Israel and Syria eroding Lebanese authority, panel says
Washington — A wide-ranging new study on Lebanon shows that both Israel and Syria are increasingly usurping administrative functions that properly belong to the Lebanese government.
The nine-member panel of human rights experts, which prepared the study, concludes that unless the Reagan administration works harder to support the Lebanese government and to challenge Israeli and Syrian control, no American-sponsored negotiations or aid program can succeed.
On the positive side, the panel concludes that there have been encouraging signs that the Lebanese government itself has reduced some of the human rights abuses that it has engaged in. The government has refrained from ordering the mass deportation of Palestinians which had been threatened last fall, and it has released many of the Palestinians whom it had arrested last year.
But the government of President Amin Gemayel controls little more than greater Beirut. Nearly two-thirds of the country is occupied by foreign military forces. The new study indicates that unless more can be done to restore Lebanese administrative and military control in other parts of the country, intensified fighting among Lebanese and the partition of much of Lebanon by Israel and Syria will become the dominant realities.
The 46-page report on the legal and human rights situation in Lebanon was prepared under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Panel members included: Francis Boyle, associate professor of law at the University of Illinois; Everett Mendelsohn, professor of the history of science at Harvard University; Burns H. Weston, a University of Iowa law professor; and Arnold Jacob Wolf, rabbi of the K.A.M. Isaiah Synagogue in Chicago.
The report has been issued at a time of increasing tension in Lebanon. The Reagan administration, which had launched a new initiative a year ago aimed at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, was diverted from that initiative by the crisis created by last year's Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The administration has been forced to pour almost all of its energy into resolving the Lebanon conflict. The Israelis are on the verge of pulling back to more secure positions in southern Lebanon, but refuse to leave Lebanon unless the Syrians do so.
The AFSC-sponsored report on Lebanon says, meanwhile, that the United States (as the principal backer of two of the parties involved, Israel and Lebanon) has the influence to contribute significantly to halting further human rights violations in Lebanon and moving parties toward a long-term solution.
''The question is whether there is the will - the means are available - to take initial steps toward peace and security for all peoples in Lebanon and the Middle East,'' the report says.
The report accuses the Israelis of supporting the buildup of militia fighters in Lebanon's Shouf region by Phalange and Druze groups, to the detriment of Lebanese government authority. In southern Lebanon, it says, the Israeli Army has encouraged recruitment to the forces of renegade Lebanese Maj. Saad Haddad. In some Lebanese villages, Major Haddad's approval is needed for Lebanese government services and reconstruction projects to function.
The report says the Syrian forces in Lebanon have exhibited a widespread lack of discipline and have frequently engaged in extortion, demanding protection money from local residents. It says that civilians stopped at roadblocks in the Syrian-occupied Bekaa Valley are often subject to verbal abuse, harassment, and physical harm. Kidnappings and arbitrary arrests have been documented.
''There have . . . been a number of instances of abduction of Lebanese Christians from the town of Zahle by pro-Syrian leftist militia forces,'' the report says.
''When it has served its political ends, Syria has intervened in Lebanese internal affairs with a heavy hand,'' it says.
Lebanese courts and police stations in the Bekaa have come under attack on several occasions. The homes of six Lebanese parliamentarians were reported to have been bombed in reprisal when the six traveled to Beirut to vote on the Lebanese-Israeli withdrawal agreement.
The announcement of the formation of a National Salvation Front by Lebanese opposition leaders in Syrian-held territory on July 23 appeared to point to the creation of a separate administration envisioned by the Syrians. According to the AFSC-sponsored report, the formation of a de facto government in the Syrian-controlled areas would add to the pressure for a three-way partition of Lebanon into Syrian and Israeli protectorates, with the Lebanese government retaining control only of greater Beirut.
''Movement toward partition would almost certainly entail the extension of intra-Lebanese hostilities in which civilians would once again be placed most at risk,'' the report says.
The report calls on both the Syrians and Israelis to ensure the protection of civilians and to prevent militia groups from engaging in hostilities and usurping central government authority. The US, it says, should adopt a policy that calls attention to and challenges the violations of human rights and international law now taking place in Lebanon.