The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had continued to mount an ineffective but troublesome armed resistance to Israeli occupation after 1948 from the West Bank, then part of Jordan. Caught in the crossfire between Palestinian and Israeli attacks and counterattacks in Jordanian territory, Jordan's King Hussein forcefully expelled the PLO with a bloody attack by the Jordanian army in September 1970 known as "Black September" forcing relocation of the PLO to Lebanon where continued resistance was orchestrated for another decade.
Precipitated by an attempted assassination of Israel's ambassador to the UK by Abu Nidal, who had split from the PLO, the IDF invaded Lebanon in 1982 under Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in order to defeat the PLO resistance forces, an operation designated "Peace of the Galilee."
While in Lebanon the PLO had provided protection for a Palestinian refugee camp and nearby impoverished neighborhood, known as Sabra and Shatila. Following withdrawal of the PLO protective forces, Sharon presided over massacres in both camps, for which the IDF was responsible, conducted by Lebanese Christian Maronite Phalangist militias allied with the IDF.
This massacre evoked an uncharacteristic outcry from the Israeli public, leading to an Israeli commission of inquiry which found Sharon "personally responsible" for the atrocities, forcing his resignation as Defense Minister. This was not Sharon's only massacre, and his bloody record did not prevent his eventual rise to Prime Minister.
Repressed memories of indirect participation in these atrocities by one IDF soldier are reconstructed through surreal animation and one direct, searing set of images in his 2008 film, Waltz with Bashir. Bashir Gemayel, the Phalangist president-elect of Lebanon, had been recently assassinated, for which the PLO was (erroneously) presumed responsible. Although welcomed by some as a long overdue confessional by Israel, the film is entirely concerned with the psychological trauma to the soldier rather than the unspeakable horror suffered by their Palestinian victims.
Israel's invasion, followed by continued occupation of southern Lebanon for another 18 years, gave rise to Hezbollah as a guerilla resistance movement to oppose them. Supported by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has grown in size and strength and evolved from a limited resistance organization into a full-blown political entity integrated into Lebanese government, with radio and satellite TV stations, seats in the Lebanese parliament, direct and indirect (through its allies) control of 11 of 30 Cabinet posts as of 2008, and social service programs including schools, hospitals and agricultural services. They are an efficient, well-disciplined organization, now authorized by the Lebanese cabinet to act as a military force to "liberate or recover" any lands occupied by Israel, and successfully resisted the Israeli attack in 2006.
Other than the notorious attack on U.S. and French Marine barracks in 1983 during the Lebanese Civil War, when U.S. forces were supporting the Maronite Catholic faction with shelling from the U.S. 6th Fleet offshore, Hezbollah has never attacked the U.S. or U.S. interests. It is viewed as a resistance organization by most countries and a terrorist organization by the U.S. and some other Western states.
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