Recent reports that the Israel Defense Force has issued arms to Palestinians in southern Lebanon to enable them to protect themselves against a possible attack by Lebanese Christians are denied by Israeli military sources. The sources say that such weapons have neither been supplied nor even requested.
They admit, however, that many Palestinians, especially those living in the camps around Beirut and in Tyre and Sidon, are probably afraid of violence against them on the part of the Lebanese, particularly the rightwing Phalangists.
“For years, the Lebanese Christians had been attacked and mistreated by the Palestinians who had settled amongst them and finally, under the PLO, had slaughtered many of them, wiping out entire villages and towns such as Damour south of Beirut,” the sources say. “The Christians were the underdogs for years. Now their position is reversed and it might be only natural that some of them might think of revenge.”
The Palestinians’ fears of retaliation are probably especially strong following the Sabra and Shatila camp massacres. But even in those camps, no requests for arms have come to the Israeli authorities.
THERE IS LITTLE THE IDF CAN DO
The Israelis say there is little the IDF can do to protect all the Palestinians in the camps. This is a task for the Lebanese central government, with its army and police force.
But the Israelis are obviously doing more than they will admit openly to keep their eyes and ears open in and around the camps and to take action if required. They recognize that, whatever happens and whatever the legal limits of what Israel can do, Israel would be blamed if there were a Christian attack on Palestinians, such as happened in the camps.
Israel’s moral responsibility — though no direct responsibility was involved – led to the establishment of the commission of inquiry and the implementation of its proposals.
The Palestinians are, in any case, probably not entirely defenseless. Despite what happened at Sabra and Shatila, and despite widespread IDF searches for hidden PLO arms caches, both Christians and Palestinians probably have more weapons than they are prepared to admit.
And this may be the reasons they have not formally asked the Israelis for arms — even though the legal receipt and possession of weapons would be of more value than arms obtained and held illegally.
Military sources admit that a dozen or so bodies, mainly of Palestinians, were discovered near camps a month or so ago. But since those widely-published reports, no more murders have come to light. The sources say that it is still not clear whether those deaths were due to Lebanese revenge in an organized manner, or the result of individual acts of revenge, or even of a family vendetta.
Neither the Israeli forces nor the Lebanese authorities have so far come up with a clear solution to those murders and they have done little to calm any fears the Palestinians have of Lebanese Christian retribution for the PLO actions of the past decade in Lebanon.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.