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Parallel Government in Lebanon and Gaza (History repeats itself)

Hezbollah is accused of acting as a parallel power/government in Lebanon, uncontrolled and unanswerable to the democratically elected Lebanese government.

But what is a parallel government? It should not be forgotten that in October, 1970 a similar government was talked of when James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, and Quebec Cabinet Minister Pierre Laporte were kidnapped by FLQ terrorists.

Jean-Paul Desbiens, author of “Les Insolences du Frère Untel”, was Editorial Page Editor of La Presse, in October 1970, and saw the danger for Quebec of a parallel power, noting the disaster it had caused in Jordan.

Thus on October 6, 1970, the day after the kidnapping of Cross, Desbiens wrote:

“The example of what happened in Jordan is conclusive: King Hussein was the only Arab leader to have recognized, in his land, a parallel power: that of the Palestinians. He tried to negotiate with them; he tried to limit their authority; but in the end, these two powers had to recognize the existence of one another. To this day, the confrontation has resulted in ten to twenty thousand deaths (when it is far away, one does not count to the nearest number) and it is not finished.”

Desbiens gave another example, this time of Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion. “Some twenty years earlier, Ben Gurion, the Israeli leader, gave the order to sink a vessel transporting weapons, which he could have used during his struggle at that time. He nevertheless gave the order to sink the vessel in question, with the purpose of refusing any sort of recognition of a parallel power.” La Presse, October 6,1970.

We may conclude that the Hezbollah regime is a parallel government and should have been confronted by Lebanon. Lebanon was and is too weak to do so, the world powers did nothing and Israel has taken on the task, which at this late date may be impossible, without irrevocably harming Lebanon. Already there seems to have been excessive destruction of Lebanese infrastructure and harm done to innocent people, which will leave a terrible physical, political and moral scar. Hezbollah too has a record of aiding the people of the region, with food, schools, healthcare and other social measures, which adds to the dilemma.

The solution is not easy. As with the disputes of children, the fighting must first be stopped and then all the world powers must get talks started amongst and between the direct and indirect players.

May I add that the case of Gaza is different from Lebanon. As Jimmy Carter and others have said, Israel should have entered into peace talks with Hamas, when they became the democratically elected government in Palestine and there was relative peace at that time. Instead Israel delayed, refused to talk and then started a war in Gaza after one Israeli soldier was captured/kidnapped. Israel has since captured/kidnapped members of the Palestine Hamas Cabinet, while the resulting loss of life and property from tanks and bombing has destroyed much of the Gaza infrastructure and leaves another regrettable long-term scar.

The whole Desbiens editorial may be seen as Appendix G at www.mcgill.ca/maritimelaw/crisis.

William Tetley
Professor
McGill Law Faculty
514 398-6619 (office)
514 733-8049 (residence)
E-mail: william [dot] tetley [at] mcgill [dot] ca (William Tetley)
Website: http://www.mcgill.ca/maritimelaw/ [ TopOfPage(); ]

Mr. Tetley was Minister of Financial Institutions in the Bourassa cabinet from 1970-76.

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