Private Photo
Yuval Ben Ami

Betrayal in Ghajar

We know how to fight for Jewish graves, but care much less about living Arabs

They say that during the great famine in 19th century Ireland, a certain English lord said: So what if we take their grain and meat? The Irish are tough people that can subsist on grass.


The residents of Ghajar, the divided village between Israel and Lebanon, learned over the years to subsist on weeds of unfulfilled promises and lead of Shiite bullets. Yet they're still people carrying Israeli identity cards and deserve to be protected by their country.

In Ghajar (Photo: Hanan Greenberg)


In its decision to shirk responsibility over the half living in Lebanese territory, the government reached a new peak in showing contempt to its duty.


Ghajar, a Syrian village taken over along with the Golan in the Six-Day War, expanded across the border in the 1980s and 1990s, when Israel controlled the "Security Zone" in southern Lebanon. Relatively wealthy families started building new homes outside the crowded core of the ancient village.


The neighborhood across the border is in fact Ghajar's upscale suburb, even if it is difficult to use such terms at such a poverty-stricken place. The residents indeed failed in seeing the future when they built the neighborhood, but Israel allowed them to do it, and to a large extent is responsible for the existence of an Israeli community in Lebanon.


At the time of the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon, residents of the northern neighborhood remained completely at Hizbullah's mercy. After gunmen invaded Ghajar in November 2005, the IDF abandoned the post it maintained at its Israeli half while continuing to man the roadblock at the entrance to the village.


Now, the government seeks to transfer the northern section to Lebanon, where it will be protected by UN soldiers.


Israel's current intention to officially depart from half the village is cynical and Lieberman-like. At the time of the withdrawal from Lebanon, Israel fought to maintain within its borders Kibbutz Misgav Am's cemetery, and the "Blue Line" was eventually drawn around the graves. In the case of Ghajar, Israel did not put up much of a fight against the UN.


Dignified solution needed

We know how to fight for Jewish graves, and this is important and nice, but living Arabs are perceived in our eyes as worthy of being used as cannon fodder to those who hate them - and this is a terrible shame.


True, for many years Ghajar served as a gate for transferring drugs from Lebanon to Israel. True, we're talking about a security vulnerability that has no equal along all the country's borders. True, the northern area is without a doubt Lebanese and it is proper that it be returned to its owners. Yet we need a solution that takes into account the dignity, rights, and security of village residents.


Maybe we can offer Lebanon an empty area of equal size in exchange for Ghajar's northern bloc. If this is completely impossible for security reasons, it would be proper for the State to contribute to the building of alternate homes for the residents, for example in the wide open space to the south of the village's current location.


The Irish couldn't really subsist on grass, and Israel's citizens cannot freely move into Lebanon's arms. It would be better that they also don't need to come up on their own with a solution for their families, should they become refugees.


It would be appropriate for the desperate protest to be heard far to the south of Ghajar's homes. The latest development in the story is similar to the climax of an ongoing experiment in a state abandoning its citizens. How far can we go with this abandonment before the state ceases being a state?


פרסום ראשון: 12.15.06, 13:48
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