Selected Articles from Ha'aretz
Whose Security Zone?
December 27, 1998
occupation has its own methods of obfuscation. For years, we called the
occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by
varied and peculiar names: first, "the liberated territories,"
then the "administered territories," then somewhere along the line
there was the "enlightened conquest," and of course "Judea
and Samaria," and finally simply "the territories" as most of
us call them today. The Golan we always called the Golan, not
"occupied" or "held," because, of course, it is not part
of the "territories.". But the most consensual lie of all is
"the security zone." This is territory that for all intents and
purposes is under military occupation - but has never been described here as
such. For 20 years, ever since the Litani Campaign of 1978, southern Lebanon
has been occupied by Israel and we keep on talking only about a
fact that we are referring to a piece of land that has been ripped away by
force from another sovereign state, where Israel behaves as if it were in
its own back yard, contrary to all laws and international agreements, is
marginal. Moreover, in the debate over a withdrawal from Lebanon, this fact
plays no role, not even among those who favor a withdrawal. Israel has a
hard time coming to terms with the fact that for long periods it was
surrounded on all sides only by the sea and by occupied territories. And
even now when it has occupied territories to its east and its north, it has
invented a name for occupied foreign sovereign territory: the security zone.
"security" zone was born, of course, in order to ensure the
security of the residents of the Galilee. And only for the residents of the
Galilee, needless to say. The security of the residents of this zone is of
no importance at all as far as Israel is concerned.
Othman, who was killed last week with her six children, was not the first
mother to have been killed by mistake by Israel in "the security
April two years ago we killed a mother and her seven children, by mistake of
course. Five days earlier, an Israeli attack helicopter fired on a Lebanese
ambulance and two mothers and two girls were killed; a mother and her
daughters were killed in August of last year by a roadside bomb set by the
Hezbollah; in August of this year, a civilian named Abd al Hassan Bushar was
injured. According to reports, he was 110 years old. Three children were
wounded three months earlier, also in an Israeli bombing attack; a
17-year-old boy was killed last week, a few days before the Othman family
met its death.
lives of the Lebanese citizens in the security zone - women, children and
old people who found themselves in this situation through no fault of their
own, exactly like the residents of the Galilee - are far less secure than
the lives of the Israeli mothers and children south of the border. This is
the way it should be, according to the Israeli perception, when the
alternatives are always either us or them. However, it is doubtful that this
is the true alternative.
occupied territories go, the occupied territory in southern Lebanon couldn't
be better from an Israeli point of view, because there, the profoundest wish
of Yitzhak Rabin and many other Israelis is fulfilled: there's no High Court
of Justice and no B'Tselem. Few take any interest in the danger to the lives
of the mothers and children in the village of Janta where the Othmans lived;
there are even fewer who care about the human and civil rights of the
residents of this village and others like it.
Khiyam prison is full of men and women whose illegal arrest and conditions
of imprisonment are Israel's direct responsibility, just as it is
responsible for everything else that is done in the security zone.
grabs and arrests people, and transfers them for interrogation to within its
own borders and detains them, finally, at Khiyam or in Israeli prisons,
without trial and without time limits. Israel is allowed to imprison
Lebanese citizens - even the High Court of Justice has said so - without
limitations as "bargaining chips" to be used on a rainy day or in
negotiations over Israelis missing in action about whom it has long been
clear that they are no longer in Lebanon or perhaps even still alive.
builds, paves and fortifies there, and confiscates and takes control of
private property, but in contrast to the bypass roads in the West Bank, from
there no voices are even raised in protest.
only protest that is heard is the violent protest of the Hezbollah. In
Israel, it is very convenient to depict this not as a protest against the
military occupation, but rather as yet another expression of the desire to
wipe us off the face of the earth.
Merhav, a senior Mossad veteran and formerly the representative of the
Foreign Ministry in Beirut, has said that if all the opponents to the
withdrawal - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader MK Ehud
Barak, Labor MK Dr. Ephraim Sneh and retired chief of staff Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak - had been born Shi'ites, they would be fighting the same
stubborn war against the occupier that the Hezbollah is fighting. "The
Hezbollah," says Merhav, "are freedom fighters in every respect,
an authentic expression of the deep desire to eject Israel from southern
fighters? An authentic expression? Occupied territory? This is not
convenient for Israel to see, neither for the Likud nor the Labor Party, who
are united on the issue of Lebanon in a miserable alliance that only spells
disaster. It is much more convenient to talk about "the security
zone," "Hezbollah terrorists," and "they want to wipe us
off the face of the earth," than to admit to reality.