Ahmed Fakhoury: A Man Whose Life embodied the Imperialist Expansion into Lebanon
Ahmed Fakhoury died earlier this year, to be exact he passed away August 17th in 2020 from advanced Lymphoma. For many this will be your first time hearing about his story, his story shows us how deeply imperialism has its bloody talons in Lebanon, a nation itself who’s existence was used by French Imperialist to create an appendage of Europe in the Middle East. This article seeks to illuminate the history and continuation of Imperialism in Lebanon by highlighting a man whose life benefited from it.
Lebanon like most nations in the Middle East and North Africa have a tumultuous relationship with Israel, Lebanon, however, shares a direct border with Israel, considering that said border is now a demarcation zone set up by the United Nations to detail whether Israel had left the country after occupying the South of Lebanon for eighteen years. Lebanon’s relations with Israel have always been volatile, particularly when the Nakba occurred.
The Nakba and Lebanon
Israel was born into the world through blood and violence, when the Zionists, led by Ben David Gurion declared the independence of the new state it came with bloody conflict. The war of independence saw a decentralised loose coalition of Arab forces, particularly from neighboring states fight the centralised, well numbered, and organised Zionist armies. The result was the solidification of the fledgling state and the start of the dismantling of Palestine.
The result of the war saw a flooding of Palestinians into neighboring states and new national entities like Gaza. Over 500’000 refugees fled to Jordan, all of which were granted citizenship, at the hopes of the Jordanian state that it could erase their national identity. 200’000 refugees were crammed into Gaza which was now under Egyptian rule and a final 100’000 went into Lebanon. To this date, the refugees in Lebanon were never granted citizenship and for many were forced to live in refugee camps for the rest of their life, the reason for this will become clear in the next paragraph of this article. Israel refused to allow the refugees back to their homes, the Zionists feared that Israel’s fragile demographics would be compromised and the reality of a Jewish state impossible if hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians returned. As such Israel claimed that these people were in fact told to leave by Arab officials and didn’t deserve compensation.
Lebanon at this point had an incredibly fragile political system which was a colonial relic. Based on the demographics of the various religious sectors of society and approved by French colonialists, the system meant that the Maronite Christian dominated society politically, with the strongest positions going to them. The Sunni Muslims came in second, with some political representation and finally, the Shia Muslims were at the bottom of this system, given position of little importance. The Shi’ites comprised the poorest sections of society accompanied by the least political representation.
The Nakba as such proved to be an uncomfortable question for Lebanon’s ruling elite, the influx of 100’000 Palestinian refugees who were primarily Muslim would upset the demographics of the fragile political system. As such the Maronite elite refused to grant citizenship to the refugees, forcing them to live in camps for the rest of their life. Refugees were forbidden from getting jobs and were condemned to live inhumane conditions as no deal for the resettlement of refugees with Israel could be reached. The refugees posed such a problem that the Maronites refused to carry out any population census, knowing that their position was now compromised.
Lebanon’s Civil War
The growth of Pan-Arab ideology in the Middle East primarily championed by Nasser and Baathism saw an increasing resentment of the political status quo of Lebanon, furthermore by the late 1950’s it was clear that the Muslims were now the majority and many began to agitate for the reform or complete destruction of the political system. However, the Maronite President could veto any legislation proposed by the Chamber, refusing to take a new consensus. This would eventually lead to a bloody outbreak of violence; the various religious groups took up arms and a vicious ethnic conflict erupted.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) had become ingrained in the Palestinian refugee communities, using thier funds they would carry out state services that were being denied by the Lebanese state. The PLO became popular in these communities, eventually they used these spaces to carry their armed struggle against Israel. The Phalange, who were the Christian paramilitaries, had formed an alliance with Israel, both viewed the PLO as a threat, the Phalange saw them as a threat to Christian rule and Israel wanted to see the military apparatus built by the PLO to be dismantled.
Israel Intervenes and the Sabra-Shatila Massacres
Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon wanted to destroy the PLO’s military infrastructure in Lebanon, and eventually aimed for wiping out their whole hierarchy, which would require the Israeli army reaching the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, where the PLO headquarters were located. In doing so he hoped too also drive out the Syrian army, securing the position of the Christian elite which in turn would normalise relations with Israel. Furthermore, Israel had claimed that the PLO were behind the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom. When in matter of fact the attempt had been carried out by renegade Palestinian group who were opponents of the PLO.
With the death of the Christian Prime Minister who was assassinated, Israel began to step their involvement in Lebanon to new heights, commanding and transporting Phalangist forces to kill 2’000 PLO fighters who apparently were operating in a refugee camp. The Phalangist undertook mass killings of Palestinian refugees, helped with IDF flares to illuminate their targets. Killing until the next morning, 800 refugees who were primarily women and children were killed, with no PLO operatives found. A commission in the aftermath of the killings found that Israeli officials were indirectly responsible for the killings. With some Israeli leaders saying they hoped to “purify” Lebanon of Palestinians.
Israel’s Southern Lebanon Occupation and the Butcher of Khaim
Israel would begin a long and brutal occupation of Southern Lebanon, the Occupation showed a complete lack of awareness of the local environment and customs that the IDF had gotten itself into, most notably an IDF patrol who had become lost in a city met a crowd of Shia Muslims in a open mass processions. Threatened by the gathering in their alien environment the IDF opened fire to disperse the crowd, this action angered the local populace and turned more and more civilians against the occupation. Israels refusal to end its occupation would manifest with the emergence of a strong Shia resistance that would break the occupiers.
Israel sought many ways to control their occupation of the South, one method to achieve this was the use of local Lebanese forces, one such force was the South Lebanon Army (SLA). The SLA co-operated with Israeli occupation and were backed by Israel. They would join the Israeli army in carrying out attacks against resistance. They also ran a network of military installations including detention centers. A Lebanese man named Ahmed Fakhoury has been accused of running the Khiam detention center. Inmates who were alleged to be dissidents against the Lebanese state were routinely tortured at his hand, the number of people who were subject to his cruel treatment is alleged to be in the thousands. His reputation grew and was eventually dubbed the “Butcher of Khaim” for his acts.