Sunday, August 06, 2006

268. The War in Lebanon

O God, they’re at it again!

During the last 60 years, or ever since the creation of the State of Israel, hardly a week or month has gone by without some incident of political violence in which civilians have been attacked or killed. There have been major outbreaks of violence in the form of all-out wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and now, since July 12 of this year, we have witnessed Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon. Apart from the full-scale invasion of Lebanon in 1982 there have also been bombing campaigns by Israel in 1978 and 1996 before the Israeli army finally withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000. Internally Israel has been engaged in almost continuous military actions against the Palestinians, most notably in reaction to the “intifadas” (uprisings) of 1987 and 2000. Now they are at it again in Gaza.

Israel lays claim to the sympathies of the West as a fellow “democracy” surrounded by hostile enemies who wish to destroy the Jewish state and push its inhabitants into the sea. This is very emotive stuff but it has gradually lost the power to convince (except, of course, in the United States) since originally well-disposed European nations have taken stock of the overwhelming military superiority of Israel vis-à-vis its opponents and the number of times that Israel has been the actual instigator of armed conflict in the region (every single time, in fact, with the exception of the Egyptian attack in 1973). It’s a little bit like the Boy Who Cries Wolf in that the neighbours soon learn to take these pleas with a pinch of salt. Woe, then, to Israel should she really come under the sort of devastating attack that would actually threaten her existence!! Of course, America will probably still be there to pull the irons out of the fire should things ever get that far – and it seems highly unlikely they ever will – whereas the Europeans, grown ever more disillusioned with Israeli behaviour, would be much slower to react.

Does Israel have a right to exist?

Yes. It will always be a troublesome entity because of its location and because of some of its rather more dubious Zionist claims to legitimacy. Nevertheless, the state of Israel is internationally recognized and its right to exist will be defended by the United Nations, even to the extent of military intervention if necessary. In spite of Israeli fears to the contrary, the world will not stand by and allow Israel to be destroyed. Only Israel itself can do that. There is a growing belief among non-partisan outside observers that the attitudes and policies of successive Israeli governments have done much to exacerbate the problems of the region and that these policies have increased rather than reduced tensions with Israel’s neighbours and its internal population of Palestinians. In other words, Israel has generally created more problems than it has solved, rarely if ever accepts responsibility for these problems, and consistently engages in angry but well-orchestrated attacks on any groups or individuals who have the temerity to challenge its behaviour.

The real question here is which Israel has the right to exist? Is it the Israel of the original UN Partition Plan of 1947, the expanded Israel that followed the 1948 war, or the even more expanded Israel which came into being after the 1967 war? (see maps above and below). In 1967 Israel took over -- and continues to occupy -- the West Bank and East Jerusalem (formerly part of Jordan), Gaza (formerly Egyptian -- the Sinai Peninsula was returned in 1982), the Golan Heights (formerly Syrian) and a small enclave along the Syrian-Lebanese border known as Shebaa Farms. UN Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967) specifically called for Israel to withdraw from these occupied territories.

There have been 98 UN resolutions concerning Israeli actions and the vast majority of them have been critical. Nevertheless, the only UN Resolution that Israel cares to quote is Resolution 1559 calling on the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah, (“There are pro-Israeli and anti-Israeli sources that have commented on the amount of United Nations resolutions against Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir commissioned an analysis of UN voting concerning Israel. According to results of this study, from 1967 to 1988 the Security Council passed 88 resolutions directly against Israel and during that span, Israel was condemned 43 times. In the UN General Assembly, 429 resolutions against Israel were passed, and Israel was condemned 321 times”. – source, Wikipedia).

Is Israel justified in its attack on Lebanon?

No. The rationale put forward is totally out of sequence. We are told Israel has a right to destroy the Lebanese infrastructure (roads, bridges, the main airport, oil storage facilities, TV and cellphone relay towers, factories, etc.) because Hizbullah fired rockets into Israel. This is not what happened. The Hizbullah attacked an Israeli army patrol, killed three soldiers and captured two. Their intent was to set up a prisoner exchange for some of the 900 or so Lebanese held without charge in the Israeli military prison system. Israel sent in a team (there is still a dispute as to which side of the border the original incident occurred)to chase down the Hizbullah fighters and one of their tanks ran over a landmine and a further four Israeli soldiers were killed. One more soldier was killed in an ambush as the Israelis attempted to retrieve the bodies. The next day Israel initiated air strikes on southern Lebanon and hit the airport in Beirut. Hassan Nasrullah, the Hizbullah leader, told Israel to stop bombing Lebanese targets or Hizbullah would fire rockets into Israel. That’s how that got started.

Next, we hear that Syria and particularly Iran are engaged in a proxy war with Israel (and the United States) by supplying Hizbullah with missiles and military training. Even as this complaint was doing the rounds of all the media outlets, the USA was shipping new bombs into Israel by way of Prestwick airport in Scotland. This is apparently OK. The bombs were redirected through Prestwick (much to the fury of the Scots) because my own government in Ireland refused landing rights at Shannon airport. Good for them. So why can’t Hizbullah and Israel make a deal? We (Hizbullah) will cut all ties with Syria and Iran if you (Israel) promise to cut all ties with the USA? Well, I can’t see that happening any time soon, but it amazes me that people can't see the parallels.

Are we being told the truth?

No, of course not. When has that ever happened? The so-called Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinians is a total sham and everybody knows it. It’s a smokescreen to hide the fact that Israel wants to retain the occupied territories and somehow get rid of the Palestinians. This is why they are building illegal settlements, usually on strategic hilltop positions; this is why they confiscate Palestinian land, refusing building permits to Palestinian families (if they do build, their homes are destroyed by bulldozers); this is why they set up military roadblocks and checkpoints that make it nearly impossible for Palestinians to get their goods to market, attend schools and universities, get to hospitals for imminent childbirth and other medical emergencies, or in simple terms, lead normal lives; this is why they have set up a highway system connecting settlements that only Israeli citizens can use. The list goes on. It is literally unbelievable, except nobody seems to be paying any attention to what is actually happening to these people. These daily humiliations are totally buried in American press and TV coverage. Whenever Palestinians react with anger they are painted as mindless terrorists and Israel is praised for “defending” itself by shooting a few of them. Kids throw stones against tanks and when the soldiers catch them, they beat them and break their arms. Those are the lucky ones, the ones who don’t get shot. Unlike press and television outlets from the rest of the world, the American news media hardly ever mentions the brutal military occupation which gives rise to these responses. The whole situation is reported totally out of context as if the Palestinians were unstable people addicted to violence. Could you imagine this happening in your own neighbourhood? Probably not, but if it were to happen, what would be your reaction? Fight or flight? The Palestinians have nowhere to run to.

Ehud Barak, military hero and former Israeli prime minister, was once caught off guard by a reporter's question:

"What would you have done, sir, if you had been born a Palestinian?"
Barak thought a moment and replied candidly,"I imagine that if I were a Palestinian of the right age, I would, at some stage, have joined one of the terror organizations."

Right, exactly. Source under Quotes.

In the meantime, for those who are interested in Israel and the Middle East,there is a longer article on this blog entitled 'Great Hatred, Little Room'.

By clicking on the links button below you will be brought to a page with a collection of nearly a dozen recent articles on Lebanon and Gaza.