Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ghajar Residents Protest Against Israeli Withdrawal

In what should be a reminder to the powers that be that they are playing with the lives of ordinary people, residents of Ghajar staged a protest in their village against the possibility of being split in the event of an Israeli withdrawal.

Israel has already indicated its intention to withdraw the IDF from the northern portion of the village which lies in Lebanon and a flurry of recent meetings between Lebanese, UN and Israeli officials have fueled rumours that the withdrawal is imminent. It's this rumour mill and uncertainty surrounding the fate of the town that has residents concerned enough that they presented the commander of the UN forces in the region with a letter for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging him not to allow the town to be divided.

So concerned are residents about the fate of their town, their ability to tend their fields and carry on their lives as they do now that that have indicated their willingness to die rather than to see their town divided and for them to be as "refugees" in Lebanon. To be clear, these residents don't really care to be Israeli either, even though they have Israeli citizenship. They want to be Syrian, but worry not only about the division of their town but also about the threat to their lives should Hezbollah be able to enter the region.

The bottom lines in all this are that even Ghajar residents have no idea what their fate will be, that they have serious and legitimate concerns about what will happen to their village if it is split and that the decisions being made at levels they do not seem to have an input into, may not work as smoothly as hoped.

There is also a question of law at play here. These residents of Ghajar have Israeli citizenship. The country in which they have citizenship, however, proposes to turn them over to a foreign (indeed, a hostile) country where Israel will no longer be able to protect them. It is not clear if Lebanon will grant them citizenship or if they will retain any of the privileges of Israeli citizens. This is also a question of self determination. With what seems to be little or no consultation with the people of the town, their fate is simply being decided. So, even if the return of the village is in compliance with UN resolution 1701 on the matter, the question of the rights of citizens and of people to determine their own fate, remains.

Of course only time will tell what the powers that be have in store for the people of Ghajar, but any solution must consider the wishes of the people that live in the town, their right to self determination, their privileges as Israeli citizens as well as Israeli and Lebanese obligations under international law. It is indeed an interesting twist that it is now Hezbollah and Lebanon--critical of Israel for occupying the Palestinian territories--who are seeking to occupy people who don't want to be Lebanese and Israelis who are being criticized by Arabs, who at least in the short term, want to remain under Israeli sovereignty.


ilona@israel said...

The redistribution of land is always difficult process and i perfectly uunderstand this people. i remember when sovet union was splited - million of people became a citizens of foreign countries. i hope israel will be tolerate and smart enough to help to this group of people

Charlie H. Ettinson said...


Sorry for responding to you so late!

I think your comment refers on the human level, to what I was trying to say on a legal level.

These are real people being affected, with real lives, and real concerns. They should not be sold out for some geostrategic interests, short term political gain or to be used as a talking point of some kind of good news in a press release.