By Akiva EldarHa'aretz
July 9, 2002
Dr. Asher Kaufman took into account that the Hezbollah wouldn't miss an Israeli newspaper report about an Israeli researcher who supports the claim that the Shaba Farms belong to Lebanon, justifying Hezbollah's continuing the struggle against the Israeli occupation.
Indeed, the Hezbollah was quick to add the Truman Institute researcher's study to its campaign against UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's decision two years ago. The UN ruled then that the Israeli withdrawal to the Blue Line was full and final implementation of Security Council Resolution 425, putting to an end the occupation of south Lebanon. The UN and the Israeli defense establishment were both interested in the report published here on June 25 and asked Kaufman for further details.
The maps and documents Kaufman found in Paris archives show that French officers in the 1930s realized their maps mistakenly put Shaba on the Syrian side of the border. Administrative documents from the same period show that the farms were listed as being in the Lebanese districts of Hazbayieh or Marjayoun. The French officers proposed correcting the maps that they said were prepared negligently, without surveyors or professional equipment.
But nothing was done to correct the mistake and the error was handed down from generation to generation, government to government. All Syrian maps, since their independence in 1946, including maps published after 1967, show the Shaba Farms as being in Syria. From Lebanese independence to today, the Lebanese have perpetuated the border in all its official maps and even on the map that decorates the thousand-pound currency note.
The UN maps, including the separation of forces maps of 1947, show the UN treated Shaba as Syrian. Censuses taken in both Syria and Lebanon show that both countries regarded the area as under Syrian sovereignty. Lebanon never filed a complaint to the UN about the UNIFIL reports that presented Shaba as outside its borders.
Defense Ministry lawyers emphasize that the Lebanese government never showed any official maps putting Shaba inside its territory as decisive evidence against Lebanon's claims. They note that international law draws a distinction between the right of possession (for example, the rights of ownership by Metulla residents of lands in Marjayoun) and international boundaries.
It's likely that if the Lebanese or Syrians had reached the archives in Paris in time, and presented the evidence that Kaufman found, the UN's decision on 425 would look very different. The Lebanese English-language Daily Star wrote that the political and university communities in Syria and Lebanon should be embarrassed that it was an Israeli researcher who took the trouble of going to the Paris archives. The new facts, the paper said, "could help either reduce tensions or regrettably add weight to the argument in favor of the armed resistance until the Israeli occupation forces are off the last inch of Lebanese soil."
On the Israeli side, there are no indications that Kaufman's discoveries will encourage anyone to evacuate Shaba to end the violence, or, in the worst case, to prove to the world that the argument over the 22 square kilometers is nothing but an excuse for the Hezbollah. The defense establishment is convinced that if Israel concedes Shaba, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah will invent a new excuse to attack Israel.
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