Malikiya Battle And Lebanese Politics

Operation Hiram Map

In Lebanese politics, the Malikiya battle is something exceptional. Almost every politician used it at least once. Here’s two examples for the President  and for a Minister. Speaking of the battle that was fought between the army and the IDF makes you feel that Lebanon was the only winner of all Arab states in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. It shows a Republic dedicated to a Palestinian cause, a sovereign country, and a powerful army.

What Actually Happened

The Lebanese have the gift of distorting stories. A courageous stand almost became 60 years  later  a won war. Malikiyia was a disputed Lebanese Palestinian town. As you can notice, I did use the word “was”. Because Malikiya, today, is an Israeli settlement. Malikiya is not in Arab hands anymore, and was lost in the 1948 war. The Lebanese army won the first phase of the battle (May), holding the town for a couple of months before losing it in October. When politicians speak of the battle, you feel that the Lebanese army was the only army that wasn’t defeated in 1948. And that’s far away from the truth. Palestine, according to the UN partition plan, was to be formed of three regions. Egypt, at the end of the hostilities kept a part of the Gaza region (the Gaza strip) under Arab control. Jordan, at the end of the hostilities kept a part of the West Bank under Arab control. But the region of Upper Galilee, Arab under the partition plan, wasn’t under Arab control anymore at the end of the hostilities. So basically, the region that should have been under the Lebanese and Syrian responsibility – But especially Lebanese, since the Upper Galilee region that was given to Palestine by the UN doesn’t have common borders with Syria – was the only region to be 100% lost in 1948. 

In a nutshell, the Lebanese army (with other Arab troops) only won the first phase of the Malikiya Battle (May) but then definitely lost the control of Upper Galilee (Including Malikiya) in 60 hours in what the Israelis call operation Hiram (October). Meanwhile Malikiya changed sides several times between May and October. But what’s even more interesting is that the Israeli Army didn’t only take Galilee. Nobody speaks about it, but It also reached the Litani river, occupying 13 Lebanese villages on its way. Lebanon didn’t only lose Galilee in the war. Lebanon lost a part of its south, too. Which is very interesting, because it was the only Arab country other than Palestine in 1948 to suffer territory losses. Eventually the IDF retreated back to the border after the ceasefire of 1949, but the result was clear. Lebanon lost the war, and was even the biggest loser among the neighboring Arab countries.

If the Lebanese spoke of the 1978 or 1982 invasions, it can be understood because the IDF was led out in 2000. But speaking of the battle of Malikiya is very weird, because Malikiya was lost and never conquered again. So if it’s about praising courageous soldiers, there are better battles that can be quoted. And if the battle is quoted because it was the first clash between the army and the IDF, the Palestinians, Egyptians and Jordanians won some battles too in the first phases of the 1948 war, yet they speak of a Nakba and rarely speak of the few Arab successes in 1948. But saying that Lebanon defended the town, while the town with six other disputed Palestinian-Lebanese villages (Nabi Yusha, Tarbikha, Saliha, Ebel Al-Qamh, Qadas, Hunin) are now part of Israel, and while the IDF occupied 13 other Lebanese villages (On the map, the Israeli names of towns appear, but I couldn’t find another map) and reached Litani is like creating from a loss a glorious story.

It’s basically like a German politician speaking of the German army’s success in Stalingrad. They did won the first phase of the battle, but lost the battle. And the war. More than anyone else of their allies.

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One comment

  1. Can’t agree more. It is only “gloriuos” compared to other confrontations (that never took place again) between the army and the israelis. The other vilages lost seem to be of strategic importance for israel as they control access to water sources (at least as seen in the map).

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