By GERRY FOLEY
It should not have been a surprise that the Israeli retreat from southern Lebanon turned into a rout. That is the fate of hated occupation regimes as soon as their grip falters, for whatever reason. The U.S. retreat from South Vietnam was a similar example.
The ignominious collapse of Israel’s Lebanese allies is an indication that the Zionist regime cannot build enduring alliances in the region.
In fact, at the same time the Lebanese people were rejoicing at the rout of Israel’s allies in southern Lebanon, the anger of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories of the West Bank was exploding against Israel’s manipulation of the Oslo peace agreement, which has left them worse off in practical terms than they were before.
Pro-Zionist commentator Thomas L. Friedman caught the significance of the scenes of the flight of Israel’s allies and the victory celebrations of the Lebanese people in his column in the May 26 New York Times:
“Now that Hezbollah has evicted the Israelis from southern Lebanon by force instead of by negotiations, this will make it much harder for Yasir Arafat to give up any territory to Israel or make any compromises. He will look like a wimp in Arab eyes.”
In the latest clashes between Palestinian crowds and Israeli soldiers, it already appeared as if Arafat had decided that he had to let his people express themselves. A new fire fight occurred between Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers.
One of Israeli’s main objectives in making the so-called peace deal with the Palestinian Liberation Organization was to get the PLO leadership itself to repress its own people. In fact, it has achieved considerable success in that regard. But only the PLO bureaucracy has a stake in defending the “peace accords,” and there is a limit to how much it can oppress the Palestinian masses.
That limit seems to be approaching. It has undoubtedly been brought nearer by what is seen as a disorderly Israeli retreat from southern Lebanon, which is perceived as a historic victory by the Lebanese people and no doubt by all the Arab people of the region.
The Israeli government and its allies and supporters claim that the abandonment of southern Lebanon has put Israel in a better defensive position. That may be true in a geopolitical sense. Certainly the occupation of the buffer zone was becoming too expensive, as well as ineffective. But the argument that now Israel can force the Syrians to clamp down on the cross-border attacks by the Hezbollah or other anti-Zionist forces seems politically dubious.
On the one hand, Israeli military reprisals against Syria would destabilize the peace process as a whole. On the other, the Zionist rout from southern Lebanon has been an encouragement to the Arab masses in general, and that is a pressure that the Syrian government will have to adjust to, as well as Arafat. It will now be more difficult for either of them to convince their people that they have to make concessions to the Zionist colonizers.
The arrival of Israel’s former allies as refugees in Israel is, moreover, a provocation for the Arab population of the Zionist state. Thus, Mohammad Zeidan, chair of the Arab-Israeli High Commission and head of the Manda provincial district in Galilee, an area in the north of Israel that has a large Arab population, declared: “The militiamen of the Southern Lebanon Army are traitors to their homeland and murderers, and we do not want these killers among us. We will not allow these mercenaries to be settled in our towns and villages.”
In its May 26 edition, the Italian left daily Il Manifesto reported: “In the occupied territories, the Palestinian media are hailing the Israeli retreat, and even Arafat is expressing his satisfaction. But Hamas is calling on people to draw the necessary lessons of this experience, that is, to take up arms against Israel. This is an attractive appeal, and could set the spark to ignite the territories.”
The Italian paper expressed fear that these events would lead to a new war in the Middle East. In fact, new wars remain inevitable as long as the Zionists continue to try to impose their project by force on the Arab people, who in the long run they cannot crush.
The only way to avoid war in the long run is the emergence of new revolutionary socialist leaderships among both the Arab and Jewish people of the region, who can move toward a solution based on the collaboration of all working people in pursuance of their common interests.