Losing a war in the Middle East – What does it mean?

In 1983, during the 1st Lebanon War, I was a soldier in one of the IDF’s frontline reserve infantry units. We were sent to northern Lebanon to a remote outpost on the fragile ceasefire line between the Israeli army, the Syrian army, and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). We were in a war zone where everyone fought everyone else. The ceasefire line ran in the deep canyons between the mountains. It was a difficult line to defend; there were no fences or mine fields between the opposing forces. The outposts were far from each other. Access to the Israeli outposts was mainly on curvy narrow dirt mountain roads that were perfects for ambushes. Violent confrontations between Israeli and enemy forces occurred daily.Our outpost was in one of the worst locations of that time; it was located in a deep canyon between the opposing armies. This outpost was under repeated artillery and guerilla attacks. The post was completely isolated and an hour away from the nearest Israeli position. The only road that connected our outpost to the Israeli forces was exposed and within range of the Syrian cannons. The enemy buried mines and cut communication lines along that road regularly.

During my time there I learned a life-long lesson of what is it to be on the losing side in the Middle-East; our war with the PLO and the Syrian army wasn’t the only war in that region.  This outpost was located in a large Lebanese village, which was in the midst of a civil war that was going on in Lebanon at the time. Half the population of this village was Lebanese Christian and the other half was Lebanese Druze. During daytime the area was as quiet and as peaceful as can be; almost deceiving to believe that in an area of less than few square miles where Israelis, PLO terrorists, Lebanese Druses, Lebanese Christians, and a Syrian army, all heavily armed and fighting each other, could be peaceful.

Every night after dark, violence erupted; Druze and Christians fired at each other from opposing sides of the village. The Syrian army fired artillery from a distance, mostly at Christian posts, but sometimes at our outpost. PLO guerrillas took advantage of the darkness and attacked the outpost with RPG rockets. In response, at night, we fired at anything that moved near our position regardless of its nationality or religious affiliation.

Few months later, when the Israeli army withdrew from the area, the civil war between the Druze and the Christian Lebanese intensified. An ethnic cleansing begun; thousands of Christians Lebanese were killed in the hands of Druze Lebanese. People who lived next to each other in the same village for hundreds of years became the worst enemies to each other. The fight ended only after no Christian presence was left in the entire region. In other parts of Lebanon where Christians Lebanese had the advantage they did the same things to others. This is the Middle East; minorities only survive under the protection of a strong central government, or if they are armed to the teeth and can protect themselves. The only exception is the State of Israel the only true democracy in the region where all citizens are represented in the parliament and protected by modern laws and a fair justice system.

 

 

 

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