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Noam Chomsky: History of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982

by Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, pgs. 195-198
The standard version of events of why Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 has been distorted by the mainstream media. In this excerpt from The Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky tells it like it happened including the Israeli bombing of civilians which the media conveniently left out in covering the incidents.

4.4 Israeli provocations and the US response

Through early 1982 Israel carried out a series of provocative actions in southern Lebanon, including the sinking of Lebanese fishing boats in Lebanese territorial waters...military maneuvers in southern Lebanon that were described by the UN as "intensive, excessive, and provocative," ... and -- from August 1981 to May 1982 -- 2125 violations of Lebanese airspace and 652 violations of Lebanese territorial waters. None of these actions succeeded in eliciting a PLO "provocation" that could serve as a pretext for the planned invasion. In February, Time reported, an Israeli "assault was narrowly averted...though perhaps not for long."...The Israeli and international media carried many other reports of the impending invasion, but the PLO was uncooperative and supplied no suitable pretext.

On April 21 Israel broke the nine-month truce with a still more provocative action, bombing alleged PLO centers in coastal areas south of Beirut. This time there had been a PLO "terrorist act": an Israeli soldier had been killed when his military jeep struck a land mine -- in southern Lebanon! There was still no PLO response. Israel's position that its bombing was retaliatory was accepted in the US by the "pro-PLO" and "anti-Israel" press. The Washington Post, for example, responded to these events as follows:

So this is not the moment for sermons to Israel. It is a moment for respect for Israel's anguish--and for mourning the latest victims of Israeli-Palestinian hostility.
Typically, it is Israel's anguish that we must respect when still more Palestinians are killed in an unprovoked Israeli terrorist attack -- again one imagines that the reaction might have been somewhat different if the PLO had bombed coastal roads north of Tel Aviv, killing many people, in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian guerrilla in northern Israel, an Israeli "provocation." The reference in the Post to "Israel's anguish" has to do with the difficulty of "suppressing" Palestinian nationalism in the occupied territories, and the "great pain" caused by the evacuation of the Yamit settlers in what the Israeli press called "Operation National Trauma '82". Note that "the latest victims" were not victims of Israeli air raids, but of the more abstract "Israeli-Palestinian hostility."

Emboldened by such signals as this, Israel prepared for the next "provocation." On May 9 Israel again bombed Lebanon in retaliation for the discovery of land mines in Israel and the bombing of a bus in Jerusalem. (For eyewitness reports of the bombings, see AJME News, May 1982, which alleges that at least 25 people were killed in the April raid and 36 in the May raid, Palestinians and Lebanese.) This time, there was a light PLO rocket and artillery response directed away from the settled areas, with no reported casualties.

Three days later, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz, Ze'ev Schiff, wrote:

With regard to the war in the North, Israel is now at one minute before midnight...It is not true that -- as we tell the Americans -- we do not want to invade Lebanon. There are influential forces, led by the Defense Minister, which, with intelligence and cunning, are taking well-considered steps to reach a situation that will leave Israel with no choice but to invade Lebanon..."
The war would aim to "root out" the PLO and to make Israel the "policeman of Lebanon," able "to decide even how the members of the Lebanese parliament vote when it comes to the election of the next Lebanese president."

4.5 The Pretext for the invasion of Lebanon

On June 3, a terrorist group that had been engaged in a running battle with the PLO for a decade and whose head (Abu Nidal) had been condemned to death by the PLO attempted to assassinate Israeli Ambassodor Shlomo Argov in London. The facts were reported at once by the British Police and government, with the futher information that PLO leaders were on the "hit list" of the attackers, but the insistence of the PLO that it had nothing to do with this act was rejected by the Israeli government, with much of the US press in line as usual. The Washington Post commented that the assassination attempt was an "embarrassment" for the PLO, which "claims to represent all Palestinians, but...tends to be selective about accepting responsibility for acts of Palestinian violence." By the same logic, it would be legitimate to bomb Israel when any Jew carries out a violent act against Palestinians, for example, the Jewish Defense League in New York, or an American immigrant who went berserk at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, or the "Jewish Armed Resistance" in Rome (see below). Recall that the Israeli courts have determined that Israel is the State of the Jewish people, which includes the Jews of the diaspora. If the Post were to make a similar comment about Israel and Jews, it would rightly be condemned for outrageous anti-Semitism and advocacy of terrorism.

In "retaliation" for the attempt to assassinate the Israeli Ambassador, Israel carried out heavy bombardment of Palestinian and Lebanese targets in Lebanon (where the Abu Nidal group does not even have an office). Again the official Israeli version was accepted by the press; the bombings were unfortunate, perhaps excessive, but "retaliation" or "reprisal." The Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila...were bombed for four hours. The local (Gaza) hospital was hit. Over 200 people were killed, according to the eyewitness account of an American observer. Recall that the total number of Israelis killed in the course of PLO terrorist cross-border actions in 15 years was 106.

This time, there was a Palestinian response, shelling of northern settlements, and Israel launched its long-planned full-scale invasion, Operation "Peace for Galilee," to "protect the northern border." For 11 months, there had been no Palestinian action on the northern border apart from the May and June retaliatory shellings, and in July 1981 it had been Israel's initiative that shattered the peace along the border, not for the first time, as we have seen.

A number of Israelis expressed shock over the "retaliation" after the attempt to assassinate Ambassador Argov. One asked that "we imagine that the British would have bombed Tel Aviv or Netanya in retaliation for the murder of Lord Moyne [by a group directed by the current Foreign Minister of Israel] or the hanging of the [British] Sergeants" by [Menachem] Begin's terrorist army, asking: "Wouldn't we have called it barbarism?" And what would we have called it f Lord Moyne had been killed by an anti-Zionist terrorist group, instead of by Zionist terrorists, to correct the analogy? The same might be asked about the assassination of two Palestinians in Rome in June 1982 by a group called the "Jewish Armed Resistance," which appears to have been in contact with the Jewish Defense League, whose leader calls for the expulsion of Arabs from the Land of Israel when he is not beating and shooting at them as part of his regular service on the West Bank -- but in this case, the question was not raised in the United States, in accordance with the normal double standard. The PLO allegation that Israel was involved in the Rome assassinations was denounced by Israeli officials in Rome as tantamount to "an appeal to the assassination of members of the embassy of Israel." In contrast, the Israeli claim that the PLO was responsible for the Argov attack was not tantamount to an appeal for assassination; rather, it was the prelude to the Israeli assassination of thousand of Palestinians and Lebanese in the "retaliatory strikes" and the subsequent full-scale invasion. Again, the obvious questions were not raised here.

Pages 195-198, The Fateful Triangle, by Noam Chomsky
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