Israel in Lebanon
The Report of the International
Commission to enquire into reported
violations of International Law by
Israel during its invasion of the Lebanon
Israel’s Occupation Policy [of Lebanon]
The purpose of this part of the Report is to consider whether and to what extent those aspects of Israel’s occupation of the Lebanon, which the Commission believes it is in a position adequately to assess, conform to the rules of international law.
The Commission recalls that such rules are mainly customary law. They have progressively been developed, during more than a century of military history. Successive conventions and the resolutions of international bodies, which have specified their terms and enlarged their field, mark the various stages of their development. The Commission’s opinion is that the main function of these instruments is not to create norms (which in fact already exist) but to express these existing norms and to give them an appropriate form in the light of historical developments. Consequently, the Commission believes that the occupation by Israel should be assessed according both to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 – to which Israel is a party – and to the additional Protocol I of 1977 which Israel did not sign, but most of the provisions of which are merely codifications of principles laid down i~ the Geneva Conventions.
The section begins with a description of what, in the Commission’s view, constitute the particular features of the Israeli ‘presence’.
The Commission focuses on the treatment accorded to individuals and
property during the occupation and both these aspects will be analysed. Finally, special attention will be paid to the situation of the people in the camps, for this is both connected with aspects of the occupation to be analysed first, and also illustrates what seems to have been one of the underlying objectives of the Israeli authorities: to eliminate the Palestinians from the occupied zones.
General Characteristics of the Occupation
It is generally considered that the military presence of a State on the territory of another State, with the result that all or part of the territory comes under its control, constitutes – in law – occupation. Among the legal consequences are the applicability of the Geneva Conventions of 1949; and the duties and responsibilities of the occupying power as laid down in the 1907 Hague Regulations.
However, even in the face of the facts which will be briefly listed, the Israeli authorities refuse to recognise unambiguously that their ‘presence’ in the Lebanon can legally be termed an occupation. This attitude requires analysis. In order to understand the probable reasons for the Israeli Government position, it is also necessary to isolate certain particular features of the occupation policy pursued in the Lebanon.
The Israeli ‘thesis’
This ‘thesis’ was advanced, orally, on 22 July 1982 to a delegation of the Centre of Information on Palestinian and Lebanese Prisoners based in Paris when one of the members of this Commission was present. Dr Dani Rubinstein, legal adviser to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, argued that in the view of his Government there was no occupation of the Lebanon as laid down in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
This argument is unequivocally developed in a Briefing document distributed by the Information Service of the same Ministry, dated 18 July 1982 and handed to the French delegation by Dr Rubinstein. It was revealingly entitled ‘The Current Israeli Presence in the Lebanon’, and it sets out the basic arguments which formed the core of his presentation:
– the military operations were not directed against the Lebanon;
– on the contrary, they helped save the Lebanese people and their Government from usurpation of their power by the Palestine Liberation Organisation;
– the Israeli army had no intention of setting up an administration in the zones where it was temporarily present;
– no military governor had been appointed, nor any regulations decreed for the administration;
– Israel restricted itself to the setting up of ‘special units for civilian assistance’ which would intervene where local government authority was lacking, as in most areas the local authorities had begun to exercise their powers again for the first time in many years.
One further argument put forward by Dr Rubinstein’s aides was that some Lebanese groups had accepted, if not actually called for, the presence of Israeli forces.
The Commission very much regrets that the Israeli Government refused to accede to the Chairman’s request for co-operation. It was therefore impossible for its members to discuss this analysis with the authorities in Jerusalem.
The facts which the Commission found for itself or which were reported to it, challenge the Israeli denial that there was an occupation in the sense of that term in international law.
The Commission is aware of two contentions on the issue of ‘occupation’. First, that there was an occupation could be questioned, and the thesis thus acquire some credence, if the Lebanese State had requested or accepted the Israeli army’s intervention.
Similarly, if the ‘presence’ of the Israeli armed forces implied neither an encroachment on Lebanese powers nor interference in the life of the people – in brief, if there had been no seizure of territory or subjugation of its inhabitants and its local authorities. But this approach is unsustainable.
The fact of the occupation is first of all attested by the attitude of the properly constituted Lebanese authorities, who protested officially against the invasion of their territory by the Israeli forces, illustrated by the clear statement of the President of Lebanon and through the protests of the Lebanese Permanent Representative to the Security Council of the United nations and its vote at the General Assembly. The Commission’s interview with the Prime Minister, Mr Shafik al- W azzan, on 2 September established Lebanon’s opposition to the invasion also. It should be noted that the actual or alleged position of those groups, parties or militias which were really or allegedly in favour of Israeli intervention have little relevance in international law in comparison to the unequivocal attitude of the official representatives of Lebanese national sovereignty. Such support for Israel’s intervention would in any case be contrary to Lebanese law (as explained to the Commission by the Prime Minister of Lebanon).
The fact of the occupation is secondly attested to by a massive and obvious presence of the Israeli armed forces, on much of Lebanese territory and especially in southern Lebanon, around Mount Lebanon and the city of Beirut which was completely occupied from 16 to 18 September 1982. The Commission was able to see for itself that there was heavy Israeli Defence Force traffic on the roads; the countryside and the built-up areas were dotted with fortified positions and camps flying the Israeli flag; and numerous patrols were evident over land, sea and air.
In addition, there are four important sets of facts which feature in the Israeli occupation (some of which directly contradict several allegations made in the Briefing document of 18th July mentioned above).
(a) The Israeli army imposed security measures which it deemed necessary for its safety. (Recent events proved the necessity for measure of this kind: apart from the ‘incident’ which caused the death of 75 IDF soldiers and 15 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in Tyre on 11 November, Le Monde listed at least 10 attempts against Israeli forces since 3 October.  It set up road blocks where its soldiers could check on the identity of people and on vehicles, usually backed up with tanks and assisted by Lebanese auxiliaries; on several occasions the Commission experienced the effects of these road blocks at first hand. It carried out searches, looking for arms, ammunition, documents and ‘suspects’. It conducted raids which involved arrests of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians (see below, II). In the south, it cut down orchards along the road for fear of snipers. Lastly, it imposed curfews in many places. The security measures following the ‘incident’ which destroyed the Israeli headquarters in Tyre consisted of the mass arrests of about 800 people, curfews and a blockade of Lebanese officials and security forces, not only in Tyre, but also in Sidon.
(b) The Israeli army undertook various more or less urgent tasks which would normally have been carried out by the police or the Government authorities, such as clearing mines; looking for, removing and burying bodies; and clearing debris. In the early days of its ‘presence’ it even requisitioned men who were selected arbitrarily from the population to execute some of.these operations. There is no doubt that it provided aid to the civilian population in the form of provisions and medical care as attested by the evidence of Dr Melvyn H. Brooks and another witness in Jerusalem. It proceeded to widen some of the main roads. Routes in the zone under its control were signposted in Hebrew; and places were often given a Hebrew name instead of their local Arab one.
(c) Many private and public buildings were occupied by Israeli forces who evicted their occupants, including in some cases Lebanese civilian administrators, and the barracks, the garrisons of which were disarmed (notably at Sidon).  The town halls ofTyre and Sidon and the administrative offices (‘serails’), especially in Sidon and Rachaya, were among those occupied in this way. The same happened to the hospitals of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, to numerous schools and the international airport at Beirut which was closed to both civilian and military Lebanese traffic up to 1 October.
(d) Strict controls were exercised over the population. During June the population was subjected to numerous identity checks at which the army stamped their documents; and in the same period they were compelled to carry temporary passes. Members of the Commission were able to verify the existence of these stamps and passes. At least one member of the Lebanese Parliament, Mr Abdel Latif Zein, was detained and prevented from travelling from the capital; while some political figures, eg Mr Walid Joumblatt, were prevented from travelling to their constituencies.
At sea, the Israeli navy cruised the waters off the portofJounieh which up until the reopening of Beirut airport was the main point of access into the Lebanon and especially to Beirut. It systematically compelled every ship entering into Lebanese territorial waters to hand over a list of passengers; it forced these ships to stop, sometimes for many hours, and on two occasions (30 August and 6 September) the Commission was the object of its vigilance.
The Commission concludes that such facts constitute, by their nature, acts of occupation under international law. The denials and reservations of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs can do nothing to alter the facts.
In particular, calling the Israeli forces stationed on Lebanese territory ‘units responsible for aiding civilians’ does nothing to change their real nature, that of occupying troops. It is admitted that these units form an integral part of the army: official signs were the proof (for example, the Commission saw the signpost erected at Sidon near the Lebanese police barracks, on the road leading to the Ain el Hilweh camp).
The Israeli reluctance to admit openly to occupation may be explained by some of the particular features of the occupation.
Particular Features of the Israeli Occupation
In the Commission’s view the occupation had three special features: firstly, it was the extension of a ‘presence’ which had existed long before the invasion of June 1982 in southern Lebanon; secondly, it is reflected by Israel’s role in the interplay of various Lebanese forces and factions; and thirdly, it was characterised by widespread arrests among the civilian population.
To ensure the immediate safety of its forces, the IDF did not limit itself to a supervisory role. It made and is still making large numbers of arrests and is at the present time holding large numbers of prisoners.
The exceptional extent of the arrests, the ways in which they were made and the treatment of detainees, are not simply a peculiarity which distinguishes this case from classical forms of occupation. They are also, as will be shown later, largely incompatible with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This last feature may explain the refusal of the Israeli Government to admit to the fact of occupation, which would then involve the application of these Conventions.
This is one of the many aspects of the interventionist policies pursued for more than ten years, of which the June 1982 invasion was the culmination. This continuity is also characteristic of the occupation.
The Continuity of the Israeli ‘Presence’
Ever since the reinforcement of the Palestinian positions in the Lebanon at the end of the sixties, Israel has unilaterally assumed the right to police the situation, mainly, but not exclusively, in the south of the country. This policing took the form of numerous incursions into Lebanese territory. Some of these incursions were highly spectacular, such as the attack on Beirut airport in 1968, the ‘limited’ invasion of 1978 and the 1981 bombardments. Apart from these widely noted events, the Israeli presence was fairly constant in the south throughout the seventies.
Further, Biblical tradition regards southern Lebanon as part of the Land of Israel. This may also explain Israeli reluctance to admit that the presence and activities of Israeli forces constitute an occupation under international law.
Professor Israel Shahak, President of the Israeli League for Human Rights, has stated in his evidence to the Commission that since 1975 the Israeli presence has been maintained by a ‘Special Unit for the Regions of South Lebanon’ (or ADEL), formed from former soldiers and attached not to army headquarters but directly to the Ministry of Defence. 
One aspect of the Israeli ‘presence’ was the arrest, on Lebanese territory, of people of all nationalities but especially Lebanese citizens, some of whom were taken to Israel to appear before military courts to answer charges of breaking those Israeli laws which covered extra-territorial matters.
The Israeli presence also relied heavily on the’ Army of Free Lebanon’ led by Saad Haddad, which is equipped, looked after and in fact directed by Israel according to many witnesses before the Commission. This, however, also relates to the next specific feature of the present occupation.
The Resort to Local ‘Auxiliary’ Forces
There is one widely known fact to which almost all the Lebanese witnesses before the Commission gave special emphasis, including members of the Government.  This is the fact that the Israeli army is closely linked to two different Lebanese militias which were in existence when the invasion of June 1982 was launched.
Firstly, there is the ‘Lebanese Forces’, composed almost entirely of Christian Maronites and drawn mainly from the ‘Phalange’ of the Kataeb Party. They were usually to be found in the Christian areas of the north and in East Beirut.
Secondly, in the frontier region of the south there is the ‘Army of Free Lebanon’, 60% of whose strength is made up of Shi’ite Muslims but whose officers are almost all Christian. This body is commanded by a former Lebanese officer convicted in his absence of high treason and discharged from the Lebanese army, Major Saad Haddad.
Evidence before the Commission establishes that when the invasion began, each of these militias had set up in its own territory a mini-State carved from the Lebanese state. Each was armed by Israel, but their degree of dependence and as a result their role differed. This was attested by many witnesses. 
It was established to the Commission’s satisfaction that whereas the Lebanese forces enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, the ‘Army of Free Lebanon’ was strictly controlled by Israel. The latter force has increased in numbers since the invasion because, according to the evidence received, every village has had to supply a contingent of ‘volunteers’. It has considerably extended its area of operations in the wake of the Israeli troops, and has been deployed as far as the River Awali, north of Sidon. On the heels of the invading army these Lebanese forces also penetrated areas which up till then had been closed to them, to the south of Beirut, where they re