Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lebanon and the ongoing conflict with Israel

I've been on vacation and computor free for about a week. I really don't know what to talk about, and completely flubbergusted by the goin-ons in the Middle East. What in the clear blue world is Israel doing to the people of Lebanon? Again? One thing for sure...It isn't about the kidnapping of two Israli soldiers.

Lebanon is an international country of Phoenician heritage. They were in ancient history the merchants and traders of that part of the world. They are still merchants and traders, and Beirut is a tax-free port. I spent some time in Beirut in 1965, and enjoyed the international flavor of the city. There was an Arab sector, a French sector, an English sector, etc. The French Onion soup was incredible, and the stuffed pocket bread from the street venders was really good, along with fresh squeezed orange juice. The mile square market place was still there at that time, and we spent days walking through the narrow streets and alleys. Being an American was a good thing at that time, and the only problem I ever had was being mistaken for an Englishman. We were being detained at a road block, untill the driver of the cab that I was in explained that I was an American. I had just read the book called "The Ugly American", so felt relieved, and kinda proud to be one.

I guess that what I want to talk about is some of the history of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon still lays claim to a six-mile-wide area called Shebaa Farms. Israel said it captured it in 1967 from Syria, not Lebanon and Israel still maintains military posts there. While never demarcated, detailed maps showing the border were produced by the French in 1933 and again in 1945, "Beyrouth" 1:200,000 sheet NI36-XII available in the U.S. Library of Congress and French archives. They clearly showed the region in Syria, but the commission responsible for demarcating the border in the decades after the French mandate ended in 1946 did not act decisively nor delimit or demarcate this area. Border disputes had arisen frequently, leading to the formation of a joint Lebanese-Syrian border demarcation commission. That commission never made a ruling on the Shebaa Farms area, and no official demarcation of the border actually occurred. The older maps showing the Shebaa Farms in Syria continued to be used and new detailed ones were produced in the 1960's by Lebanon showing the area to be entirely within Syria. However, many local residents continued to regard themselves as Lebanese; the Lebanese government showed little interest. The Syrian government imposed itself on the region, at one point forcibly replacing the villagers' Lebanese identity cards with Syrian ones. On the eve of the 1967 war, the region was under effective Syrian control. Lebanese officials point to land deeds, stamped by the Lebanese government, that were held by a number of residents in the area in the 1940s and 1950s.

There has been a lot going on before and after the following interview, and todays news is beyond comprehension. Anyway...I think this might be informative as to Lebanon's concerns about the Israeli attacks on their country.

PBS Online NewsHour


MARGARET WARNER: So the fact that the U.N. even has certified this line and has said that Israel has fully complied and that the status of Shebaa Farms should be settled when Israel negotiates with Syria, that just has no meaning as far as you're concerned?

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI: Well, you know, this is a Lebanese territory. And the Syrians are saying it is Lebanese. The Israelis are saying it is not Israeli. So it is a matter of our land or Syrian land. But one thing is sure -- that it is not an Israeli land and it is occupied by Israel.

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