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Why don't we demand the return of the 14 Lebanese villages occupied by Israel?

May 22, 2024 at 5:29 pm

Unfortunately, foreign countries (the most notable, Britain and France) determined Lebanon’s official borders, and the Lebanese had no say in this. In this regard, I have read much research by the well-known southern Lebanese academic, Dr Kamal Deeb, who is currently working and active in universities in Canada and, before his research, I have read that by the academic, Dr Issam Khalifa, in which they both proved that the Lebanese people lived and owned 14 villages under the rule of the Ottoman Sultanate (and not just seven villages as is widely claimed) that were forcibly annexed to Occupied Palestine after the collapse of the Sultanate in 1918 and the establishment of the British mandate over Palestine, and the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon.

I would not have become involved in this issue, calling for the liberation of the 14 occupied villages and their annexation to their motherland, Lebanon, if Palestinians, whether individuals, groups or institutions, had demanded and are demanding it because, in their opinion, it is part of Occupied Palestine. However, if today they are under the impression that it is Palestinian, this gives them a legitimate motive and justification for resisting Israel, in cooperation with the Lebanese Resistance in the area south-west of the Lebanese border facing northern Occupied Palestine.

READ: Army general: ‘Lebanon does not recognise Blue Line inside occupied Shebaa Farms’

The most prominent Zionist settlement forcibly planted in the occupied Lebanese villages is the Metula settlement, and alongside it are three settlements: Kfar Giladi, Tel Hai and Hamra. Dr Kamal Deeb says that the two mandate powers sent engineers, the French Paulet and the British Newcombe, to demarcate the borders of Lebanon. In their demarcation of the borders, they cut off 30 Lebanese villages and annexed them to the British Mandate of Palestine and separated the entire Hula Valley from the Lebanese district of Marjayoun, annexing it to the Occupied Palestinian district of Safad. There are seven villages: Al-Malikiyah, Qadas, Al-Nabi Yusha, Tarbin, Hunin, Salha, Ebel Al-Qamh and Al-Bassa, which the Lebanese are keen to claim because the names of the men, women and children of their residents are registered in the civil registry in both the Lebanese cities of Tyre and Marjayoun. In addition, Dr Kamal Deeb reminds the Lebanese citizens that there are three Lebanese villages that the Israeli army occupied, displaced their citizens, and turned into Zionist settlements: Bar’am, Iqrit, and Mansoura, all of which are populated by Maronite Christians. Israeli army officers claimed that the reason for its annexation to the Zionist state was that its people hosted the Arab Liberation Army, and that young people from these areas joined it. The same fate befell the village of Al-Khalisa, whose residents were displaced, and it was turned into a settlement called Qiryat Shemona.

It is strange that successive Lebanese governments did not file a legal dispute with the UN to protect the rights of the Lebanese people in the villages that were seized. Even stranger is that the highest religious authorities in Lebanon did not act to defend the rights of their subjects, who were displaced from their villages and whose movable and immovable property was seized. It is also interesting that these authorities often object if mujahideen and resistance fighters launch attacks on Israel from border villages, some of which are located close to the Lebanese villages that Israel occupied and turned into settlements or military bases! I assume that the people of the occupied villages, all or some of them, have read, or become aware of, what Dr Kamal Deeb and Dr Issam Khalifa revealed, and that they are thinking about what must be done to defend their rights. To them, I offer the following advice:

First, they must revive their organisations and associations concerned with the seven occupied Lebanese villages, which turned out to be 14 and not seven, in order to defend their rights by all available means, and to cooperate with the resistance forces in this regard.

Second, they must invite Dr Kamal Deeb or Dr Issam Khalifa to give a comprehensive lecture on the issue of the Lebanese villages occupied by Israel and what can be done by the Lebanese government and the UN to defend the rights of the people of the occupied villages.

Third, of course, the liberation of Jerusalem is more important than the liberation of any of the 14 occupied villages, but that does not prevent the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon from naming at least one of its fighting brigades after one, or more, of the occupied Lebanese villages. It also does not prevent them from demanding that the Lebanese government, as well as Lebanese society, provide support and aid to the people of the occupied Lebanese villages.

Fourth, they should call on the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon to amend the history books that are taught in its official schools, so that they shed light on the occupied Lebanese villages, as well as on the fact that, before it was annexed and occupied, Lebanon’s area was 12,000 square kilometres and today it is 10,400 square kilometres after being occupied by the Zionist enemy.

Fifth, they should demand that the Lebanese government draw up a comprehensive memorandum on the issue of the occupied Lebanese villages and demand their restoration by filing a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice.

Sixth, they should also urge the Lebanese government to count the number of Lebanese citizens who are descendants of the original residents of these Lebanese villages that were carved out and forcibly annexed to Occupied Palestine during the British Mandate, by returning to the records of their origins registered in the civil registries in Tyre and Marjayoun, and then work to demand that UNRWA provide them with what they provide to anyone who meets refugee status.

Seventh, they should review the civil registries in Tyre and Marjayoun, so that the people of the demarcated Lebanese villages are registered there and can enjoy all the rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens. Is this enough?

READ: Lebanon demands full demarcation of border with Israel

This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds on 19 May, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.