I have always believed free reporting essential to a free and democratic society since, based on facts and integrity, it helps the truth to surface. Lately, however, I am beginning to question this integrity, which I see slowly being replaced by false data. I am referring to the article by Jonathan C. Randal, "Dangers Await Palestinian Refugees" (July 8).
The following are the major contentions Mr. Randal presented in his analysis. I take the opportunity to respond to the charges, fears and comments with only one purpose: telling the truth.
1.) Palestinian refugees "left behind in Lebanon will face grave dangers . . . . without the soldiers of the PLO to protect them against their local adversaries, the civilians are likely to become entangled in new violence after Israeli troops withdraw."
The Palestinian civilian refugees have nothing to fear in Lebanon as long as they obey Lebanese laws. In 1948, the Lebanese Moslems and Christians alike opened their hearts to receive the refugees. Lebanese convents and schools provided shelters, and Lebanese land was freely offered so that they might establish their camps. From 1948 to 1969, there was no claim of injustices done to the Palestinians by the Lebanese. Quite the contrary, Lebanese writers and leaders espoused the Palestinian cause and defended it in their writings.
The Lebanese-Palestinian clashes only began when the Palestinians violated Lebanese laws and chose to arm themselves creating a state within a state aimed at taking over the country and destroying the Lebanese identity. And, since the PLO organized itself as a military force, large numbers of Palestinians have been killed. The Palestinians do not need PLO soldiers to be protected. Their compliance with Lebanese laws should be sufficient.
2.) ". . . (N)o Lebanese leader has seemed willing to take into consideration the enormous Palestinian contribution to commerce, banking and education, which in happier times, helped transform this once- sleepy French provincial-style town into the intellectual and financial center of the Middle East."
To set the record straight, while the Palestinians were still in camps limited to 200,000, receiving aid from UNRWA, Lebanon had achieved a literacy rate of 90 percent; Lebanese scholars were well-read. Lebanon was the center of education in the Mideast. There were more newspapers and journals published per capita than in any other part of the world. Beirut hosted over 100 international banks, and Lebanon was called the "Switzerland of the Middle East." Furthermore, American businessmen in the Middle East were based in Lebanon.
But when the Palestinians emerged in 1973 as an armed force in Lebanon and had begun their terrorist activities, making Beirut the capital of international terrorism, they hardly created a compatible environment for business; instead, they spread death and violence. The only business that flourished was the illegal trafficking of narcotics, arms, terror. Since 1975, Lebanon has lost over $200 billon because of the destruction of its cities. Its citizens turned against each other, and its land became occupied by foreign forces.
3.) "Palestinian involvement on the Moslem side in the 1975-1976 civil war crystallized Christian hatred . . . . In Tyre, Lebanese owners returning after long absences have kicked Palestinian residents out of dwellings, forcing the Palestinians to live in orange groves and on the beach."
I hope that once and for all the U.S. media recognize the truth about what it refers to as the "Lebanese civil war." In 1975, there was no "civil war." The conflict was between Lebanese citizens and the PLO, who are not Lebanese. It was the Lebanese-PLO war that later on polarized the Lebanese population.
The Lebanese who today are returning to Tyre, are returning to their homes, which they lost in 1975 to the armed Palestinian foreign forces-- after seven years of living as refugees in their own country. Is it a crime for those Lebanese to finally return to their homes? Mr. Randal seems to suggest that these Lebanese remain refugees and homeless to accommodate the foreigners. Would the Americans, the Europeans or any other people give their homes to accommodate the enemies who kicked them out? If so, why not invite the Palestinians to live in the United States?