By Dr. Franklin Lamb
Part X of a series on securing Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (NIR) is part of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s panoply of 16 agencies, which comprise the US Intelligence Community (IC). According to Congressional sources consulted below, NIR and Israel have been working longer hours than most members of Lebanon’s Parliament, carefully analyzing the language of the main draft proposals concerning elementary civil rights for Palestinian Refugees. The proposals are currently scheduled for an August 17, 2010 Parliamentary vote and the US-Israel plan is to allow nothing to be enacted into law that would actually benefit Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees.
Why would failing to pass internationally mandated civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon benefit Israel and why is US-Israeli pressure being applied to some anti-Hezbollah Lebanese MP’s in the run up to this month Parliamentary vote? The short answer is that some in the US Intelligence Community, including the NIR, as well as members of Congress in the service of Israel, believe that Hezbollah would get credit internationally if Lebanon’s Parliament fulfills its international obligations towards her refugees. Thus granting Palestinians full employment and home ownership rights just as any other refugee or foreigner in Lebanon receives not “fit” with US-Israeli plans for Hezbollah and the region.
NIR’s analysts submit to the State Department periodic evaluations of political, economic and social events in Lebanon in order to insure that US intelligence activities support US-Israel national security considerations. NIR shares in IC’s 50 billion dollar annual budget and receives varying assistance from among the 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in more than 10.000 locations in the US currently working on counter terrorism, homeland security and intelligence. Scores of NIR employees are among the 854,000 in the IC who hold top-secret clearances.
In Lebanon, NIR’s writ extends to “Developing ways to eliminate Hezbollah’s support base among Palestinians as well as throughout the Arab and Islamic countries.”
According to three US Senate Congressional staffers whose work includes liaising with the State Department and the NIR for the Senate Intelligence Committee, some in the NIR and IC believe that it is not in the national security interest of the United States or Israel to allow Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees meaningful civil rights. At least not “until the Hezbollah and Iranian problems are resolved.” We believe that Hezbollah has emerged as the single most supported group in the country, while American influence, traditionally anchored in increasingly weakened proxies, has markedly receded”, one staffer explained on 8/3/10.
Some NIR analysts also believe that Israel may soon be another “victim” of its own encouragement of the neoconservative hijacking of US Middle East policy under the Bush administration. Some consider that unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, all fundamentally changed but surviving; Israel may well cease to exist by approximately 2028. Sooner still, if it attacks Iran and Lebanon.
The 65-page Analysis, (Ed: anticipated soon online via Wilkileaks) presents under the subhead “Obstacles to implementing American policy objectives in Lebanon” a summary of the historical links among those who inspired and founded Hezbollah and, at the time, the powerful Beirut headquartered Palestine Liberation Organization. The NIR study traces the PLO-Islamic ‘ military and political culture of resistance’ and the symbiosis that quickly developed between the Islamic and secular movements including relationships in the mid-1970’s with many Islamist leaders who today occupy some of Hezbollah’s key leadership positions. For example, it was in the spring of 1978-one year before the victory of the Iranian Revolution that deposed American protégé and strategic ally, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat offered sanctuary, security, and support in Beirut’s “Fakhanistan” to the late, father of Hezbollah, Imam Ruhollah. (Arabic for “spirit of God”) Khomeini. The PLO also trained and armed many of the volunteers who arrived from Iran, and elsewhere to join the resistance to Israeli aggression and occupation in Lebanon.
What the American-Israeli intelligence community fears, according to these sources, is that Hezbollah has the political support and power to achieve the enactment into Lebanese law of internationally mandated civil rights. The IMCR’s are defined as:
- The full right to work on a parity with other foreigners,
- The commandant right to certain employee-employer paid social security benefits including accident/injury/maternity/ and health care coverage,
- The right to own a home and inherit property on the basis of parity with other foreigners and as provided by international treaty and customary law on the subject
Why Palestinian refugees obtaining elementary civil rights in Lebanon is of rising interest in Washington is that INR analysts believe that Hezbollah will be credited internationally and likely gain a broad reservoir of support and good will. NIR believes it will come not just from Palestinians under occupation and their countrymen in the Diaspora, but also from international human rights organizations and advocates, from the Arab and Muslim streets as well as from “small town USA” and the west generally. This they point out could make Hezbollah a global power and an increased threat to Israel because Hezbollah would be seen as a ‘mainstream’ human rights practitioner.
Some at NIR believe that in the eyes of the international public, Hezbollah would be perceived as shedding its militant image that unsettles many in the west that are unfamiliar with US-Israel plans for the Middle East. To makes matters worse for Israel, it is these citizens who unwittingly fund its brutal occupation of Palestine. An amount that is now estimated by IC agencies, when taking into account Israel’s negative global effect on the US economy, to total more than two trillion dollars since 1973.
One Congressional staffer elaborated on 8/3/10:
“The CIA and NSC (National Security Council) believe that Hezbollah is rapidly on the ascendency in Arab and Muslim countries, as well as globally. Hezbollah has shattered the “mud of the Arabs’ moniker because of its record of carefully thought out actions while delivering on its promises. In contrast, few in Washington power centers, except perhaps arch Zionist Dan Shapiro, who Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross got appointed as Israel’s man and NSC ‘expert’ on the Middle East, credit much of what comes out of Israel the last few years. Israel’s President Shimon Peres has become an embarrassment for Washington with his decade long ranting. Analysts at the State Department believe that the region is ripe for Hezbollah to dramatically expand its influence and if it delivers on civil rights for Lebanon’s Palestinians its political gains will be a major setback for US-Israel plans for the region. Currently, Hezbollah is more dangerous to Israel because of its role in creating the growing “culture of Resistance” in the region than because of its arms. Weapons are relatively easy to acquire in this region, but having a powerful, common sense, resonating message weakens Israel. They can’t deal with it.”
Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah consistently ranks near the top of the global lists of the most admired leaders in Arab public opinion polls and Hezbollah leaders are the most sought after by American and other foreign delegations for dialogue and candid discussions. Hezbollah officials have often explained that they expect Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees will be among the first to return to Palestine. (Ed: many of Lebanon’s refugees arrived in April and May 1948 from 53 villages within just 30 miles of the Lebanese border)
In addition to NIR views, on 8/5/10 the State Department issued this month its 2010 Country Reports keeping Iran on its Sponsors of Terrorism list due to its support for Hezbollah and because Iran supports the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. However in an Appendix to the Report, the National Counter terrorism Center (NCTC) provided a statistical analysis in which it claimed that in 2009, 11,000 “terrorist attacks” occurred in 83 countries, including some by Zionist colonists in Occupied Palestine, resulting in more than 15,700 deaths. None of these “acts of terrorism” were attributed to Hezbollah.
Some of the ways analysts believe Lebanon and Hezbollah would gain against Israel if Hezbollah uses its power in Parliament to enact Palestinian civil rights include the following:
- Oppressed Palestinian refugees are potentially a source of social unrest and in their present situation are prey for drugs kingpins, various criminal enterprises and $ 300 per month hired guns for various groups, Stabilizing their economic situation would remove a source of unrest in Lebanon in areas like Burj al Barajaneh, Tyre and the Bekaa; areas where Hezbollah has its largest support base.
- Poor Palestinian refugees are economically ‘bad’ customers. Improving their financial conditions of refugees will increase their cash flow into businesses owned by Hezbollah.
- Palestinian refugees would make the resistance stronger, as they are a natural source of support for the enhancing resistance cadres at all its levels.
- Palestinian refugees can be used to tamp down a Sunni-Shiite conflict but if the Palestinians refugees feel that Hezbollah does not support them the refugees could easily fall into the orbit of Sunni “takfiris” or extremists as may have been the case with some of the those fighting at Nahr el Bared in the summer of 2007.
- Helping Pal refugees will enhance Hezbollah’s ability to work to improve its image in the Palestinian Diaspora, through support networks of Palestinian refugees and their supporters around the world.
- Helping Palestinian refugees achieve the full right to work and to own a home will allow Hezbollah to enhance its image in the West and Europe, many of whom are trying to monopolize the moral high ground of supporting the rights of Palestinian refugees.
- Palestinian refugees and the Hezbollah community share a common history of dispossession and struggle for dignity. Hezbollah is the party of the oppressed, and has a profound moral and religious commitment to support justice for the downtrodden, and most especially those who literally live as next door neighbors in South Beirut and South Lebanon.
- Hezbollah is riding the new epoch of resistance to occupation to a series of victories against Israel, achieving civil rights for Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees would add to this in a major way.
- Hezbollah will be seen as the sole Arab and Muslim power base to have fulfilled its moral, political and religious commitments to Palestine and will win many hearts and minds by this historic achievement
If Hezbollah commits to the enactment of real Palestinian civil rights in Parliament it would thwart the current anti-Lebanon campaign which is rapidly spreading from the likes of Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon, whose ministry and a battalion of pro-Zionist bloggers, have launched an international project to support “sending boats to Lebanon to break the siege of the Palestinians in the camps there and not to Gaza where conditions are better than in Lebanon for Palestinians.”
Ayalon, as part of an Israeli campaign to claim Hezbollah hypocrisy, published an opinion piece in the pro-Zionist Wall Street Journal last month and his Ministry is distributing it widely accusing Hezbollah of attacking Israel for what it claims is its anti-Palestinian policies while, “Today, there are more than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who are deprived of their most basic rights. The Lebanese government has a list of tens of professions that a Palestinian is forbidden from being engaged in, including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Palestinians are forbidden from owning property and need a special permit to leave their towns. Unlike all other foreign nationals in Lebanon, they are denied access to the health-care system. According to Amnesty international, the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from “discrimination and marginalization” and are treated like “second class citizens” and “denied their full range of human rights….that most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal gatherings that lack basic infrastructure.”
Ayalon and the US Israel lobby are urging Zionist activists internationally to organize boats and sail them to three ports in Lebanon, (Tripoli Port near Bedawi and Nahr al Bared Camps) Ouzai Port ( in a Hezbollah neighborhood near Shatila, Burj al Baragneh and Mar Elias camps) and at Tyre Port,( near Burj Shemali, al-Buss and Rashedeyeh Camps), in order to “ break the siege of the Palestinians in Lebanon.” The government of Israel, with US acquiescence is capitalizing on the lack of Palestinian civil rights in Lebanon in order to excuse repressive Israeli policies. According to AIPAC and Ayalon, the (Lebanese) flotilla organizers, whose supporters claim injustice, ignore the dire human rights situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon.”
The US and Israel are wagering that Hezbollah has too much on its plate just now and that they will not finally finish the Palestine Civil Rights issue in Lebanon by granting the full right to work and the right to at least own one apartment as is allowed in Syria. “Many in the US intelligence agencies are said to be betting that Hezbollah will opt to get along and go along with reactionary forces in Parliament at the expense of the Palestinian refugees, whose return to Palestine is one of the party of God’s main raisons d’etre.
Several Israel lobby articles currently ricocheting around the Internet are attacking Lebanon, and by implication Hezbollah, for the deplorable lack of Palestinian civil rights. These articles are not aimed at encouraging Lebanon to fulfill its obligations which the US and Israel currently prefer than they not do, but rather they are designed to weaken Hezbollah.
The Efraim Karsh article in the NYT this month sneers, “While the world is crying over the Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the media, for some unknown reason, chooses to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon…..Lebanon, has been holing up Palestinians inside camps for almost 30 years. Those camps do not have any foundations of livelihood or even sanitation and the Palestinians living there are not allowed access to basics such as buying cement to enlarge or repair homes for their growing families. Furthermore, it is difficult for them to work legally, and they are even restricted from going out of their camps at certain hours.”
Karsh asks his readers to “Compare this to the fact that Palestinian laborers were still able to go to work every day in Israel. “In addition, AIPAC is reported to be organizing an ad campaign for major media markets asking why Hezbollah does not do something about the lack of rights for Palestinians in Lebanon and organize boats to sail to Lebanon and break the siege of the Palestinians in its camps.
If the US and Israel succeed is preventing Hezbollah and its allies from enacting meaningful civil rights into Lebanese law by Parliament, they are the winners and the Palestinians refugees and Hezbollah are the losers of this first round of the fight for civil rights for Lebanon’s Palestinians.
Alternately, Hezbollah, as a proven advocate for Justice in Palestine and the single party in Lebanon that has the ability to organize the 65 votes to pass the full right to work and home ownership could score a dramatic knockout and yet another victory against Israel.
If it does, Washington and Tel Aviv fear Hezbollah may immediately and dramatically expand its future on the world stage.
Franklin Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Lebanon. He is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org For information and updates on the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign in Lebanon, and to sign the petition, go to: http://www.palestinecivilrightscampaign.org.