Planned burial of 'Israel collaborator' sparks anger in Lebanon

Planned burial of 'Israel collaborator' sparks anger in Lebanon
Analysis: Antoine Lahad, a former general who collaborated with Israel in South Lebanon has died in Paris, sparking protests against his upcoming burial in Lebanon.
4 min read
14 September, 2015
Antoine Lahad (left) confers with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in 2000 [AFP]
Antoine Lahad, a Lebanese former general who infamously collaborated with Israel in South Lebanon, died in Paris this week at the age of 88.

But the commander of the South Lebanon Army, controversial in life, remains controversial in death, with rising anger and tension in Lebanon over his potential burial site.

The SLA militia, which comprised splinter Lebanese army units, was born in 1978 as Israel first invaded Lebanon and was financed by Israel to fight its "dirty war" in the South.

It tackled the Palestine Liberation Organisation and later Hizballah, and other opponents of Israel.

Lahad took control of the SLA in 1984, following the death 
     He should be buried in a landfill, he should not desecrate Lebanese soil

Protester against Lahad's planned burial 
of Saad Haddad, the group's founder.

Although Lahad was a Maronite Christian who was close to Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, the militia he commanded was made up mostly of Shia Muslims.

"Lahad had two main goals - providing security to the people of south Lebanon and pushing for peace between Lebanon and the State of Israel," said a former SLA official upon reports of Lahad's death.

"General Lahad was a Lebanese patriot," said Yossi Peled, the former commander of Israel's northern divisions.

"The State of Israel owes him a tremendous moral debt due to his years-long contribution to the security of the residents of south Lebanon and northern Israel."

Many Twitter users who object to his burial in Lebanon make references to Soha Bechara, a communist who attempted to assassinate Lahad when she was 21.

After the attempted assassination attempt, Bechara was held in the infamous Khiam prison, where, in her autobiography she records being beaten, tortured, threatened with rape, while her family members were also rounded up.

The prison was controlled by the SLA, and interrogators were reportedly given directions by Israeli forces.


Bechara wrote of what she said was an "obligation to the resistance" against the SLA and Israel:

"I felt it was my duty to take part. If we did nothing, I said, we Lebanese would suffer the same fate as the Palestinians."

Following the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000, Lahad fled to Israel and stayed in Tel Aviv before moving to Paris.

Lahad felt betrayed by his former comrades, as Israel withdrew suddenly, without notifying the SLA, leaving them in the hands of forces that they had previously oppressed.

"There is an agreement between Israel and the SLA that [the Israelis] will not withdraw from here before the establishment of peace and a solution has been found for the SLA and the people of the area," Lahad said in an interview with al-Jazeera at the time.

Suha Bechara vists al-Khaim prison
two years after her release [AFP]
As many as 3,000 former SLA members were in the custody of the Lebanese government.

It has been estimated that a third of SLA members were sentenced to less than a month in prison, while another third received one-year sentences.

Two members of the SLA accused of torture at Al-Khiam prison received life sentences.

In light of reports that his body would be returned to Lebanon for burial, a protest has been organised.

"Our duty is to preserve the victories of the resistance and the blood of its martyrs, and because we refuse for collaboration to be a legitimate point of view," the event Facebook page read.

"We invite you to participate in the popular protest against the proposed burial of the rotten corpse of the collaborator Lahad, who betrayed his country, killed his compatriots, and tortured and detained resistance fighters in Lebanon."

Many agreed with the sentiment across social media.

"He should be thrown to be eaten by the fish, he should be buried in a landfill, he should not desecrate Lebanese soil", read one post.

Commenting on the death of the man she had attempted to assassinate, Bechara said that she felt he had died already.

"Antoine Lahad died when the sons of our homeland, the sons of the south returned," she said. "He died on May 24, 2000, the moment the residents of Khiam went up to the detention centre and broke all the bars."

Bechara concluded: "The death of collaborator Antoine Lahad is the death of the Zionist project in Lebanon."