Wednesday, February 22, 2023

repeat, with images.
Bergman, Rise and Kill First

By mid-September 1981, car bombs were exploding regularly in Palestinian neighborhoods of Beirut and other Lebanese cities. One went off in the Fakhani quarter of Beirut on October 1, [NYT 10/2]  killing eighty-three people and wounding three hundred, including many women who were trapped in a fire in a clothing factory owned by the PLO. Another one exploded next to the PLO headquarters in Sidon, killing twenty-three. In December 1981 alone, eighteen bombs in cars or on motorcycles, bicycles, or donkeys blew up near PLO offices or Palestinian concentrations, causing many scores of deaths....

Nabil Ismail/AFP/Getty Images
Nabil Ismail/AFP/Getty Images

A new and unknown organization calling itself the Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners took responsibility for all of these incidents. The explosives were now packed in Ariel laundry powder bags so that if the cars were stopped at roadblocks, the cargo would look like innocent goods. The Israelis in some cases enlisted women to drive, to reduce the likelihood of the cars being caught on the way to the target zone.

The car bombs were developed in the IDF’s Special Operations Executive (Maarach Ha-Mivtsaim Ha-Meyuchadim), and they involved the use of one of the earliest generations of drones. These drones would relay the beam that would set off the detonation mechanism of the device. One of Dagan’s local agents would drive the car to the target, under aerial or land observation, park it there, and then leave. When the observers identified the moment they were waiting for, they’d push a button and the car would explode.

Sharon hoped that these operations would provoke Arafat into attacking Israel, which could then respond by invading Lebanon, or at least make the PLO retaliate against the Phalange, whereupon Israel would be able to leap in great force to the defense of the Christians.

State of Terror: Rayyan Al-Shawaf interviews Rémi Brulin

Rayyan Al-Shawaf: Ronen Bergman focuses on the Israeli politicomilitary establishment’s decisionmaking. However, as you have pointed out, Bergman writes—albeit in an endnote—that the FLLF was “a terrorist organization that Israel ran in Lebanon in the years 1980–1983, and which on its own attacked many PLO members and Palestinian civilians.” Is this acknowledgment significant?

Rémi Brulin: You are correct. Bergman does use the term “terrorist” to refer to the FLLF. The quote that you mention appears in an endnote to the book’s prologue. In another endnote, Bergman writes that, according to a senior Mossad official, “[T]he Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners, a terrorist movement established by Meir Dagan in Lebanon, was responsible for” the bombing of the home of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut in March 1985. In his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, Bob Woodward wrote that William Casey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the years in question, had later told him that the CIA and Saudi Arabia were involved in the attack. A total of 83 people, mostly civilians, were killed. A banner stating “Made in USA” was later draped over part of the gutted building. In his book, Bergman suggests that Israel, via the FLLF, was involved.

What is rather striking, and also significant, is that Bergman devotes twelve pages of his book (pp. 234–247) to FLLF operations, yet neither in these pages nor in their endnotes does he use the term “terrorism” or “terrorist” to describe the group’s bombing campaign. Bergman reveals that very senior Israeli army officers—Meir Dagan, Rafael Eitan, and Avigdor Ben-Gal—secretly created the FLLF, a mysterious group that claimed responsibility for dozens of car bombings between 1979 and 1983, in order to “sow chaos” in Lebanon. He describes how then-defense minister Ariel Sharon used the FLLF bombs to provoke the PLO into resorting to terrorism, which would then give Israel an excuse to invade Lebanon in the name of fighting … “terrorism.” In just two weeks in the fall of 1981, Sharon’s car bombs killed at least 100 civilians in what were clearly indiscriminate attacks. Yet, despite the focus and subtitle of his book, Bergman avoids the crucial question of whether this secret FLLF campaign was an example of Israeli “targeted assassinations” or of something else entirely. 

Nabil Ismail/AFP/Getty Images

Bari Weiss defends her interests as a woman and a lesbian, and she defends her interests as a Jew. Ta-Nehisi Coates defends his interests as a black man. You need to click the links to get the joke.

Most people aren't smart enough to see beyond their own assumptions, but sometimes their assumptions are right. That's the only good argument for free speech.

Getty Images

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation is enabled.