The Thin Blue Line
By Tali Shapiro at May 05, 2009
I was quite shocked to discover that a northern town in Israel (one I never heard of) was going to be split in the middle, between Israel and Lebanon. Frankly, it came out of nowhere for me. So I decided to do some research (which is the only thing that seems to calm the urge to storm the bastille, guns blazing). What I found didn't surprise me: Thick-headedness has always been the plight of institutions, even ones that do good. In the case of Al-Ghajar village, the situation is less than ideal, as I doubt all the institutions involved.
A Lesson in History
As you can see, Al-Ghajar village (which subsumed the Ouzzani settlement at around 1978) is literally a border town. It sits smack dab in the middle of Syria, Israel and Lebanon. Not a good place to be, under any stretch of the imagination. So who does this village belong to? Buckle your sit belts- this is going to be a bumpy one (Majority of information from Wikipedia articles, which suffer issues of bias, so feel free to fill me in on missing information):
Originally, the village known as Al-Ghajar was located in Syria. In 1967 (first Lebanon War), Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. And as Israel does- it never returned that which it acquired by war. Curiously enough, for two months, Al-Ghajar becomes "no man's land"- disputed territory that no one wants. Hundreds run to Syria and the rest are left with dwindling food reserves. Even more curiously, the village heads decide to negotiate citizenship with Israel, of all Middle-Eastern countries. And the real astounding point- Israel takes in a few hundred additional Arabs(?!). After another Israeli offensive into Lebanon in 1978, Al-Ghajar started growing northward and eventually joined with the Ouzzani settlement. When Israel, with UN pressure withdrew, in 2000, this vicious split in the middle came to be- north Al-Ghajar under Lebanese authority, south Al-Ghajar under Israeli authority. In the very sterilized fashion of the UN, it's referred to as the "Blue Line". Just for fun, in 2006 (second Lebanon War), Israel put its troops right back in north Al-Ghajar.
On April 17, 2009, the Lebanese paper the Daily Star reported the IDF had agreed to withdraw from the northern part of Al-Ghajar. On May 2, it seems to be all over the mainstream media, although still under the title "rumor".
A Lesson in Socio-Geography
What does this mean for the residents of Al-Ghajar village? In technical terms, residents on both sides are Israeli. Some northern Ghajars are also Lebanese- that side of the village has trouble getting Israeli services. The southerners don't go into Lebanon, in respect to Lebanese authority. Inside the village, there's no fence and residents go about their business like any other village. On the Israeli entrance of the village, there's- of course- a military checkpoint.
In personal terms, many of Al-Ghajar residents see themselves as Syrians carrying Israeli ID cards. In this video, you can get a few words from the residents about their nationality, as they see it (just try to ignore the biased narrator or the military-babble in the first two and a half minutes).
Ironically enough, the most humane reporting (although flawed in other ways) I found on this issue, was done by - what you should know by now as "the infamously biased"- Channel 10 (limited by my translation):