Honoring the South Lebanese Army

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On July 4, 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Gantz and IDF Chief Kochavi dedicated a memorial site to the South Lebanese Army in northern Israel.  The story of Lebanese political history is incredibly complicated, and it’s very difficult to draw direct spiritual conclusions. However here is a bit of background summary:

Up until the 1970s Lebanon was an unusual Middle Eastern nation.  It was Arab, and yet had much European culture (some good and some bad), primarily because of French influence. Beirut was even called, the “Paris of the Middle East.”

In 1969, the Lebanese government signed “The Cairo Agreement”, that allowed the Palestinian PLO to use Lebanese territory to fight against Israel from southern Lebanon. There was much disagreement between the different ethnic groups in Lebanon concerning the Cairo resolution.  Many parties began to fight for independence.

The largest party was formed mostly of Maronite Christians, called the Phalangists, under the leadership of Pierre Gemayel. His son, Bashir Gemayel, later united the different Maronite militia groups under one new party called the Lebanese Forces (the largest Christian political party in Lebanon today). They fought against the PLO, the Syrian army, and Lebanese Muslim parties who sided with the Palestinians, backed by the entire Arab world, including the Gulf states.

The PLO and some Lebanese Muslim militia launched missile attacks against Israel, which led to Israel invading Lebanon in June 1982 in the Operation Peace for Galilee, which expanded into the First Lebanese War. Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Sharon met with the Phalangists and proposed full alliance with them. The South Lebanese Brigade, led by General Saad Haddad, broke away from the army’s general leadership and announced its alliance to Israel. They fought alongside them and were funded by the Israeli government.

In August 1982, Bashir Gemayel was elected as President of Lebanon. In September 1982, he was killed by a terrorist bomb by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, while giving a speech in one of the Phalangist party centers in Beirut.

In response to this murder, the Phalangists entered the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps and slaughtered the residents there. Israel received much blame for this tragedy, because Ariel Sharon and Israeli Army units were located nearby and did nothing to stop it.

Amin Gemayel became President, replacing Bashir.  Their militia became the official
South Lebanese Army. The SLA was made up of 70% Maronite Christians, 20% Druze, 10% Muslims. Bitter fighting continued throughout Lebanon, and Israel supported the SLA more and more.

It is worth remembering here that the Ayatollah Shiite regime in Iran began in 1979.  They began using their national resources, especially money from oil sales, to promote Islamic extremism all over the Middle East. Perhaps their greatest project was backing Hezbollah, the Islamic extremist Shiite party in Lebanon, which also began in 1982.

In the midst of the multi-ethnic fighting, including Sunni Muslims, Palestinians, Syrians, Maronites, Druze, etc., Hezbollah became stronger and stronger. In 1986, at the end of the First Lebanese War, the Israeli Army and the South Lebanese Army pulled back to the buffer zone up to the Litany River in South Lebanon.  IDF and SLA remained full partners.

In the year 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided to pull all Israeli forces out of Lebanon.  It was feared that this would lead to the Maronite Christians being slaughtered by Hezbollah. At that time 6000 SLA and family members were allowed to enter Israel. Hezbollah took over the rest of South Lebanon.

Little by little, these Southern Lebanese have been integrated into Israeli society; however, with much suffering and problems.  The memorial and their place of honor within Israel were long overdue.

To ensure its power over Lebanon, Hezbollah appointed corrupt politicians, on the agreement that Hezbollah would cover their corruption; and those politicians would cover Hezbollah’s legal presence as a military power. After two decades of Hezbollah’s dominance, Lebanon seems to be collapsing altogether. Some are calling this the worst economic crisis in modern history.

Please pray for this dear country.  They have suffered much. We love Lebanon and desire its peace, prosperity, and above all a true revival there. We also pray for a renewed partnership between Israel and Lebanon as in the days of Solomon in I Kings 5, for the worship and glory of God.

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