If these believers understood the real nature of terrorism itself, they would promptly recognize their error. Nevertheless, historical events provide the clearest challenge to their doctrine. If Mr. Hannity really grasped even a segment of the Arab-Israeli historical record, he would be obliged to question his dogma of force. Let’s take a careful look at the longest, bloodiest war against terrorism in the Middle East last century: the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990.
Israel's War against Terrorists
In April of 1973, hoping to deter additional Palestinian terrorism, Israeli paramilitary operatives assassinated three chief Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) government ministers residing in Lebanon, a small, mountainous country hugging the Mediterranean coast north of Israel. This prompted mass demonstrations against by the Muslim Lebanese Nationalist Movement, or LNM, which wanted the Lebanese government to protect the country’s sovereignty from all outside forces, both the PLO and Israel. But instead of cowing PLO terrorists, Israel’s murders provoked them to step up their attacks.
In 1976 Israel armed and funded the Army of Southern Lebanon, creating a sort of security zone to prevent terrorist raids into northern Israel. Furthermore, Israel aimed to divide and conquer the PLO in Lebanon, which had just a few months ago received international recognition as the Palestinians’ legal representative. But if the PLO represented the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, what were they doing in Lebanon? The answer: Israel pushed them out, using crimes of terrorism as the excuse, when Israel itself was the aggressive instigator of PLO terrorism. In addition, the Israeli state had expelled 110,000 innocent Palestinians into southern Lebanon during its aggressive 1948 war against the Arabs; twice that many were now living there, still denied their right of return to Israel. All this mixed with Lebanese nationalism into a mean stew that became the Lebanese civil war.
In 1978, the Army of Southern Lebanon having failed to secure Israel from attacks, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Lebanon to stamp out both the PLO and the various Sunni and Shiite Muslim resistance groups, in junction with the United States and the Lebanese Christian Phalanges army. Meanwhile, Syrian troops had been flowing in since 1976 to bolster the Muslim alliances and the PLO resistance because Syria wanted to maintain Lebanon as a strong ally against Israel. Thus the Lebanese civil war was essentially a strategic conflict between Israel and Syria, each vying for political control of the country. Israel wanted to control Lebanon to illegally destroy the PLO (the Palestinian government and military) and the Muslim terrorist groups, while Syria merely wanted Israel out of the country, both militarily and politically speaking, so justice and peace could reign. Ordered by UN Security Council Resolution 425 and responding to international pressure, Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon later in 1978.
Continuing skirmished with renegade PLO terrorists prompted Israel’s second invasion in 1982. To advance its agenda, Israel’s military violated international law by essentially devastating the city of Beirut. The IDF morphed into an offensive tool by bombing countless civilian office buildings, apartments and homes thruout the Lebanese capital, putting forward the lame excuse that terrorists inhabited them to violate the laws of war. Israel and Syria both supported terrorists to assist them in vanquishing each other in the country. Thousands of PLO members and Druze (a Muslim sect) retaliated against the Phalanges with attacks on Maronite towns. For the most part, they selectively targeted only the Christian Phalanges and the Army of Southern Lebanon assisting in Israel’s atrocities against them, as well as anti-PLO, anti-Israeli Lebanese Muslim groups such as Amal and Abu Nidal.
Thruout the 1980s, Israel hammered away at the Syrian and Muslim troops; in addition, it massacred thousands upon thousands of PLO and Hizballah unarmed civilians in the refugee camps of East Beirut, where thousands of PLO members were residing, and in villages in southern Lebanon, where Hizballah terrorists predominated. During this second invasion, the Israeli military criminally provided security guards and floodlights to the Christian Phalanges as they attacked the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut, massacring some 2,000 innocent civilians. President Reagan claimed to be tough on terrorism, yet he withdrew American forces from Lebanon after succession of drastic terrorist attacks against US marines in late 1983 and early 1984.
Notwithstanding a joint peacekeeping buffer by the UN and the Lebanese Military Force (FLM), the PLO slipped into Israel. To retaliate, Israeli Defense Force planes bombed the PLO’s government headquarters in Tunis in October 1985. Israel created a proxy force, the Army of Southern Lebanon, to do its dirty work of slaughtering PLO and Hizballah civilians, so Israel could keep its grip on the territory beyond its border. The stream of attacks by Lebanese patriotic groups and PLO terrorist forays into northern Israel not only continued, but actually escalated despite Israel’s “Iron Fist” policy of carpet-bombing. Likewise, Syria’s crushing strategy against the “Christian Phalanges” in Beirut failed to halt their growing number of attacks.
Israel was finally compelled by international pressure, and even an astonishing 300,000 Israeli protestors, to accept a UN ceasefire with Lebanon in 1992. Hoping to smash Lebanese terrorism once and for all, Israeli warplanes launched massive bombing raids in southern Lebanon in February 1992 and again in July 1993, shelling dozens of Shiite terrorist positions, including entire villages. But after all the dust settled, terrorist raids on Israeli Defense Force outposts continued, Lebanese Christians and Muslims alike rooted for Israel’s total expulsion from their country, and Katyusha rockets were still falling into northern Israel.
We should notice the disparity between the Israeli forces’ and terrorists’ conduct in the war. All of the PLO, LNM and Hizballah terrorists combined killed about 1,000 innocent civilians; many of their attacks were directed against Israeli and US military forces, the various pro-Israeli militias, and Lebanese traitors assisting in Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. For example, between 1995 and 1998, Hizballah fired at least fifty Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, altogether killing just two civilians and wounding fewer than one hundred.
Another instance of moral restraint was the most destructive and well-known terrorist attack of the entire war: the truck bombing of the US military barracks in Beirut in October 1983. During the war itself, Hizballah primarily chose to kidnap Western, Israeli, and pro-Israeli diplomatic officials whom it perceived as enemies of the Lebanese people, and then release its captors unharmed when it got its demands met. The org killed no more than two hundred Lebanese civilians during its eighteen-year campaign against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. This stands in stark contrast to Israel’s wholesale pounding of villages in southern Lebanon, in which a thousand innocent civilian lives were typically sacrificed for a hundred terrorists.
The dozen or so direct terrorist crimes on innocent civilians and property, such as some Hizballah car bombing incidents, were releases of pent-up frustration and indignation against Israel for its unjust, imperialistic occupation of southern Lebanon that really started in the 1948 Israeli war between the countries, already mentioned. Let’s keep things clear here. While the cause of Lebanon’s territorial integrity and independence from Israel could not legitimate murdering innocent people, Lebanese citizens still possessed the right to be free from outside domination. In neocon terms, “giving in to terrorists” means granting their wishes so they’ll stop their attacks. But here’s where the fundamental misunderstanding lies: terrorism is not extortion. Look at the Lebanese terrorists. Once they achieved their honorable cause, their attacks against Israel ceased.
Those who murder innocents must be punished; at the same time, the nation or people wounded by terrorism are still obliged to pursue the good end desired by the “enemy”—in this case, the territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Lebanon. America must never confuse means and ends. An evil means does not automatically make the end evil. The end must be judged on its own merits.
Terrorism Wins—and Ceases
Thruout the 1990s, Israeli forces and the Army of Southern Lebanon retained control of the region. But this failed to deter Hizballah, as it switched from kidnappings to boldly firing Katyusha rockets high over the military zone into northern Israel. A new low-level pattern of violence ensued with various terrorist groups continuing their operations followed by Israeli army retaliatory murders on innocent men, women and children in southern Lebanese villages. Tough on terrorism, perhaps, but the terrorists had the people on their side and refused to give up. Finally, in May 2000, Israel completely withdrew from southern Lebanon, granting the country independence. All the people rejoiced, praising Hizballah for its success. As former US Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross described the scene: “Here was a mass of humanity seeking to force the Israelis out—in effect, the Lebanese people pushing Israel out of Lebanon.” The citizens of Lebanon proclaimed they had repaid Israel’s aggression against the Arab people, and their dignity was restored. It was a glorious day, demonstrating that while a just, patriotic cause can be marred by terrorism, it nevertheless achieves final victory.