination. Otherwise, those factions should be candid with their constituency about the reasons that prevent them from passing this measure.
There is no need to remind those who, perhaps, have poor memory that many Christian members and leaders of the South Lebanon Army belonged to the Christian parties and groups whose members today are in the ranks of the parliamentary majority. Similarly, many members and leaders of the South Lebanon Army that was dismantled in 2000, who are today refugees in Israel and other countries, were appointed into the ranks of that army by those parties and groups.
Our people of the South are victims of the "Cairo Accord". If someone has to be prosecuted, then it should be all those politicians who agreed and signed to that Accord. Let us say in all clean conscience to the leaders of those parties and groups, even if displeases them: Any condemnation of the South Lebanon Army members under the current independence is in fact a condemnation against them and against their own years of struggle. Enough self-hatred, enough passing the buck and shunning responsibility, enough burying one’s head in the sand.
The time has come for a clear conscientious position. The time has come for accountability. The file of our refugee people in Israel has to be removed from the catacombs of dirty politics and one-upmanship over what is otherwise an obligation by the State to rectify the wrong it itself did to its own people by giving license to the same Palestinian groups it says it wants to disarm today to run amok in the villages and towns of the South and bring about the tragedy we all know. Of all those who suffered from the anomalous situation in the South, only our refugee people in Israel continue to suffer. And to add insult to injury, it is the same Lebanese State that forced them into refugee status in the first place that wants to punish them today for the wrong it, the State, committed. This is also a humanitarian and just file. Let everyone rise above the pettiness and deal with it on that basis.
To all political leaders and active forces in Lebanon, we say: Have mercy on your refugee people in Israel. Untie their chains. Bring them back home to their country and their families. Enough exile, enough suffering, enough injustice and enough abandonment. Justice is no justice if it is not universal. Therefore let the justice of the Country of the Cedars encompass its own lost children in Israel.
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)