Norman Finkelstein

Only the willfully blind could miss noticing that Israel’s March-April invasion of the West Bank, ‘Operation Defensive Shield’, was largely a replay of the June invasion of Lebanon. To crush the Palestinians’ goal of an independent state alongside Israel—the PLO’s ‘peace offensive’—Israel laid plans in September 1981 to invade Lebanon. In order to launch the invasion, however, it needed the green light from the Reagan administration and a pretext. Much to its chagrin and despite multiple provocations, Israel was unable to elicit a Palestinian attack on its northern border. It accordingly escalated the air assaults on southern Lebanon and after a particularly murderous attack that left two hundred civilians dead (including sixty occupants of a Palestinian children’s hospital), the PLO finally retaliated, killing one Israeli. With this key pretext in hand and a green light now forthcoming from the Reagan administration, Israel invaded. Using the same slogan of ‘tooting our Palestinian terror’, Israel proceeded to massacre a defenseless population, killing some 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese between June and September 1982, almost all civilians. One might note by comparison that, as of May 2002, the official Israeli figure for Jews ‘who gave their lives for the creation and security of the Jewish State’—that is, the total number of Jews who perished in (mostly) wartime combat or in terrorist attacks from the dawn of the Zionist movement 120 years ago until the present day—comes to 21,182.

Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, London, 2003, p. xxiii