Odd Karsten Tveit was always a very obsessional chap. Every story he covered, he always wanted to dig deeper, study further, hear one more tale of horror, one more joke, one more historical fact. We all covered the story of Israel’s wars in Lebanon, in 1978, in 1982, in 1996, in 2006. Over the years, I covered the story of Israel’s torturers in Khiam jail in southern Lebanon, the massive Ansar prison camp in 1982, the frightful interrogation of Lebanese and Palestinian inmates.
But Karsten has put together a book of immense research which will remain the volume on Israel’s shame in Lebanon and its historical defeat. That’s the title of the English edition – Goodbye Lebanon: Israel’s First Defeat. His detailed questioning of torture victims – hanged by their arms, electrocuted, in one case apparently raped and in another mistreated in an Israeli hospital – have an unstoppable power to convince. Not only did he cover the events on the ground in southern Lebanon, he interviewed Israeli veterans in Israel itself.
He reported constantly on Norwegian television and radio; he wanted to learn so much of the vicious Israeli-Hezbollah guerrilla war that he actually took time off to serve in the Norwegian UN battalion n southern Lebanon, wearing the blue beret. Now that is obsession for you.
It is a terrible tale, stories which upset many of the UN peacekeepers, especially military doctors, as evidence mounted of the Israeli brutality on prisoners in Lebanon and inside Israel itself. One Norwegian officer even left Lebanon via Tel Aviv with a typed report on torture taped to his chest for the eyes of a Norwegian government minister.
Prisoners at Ansar were grossly mistreated. Outside the walls of Khiam prison, I visited a post of UN unarmed truth supervisors who told me they could hear the screams of tortured men and women at night. Karsten did the same. Israeli interrogators were present, Karsten says. Israel denied responsibility, saying Khiam was under the control of their local Lebanese militia. The UN did not believe it.