Events since early June, and specifically the Reagan administration’s complete support for and identification with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, accentuates the long-standing need to mobilize popular opposition to US policy in the Middle East. The possibilities for such efforts now exist to a greater degree than ever before. Polls show a majority of Americans oppose the invasion. Public attitudes at this moment are far ahead of the politicians and the media.
Across the country, local groups and coalitions have sprung up to organize political and educational events. In New York City, 5,000 persons turned out on short notice to demonstrate against Menachem Begin’s appearance a the UN disarmament session on June 18. In Boston, 1,200 people crowded into Arlington Church for a teach-in on June 22. These and other experiences so far—calling people for meetings and rallies, staffing public information tables—suggest that the sheer horror of what has happened, coming on top of previous Israeli aggression in Lebanon and its brutal suppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories, is producing a potential sea change in US public opinion.
The need for these organizing efforts will grow, and this opportunity must be seized. In addition to those mentioned, we know of groups and activities in Washington, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, the Bay Area, Gainesville and Providence. In New York, many of the anti-war and peace organizations that endorsed the June 12 nuclear disarmament rally have come together to demand immediate and total Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and ending US arms sales to Israel and other states in the region. A National Emergency Committee on Lebanon has been set up to help coordinate activities and serve as a clearinghouse for information.
We are devoting our next issue to coverage and analysis of the Israeli invasion, the US role, and its impact on the region. The tactics of indiscriminate slaughter which characterized the operation militarily have raised the already high standing of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in the pantheon of twentieth-century war criminals. These tactics were inherent in their purpose: to exterminate any Palestinian political presence in the region. In the words of Israeli columnist Boaz Evron, the war is designed “to break the spirit and the backbone of this people.” Israeli troops and settlers continue to murder Palestinian demonstrators, as in Nablus. The Council of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem has endorsed the bloodbath as a “holy war,” an item ignored by the many US editorialists who are quick to see rampaging religious fanaticism whenever some feeble Arab monarch utters the word “jihad.”
Over 70,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv on July 3 carrying signs reading, “We have no future on the graves of Palestinians.” Here, the Reagan administration and the Democratic party both proclaim to see “new opportunity” for consolidating US hegemony in the region. The major media columnists, with a few courageous exceptions like Alex Cockburn and Jim Ridgeway in the Village Voice and Mary McGrory and Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, piously assert that Israeli moves toward West Bank “autonomy” will make all the killing and maiming worthwhile. Despite the smokescreens, though, many US citizens are waking up to the policy of mass murder they are financing through US aid to Israel. The Milwaukee constituents of House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Clement Zablocki got it exactly right when they told him that his hands “are as bloody as those of Israeli soldiers.”
Of all the horrors of this war, one that has so far received almost no attention is the condition and status of the more than 5,000 prisoners, mostly Palestinians, that Israel admits to have captured. Israel refuses to give them prisoner-of-war status and has refused permission to the Red Cross to visit them. They are held incommunicado. As of early July, no list of prisoners had been issued and Amnesty International had received no Israeli government reply to its appeal on this question. Press and eyewitness reports corroborate fears that Palestinians, identified by hooded informers, have received routinely brutal and degrading treatment. European doctors in south Lebanon have seen Palestinian prisoners beaten to death. We strongly urge readers to raise this issue forcefully through local media and public events.