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Lebanon: Bush, Israel — The Real Terrorists

Lebanon: Bush, Israel — The Real Terrorists

By Doug Lorimer
Green Left Weekly

In a cynical attempt to justify Washington’s backing for Israel’s month-long campaign of hundreds of daily terror bombings of Lebanon — carried out with US-supplied warplanes, jet fuel and missiles — US President George Bush declared on August 13: “America is fighting a tough war against an enemy whose ruthlessness is clear for all to see. The terrorists attempt to bring down air planes full of innocent men, women, and children. They kill civilians and American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they deliberately hide behind civilians in Lebanon.”

The US State Department defines terrorism as “politically motivated violence against non-combatants”. The alleged plot by a small number of British citizens to blow up 10 airliners in flight from Britain to the US — which the London police announced on August 10 they had foiled — would clearly fall into this category.

But in Bush’s Orwellian world, the 130,000 US soldiers he has sent to Iraq to secure its vast oil resources for the big US energy corporations are “non-combatants”, while patriotic Iraqis who fight them are “terrorists”.

Bush’s claim that “the terrorists” in Lebanon — by which he meant the Hezbollah-led Lebanese resistance movement — “deliberately hide behind civilians” is unsupported by any evidence.

In a 50-page report titled Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon, the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation analysed two dozen cases in which 153 civilians, including 63 children, were killed in homes or motor vehicles by Israeli air strikes or artillery shelling.

Releasing the report on August 3, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said: “In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by [us], the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around ... Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel's indiscriminate warfare”, which by August 14 had cost the lives of at least 1130 Lebanese, including 1000 civilians. By that date, 156 Israelis, 116 of them soldiers, had been killed in the war.

On August 11, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution that “strongly condemns the grave Israeli violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law in Lebanon; also condemns massive bombardments of Lebanese civilian populations, especially the massacres in Qana, Marwaheen, Al Duweir, Al Bayadah, Al Qaa, Chiyah, Ghazieh and other towns of Lebanon and the displacement of one million civilians; further condemns the Israeli bombardment of vital civilian infrastructure resulting in extensive destruction and heavy damage to public and private properties”.

Israel, with Washington’s full support, began its bombing campaign against Lebanon a few hours after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 raid along the “Blue Line” — the UNIFIL-monitored line that Israeli troops withdrew to six years ago.

UNIFIL — the 1990-strong United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon — was set up in 1978 to supervise the UN-ordered “immediate withdrawal” of the Israeli army from Lebanon after its March 1978 invasion.

After July 12, Israel launched several large-scale troop “incursions” up to six kilometres across the Blue Line, leading to fierce fighting with well-entrenched Hezbollah guerrillas in the area. On August 1, 10,000 Israeli troops crossed the Blue Line. This Israeli invasion force was tripled in size over the August 12-13 weekend, occupying an area 10km north of the Blue Line.

The July 21 San Francisco Chronicle reported that Israel’s war plan had been drawn up at least two years earlier. On August 14, US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker magazine that well before the July 12 Hezbollah raid, several Israeli officials visited Washington “to get a green light” for a bombing campaign against Lebanon.

The aim of this campaign was to terrorise the Lebanese nation into turning against Hezbollah, an aim that has completely backfired. The August 13 Chicago Tribune observed that as “recently as a month ago in democratic Lebanon (touted by the Bush administration as a great achievement of its Middle East policy), there were sharp differences over Hezbollah, its armed presence in south Lebanon and its links with Syria and Iran. The Lebanese government and much of the country's political establishment were closely aligned with the United States and France in opposing Hezbollah. Few observers, however, paid attention to the fact that all the elected representatives of the largest community in Lebanon, the Shiites, were not part of this happy consensus.

“Now, a month after Israel unleashed its air force against Lebanon ... there is near-unanimity among Lebanese in supporting Hezbollah’s resistance to the grinding advance of Israeli troops in the south, the third such invasion in 28 years. Hezbollah is once again seen by almost all Lebanese as a resistance movement, as it was after it succeeded in 2000 in forcing Israel to evacuate occupied territory (a feat that the Lebanese and Syrian governments, and the Palestinians, all failed to achieve) ...

“Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel, initially condemned by some Lebanese, are now seen as a justified response to Israel’s offensive against Lebanon.”

On August 12, the Lebanese cabinet, including its two Hezbollah ministers, unanimously accepted UN Security Council Resolution 1701. It was also accepted by the Israeli cabinet the next day.

The resolution, approved by the Security Council on August 11, includes many concessions to the seven-point peace plan presented by the Lebanese government on July 26, such as negotiations for a mutual exchange of prisoners — as Hezbollah had sought to achieve with its July 12 border raid — and for the return to Lebanon of the Shebaa Farms area, occupied by Israel since 1967. However, it also includes a loophole for Israel to continue its war in Lebanon.

The resolution calls for a “full cessation of hostilities, based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations”. Reuters reported on August 13 that “Israel believes it will be entitled to use force to prevent Hezbollah from rearming and to clear guerrilla positions out of southern Lebanon after a UN truce takes effect, Israeli officials said”, claiming such military operations are “defensive” rather than “offensive”.

Reuters added: “UN officials said they feared Israel’s broad definition of 'defensive’ actions could lead to a resurgence in large-scale fighting, preventing the swift deployment of international troops meant to monitor a ceasefire. The Israeli operations could include air strikes against arms convoys travelling anywhere in Lebanese territory, a senior Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

Many of the Israeli air strikes carried out on civilian targets since July 12, including missile attacks on Red Cross ambulances and UNIFIL-escorted humanitarian relief convoys, have been justified by Israeli officials as operations to “prevent Hezbollah rearming” its fighters in south Lebanon.

The August 14 Tel Aviv Haaretz reported that “Ehud Olmert [Israel’s prime minister], defense minister Amir Peretz and the chiefs of the defense establishment met Sunday night to discuss the ceasefire, and Olmert ordered the army to begin abiding by it as of 2 A.M. Monday morning, other than in cases of self-defense.

“But Israeli air strikes went on well after that time, targeting areas in eastern Lebanon and near the southern city of Sidon, security sources said. Fierce clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah were also reported early on Monday. Army Radio said the air force had attacked 175 targets, among them 11 rocket launchers.”

Israeli “troops killed six Hezbollah fighters Monday in southern Lebanon, in four separate skirmishes” hours after the “ceasefire” officially went into effect, Haaretz reported. In retaliation, “Hezbollah fighters fired at least 10 rockets at Israeli positions in southern Lebanon early Tuesday”, Voice of America reported on August 15.

The Israeli military said it would maintain its sea and air blockade of Lebanon, a violation of Resolution 1701, which calls for the “reopening airports and harbours” in Lebanon (Lebanon imports most of its fuel and food).

In a speech to the Israeli parliament on August 14, Olmert vowed that Israel would continue to attempt to kill Hezbollah’s leaders. “We will continue to pursue them everywhere and anytime”, he declared.

That same day, Lebanese defence minister Elian Murr announced that Lebanese army troops would soon begin moving into the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line, as called for by the UN resolution. “The army won’t be deployed to south Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah, something which Israel wasn’t able to do itself”, he told Beirut’s LBC TV station. “Its role is to ensure the security of the resistance and citizens, to protect the victory of the resistance.”

From Green Left Weekly, August 23, 2006.
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