Remembering the Houla Massacre. 10/31/1948

Houla Massacre of 1948
Apathetic State: No Military Readiness or Political Will to Stand and Fight

The 1948 Houla Massacre Anniversary
October 31, 2009 is the sixty- first anniversary of the Zionist massacre in Houla, a village in South Lebanon. The Zionist Hagganah gang, led by Menachem begin, blew up houses and massacred in cold blood tens of the town's men. As a consequence of the Zionist attack, (one of a string of subsequent attacks on South Lebanon over the years), led to the people of Houla becoming refugees in their own homeland in 1948, living in the Dbayeh refugee camp. It was not until the beginning of May of 1949 that these displaced Southern Lebanese were able to go back to their destroyed village.

The Need for Strong defense of Lebanon
The Lebanese right wing elements has always claimed that there is no problem between the Zionists and Lebanon. They blame all the troubles of Lebanon on the victims of Israeli aggression, the Palestinians, instead of blaming the aggressors. To this group, the "strength of Lebanon is in its weakness" as the late Pierre Gemayel put it. As a result, there has been a determined policy of keeping Lebanon weak- a policy conceived even before the birth of the state of Lebanon. Lebanon has been paying dearly for this official policy since.

1948 Revisited: Failures and Flawed Performance
A few weeks ago a dispute arose in Beirut over the use of a Modern History Book at the International College (IC) school. The book calls Hizbullah and other resistance movements "terrorist organizations." The matter was seen by the supporters of the March 14th Movement some as an attempt by the supporters of the 8th of March Movement to discredit the Minister of Education, the sister of the late Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafic Hariri, and a member of the former grouping. Indeed, there is a problem with history books used in Lebanon across the board but it was not the IC book, which in reality had that offensive statement taken out or covered up. The real problem is that not one textbook used to teach the history of Lebanon actually teaches history. One of the matters that is not taught in history books is the truth about the performance of Lebanon in the 1948 Palestine war. The failures of the Lebanese state and the flawed performance of the Lebanese army are not taught. The massacre of Houla, and the subsequent occupation of a part of Southern Lebanon, are direct results of these failures and flawed performance.

The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948
An excellent book on the 1948 war is The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948, edited by Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim. The article of interest for this column is Mathew Hughes', Collusion Across the Litani? Lebanon and the 1948 War.

Debunking Lebanon's False History of a Valiant Fight:
A Belligerent in Name Only
No Political Will or Military Strength to Fight
The main argument of Mr. Hughes is that the official history of Lebanon's role in the 1948 war is false. He writes "In the debates surrounding the events of 1948, Lebanon's role is either exaggerated militarily or relegated to a few footnotes." He adds "[I]t is clear that Lebanon had neither the political will nor the military strength to fight Israel in 1948. It was a belligerent in 1948 in name only, leaving the fighting to others. Politically, its Christian dominated government had little incentive to fight Israel, elements of the Christian community preferring to collude with the Jewish Yeshuv before and after 1948. "

Who's Your Enemy, Past and Present?
Hughes writes about Lebanese Maronite Monsignor Ignace Mubarak "finding common cause with the Jewish Yishuv as minorities in an overwhelmingly Muslim region, Mubarak in an interview with the Palestine Post in March 1, 1946, made abundantly clear his support for Zionism and s Jewish state. The following year, in September 1947, he appealed on behalf of the Yishuv to the United nations (UN) Committee (UNSCOP) sent to investigate the future status of Palestine, linking together the Jews and the Maronites."

1948 War: A Weak Army, an Apathetic State
Policy Delivers the Galilee to Israel, Galilee Palestinians End Up the Much Complained About Refugees in Lebanon
The Lebanese army was unprepared to defend the budding state- instead it was groomed as an auxiliary to the state's police force. Hughes writes, "Until the war with Israel, the Lebanese Army was more of a police force than an offensive military force, not least because its main duties involved assisting the police and gendarmes in internal security…" This army, by design, fought only one battle with Israel, a much ballyhooed battle celebrated by the state's ruling elite. "Lebanese army sole engagement with Israel at village of Malikiyya on 5-6 June 1948 located 700 meters over the border inside Palestine/Israel…In effect, by 9 June the war for the Lebanese army, which had began on 5 June, was over. " He adds, "Lebanon did very little to help the ALA [Arab Liberation Army] during operations Dekel and Hiram." Incidentally, the Hiram battle is the battle were Israel succeeded in taking over the Galilee, a part of Palestine allocated to Arabs in the UN Partition Plan. This led to the uprooting of most of the residents of the Galilee who took refuge in Lebanon and have become the much complained about and mistreated Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon today.

The lack of a fight extended to the lack of political will or military readiness to defend Lebanese territories. When Zionist forces advanced into Southern Lebanon "the Lebanese army withdrew without a fight or remained in its bases, as Israel occupied between fourteen and twenty Lebanese villages in the Marj'Ayun valley stretching up to the Litani, in one of which (Houla) they massacred between thirty four and fifty two villagers…" Mr. Hughes concludes his assessment of Lebanon's war effort: "[I]n 1948, Lebanon did very little to confront Israel; nor did it do much to help Arab irregular forces fighting across the border in Galilee…The insignificant, operationally flawed performance of the Lebanese army and the ALA was a strategic asset for the Israelis who, untroubled on their northern border," were able to focus their better forces on other battlefields thus helping in the total defeat of the Palestinians.

Readiness and Political Will to Stand and Fight.

The performance of official Lebanon in 1948 is contrasted to the solid preparedness and resistance of the Hizbullah in 2006. Mr. Hughes concludes his chapter with citing a counter-factual comment by Charles Glass published in the London Review of Books of 17 August 2006, Hughes writes:"Political factors in 1948 were undoubtedly important considerations in the outcome of the war but so was a willingness to stand and fight. This point is nicely illustrated by Israel's 2006 war with Hizbullah in Lebanon when Hizbullah fighters took on and successfully checked the IDF along the Lebanese border leading one commentator to make the intriguing counter-factual comment that had Israel faced an enemy like Hizbullah in 1948 the outcome of the war might have been different."

Lebanon Today
The opponents of the presence of Hizbullah as a military force have stated that Lebanon needs alternative ways to defend itself. However, so far no official strategy has emerged to confront Israeli aggression against Lebanon. The recent folkloric making of the largest Hummus and Tabbouleh plates will not protect the Southern Lebanese from another Houla. Only military preparedness and the will to stand and fight does. Do these exist at the official level today, unlike 1948?

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