Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Palestinian Resistance Movement in Lebanon 1967-82: Survival, Challenges, and Opportunities

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Palestinian Resistance Movement in Lebanon 1967-82: Survival, Challenges, and Opportunities

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Palestinian National Movement (PRM) enjoyed wide support among the Arab masses, who regarded the Palestinian issue as central to their national struggle. The Palestinian Movement transformed the struggle between the Arab states and Israel into a guerrilla war against Israel after 1967. Moreover, the defeat of the Arab regimes in the 1967 war gave the Palestinian resistance movement immediate rise and support within the Arab world; it established a new dynamic in the struggle against Israel. Consequently, "the concept of armed struggle was itself developed with an urgency that had been lacking before June 1967."1 It is also important to note that "... after 1967, the Palestine resistance movement had taken on the form of a nationalist uprising and not a social revolution."2 However, the evolution of the Palestinian resistance movements was a destabilizing factor for the Arab regimes. The Palestinians found that "all Arab regimes were incapable of liberating Palestine or solving their own problems and the only force capable of carrying out the revolution was the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)."3

The Palestinians believed that military success would increase their popularity and this belief became a reality after the Battle of Karama in Jordan on March 21, 1968. "Karama is a small border town in the Jordan valley with Palestine. It was a political and military headquarter for al-Fateh; near the town there is the Karama Palestinian Refugee Camp, where Palestinians took Refuge after the 1967 war."4 The Battle of Karama was a military and political turning point for the Palestinian resistance.5 The impact was evident within two days of the battle, when thousands of people joined up with Fatah.6 By 1970, the Palestinians (through the PLO) had become a main independent power in Jordan and a central challenge to the Jordanian monarchy. However, this did not endure long and the Jordanian front collapsed in September 1970 after the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had come to see the Palestinian resistance as a threat to its survival. King Hussein launched a bloody war against the Palestinians and their supporters, which aimed to uproot the Palestinian resistance from Jordan. Yasir Arafat's response to the Black September events was to say, "What took place in Black September was not simply an attack by the Jordanian military regime against the revolution but an attempt of genocide against the Palestinian population as a whole."7 In fact, Black September caused the death of more than 20,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians.8 The PLO was fully evicted from Jordan by July 1971. The Palestinian resistance moved its headquarters to Damascus and practically to Beirut, and since 1970-71 Lebanon became the last military base and sanctuary for the Palestinian guerrillas to operate from against Israel. In Lebanon, the Palestinian military deployment after 1967 was viewed as the elimination or reduction of the Palestinian resistance movement from the wider Arab world to Lebanon and specifically to its Southern region. Consequently, the presence of the first Palestinianfida'iyin bases in South Lebanon began to appear in the winter of 1968-69. Since then, Palestinian military operations had been initiated against Israel, and it was noted that "between 1968 and 1970fedayeen action received deep popular support in the South. Furthermore, many of the younger, more politicized Lebanese southerners joined their ranks as fighters"9 because those (local southern Lebanese) villagers found that "supporting the Palestinian Revolution became a means of protesting against a corrupt and negligent regime."10 Equally important, the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon was accompanied by a protest by Palestinian refugees at the unjust and unfair laws that had been applied against them and their refugee camps since their arrival to Lebanon in 1948. It was also associated with bloody battles between the Palestinians, supported by the Lebanese left-wing coalition, on the one hand, and the Lebanese army, supported by the right-wing coalition, comprised mainly of Maronite Christians, on the other. …

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