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July 16, 1982 - Image 21

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-07-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, July 16, 1982 21

Levin's Message from Beirut: At Last People Breathe Freely'

(Continued from Page 1)
But even where the de-
struction was greatest, we
found an amazing attitude
among the people we talked
to. Amidst the dust and the
debris, people told us that
for the first time in seven
years they could breathe
free — free of PLO terrorism
and free of the constant fear
which had shaped their
lives. -
We sat with .a govern-
ment official in Sidon in a
small restaurant that was
open for business. Next
door, people were pouring
concrete to rebuild a store
that had been destroyed in
the bombing. And he told us
that for seven years, the
, PLO had ruled the town
through terror and force of
arms. There had really been
no Lebanese government in
Sidon since the PLO came in
1975.
The reality of PLO control
was made clear in a conver-
sation Ruth Broder had
with a 14-year old she met
while Sen. Dodd and I were
speaking with other people
in Tyre. The girl told Ruth
that this was the first time
she had been out on the
street of her hometown after
4:00 in the afternoon with-
out being accompanied by
her parents. -
For seven years she
had been afraid and her
parents had been afraid
to allow her to walk
through her own town
without adult supervi-
sion. The fear of the PLO
was that real and that
pervasive.
And it was that justified.
We were told, for example,
of a young couple who were
simply walking down the
streets when two PLO thugs
came along, pushed the
male to the ground and then
turned their attention to his
female companion. There,
in broad daylight, they
opened her blouse, exposed
and touched her breasts and
then, after 10 minutes of
humiliation, allowed her to
leave. And she considered
herself lucky when com-
pared to the treatment that
her friends had received.
Perhaps the mood of most
of southern Lebanon was
summed up by a man we
spoke to in Sidon. We were
talking about the impact of
the invasion and he told us
that he had lost his home in
the bombing. Israelis, he
said, had destroyed his
house and their attack had
killed some of his relatives.
He said that he was still
glad that the PLO was dri-
ven out and that he could
accept all that he had lost.
As we left the south, I was
onvinced that while the
Lebanese have a difficult
job ahead of them, physi-
cally and politically, they
are capable of doing it. In
the south they were enjoy-
ing their first breath of
freedom in seven long years
and collectively we con-
cluded that they were look-
ing forward; with real hope,
to breathing in the clean air
of peace in the near future.
That optimism was a
necessary attitude to the

4

deparesion we felt in the
north. Our time in Beirut
was brief, but it was long
enough to get a sense of
the place. .
The city was totally sur-
realistic. On th_e rooftop of
our hote-rwe watched bombs
burst and the missiles flash
and the cannons roar. And
being there, with Western
correspondents, as well as
residents of Beirut, we
would talk about which side
was firing what and who
was doing how much dam-
age where. We were witness
to the war and it was a
strange feeling.
I was in the room at night
watching the war when I
suddenly realized that there
was a gentleman in the
room next to mine who was
also leaning out the win-
dow. He said he was a Mos-
lem Lebanese but that
Lebanese can't think of
themselves in those terms
anymore. "We can't be Mos-
lems or Christians," he said,
"now we have to be
Lebanese." He went on to
tell me that as a Lebanese,
all he wanted was his coun-
try back. He wanted the
PLO out, he wanted the Sy-
rians out and then — and
only then — he wanted the
Israelis out.
I left that conversation, as
I left Lebanon, with the be-
lief that there is a slim but
real hope that this bloody
conflict may have advanced
the possibility of peace in
the Middle East. The PLO
reign of terror is broken in
Lebanon and, I believe, the
PLO as a force has been sig-
nificantly • decreased
throughout the region.
With the PLO's influ-
ence diminished, I hope
that other Arab_ states
will have less fear of be-
ginning the process of
negotiating with Israel
and that Israel and her
neighbors can join to-
gether in an effort to
achieve peace and bring
about a resolution of the
Palestinian problem
which is both just and
workable.
Let me relate just one
more incident which may
summarize my - feelings.
Damour is a ghost town —
virtually abandoned, al-
most totally destroyed by
seven years of shelling and
street fighting.
As I walked through the
deserted streets, I saw bet-
ween two ruined buildings a
rose bush in bloom. I walked
over to it, bent down, and
picked one of the roses
which now is . pressed bet-
ween the pages of a book in
my office.
I took that rose because
for me it was a symbol that
life and beauty can still
grow in the midst of de-
struction and death. If that
rose, clinging to the vine
amidst the rubble that is
Damour could bloom, then
peace too can grow in what
is now the chaos of the Mid-
dle East.
* * *
(The following state-
ment was released to the
press on Tuesday by

Senators Dodd and Le-
vin.)
Our visit helped to put
events in Lebanon into
perspective. People have
tended to look at these last
few weeks from virtually
every vantage point except
that of the Lebanese. Death
and destruction have been a
familiar feature of their
lives for the past seven
years.
Since the PLO estab-
lished its own "state" in
Lebanon, the Lebanese
have seen perhaps 100,000
of their fellow countrymen
die, 300,000 suffer injuries
and between 500,000 to one
million of their fellow citi-
zens turned into refugees.
Their homeland has been
dominated by foreign forces
who have held them in grip
of terror.
We came to realize that
the Lebanese government
had virtually ceased to exist
as an institution capable of
dealing with either the PLO
in the south or the Syrians
who occupied the east.
Those foreign forces
paralyzed the Lebanese
government and imposed
their will on the citizens.
Their ability to do so was
not a function of popular
support; rather it was the
result of military might.
We were astounded by
the amount of Soviet
ammunition captured by
the Israelis; a sight we
remember vividly were
convoys of Israeli trucks
transporting captured
Soviet ammunition from
southern Lebanon. Some
6,000 tons of Soviet
supplied ammunition has
been seized — 6,000 tons
of ammunition alone,
without counting the
trucks and jeeps and
tanks supplied to the
PLO by the Soviet Union.
These stark facts help to
explain why the citizens of
Lebanon universally unite
around one common goal:
the removal of the PLO from
their country. No matter
with whom we spoke —
Christian or Moslem, gov-
ernment ,official or average
citizen — there was unani-
mous agreement about the
need to free their country
from the terrorism of the
PLO.
_ Whether people we talked
to in Lebanon were suppor-
tive of the Palestinian cause
or not, and many were, they
were opposed to the PLO.
And, as the PLO presence
has been removed, espe-
cially in southern Lebanon,
the people are beginning the
process of rebuilding with
the knowledge that they are
now shaping their own soci-
ety and restoring their own
communities.
While no one was pleased
by the damage done by the
Israeli invasion and while
everyone Wants Israeli
forces to leave their coun-
try, they were equally un-
ited and equally fervent in
their belief that Israel
should leave when the Sy-
rians and the PLO leave as
well.
Tragic as the events of
the past month have

been, they have also
opened the door of op-
portunity for peace in the
Middle East. The PLO not
only intimidated the
people of Lebanon, it also
intimidated other gov-
ernments of the region.
But with the PLO grip
broken, all the states in
the Middle East might
now be free to evaluate
their actions and in-
terests in a different light.
The very fact that those
states which have given
symbolic support to the PLO
are now unwilling to give it
material aid or sanctuary at
this time is proof of a change
in the politics of the Middle
East. American efforts in
this crisis, partieularly
those of Ambassador Habib,
have contributed to chang-
ing the reality of the region
and providing us with an
opportunity for peace.
But that opportunity will
pass very quickly if










America and Israel fail to
act dearly in the days
ahead. -

American policy has been
correct and effective in deal-
ing, so far, with this crisis.
We hope that our trip might
contribute to shaping
policies which will continue
to advance our national in-
terests.

These are difficult times
in the Middle East, but they
are also times of opportun-
ity and hope: We_believe

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