Lebanon’s Hula Massacre: 64 Years on History’s Sidelines

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Hula would see a justice of sorts when it become one of the first villages to be liberated from Israeli occupation on 22 May 2000. (Photo: Hasan Bahsoun)

By: Amal Khalil

Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sixty-four years ago in 1948, Zionist Haganah gangs, led by Menachem Begin, entered the Lebanese border village of Hula where they brutally massacred 70 of the local people.

Unlike other atrocities committed by the Israelis which have been etched into the collective memory, the Hula massacre has been largely forgotten.

The Israeli attack came a few days are the battles of al-Qaadeh and al-Ibad, during which the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) and the people of Hula routed the Zionist militias that were attempting to occupy some areas on the outskirts of the village, killing 33 Zionist fighters in the process.

On the afternoon of 31 October 1948, while the village celebrated its fresh victory, the Haganah, which would later form the core of the Israeli Defense Forces, began their assault.

They sealed off the village’s entrances, and rounded up its men, women and children, dividing them among three houses where they were then gunned down.

Then, using pistols, the Haganah militants shot the victims a second time in the head, one by one, to ensure they were all dead. Still not satisfied, they finished by blowing up the three houses with the bodies inside.

United Nations observers who were deployed along the border rescued a number of the villagers who had managed to escape, fleeing towards the surrounding valleys and villages.

Meanwhile, the Zionist militias continued to assault and loot homes and destroy crops in Hula, hunting down several of its residents who had tried to hide in the woods nearby.

The people of Hula returned to their homes six months after the massacre following the armistice agreements that were signed. They rebuilt their homes and replanted their lands, and dug out the remains of their relatives from the ditches where the Zionists had tossed them. Their graves can still be seen to this day.

None of the villagers documented the massacre and the subsequent displacement of the village’s population. The government at the time put the refugees from Hula in temporary shelters in Beirut and Dbayeh, and gave 600 Lebanese Liras (roughly $ 275 at the time) in compensation for each fallen victim.

Those who chose to go back faced hardship and hunger, as it took more than two years to restore the crops and livestock to what they were.

Two years after the massacre, Sheikh Ali Suleiman, a poet from Hula, tried to spread the news of what had happened while touring other villages. But his initiative was not well received, and he ended up being jailed for a month. There was an official blackout on the massacre, as though the village residents were being punished for daring to stand up to the Israelis.

Hula would see a justice of sorts when it become one of the first villages to be liberated from Israeli occupation on 22 May 2000.

After the Israeli withdrawal, people finally began to talk about the massacre, and a memorial was erected in front of the graves of its victims. The monument was inaugurated by the municipality on the anniversary of the liberation in 2002.

Yet all these efforts failed to bring the Hula massacre the attention it deserves, nor did they redress the injustice done to the victims, both living and dead.

Then, on 26 May 2012 a massacre was committed in a Syrian town of the same name. More than a hundred men, women and children were slaughtered in Houla, Syria, and many considered the atrocity a turning point in crisis which had deteriorated into a civil war.

Several Lebanese journalists ended up comparing the two incidents of mass murder, either because of their similarity, or as a way of saying that the Syrian government was no different than the Haganah gangs.

77-year old Hula resident Moussa Nasrallah never wished to see the massacre he witnessed as a child repeated in Syria, but he is adamant that the true enemy is still Israel.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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