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Photo of graffiti on wall in Deheishe Palestinian Refugee Camp with map of Palestine that wipes out Israel
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Nakba Day sign in Ramallah put up by PLO (see bottom of sign).Photo taken August 2010
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Entrance to UNWRA AIDA Palestinian Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. The key emphasizes the right of return en masse to villages in 1948 Israel.
photo by Rhonda spivak

Jaffa where one Syrian Palestinian refugee who penetrated the border went to before being sent back
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, May 17, 2011

[Editor’s note:  On reading about the events of Nakba Day on May 15, 2011, I thought of this past summer when I was at Kibbutz Manara which sits right on the border with Lebanon. When you walk at the back of the kibbutz you can see the UN peacekeeping forces through a fence —Kibbutzniks told me in the summer that the UN forces come over and swim in Manara’s pool. From the pool one can look out and see a spectacular view of the entire area. You can see  Marun Al Ras three kilometers West of  Manara-which is where Palestinian refugees from UNWRA refugee camps in Lebanon stormed the border with Israel on May 15 for Nakba Day.

On my visit, I walked to the back of the kibbutz to see the UN peace keeping force visible across the street. When I tried to photograph a member of the force, he noticed me and  next thing I  knew there were four of them huddling around looking at me. I only wish they had paid as much attention this week to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon  who stormed Israel’s border as they did to me when I tried to photograph them. One has to wonder what exactly they were doing to maintain Israel’s security and  ensure the mob of  Palestinian refugees did not breach it’s  border on May 15th? Did they see and just step aside or were they too busy swimming in Manara’s pool ?  ] 

On May 15, Omri Ceren wrote a piece in  Commentary  Magazine entitled “Nakba Day: UN Forces Do Little or Nothing To Stop Rioting" that  analyses the inactions of the UN forces on the Lebanese border and on the Golan on “Nakba Day” when Palestinian refugees from Syria and Lebanon stormed  Israel's border. Here’s what Ceren wrote:

On the Lebanese border rioters got all the way to the Israeli border at two different spots. Lebanese troops used light weapons to disperse one riot, but at Marun Al Ras the LAF  [Lebanese Armed Forces] was a non-presence—Lebanese soldiers literally stepped aside—and IDF soldiers had to open fire, killing as many as four. On the Syrian border thousands of people, including women and children, rushed the border fence to tear it down. The IDF commander authorized only selective fire, and the result was that almost one hundred infiltrators managed to enter Israel...
“…U.S. policies in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights should.. come in for some reevaluation. It’s not that the U.S. is charged with assuring Israel’s security, although that’s the rhetoric we use when we’re pushing the Israelis to give up badly needed strategic depth. It’s that we contribute weapons and money to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and to UN peacekeeping missions, and those policies have costs, and those costs are supposed to be outweighed by stability-enhancing benefits. And yet this morning it’s been mostly costs and not many benefits. ..

"In Lebanon we’ve been vigorously pouring weapons into the LAF since late 2007, with justifications running from “it will shame Hezbollah into disarming”  to “it will allow Lebanon to secure its territory.” The subsequent half-decade has seen Hezbollah take over the Lebanese government, something that was explicitly and easily predictable when we embarked on the scheme, while the Lebanese army is still apparently torn over the need to secure their border. Lebanese soldiers have been more than willing to use US weapons to launch sniper attacks against Israelis and destabilize the region. But as far as keeping their own citizens from launching de facto invasions of neighboring countries? Not so much.

“Now to the UN peacekeeping missions. Writing in one of his many retrospectives, former Israeli diplomat Abba Eban mused about the “unparalleled speed” with which UN forces stationed in the Sinai Peninsula stepped aside in May 1967, the request to evacuate having been made by Egypt so its forces could wage war against Israel. Plus ça change.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights is supposed to maintain “overall supervision” of the Israeli-Syrian buffer zone—that’s one of the few reasons they’re suffered to exist, and they’ve recently had their mandate extended—and it doesn’t seem like they did very much. Israeli radio says that UNDOF is even refusing to comment on the incidents. Money well spent, trust well-placed.

The performance of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon—which the Bush-era State Department insisted would secure southern Lebanon if Israel backed off Lebanon II—was even worse. UNIFIL has 12,000-plus troops and a budget of almost half a billion dollars. Where UNDOF is mostly just a useless money pit, however, UNIFIL actively works to destabilize the region. UNIFIL troops have broken up Israeli intelligence gathering operations, have leaked Israeli intelligence to Hezbollah, have threatened to open fire on Israeli military assets, have hidden evidence of Hezbollah attacks on Israel, have provided Hezbollah with human shields during wartime and then lied about it, have dressed terrorists in UN uniforms to smuggle them away from the IDF, and were almost certainly complicit in the Hezbollah operation that triggered Lebanon II.

“UNIFIL backers justify the mission’s massive presence in the broadest terms, and peacekeepers are charged with “restoring international peace and security.” In light of their functional absence during multiple, severe border intrusions today, that doesn’t seem like a tenable rationalization.

Of course maybe preventing civilian cross-border rioting isn’t what the Lebanese army and those UN missions are supposed to prevent. Maybe, for instance, they’re supposed to block Israel and Hezbollah from tangling. But since they’re utter failures when it comes to doing that, basic crowd control was really the only justification left. And now it seems absurd too, raising the question of what exactly our policies are supposed to be accomplishing.”

In my view, Ceren’s article show how useless the UN peacekeeping forces are when they are needed most—It is no wonder that Israelis are reluctant to withdraw from territory in exchange for the presence of  UN peacekeeping forces (remember that the US has wanted Israel to leave the Jordan valley on the premise that  a UN force will be there to safeguard any incursion on Israel’s eastern front from Jordan,  which would be  especially likely  were King Abdullah to lose power, and Palestinians who form the majority of the population of Jordan were to take over ).

As analyst Lenny Ben- David writes, after the failure of the UN peacekeeping force, “So much for the idea floating around Washington to meet Israel's security demands in a peace agreement with the Palestinians by providing a foreign peacekeeping force on the West Bank.” [I recommend reading Ben-David’s examination of of media photos showing how Syrian, and Hezbollah involvement in sending the infiltrators to Israel's borders occurred on Nakba Day. http://lennybendavid

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.