Israel Shiites Sunnis Moshe Milner/GPO

How Shiites Went From Friends to Foes

Historically distrustful of the Palestinians, Iran managed to bring Shiites into the pan-Arab war against Israel


Several months ago the Arabic-language Israeli television station Makan broadcast a documentary titled “War Without a Name” about Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon. Scenes included the people of southern Lebanon showering Israeli soldiers with rose petals as they entered the country during its devastating civil war.

At the time, southern Lebanon was living under the thumb of Yasser Arafat and his coalition of Palestinian militant factions, which were using the territory as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against northern Israel. Israel was compelled to retaliate, consequently inflicting harm on the inhabitants of southern Lebanon.

Also fighting agains the Palestinians in Lebanon was the Amal movement, a Shia Muslim militia that in its early years refrained from engaging Israeli forces. Rather, it remained focused on clearing the Palestinian factions out of southern Lebanon. This is one of the reasons the inhabitants of the region felt free to welcome the Israelis, as even their own Shiite militiamen did not seem opposed to the intervention. With Amal launching its “War of the Camps” against the Palestinians, they seemed to...