Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.

Alternatives to Policing


8. Alternatives to Policing

Ethnic policing was the dominant Israeli repertoire in Palestine, but other, more despotic, alternatives existed as well. One of these was grounded in semi-private Jewish paramilitaries in the West Bank, some of which were strongly supportive of the notion of "transferring" Palestine's non-Jewish population. Yet as was true in the Serbian case, the Israeli state refused to tolerate ethnic cleansing by paramilitary freelancers in territories under its official control. Israeli officials did, however, permit the sort of ethnic harassment witnessed in Sandžak and Vojvodina. The situation was different in Lebanon. In Lebanon, configured institutionally as a frontier vis-à-vis Israel from 1968 until the year 2000, Israeli forces were unconstrained by Palestine's ghetto regulations and therefore developed a more despotic repertoire of violence.

This chapter thus illustrates the importance of institutional context in two ways. First, it argues that Palestine's ghetto-like environment created incentives for the Israeli state to cap levels of Jewish paramilitary violence in the West Bank and Gaza, despite the willingness of some Jewish nationalists to go further. There were Jewish ideologies, individuals, and organizations that might have instigated more despotic violence, but these were nipped in the bud by Palestine's institutional environment. The more firmly Palestine was locked within Israel's legal, military, and bureaucratic embrace, the more Israel felt constrained to use ethnic policing against its rebellious population.

Second, this chapter examines Israeli activities in an entirely different

geographic and institutional arena. Although Israel's violence in Lebanon did not reach Bosnian proportions, there were similarities. Israeli forces did resort to indiscriminate shelling of densely populated urban areas, and Israel's intelligence services did work with unsavory local paramilitaries, much as the clandestine Serbian Military Line did in Bosnia during 1992–93. In 1982, some Israeli leaders hoped that deadly acts of violence by those irregular allies would trigger the mass flight of Palestinians from Lebanon. Israel certainly did not attempt genocide in Lebanon, however, and it did not comprehensively empty that country of its civilian population. I use the Lebanon case here as an illustration of the importance of institutional context, not as a precise Bosnian parallel.


Much of Bosnia's ethnic cleansing, it will be recalled, was led by crisis committees, partially autonomous networks of local authorities and police. These had their parallel in Palestine in the form of Jewish settlers' regional councils and militias, which combined nationalist ideology with some military strength. The councils and militias initiated vigilante violence against Palestinians in the 1980s, but did not develop further. Although Israel permitted and even encouraged Jewish ethnic harassment, it blocked more extreme measures, just as Serbia had done within its core.

Israel created six regional councils in 1979 to serve the needs of West Bank and Gaza settlers, of which there were 250,000 (including in East Jerusalem) in 1988. The councils assumed an increasing number of responsibilities during the 1980s, levying taxes from Jews, legislating bylaws, and resolving minor inter-settler disputes. More importantly, perhaps, the councils took control of zoning procedures, working with the state to extend national control over Palestinian land. By the mid-1980s, veteran Israeli analyst Meron Benvinisti notes, "the councils, with the active assistance of the military government and the Israeli government," had "assumed quasi-governmental status."[1] In 1984, settlers created an umbrella organization known as Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). Moetzet Yesha became a powerful political lobby, working directly with legislators to protect and promote settler interests. Although Moetzet Yesha covered the geographic area where Palestinians lived, it made no attempt to incorporate Palestinians, focusing exclusively on its Jewish constituency. In this it differed

from the Israeli state and military, both of which partially incorporated Palestinians as subordinate subjects. Had the West Bank and Gaza slipped from official Israeli rule, Palestinians would have confronted Moetzet Yesha without the protective shield of ghetto-style incorporation.

What were Moetzet Yesha's intentions vis-à-vis Palestinians? Many settlers were not religiously motivated, but their political bodies were often staffed by deeply committed members of Gush Emunim.[2] The Gush, it will be recalled, was a Jewish social movement dedicated to colonizing Greater Israel. Although its roster of full-time activists was limited, it could rapidly mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters. More importantly, the movement enjoyed substantial economic, military, and political support from allies in the Israeli government, military, and civil service.[3] According to Lustick, some 30 to 35 percent of Israeli Jews sympathized with Gush ideology in the late 1980s, including its support for the "subjugation and expulsion" of Palestinians.[4] The Gush was a radicalizing force, spreading support for anti-Palestinian measures. Broadly speaking, Gush beliefs were that Jews were the chosen people, Palestinians had no national rights, the West Bank was promised to Jews by God, and that the Messiah would come only when Jews had settled Greater Israel and defeated Palestinian political challenges.[5] Infused with this thinking and divorced from administrative responsibilities for Palestinians, Moetzet Yesha was a potentially lethal force when it came to the West Bank's Arab population.

During the 1980s, a vocal minority of Gush activists supported ethnic cleansing. As noted previously, cabinet minister Yosef Shapira polled settler rabbinical leaders in 1987 and found that 62 percent favored using "any means at our disposal" to push "gentiles" from the Land of Israel. A few months later, government officials, right-wing intellectuals, Moetzet Yesha leaders, and Gush activists conducted a detailed discussion of Palestinian "population transfer."[6] As one Gush intellectual argued in 1987, "Transfer is not a dirty word," adding that "evacuation of the Land [of Israel] from its Arab residents is … a Zionist task of utmost importance." There was "no middle road," he warned.[7] Although there was no pro-transfer consensus within the Gush, its vision was broadly shaped by its view of Palestinians as "Amalekites," the Jews' biblical enemies.[8] Biblical passages speak of killing Amalekites and "blotting out" their memory, and some radical Gush activists drew on these statements to justify anti-Palestinian extremism. Others sympathized with the notion of Arab transfer but preferred to wait until a major war to carry out

the plan. In the meantime, they advocated granting Palestinians the biblical status of "guests" and using economic and administrative pressures to encourage their flight.

Settler Paramilitaries

Gush ideology grew increasingly important when Moetzet Yesha began to develop its own militia. The government had granted Jewish colonies the status of border settlements, authorizing them to receive military weapons for purposes of self-defense. The state also hired security coordinators to recruit and lead settler patrols and to work with nearby military units. During the 1980s, these militias extended their operations from settlement perimeters to fields, access roads, and Palestinian villages. Eventually, the forces were incorporated into the Israeli army as "territorial defense auxiliaries."[9] The southern West Bank Judea Company, for example, was given military-issue personnel carriers, weapons, and communications equipment. Its peacetime brief was to patrol locally, but in practice, this meant policing nearby Palestinian villages, earning the Judea Company a reputation for brutality.[10] Mindful of settler attitudes toward Palestinians, army commanders sent the militias to Lebanon rather than the West Bank when the Intifada began. In 1990, however, the government ordered the units back into Palestine following pressure from conservative legislators.[11] Occasionally, the militias engaged in vigilantism against Palestinians, sometimes in response to Palestinian stone throwing, but other times as a "deterrent." Jewish militias attacked Palestinians 384 times between 1980 and 1984, killing 23 persons and injuring 191.[12] The attacks were necessary, advocates said, because the Israeli military was not firmly committed to controlling Palestinians.[13] On the whole, settlers supported the vigilantes and the Israeli police did little to crack down.[14] Broad support for right-wing ideology among government elites and the Jewish-Israeli public was also helpful, as was a committed core of far-right nationalist radicals.[15]

Some militia members tried to go much further. In the early 1980s, nationalists created a clandestine "Jewish underground" and tried to assassinate Palestinian political leaders. Its members included Gush activists and former military officers, and it received tacit support from mainstream politicians and active-duty military officers.[16] Although the group was broken up by Israel's security services, clandestine anti-Palestinian violence remained a real possibility. In 1987, a leading Israeli

correspondent warned that given the opportunity, settler militias might try to "cause the flight of Arabs eastward"—that is, initiate ethnic cleansing.[17]

The Intifada triggered a new wave of militia attacks in 1988–89, killing thirty-two Palestinians.[18] As one settler leaflet explained, the Intifada had prompted Jewish militias to "initiate and organize various activities in reaction to Arab terrorism."[19] Alarmed by the militias' boldness, liberal Israeli legislators warned the government that Jewish settlers were undermining military authority in Palestine.[20] Settler forces were developing a "strong desire for independent activity," they said, carving up the West Bank into separate militia jurisdictions and creating command and control capacities. In the military, it seemed that some officers, especially those in middle echelons, supported settler radicalism.[21] Overall, however, the military was made uneasy by militia freelancing. The army was sovereign in Palestine, and it was unwilling to permit excessive militia violence.[22] Ethnic policing crowded out other alternatives, frustrating the militias and their government allies.

If Western powers had forced the Israeli army to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, however, much as it forced Serbian troops to leave Bosnia, the region's institutional environment would have changed. It was in this spirit that a group of militia activists began discussing the State of Judea, their term for an all-Jewish West Bank mini-state.

The State of Judea: An Aborted "Republika Srpska"?

Following the PLO's 1988 declaration of statehood, activists from Kach and Moetzet Yesha increasingly feared that the government might withdraw troops from Palestine under international pressure.[23] They resolved to prepare for this eventuality by laying the foundations of a Jewish West Bank mini-state, using Moetzet Yesha's administrative framework and militias as its base. Kach took the lead, raising funds to create shadow cabinet offices, postage stamps, identification cards, and passports. They were joined by some Gush Emunim activists, although many considered the group's plan unrealistic and extreme. Researcher Ilan Lagziel suggests that the scheme "received widespread support among the [Jewish] residents of Judea and Samaria [West Bank]" and was viewed by a committed group of Nablus-area settlers as a viable political alternative.[24] On January 18, 1989, hundreds of activists convened to declare their intention of creating a State of Judea if the Israeli army withdrew from the

West Bank. Organizers promised they were "not fighting against the State of Israel and the army," and that their sole intention was to take over the West Bank if the military pulled out. "We have the means, in terms of weapons, and our people have a military background," the organizers explained.[25] They never specified what steps they might take against West Bank Palestinians, but given Gush ideology, ethnic cleansing was a possibility.

Many observers viewed the State of Judea as a radical fringe phenomenon. Instead of dismissing the scheme as politically insignificant, however, I suggest regarding it as evidence of an alternative organizational form whose growth was stunted by the surrounding institutional setting. Like the 1991 Bosnian "Serbian autonomous regions" discussed in Chapter 3, Moetzet Yesha was a radical-nationalist municipal grouping with aspirations to statehood. The State of Judea never took on Bosnian proportions, however, because of the environment in which it operated. As long as the Israeli state had both juridical and empirical sovereignty over the West Bank, Jewish "crisis committee" type organizations could not flourish.

Radical Jewish nationalists existed in the Palestinian ghetto, just as extremist Serbian groups existed in the Serbian core. Sandžak and Kosovo experienced paramilitary radicalism, while Vojvodina had a nascent Serbian crisis committee. Those areas were firmly controlled by Serbia, however, and the state refused to tolerate nationalist freelancing on its territory. Israel, similarly, had Moetzet Yesha and its associated militias. And, although the Israeli army tolerated the militias' attempt to conduct ethnic harassment, it blocked serious efforts to create a more despotic repertoire of violence. With Palestine configured as a ghetto, ethnic cleansing was not a viable option.


During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Lebanon was home to guerrillas whose presence triggered intense Israeli violence. Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, however, Lebanon was never encapsulated within Israel, serving instead as a frontier of sorts vis-à-vis the Jewish state. Subsequently, Lebanon was subjected to more destructive tactics than the ghetto. There was a silver lining in this cloud, however, as Israeli forces never exercised the same type of encompassing infrastructural regime in Lebanon that they wielded in Palestine. Israel's Lebanese tactics were destructive and spectacular, but sporadic and uneven.


Israel's Lebanon Repertoire

A recent example of Israeli violence, Lebanon-style, took place in mid-April 1996, when Israeli shells slammed into a UN compound near Qana village, killing 102 Lebanese civilians. The incident took place during Israel's Grapes of Wrath campaign, a fifteen-day operation involving 600 air sorties, 25,000 artillery shells, 154 slain civilians, and 400,000 displaced persons.[26] Grapes of Wrath was billed by Israel as a retaliation for attacks by the Islamist group Hezbollah, whose rockets had caused property damage in northern Israel and sent thousands fleeing southward.[27] Israel blamed the Qana deaths on the victims themselves, saying they had ignored warnings to flee the area; those who remained in the region did so "at their own risk, because we assume they're connected with Hezbollah." A radio broadcast by the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA), an Israeli militia ally, had listed forty-five villages by name, warning that "any presence in these villages will be considered a terrorist one, that is, the terrorists and all those with them will be hit."[28] Grapes of Wrath was a repeat of Israel's 1993 Operation Accountability, another punitive campaign that killed 120 civilians, displaced 300,000, and damaged over 17,000 homes.[29] In the 1990s, these dramatic displays of Israeli anger were accompanied by dozens of smaller attacks; in 1995 alone, according to UN estimates, Israel fired 37,000 artillery shells into Lebanon.[30]

As noted in the preface, Israel's Lebanon policies present an intriguing puzzle. In recent decades, Israel treated Lebanon to more intense doses of violence than Palestine, even though Hezbollah and other Lebanonbased guerrillas posed far less of a threat to Israel or Zionism than did West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. This is especially true in the early and mid-1990s, when Palestinian Intifada tactics shifted from unarmed demonstrations to more deadly bomb attacks.[31] In 1996, moreover, Palestine's Islamist Hamas group launched a series of successful suicide bombs against Jewish towns, proving itself more of an immediate military threat than Hezbollah. Still, Israeli forces did not use the same devastating methods against the West Bank and Gaza that they did in Lebanon[32]

This puzzle is comprehensible when we factor in Lebanon's and Palestine's different institutional contexts. The sovereignty norm, coupled with Israel's disinterest in annexing Lebanon, constituted it as a counterinsurgency frontier vis-à-vis Israel, an arena that Israel sought to influence but not incorporate. The lack of a clearly enforced sovereign boundary between Israel and Palestine, on the other hand, helped transform Palestine into an internal ghetto.


The Origins of Israel's Lebanon
Counterinsurgency Frontier, 1968–78

Lebanon began serving as Israel's counterinsurgency frontier in June 1968, when Palestinian organizations launched their first guerrillas against Israel from Lebanese territory, and Israel responded with a ground attack on a small Fatah base.[33] In 1969, Palestinian guerrillas and the Lebanese government signed an agreement permitting Palestinian fighters to attack Israel from a limited area of south Lebanon.[34] The Lebanese government had originally opposed Palestinian actions from its territory, but later bowed to local and pan-Arab sentiment. After Jordan's crackdown on Palestinians in 1970–71, the guerrillas made Lebanon their new center, carving out state-like structures in Beirut-area refugee camps.[35] The PLO's administrative headquarters were in Beirut, but it deployed hundreds of fighters to the south, where they enjoyed some support from local Palestinian refugees as well as pro-Palestinian Lebanese factions.[36]

Southern Lebanese were soon trapped between PLO guerrillas on the one hand and Israeli counterinsurgency forces on the other.[37] British journalist Robert Fisk writes that Israel's attitude was straightforward: "If the Lebanese villagers allowed armed Palestinians to take shelter among their homes, then they would be made to pay for it in blood. The only way to avoid Israeli attack was to eject the Palestinians from their villages," something some Lebanese were either unwilling or unable to do, although by the late 1970s, Lebanese Shi'ite militias fought pitched battles with Palestinian factions.[38] In the early 1970s, Israeli forces regularly shelled the south and launched frequent search-and-destroy patrols by ground forces; these actions, Fisk writes, were "usually against civilian targets and always with results quite out of proportion to the original Palestinian attack," initiating a "pattern that would be expanded, developed and perfected with ferocity over the coming fifteen years."[39] Villages that did not expel Palestinians experienced particularly intense bombardment. Lebanese officials reported an average of 1.4 daily Israeli attacks in 1968–74, and an average of seven daily raids in 1975.[40] Israel's warplanes were particularly deadly, especially when attacking refugee camps. One June 1974 camp attack, for example, killed 27 and wounded 105, while a May 1975 raid killed 60 and wounded 140.[41] Israeli shelling drove many southern Lebanese northward, with one source estimating "tens of thousands" of displaced persons in the early 1970s and another speaking of 30,000 displaced households, or 150,000–300,000 persons.[42]


Map 4. Israel and South Lebanon

Israeli officials said the raids were retaliations for PLO violence, but in keeping with Israel's deterrence doctrine, its blows were more painful than those of the guerrillas. PLO forces killed 282 Israeli civilians and 250 soldiers from 1967 to July 1982, while Israel slew 3,500–5,000 civilians from 1973 to July 1982 alone. Israeli forces killed an additional 12,000–15,000 during its summer 1982 invasion, losing only 360 soldiers in return.[43] When Lebanese Shi'ites launched their own guerrilla war against Israel in the mid-1980s, Israeli leaders were surprised at the depth of popular southern Lebanese resentment against them.[44] At the same time, some southern Lebanese came to bitterly resent the Palestinian guerrillas, many of whom behaved arrogantly and attracted deadly Israeli reprisals.[45]


Lebanon collapsed into civil war in 1975, following rising tensions between Muslims, Palestinians, Druze, and Christians.[46] The Israeli-Palestinian fighting and PLO involvement in local Lebanese conflicts played a powerfully destabilizing role. Lebanese Christian factions were furious with PLO mobilization, which threatened to upset the country's confessional balance, undermine Christian power, and trigger Israeli reprisals.[47] In particular, the Christian militias were concerned because Palestinians had joined forces with leftist Muslim militias of the Lebanese National Movement. (Later on, the PLO's alliance with its Lebanese allies was disrupted, fueling the civil war even further.)[48] The civil war destroyed the Lebanese state, divided the country into warring fiefdoms, and caused tens of thousands of deaths.

Operation Litani and Its Aftermath

On March 14, 1978, following a brutal Palestinian attack on Jewish civilians in northern Israel, thousands of Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in an assault dubbed "Operation Litani."[49] The effort killed between 1,000 and 2,000 civilians, including seventy-five in a single air strike on an Abassiya mosque. Thousands were wounded, while 200,000–285,000 persons fled northward.[50]Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randal wrote that Israeli "destruction was on a scale known well in Vietnam," while Israeli scholar Yair Evron noted that Operation Litani caused "a mass civilian migration" in which "tens of thousands fled their homes" and "much property was destroyed," and involving "many casualties."[51] Randal estimates Israeli gunfire damaged or destroyed 6,000 homes and that "half a dozen villages were all but leveled in a frenzy of violence."[52] The destruction stemmed in part from Israel's reluctance to send troops into Palestinian-held neighborhoods without first using heavy artillery.

Operation Litani ended in withdrawal, but Israeli raids continued in an effort to keep the PLO from moving southward. Israeli warplanes killed 235 civilians in a May 1979 air raid, drove 50,000 northward on June 9, killed 309 and wounded 1,011 in July, and pushed another 170,000 northward on August 21. Overall, Israeli forces hit Lebanon 1,020 times between January and July 1979.[53] The attacks continued over the next two years and on July 17, 1981, Israel unleashed its most powerful barrage to date, destroying ten apartment buildings in West Beirut, killing 90–175 persons, and injuring 400–600.[54] Soon after, the PLO and Israel reached a cease-fire agreement that endured until June 1982.


During the 1970s, Israel came to view Lebanon as an arena where it was appropriate to use intense violence to punish civilians and guerrillas, and to convince Lebanese villagers to reject a Palestinian presence. At the same time, however, such methods were not considered appropriate in the West Bank and Gaza. Lebanon was external to Israel's formal zone of responsibility, separated by a sovereign border from the norms and laws of Israeli state and society. As Israeli rights group B'Tselem noted, the Israeli public debate "almost completely ignored the suffering and injustice inflicted on Lebanese civilians," suggesting that unlike West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, Lebanese civilians were not "part of the collective Israeli consciousness."[55] And, whereas there was public discussion of Palestinian human rights during the 1980s and 1990s, Israeli society had little to say about Lebanese civilians. Paradoxically, Israel's de facto annexation of Palestine implied a greater sense of Israeli responsibility for its inhabitants. By contrast, Israel was able to influence southern Lebanon through punitive operations, and it never sought comprehensive control. The frontier status of Lebanon, coupled with Israel's disinterest in annexing Lebanese territory, promoted sporadic acts of intense violence rather than infrastructural methods of surveillance and policing. Parts of Lebanon, in other words, took on some of the frontier characteristics that Bosnia assumed vis-à-vis Serbia in the early 1990s. Southern Lebanon was a peripheral zone of indeterminate status vis-à-vis Israel, whose armed forces used punitive sorties to drive out their civilian and militia enemies. The Israeli state made no effort to settle southern Lebanon with Jewish settlers, however, or to incorporate Lebanese land into its legal or bureaucratic fabric. Unlike the Palestinian ghetto, there was no Lebanese enclave trapped within the broader Israeli state.

Hundreds of thousands of southern Lebanese were "cleansed" northward by Israeli forces, but unlike Serbian actions in Bosnia, this was not part of a broader Israeli agenda of state expansion and demographic change. Israel had no intention of incorporating southern Lebanon into Greater Israel. Southern Lebanon was emptied of much of its civilian population due to Israeli counterinsurgency efforts, unlike Serbia's clandestine effort to re-engineer Bosnia's ethno-national composition.

The 1982 War

An assassination attempt in 1982 against Israel's London ambassador triggered an Israeli invasion dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee by its

planners. Its goal, broadly speaking, was to destroy the PLO's organizational infrastructure in Lebanon.[56] Although the group did not pose a threat to Israel's existence, it was able to harass civilians and represented a diplomatic and psychological challenge to Israel's long-term control over the West Bank and Gaza. As Khalidi noted, PLO leader Yasser Arafat had become "a head of state in all but name, more powerful than many Arab rulers. His was no longer a humble revolutionary movement, but rather a vigorous para-state, with a growing bureaucracy administering the affairs of Palestinians everywhere, and with a budget bigger than that of many small sovereign states."[57] Given their long-term plans for West Bank settlement and annexation, Israeli officials saw the PLO's growing stature as deeply problematic.[58] During the 1982 invasion, Israeli forces used violence on a grander scale than ever before, but also worked closely with local militia allies. According to some reports, Israeli leaders hoped—and perhaps even engaged in concrete planning—to engineer the expulsion of Palestinians from Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes began the war with a June 4 series of air raids, killing 45 and wounding 150.[59] Two days later, Israeli armored columns began advancing through southern Lebanon, including 90,000 troops, 2,600 armored vehicles, and hundreds of warplanes and artillery.[60] As was true during Operation Litani, Israeli commanders planned to limit their own casualties by first shelling suspect urban areas. As Israeli scholar Avner Yaniv noted, officers decided to use "masses of artillery" and intense air support, "even at the cost of heavy civilian casualties among the Palestinians and the Lebanese."[61] This tolerance of non-Jewish casualties, coupled with the Palestinian habit of basing guerrilla forces in urban areas, led to widespread loss of civilian life.[62] According to one Israeli trooper, orders instructing infantrymen to respect civilian life seemed meaningless when refugee camps were first "mercilessly shelled and bombed."[63] As Israeli academic Yehoshua Porat wrote, "The heavy bombardments, the enormous destruction and the high number of casualties" established a "most horrifying moral principle: Jewish blood is worth more than any other blood."[64] As another Israeli journalist opined, one of the war's central themes was "massive harm to Lebanon's innocent civilian population."[65]

Casualty rates attest to the invasion's intensity. Lebanese officials put the summer 1982 death toll at 18,000, of whom 2,000 were combatants, estimating an additional 30,000 injured; other sources argued for 12,000–15,000 civilian deaths and 40,000 wounded.[66] Israel's casualty toll for the same period was 368 dead and 2,383 wounded, all combatants.[67]

Lebanese property damage was also quite extensive. A June 1982 UN report, for example, reported that Israeli forces destroyed 35 percent of the houses in the Bourj el-Shemali refugee camp, 50 percent in El-Buss, 70 percent in Rashidiye, and 100 percent in Ein Hilwe; in Shatila camp, over 90 percent of the homes were destroyed or badly damaged, while all structures in the Bourj el Barajneh camp were entirely destroyed. Overall, estimates put damages at $12 billion, with 500,000–800,000 internally displaced persons.[68]

Witnesses seemed awed by the ferocity of Israel's actions. Reporter Avraham Rabinovich wrote that the effects of shelling on Tyre and Sidon were "numbing," while Robert Fisk reported that air attacks on Sidon "must have been among the most ferocious ever delivered on a Lebanese city … it looks as if a tornado has torn through the residential buildings."[69] Some of the worst damage occurred in Ein Hilwe refugee camp, where Israeli correspondents wrote that a "thick, black cloud of dust and smoke hung" as Israeli "artillery and planes pounded away … on and on … for days."[70] In his diary, Israeli officer Dov Yermiya wrote that "the quantity of bombs and shells" that Israeli forces poured into Ein Hilwe reminded him of World War II, while another Israeli reporter wrote that the camp had been transformed by shelling into "two square kilometers of twisted broken rubble, putrid rubbish and torn and shattered personal belongings." According to Lebanese authorities, the bombing killed some 600 persons.[71] Israeli forces used similar tactics against other camps, saying they contained underground guerrilla facilities. Cluster, fragmentation, and phosphorous munitions were reportedly used in populated areas, with painful results.[72] Media reports suggested some Israeli officers had opposed the indiscriminate bombardments, but that their opposition gave way due to their fear of Israeli infantry casualties.[73]

This violence was taking place in Lebanon not Palestine, highlighting the importance of institutional context. Had such methods been used in the ghetto, Israel would have been tearing at the very fabric of its own state. When aimed at Palestinians or Lebanese living beyond a sovereign border, however, no such trauma was involved. Israel's Lebanon offensives targeted external enemies situated beyond Israel's zone of empirical and juridical sovereignty, and thus did not disrupt established patterns of internal state governance. That Ein Hilwe was externalized while the West Bank camps were situated in the ghetto, however, was historical accident.

Israeli forces drove farther north, reaching Beirut on June 12, besieging 20,000 guerrillas and 300,000 civilians until August 21, when the

PLO withdrew under a United States-brokered deal.[74] Israeli artillery initially focused their fire on Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut's south-west, but when that failed to compel a PLO surrender, they began firing at the rest of West Beirut, with devastating effect. In early August, an International Herald Tribune report said that Israeli forces were "pounding heavily" Beirut's residential areas, trapping residents without the money to flee.[75] On August 1, 4, and 12, Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal wrote that Israeli forces "subjected West Beirut to punishment so intensive and indiscriminate that terror was the result." August 12, according to Israelis Schiff and Ya'ari, was "a nightmare in which the saturation bombing came on top of a massive artillery barrage," killing at least 300 residents.[76] On August 8, a British report said U.S. embassy cables to Washington observed that "tonight's saturation shelling was as intense as anything we have seen. There was no ‘pinpoint accuracy.’ … It was not a response to Palestinian fire. This was a blitz against West Beirut.… The magnitude of tonight's action is difficult to convey."[77] On August 16, journalist J. Michael Kennedy wrote that "whole neighborhoods" had disappeared, saying that Beirut had become a "city of broken concrete, flattened apartment buildings and death."[78] Lebanese officials estimate that in Beirut, 5,525 persons died and 11,139 were wounded from early June to September 2, 1982. According to the International Red Cross, 80 percent of those casualties were civilian.[79]

Israel's Expulsion Plans for Lebanon's Palestinian Refugees

As we saw in the previous chapters, the notion of ethnic cleansing or "Arab transfer" was increasingly discussed within Jewish nationalist circles in the 1980s. The number of Israelis interested in pursuing this option vis-à-vis Palestinians in the West Bank and, possibly, the Gaza Strip mounted throughout this period, even garnering support from some governing elites. Yet while at least some preconditions for an ethnic cleansing option for Palestinians did exist within Israel, movement in that direction was stymied by Palestine's ghetto-like institutional environment.

The Lebanese counterinsurgency frontier, however, presented a different set of constraints and possibilities, and according to some Israeli sources, there were wartime plans to forcibly deport many, if not all, of the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.[80] If Israeli leaders did have a scheme to deport Lebanon's 350,000-strong Palestinian refugee community, it would have been a logical outgrowth of Israel's broader effort to eliminate the PLO as an organizational and ideological force. As noted

above, the Palestinian group had developed substantial bureaucratic, military, and diplomatic weight during the 1970s, projecting a "state in waiting" image that threatened Israel's plans for long-term control over the West Bank. A few statistics demonstrate the depth of the PLO's presence. According to Yezid Sayigh, for example, Fatah, the main PLO faction, had 10,000 salaried bureaucrats, 16,200 fighters, and 25,000 parttime militia in 1980–81. Smaller PLO factions employed several more thousands, while another 7,000 men and women worked outside Lebanon.[81] In 1980, the PLO's welfare services supported 20,000 Palestinian families, ran three large orphanages, eleven day care centers, and a society for the blind. A PLO industrial agency employed 5,000 fulltime workers in forty-six workshops throughout Lebanon, offering vocational training to 30,000 in 1982, with reported earnings of $40 million.[82] According to Rex Brynen, the PLO's budget was in the "hundreds of millions of dollars," with much of that going to social and administrative programs.[83] Although these activities were headquartered in PLO buildings in West Beirut, they were rooted in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and other coastal towns. Without its refugee base, the PLO's quasi-state image would wither away.

Israeli governments were eager to ensure continued Jewish control over the West Bank and Gaza, but the PLO's international profile, coupled with its bureaucratic weight, presented a credible political alternative. A key Israeli goal for the 1982 war, therefore, was to destroy the PLO's Lebanon institutions in the hope that this would deal a fatal blow to the broader Palestinian nationalist cause.[84] Israel's military chief said as much in July 1982, noting that Israel's Lebanon war was "part of the struggle over the Land of Israel,"[85] and as Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon elaborated, "the more we damage the PLO infrastructure, the more the Arabs in Judea and Samaria and Gaza will be ready to negotiate with us."[86] Israel, in other words, launched its 1982 attack on Lebanon to resolve a policy issue in Palestine. In a pattern that repeated itself throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Israel used more intense methods in Lebanon, even though its real target was Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hints of a possible Israeli plan to expel Palestinian civilians from Lebanon came first from prime minister Menachem Begin on June 10, 1982, four days after the war began, when he reportedly used the term "transfer" in describing Israeli war aims.[87] On June 18, according to reserve officer Dov Yermiyah's published war diary, cabinet minister Yaakov Meridor told a group of Israeli troops in Lebanon that Palestinian refugees "must be pushed away eastward, toward Syria; let them go

over there, but do not let them come back." On August 26, Meridor told a press conference that Israel hoped to "relocate" Palestinian refugees to "other regions."[88] Further suggestion of an expulsion campaign came from Ariel Sharon during the siege of Beirut, when he allegedly referred to Palestinian neighborhoods in the city as "terrorist camps" that needed to be "cleaned out, utterly destroyed," and "razed to the ground," despite their being home to some 85,000 persons. Their civilian residents, Sharon said, should "move on elsewhere." According to Israeli correspondents Schiff and Ya'ari, Sharon proposed bombing the camps for a week and then sending in Israel's local militia allies.[89]

The existence of a tacit Israeli plan to expel at least some of Lebanon's Palestinian refugees was also indicated by its policy of post-conflict refugee camp reconstruction. In the country's south, Israeli forces initially blocked camp reconstruction efforts, and on June 13, 1982, the officer in charge of civilian affairs in southern Lebanon explained that the destruction of Palestinian camps "should be regarded as an inadvertent but welcome achievement."[90] Indeed, Israeli forces reportedly helped complete camp destruction by bulldozing surviving structures. According to international human rights campaigners, Israel's policy indicated it hoped "to push the Palestinian people out of the occupied zones and even out of Lebanon."[91] A final suggestion of possible Israeli intentions comes from the Sabra and Shatila killings, discussed below, which may have been linked to a broader deportation plan devised, at least in part, by Israel's militia allies.

Israel did not always act brutally in Lebanon, of course, and Israeli society was not uniformly in favor of despotic violence. Indeed, Jewish protests against the September 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres and the Lebanon war demonstrated clearly that many Israelis opposed their government's policy. Israel, like Serbia, was a complex, multifaceted society, containing both radical and more moderate tendencies. Zionist ideology, like all nationalist frameworks, included both radicals and pragmatists. Neither Israel nor Zionism was essentially prone to intense violence.


The Israeli military kept a lid on paramilitaries in the West Bank and Gaza, but pursued a different policy in Lebanon. As an external zone, Lebanon was a better environment for Israeli cooperation with private militias, and Israel's security services there developed close links to two

semi-autonomous forces. The first, based in two Christian enclaves led by Lebanese army majors Saad Haddad and Sami Shidiak, was dubbed The Army of Free Lebanon, later known as the Southern Lebanese Army.[92] The second, located in East Beirut and Mount Lebanon, centered on the 5,000-strong Lebanese Forces, the armed wing of the Christian Maronite Phalange party.[93] When the Lebanese civil war began in 1975, Israeli security agencies developed ties to both groups as a counterweight to the PLO, and over time, the militias became involved in troubling abuses. Like Serbia, Israel denied responsibility for the militias' actions, saying they occurred beyond Israel's zone of juridical or empirical sovereignty. There is evidence, however, suggesting that Israel maintained vibrant, if often covert, ties to the Lebanese militias.[94]

Haddad's Southern Lebanese Army

Details of Israel's early links to Lebanese Christian irregulars along Israel's northern border come from Beatte Hamizrachi, an Israeli journalist linked to both parties.[95] When the 1975 civil war began, Lebanese army Major Saad Haddad moved to the south, where he soon initiated contacts with Adal, the Israeli army's planning and liaison unit for southern Lebanon.[96] Headquartered in the Israeli border town of Metula, Adal officers hoped to build up the region under Haddad's control to act as a buffer against the PLO and its Lebanese allies. Adal began as a small, unofficial group of intelligence officers, but it eventually became an influential body, due largely to its ability to influence the southern Lebanese militias. Haddad first met with Adal representatives in November 1976, and within months, his men were using Israeli uniforms, weapons, and funds.[97]

With Israeli encouragement, Haddad enlarged his enclave during the late 1970s, taking over both Christian and Shi'ite areas. His methods were occasionally brutal, as in the case of an October 7, 1976, massacre of fifty prisoners in Marjayoun, or the 1978 killing of prisoners in el-Khiam village during Israel's Operation Litani.[98] Looting, Hamizrachi writes, was the "unwritten law" of the land, allowing the victors to "do with the possessions of the vanquished" as they pleased.[99] Although Adal's involvement in the massacres and theft is unclear, Hamizrachi believed the Israelis wielded considerable control over Haddad's men. "Adal orders," Hamizrachi flatly stated, "were always carried out."[100]

A second border enclave was commanded by former Lebanese army major Sami Shidiak, with headquarters in the village of Rumeish D'bil.

Although Adal officers worked with both Shidiak and Haddad, they reportedly found the former less cooperative. Again, there were reports of atrocities, as in the case of Shidiak's March 1978 attack on Maround a-Ras village, where his forces, bolstered by reinforcements transported into the area by Israeli forces, allegedly perpetrated killings and sexual assaults.[101] Israel helped link Shidiak and Haddad's enclaves during Operation Litani, creating a border strip that would, after 1985, form the basis for Israel's unofficial "security zone" under Haddad's successor force, the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA).

Israel's relations with the border militias grew increasingly close during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1999, a top Israeli official admitted that the army and the SLA "coordinated their military activity," while Yossi Peled, former head of Israel's northern military command, went a step further, stating that Israeli officers "set goals for the SLA … assigned them missions … and supplied training."[102] Israel paid SLA members a salary of $300– $500 per month, transferring a total of $108.2 million to the border militia from 1995 to 1999 alone.[103] Although the Israeli government argued it had no "effective control" over the group and was not responsible for SLA abuses, a report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem stated otherwise, arguing that the "responsibility of Israel for SLA acts is clearer than that of Yugoslavia for acts of the Serb militia in Bosnia-Herzegovina."[104] Reported SLA abuses included massacres, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, and torture in its Khiam prison, used chiefly for Lebanese suspected of anti-Israeli activities.[105] In 1999, an SLA commander indirectly acknowledged that harsh interrogation methods were used in Khiam, telling an Israeli journalist that one "would be lying" if one were to claim that "there were no beatings going on there."[106] Israel denied responsibility for Khiam goings-on, saying its representatives were not involved in the prison's interrogations.[107] In 1999, however, an Israeli commander acknowledged that his officers made monthly visits to Khiam to disburse some $30,000 in SLA salaries, and that Israeli security agents "collaborate with SLA personnel, and even help them in professional instruction and training." The officer denied, however, that the agents participated in the "frontal interrogation" of Khiam prisoners.[108] Details on the SLA's links to Israel's security services were supplied by a whistle-blower in Israel's Liaison Unit for Lebanon (LUL), the successor to Adal, who said the unit was a "shadow organization that supervises and commands the SLA," providing an Israeli advisor for every SLA officer. In Khiam, he claimed, Israeli agencies had placed "an instructor from the military police to advise

vise the SLA jailers and administrators."[109] Despite official Israeli denials, in other words, Israel's links to the border militia appear to have been close.

Israel's Beirut-Area Allies

The Lebanese border irregulars were Israeli creations, but the militias based in Beirut and Mount Lebanon were major political actors in their own right. The Lebanese Forces, armed wing of the Maronite Christian Phalange party, were led by the Jemayels, a prominent Lebanese family, while the Tigers, another militia, were run by the Chamouns. In the 1970s and early 1980s, both militias strongly opposed the PLO's presence in Lebanon, largely because of the group's support for the Maronites' Muslim rivals. In 1975, Phalange representatives contacted Israeli diplomats in Europe, requesting arms and munitions, and Israel's foreign intelligence agency, along with military intelligence, initiated an increasingly robust supply-and-coordination effort.

Fighting between PLO and Maronite forces grew particularly bitter during 1975 and 1976, and civilians were prime targets on both sides. A 1976 Lebanese Forces massacre of Palestinians in Beirut's Karantina refugee camp triggered a PLO massacre in Damour two days later, [110] and in response, a coalition of Lebanese Forces and Tigers besieged the Palestinian refugee camp at Tel al-Zatar, calling on their Israeli contacts to lend a helping hand. In July 1976, Israeli officers, including Adal commander Fuad Ben-Eliezer, met with Lebanese Force commanders in a position overlooking Tel al-Zatar. "Seated in the upper command post," Israeli correspondents Schiff and Ya'ari recount, "Ben-Eliezer watched as the Phalangist gunners fired quantities of shells into the camps," many of which "had come in Israeli aid shipments."[111] Later that month, Israel delivered armored vehicles to the Christians, helping them penetrate the camp's perimeter. On July 24, according to Palestinian historian Yezid Sayigh, shells from one such armored vehicle destroyed a building and killed 250 refugees hiding in its basement.[112] On August 9, Lebanese Forces and Tigers overran the camp, massacring 1,000–2,000 persons. Thousands more died during the siege, and the camp was razed to the ground.[113] Israel's supporting role in these events, however, was rarely discussed. Like Serbia, Israel was covertly involved in supplying paramilitary forces operating just beyond its borders. As was true for the ethnic Serb militias in Bosnia, the Lebanese paramilitaries were involved in severe human rights abuses. Israel's global alliances were very different

from those of Serbia, however, and its cross-border paramilitary ties generated less international criticism.

After the Likud government was reelected in 1981, Israel intelligence agencies developed even closer ties to their Lebanese Forces allies. The militias initially held back during Israel's 1982 invasion, but they moved to consolidate power over Beirut once the PLO agreed to withdraw in mid-August. With Israeli forces ringing the Lebanese capital, the Phalangists arranged for their leader, Bashir Jemayel, to assume the Lebanese presidency. Jemayel was assassinated by unknown killers on September 14, however, throwing the Christian militias, and their Israeli allies, into disarray. In an effort to reassert its control over Beirut events, Israel sent its forces into West Beirut, violating its United States-brokered deal with the PLO. One of its first operations was to encircle the Palestinian camps in Sabra and Shatila, where, according to Israeli leaders, Palestinian militiamen were still holed up.[114] Acting upon Israel's request, the Lebanese Forces entered the camps, killing 700–3,000 Palestinian civilians.[115] As Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk writes, "Terrorized refugees … reported witnessing barbaric acts. They described the relentless manhunt through the streets of the camps conducted by small groups of militiamen … entire families were taken from shelters and murdered on the spot … women were repeatedly violated and physically mutilated."[116] Israeli officials denied responsibility for the atrocities, but an Israeli commission of inquiry castigated senior commanders and politicians, including defense minister Ariel Sharon, saying they bore substantial but indirect responsibility for the killings.[117] The officers had ordered Israeli forces to besiege the camps, sent the militias in, provided illumination and perimeter security, blocked any escape, and then permitted the killings to continue when reports of mass killings first emerged.

On September 28, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that the Sabra and Shatila killings appeared to have been part of a broader plan to expel Palestinians from Lebanon. The idea, the paper said, was to "create panic and provoke an exodus, en masse, of Palestinians towards Syria."[118] An Israeli official made a similar claim, saying Christian Lebanese militias hoped the massacres would provoke the "panicked flight of Palestinians from the Beirut refugee camps to northern or southern Lebanon, creating a new demographic and territorial balance in Lebanon's capital."[119] According to a Beirut newspaper, the Christian-led Lebanese government had hoped to reduce the Palestinian refugee population from 300,000 to 50,000. The Israeli commission of inquiry argued that Phalangist leaders "proposed removing a large portion of the

Palestinian refugees from Lebanese soil" and did "not conceal their opinion that it would be necessary to resort to acts of violence in order to cause the exodus of many Palestinian refugees from Lebanon."[120] None of these sources discussed Israeli involvement in the militia's expulsion schemes. Given the above-mentioned evidence for a possible Israelibacked deportation effort, however, it is possible that the Sabra and Shatila events were, at the very least, a Phalangist interpretation of their shared goals with Israel.

Israel, in sum, worked closely with paramilitary allies during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, chiefly as a way of fighting its enemies in Lebanon. The irregulars resorted to an array of despotic measures, including massacres and attempted ethnic cleansing. Israel's links to these groups suggest that institutional conditions permitting, it was capable of building the type of cross-border links that Serbia developed in 1992 with the Bosnian militias. Like Serbia, Israel could work with irregulars if the relationship was discrete, and if their victims were located beyond Israel's zone of overt and empirical control. The Israeli state's ties to the Lebanese irregulars were thus very different from its links to Jewish militias in Palestine, who acted as military auxiliaries and vigilantes. In Palestine, the Israeli military placed an effective cap on Jewish militia violence, much as Serbia did in the Sandžak and Vojvodina.

This chapter has suggested there were tangible alternatives to Israel's ethnic policing repertoire in the West Bank and Gaza, where Jewish militias discussed—but did not even come close to launching—a real ethnic cleansing effort. Although the irregulars had the requisite ideology, weapons, administrative capacities, and official allies, they were constrained by the Israeli state, which refused to tolerate Lebanon-style violence in Palestinian lands under its direct control.

Differences in Israel's treatment of Lebanon and Palestine are striking. Although Lebanon was exposed to more intense Israeli methods, it also enjoyed greater freedom from direct Israeli control. Israeli forces wrought occasional havoc in the country but then disappeared, returning at irregular intervals to punish wrongdoers. The Israeli army in Lebanon was distant but ferocious, striking with great intensity but then withdrawing, making little effort to penetrate, embrace, or dominate Lebanese society. In the West Bank and Gaza, by contrast, Israel worked much harder to create a smooth system of control, devising a more allencompassing grid of state power. As a result, Palestine ghetto residents were spared Lebanon-style destruction, but found their lives managed to

a far greater extent by Israeli policies and desires. Israel, in other words, punished Lebanon through acts of despotism, but comprehensively disciplined Palestine through techniques of infrastructural power.

Imagine: what if the international community had ordered Israel to withdraw from Palestinian lands? It is conceivable that Jewish militias would have launched an ethnic cleansing effort with the tacit support of at least some members of the Israeli army and bureaucracy. For those doubtful of Israel's capacity to participate in such a campaign, events in Lebanon should give them pause. There, Israel relied on methods far more despotic than those used in Palestine; its shelling killed or displaced large numbers of civilians, and its militia allies were involved in severe human rights abuses. None of this, of course, proves that Israel or its allies would have ethnically cleansed Palestine given the chance. The Lebanon experience is suggestive, however, especially when substantial pro-transfer sentiment within certain Israeli constituencies is taken into account. At the very least, it provides cause for concern when Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and Gaza escalates.

Conventional wisdom in North America argues that Israel, like other strong Western allies, is inherently incapable of the type of awful violence wielded by Serbian forces in Bosnia. Given Israel's democratic political regime, its cultural sensitivities, and tragic experiences in the Holocaust, the Jewish state is simply incapable of unleashing ethnic cleansing, either directly or through paramilitary proxies. Israel's Lebanon experiences, by contrast, suggest that under appropriate institutional conditions, Israel—like many other states—is capable of extreme despotism. The cases explored in this and other chapters suggest that state violence is dramatically shaped by the institutional setting in which it takes place, and that in thinly institutionalized arenas, ethnic cleansing is a very real possibility.

Alternatives to Policing

Preferred Citation: Ron, James. Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.