Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israeli Attacks on Lebanon Continues: Annan, EU Calls for Ceasefire

Annan demands Lebanon ceasefire

Hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon must stop immediately, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said.

He condemned Hezbollah for sparking the latest violence in the country, but also attacked Israel for what he called its "excessive use of force".

In the absence of a ceasefire, it was "imperative" to establish safe aid corridors in Lebanon, Mr Annan said.

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had agreed to let aid in.

The decision to open a humanitarian corridor between Lebanon and Cyprus was made following a meeting with senior ministers.

Israeli soldiers are fighting militants at two places inside Lebanon's border, Israeli officials say.

Israel is also continuing air strikes, while Hezbollah fighters have been firing more rockets into northern Israel.

The Israeli army said a number of its soldiers had been injured - three earlier on Thursday, and an unstated number in the evening.

The nine-day offensive has killed at least 306 people and displaced an estimated 500,000 in Lebanon.

The fighting - triggered by the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid - has left 29 Israelis dead, including 15 civilians killed by rockets fired by Hezbollah into Israel.

In other developments:

Evacuations are continuing, with many nations sending both military ships and chartered vessels to remove their citizens from danger;

Mr Annan is due to hold a private meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana;

Mr Annan's call for a ceasefire followed a similar demand by the EU, which pledged 10m euros (£6.8m) in aid.

Mr Annan said the humanitarian task was "massive" and needed urgent funding, and he hoped to issue a UN flash appeal as early as next week.

"We are not going to desert the people of Lebanon in their time of need, but we have to proceed with caution," Mr Annan told the Security Council at a briefing on the situation.

He acknowledged the UN mission that had just returned from the region had concluded there were serious obstacles to achieving a ceasefire.

He was fiercely critical of Israel and Hezbollah.

"Israel states that it has no quarrel with the government or people of Lebanon, and that it is taking extreme precautions to avoid harm to them," Mr Annan said.

"Yet a number of its actions have hurt and killed Lebanese civilians and military personnel and caused great damage to infrastructure.

"While Hezbollah's actions are deplorable, and as I've said, Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned."

He demanded Hezbollah release the captured soldiers immediately.

While Israel's actions were doing "little or nothing" to decrease popular support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or the region, they were doing a "great deal" to weaken the government of Lebanon, he said.

------------------------------------------------
FOREIGNERS IN LEBANON
Sri Lanka: 80,000
Canada: 40,000
Philippines: 30,000
Australia: 25,000
US: 25,000
UK: 22,000 (inc. 10,000 with dual nationality)
France: 20,000
India: 12,000
Figures correct at start of conflict
--------------------------------------------------

On the worsening situation for civilians in Lebanon, Mr Annan said most non-essential UN staff had been removed from the country, but that humanitarian experts were being brought in.

However the lack of access to many parts of southern Lebanon made it difficult to determine the number of people in need, he said.

'Cessation of terror'

The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said it was time for the Security Council to start considering a response, and the US did seek a long-term end to hostilities.

But he added: "Still no-one has explained how you conduct a ceasefire with a group of terrorists".

Israel's UN ambassador Dan Gillerman said he was disturbed that Mr Annan's report had not mentioned the word "terror".

"The first thing that must be addressed is cessation of terror before we even talk about cessation of hostilities," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/5199088.stm
Published: 2006/07/20 19:04:24 GMT


UN warning on Mid-East war crimes

War crimes could have been committed in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza, a senior UN official has said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said international law stressed the need to protect civilians.

There is an obligation on all parties to respect the "principle of proportionality", she said.

About 300 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have been killed in the violence. Thirty Israelis, including 15 civilians, have also been killed.

The UN reported on Wednesday that about 100 Palestinians, civilians and fighters, have been killed since the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza in late June.

Both crises were precipitated by the capture by Hamas and Hezbollah of Israeli soldiers in cross-border operations into Israel.

Along with a massive shelling campaign across Lebanon and Gaza by Israel, Hezbollah has been firing barrages of missiles into northern Israel, targeting urban areas, and Palestinian militants continue their rocket fire into Israel.

"Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians," Ms Arbour said.

"Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable."

'Personal exposure'

Ms Arbour expressed "grave concern over the continued killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory".

Without pointing to specific individuals, she suggested that leaders could bear personal responsibility.

"I do believe that on the basis of evidence that is available in the public domain there are very serious concerns that the level of civilian casualties, the indiscriminate shelling of cities and so on, on their face raise sufficient questions that I think one must issue a sobering signal to those who are behind these initiatives to examine very closely their personal exposure," she told the BBC.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/5197544.stm
Published: 2006/07/20 08:52:10 GMT


Ground fighting continues in Lebanon

The Associated Press
Published: July 20, 2006

BEIRUT-- Israeli troops met fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas Thursday as they crossed into Lebanon to seek tunnels and weapons for a second consecutive day as Israel refused to rule out a full-scale invasion.

Israeli warplanes also launched new airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, shortly after daybreak Thursday, according to witnesses and Hezbollah's al-Manar TV. But no casualties were immediately reported.

The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, meanwhile, said Hezbollah had created a "state within a state" and must be disarmed - his strongest statement yet against the Islamic militant group.

"The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire," Siniora told an Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

Siniora has hinted that Hezbollah will eventually need to lay down its arms, but this was his first public call for disarmament, a day after he issued an urgent appeal for a cease-fire to stop the attacks against his country.

Hezbollah said in a statement that its guerrillas foiled a new Israeli attempt to stage a ground attack and destroyed two Israeli tanks as they tried to enter the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras early Thursday.

The Israeli army said three Israeli soldiers were wounded in two separate clashes Thursday, but it wasn't immediately clear if either of those were at Maroun al-Ras. The army didn't have an immediate comment on the claim of the two destroyed tanks.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops crossing the border to look for guerrilla tunnels and weapons clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas near the Lebanese coastal border town of Naqoura. The Israeli army said two soldiers had been killed and nine wounded in that fighting, while Hezbollah said one guerrilla was killed.

Israel launched its offensive after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack on July 12.

Israel has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, reluctant to send in ground troops on terrain dominated by Hezbollah. But an Israeli army spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a full-scale invasion. Israel also broadcast warnings into south Lebanon on Wednesday telling civilians to leave the region, a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation.

"There is a possibility - all our options are open. At the moment, it's a very limited, specific incursion but all options remain open," Captain Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He said Israel had hit "1,000 targets in the last 8 days - 20 percent [of them were] missile launching sites, control and command centers, missiles and so forth."

Israel said its airstrikes had destroyed "about 50 percent" of Hezbollah's arsenal. "It will take us time to destroy what is left," Brigadier General Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli Army Radio.

The reported overnight attack on Beirut's southern Bir al-Abed neighborhood followed a relatively quiet night in the capital after Wednesday's Israeli airstrike on what the military believed was a bunker used by senior Hezbollah leaders.

The Israeli military said that aircraft dropped 23 tons of explosives on the target in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Soon after, Hezbollah issued a statement saying "no Hezbollah leaders or elements were killed in the strike," but a building under construction to be a mosque was hit.

The Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said in a television interview early Thursday that his country would not issue a statement about the attack until it was sure of all the facts. But he added, "I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. ... This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership."

Hezbollah has a headquarters compound in Bourj al-Barajneh that is off limits to the Lebanese police and army, so security officials could not confirm the strike. Hezbollah media made no immediate mention of any attack.

Israel has said that one of the objects of its offensive in Lebanon is to eliminate Hezbollah leaders.

A total of 29 people had been reported killed on the Israeli side of the border, including 14 soldiers and 15 civilians.

Saniora also said Wednesday that about 300 people had died in Lebanon, 1,000 wounded and half a million were displaced. But precise casualty figures were difficult to confirm.

In the interview published Thursday in Corriere della Sera, Siniora accused Hezbollah of taking orders from its sponsors Syria and Iran and said the group could only be disarmed with international assistance.

"The important thing now is to restore full Lebanese sovereignty in the south, dismantling any armed militia parallel to the national army," he said. "The Syrians are inside our home and we are still too weak to defend ourselves. The terrible memories of the civil war are still too alive and no one is ready to take up arms."

He was also quoted as saying Israel should release Lebanese prisoners and withdraw from the disputed territory of Chebaa Farms to decrease support for Hezbollah.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized the growing death toll, saying the indiscriminate shelling of cities and of nearby military sites was invariably resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians.

"International law demands accountability," Arbour said in Geneva. "The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control."

Hezbollah fired rockets into the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, killing two Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, as they played outdoors.

Siniora, whose weak government has been unable to fulfill a U.N. directive to disarm Hezbollah and put its army along the border with Israel, pointedly criticized the U.S. position that Israel acts in self-defense.

"Is this what the international community calls self-defense?" a stern-looking Siniora asked a meeting of foreign diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. "Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?"

The Lebanese leader's appeal came as international pressure mounted on Israel and the United States to agree to a cease-fire. The rising death toll and scope of the destruction deepened a rift between the U.S. and Europe, and humanitarian agencies were sounding the alarm over a pending catastrophe with a half million people displaced in Lebanon.

An estimated 13,000 foreign nationals have been evacuated from the war-torn country, one of the largest evacuation operations since World War II.

BEIRUT Israeli troops met fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas Thursday as they crossed into Lebanon to seek tunnels and weapons for a second consecutive day as Israel refused to rule out a full-scale invasion.

Israeli warplanes also launched new airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, shortly after daybreak Thursday, according to witnesses and Hezbollah's al-Manar TV. But no casualties were immediately reported.

The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, meanwhile, said Hezbollah had created a "state within a state" and must be disarmed - his strongest statement yet against the Islamic militant group.

"The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire," Siniora told an Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

Siniora has hinted that Hezbollah will eventually need to lay down its arms, but this was his first public call for disarmament, a day after he issued an urgent appeal for a cease-fire to stop the attacks against his country.

Hezbollah said in a statement that its guerrillas foiled a new Israeli attempt to stage a ground attack and destroyed two Israeli tanks as they tried to enter the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras early Thursday.

The Israeli army said three Israeli soldiers were wounded in two separate clashes Thursday, but it wasn't immediately clear if either of those were at Maroun al-Ras. The army didn't have an immediate comment on the claim of the two destroyed tanks.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops crossing the border to look for guerrilla tunnels and weapons clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas near the Lebanese coastal border town of Naqoura. The Israeli army said two soldiers had been killed and nine wounded in that fighting, while Hezbollah said one guerrilla was killed.

Israel launched its offensive after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack on July 12.

Israel has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, reluctant to send in ground troops on terrain dominated by Hezbollah. But an Israeli army spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a full-scale invasion. Israel also broadcast warnings into south Lebanon on Wednesday telling civilians to leave the region, a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation.

"There is a possibility - all our options are open. At the moment, it's a very limited, specific incursion but all options remain open," Captain Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He said Israel had hit "1,000 targets in the last 8 days - 20 percent [of them were] missile launching sites, control and command centers, missiles and so forth."

Israel said its airstrikes had destroyed "about 50 percent" of Hezbollah's arsenal. "It will take us time to destroy what is left," Brigadier General Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli Army Radio.

The reported overnight attack on Beirut's southern Bir al-Abed neighborhood followed a relatively quiet night in the capital after Wednesday's Israeli airstrike on what the military believed was a bunker used by senior Hezbollah leaders.

The Israeli military said that aircraft dropped 23 tons of explosives on the target in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Soon after, Hezbollah issued a statement saying "no Hezbollah leaders or elements were killed in the strike," but a building under construction to be a mosque was hit.

The Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said in a television interview early Thursday that his country would not issue a statement about the attack until it was sure of all the facts. But he added, "I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. ... This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership."

Hezbollah has a headquarters compound in Bourj al-Barajneh that is off limits to the Lebanese police and army, so security officials could not confirm the strike. Hezbollah media made no immediate mention of any attack.

Israel has said that one of the objects of its offensive in Lebanon is to eliminate Hezbollah leaders.

A total of 29 people had been reported killed on the Israeli side of the border, including 14 soldiers and 15 civilians.

Saniora also said Wednesday that about 300 people had died in Lebanon, 1,000 wounded and half a million were displaced. But precise casualty figures were difficult to confirm.

In the interview published Thursday in Corriere della Sera, Siniora accused Hezbollah of taking orders from its sponsors Syria and Iran and said the group could only be disarmed with international assistance.

"The important thing now is to restore full Lebanese sovereignty in the south, dismantling any armed militia parallel to the national army," he said. "The Syrians are inside our home and we are still too weak to defend ourselves. The terrible memories of the civil war are still too alive and no one is ready to take up arms."

He was also quoted as saying Israel should release Lebanese prisoners and withdraw from the disputed territory of Chebaa Farms to decrease support for Hezbollah.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized the growing death toll, saying the indiscriminate shelling of cities and of nearby military sites was invariably resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians.

"International law demands accountability," Arbour said in Geneva. "The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control."

Hezbollah fired rockets into the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, killing two Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, as they played outdoors.

Siniora, whose weak government has been unable to fulfill a U.N. directive to disarm Hezbollah and put its army along the border with Israel, pointedly criticized the U.S. position that Israel acts in self-defense.

"Is this what the international community calls self-defense?" a stern-looking Siniora asked a meeting of foreign diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. "Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?"

The Lebanese leader's appeal came as international pressure mounted on Israel and the United States to agree to a cease-fire. The rising death toll and scope of the destruction deepened a rift between the U.S. and Europe, and humanitarian agencies were sounding the alarm over a pending catastrophe with a half million people displaced in Lebanon.

An estimated 13,000 foreign nationals have been evacuated from the war-torn country, one of the largest evacuation operations since World War II.


Lebanese question world's silence

by Christian Henderson in Beirut
Wednesday 19 July 2006 10:34 AM GMT

The Lebanese army is unable to rein in Hezbollah

Many Lebanese say the failure of the international community to resolve the crisis in their country is worsening the situation.

They fear the escalation has become a zero-sum game that will get worse unless pressure is put on both sides, but so far there is no sign that intervention will come.

Amal Saad-Ghoreyeb, author of Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion told Aljazeera.net that "The international community is doing very little to end the conflict. If you look at the G8 and the UN Security Council none of the members have the inclination to call for a ceasefire.

"I don't think any of these parties have much clout to put pressure on Israel to end the onslaught apart from the US, and there is an absence of resolve on the behalf of the US to pursue any ceasefire," she said.

Many in Lebanon were puzzled by Monday's proposal by the UN secretary-general and the British prime minister to send an international force to the country as there has been a UN force on the border with Israel since 1978.

Timur Goksel, who was UN spokesman in southern Lebanon for 20 years and is now at the American University in Beirut, said:
"To propose an international force is an inane thing to do there is already an international force here ... I would like to know which country is going to come here?"

Gloves off

But in a conflict that is still less than a week old, the speed with which both sides have taken their gloves off has surprised many.

So far, Hezbollah has proved it has a relatively sophisticated military capability, and for the first time since Iraq's Scud attacks in 1991, Israel's biggest cities have been under threat of bombardment.

Israel has shown it will ruthlessly attack Lebanon unless its demands that two captured Israeli soldiers are returned and Hezbollah is reigned in.

"The Israelis are not going to stop. No one is going to tell them to stop. They are already paying a price on the home front. The people are already in combat mode," said Goksel.

The Israeli attack is the most severe since its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which killed about 20,000 people.

This time, nearly 300 Lebanese have been killed and areas in the south of the country and the southern suburbs of Beirut have been under intense attack.

Nearly 30 Israelis have been killed.

Collective punishment

Many in Lebanon consider Israel's attack to be unjustly punishing a country that has little control over Hezbollah, a political party with a military wing that is stronger than the Lebanese army.

Boutrous Harb, a Lebanese member of parliament, told Aljazeera.net that "Lebanon cannot afford the escalation of this destruction. The Lebanese government is not in the position to control the behaviour of Hezbollah."

There is anger at Hezbollah among many Lebanese who believe that its operation to capture soldiers on Wednesday invited Israel's military response, and some believe that Hezbollah is not acting in the interests of Lebanon.

Said Goksel: "If this carries on like this Hezbollah will turn up as the villain in this. This is not going to be healthy for this country. Forget national dialogue. Hezbollah has made it clear that it is not interested in internal politics."

But besides being a militia, Hezbollah is a political party popular with Lebanon's Shia community, and while much of Hezbollah's infrastructure can be destroyed, support for Hezbollah is likely to remain among the Lebanese Shia - the country's largest group.

Lebanon is now waiting for a land invasion, and although there are reports of Israel sending its special forces into the country, it may be unwilling to consider a prolonged occupation.

Saad-Ghoreyeb said: "That's Hezbollah's forte, fighting the Israelis on land. I think that would be a serious miscalculation on the behalf of the Israelis."

Aljazeera
By Christian Henderson in Beirut
You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E6036853-8B2E-416D-8F2D-D1C4EC8E941E.htm

4 comments:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Reflections on Israeli Apartheid

Imagine, if you will, a modern apartheid state with first, second and eleventh class citizens, all required to carry identification specifying their ethnic origin. First class citizens are obliged to serve in the armed forces, kept on ready reserve status until in their forties, and accorded an impressive array of housing, medical, social security, educational and related benefits denied all others.

Second class citizens are exempted from military service and from a number of the benefits accorded citizens of the first class. They are issued identity documents and license plates that allow them to be profiled by police at a distance. Second class citizens may not own land in much of the country and marriages between them and first class citizens are not recognized by the state. Second class citizens are sometimes arrested without trial and police torture, while frowned upon and occasionally apologized for, commonly occurs.

Citizens of the eleventh class, really not citizens at all, have no rights citizens of the first class or their government are bound to respect. Their residence is forbidden in nearly nine-tenths of the country, all of which they used to own. The areas left to them are cut up into smaller and smaller portions weekly, by high walls, free fire zones and hundreds of checkpoints manned by the army of the first class citizens, so that none can travel a dozen miles in any direction to work, school, shopping, a job, a farm, a business or a hospital without several long waits, humiliating searches and often arbitrary denials of the right to pass or to return. Posh residential settlements for the first class citizens with protecting gun towers and military bases are built with government funds and foreign aid on what used to be the villages and farms and pastures of the eleventh class citizens. The settlers are allotted generous additional housing and other subsidies, allowed to carry weapons and use deadly force with impunity against the former inhabitants, and are connected with the rest of first class territory by a network of of first-class citizen only roads.

Citizens of the eleventh class are routinely arrested, tortured, and held indefinitely without trial. Political activism among them is equated to “terrorism” and the state discourages such activity by means including but not limited to the kidnapping of suspects and relatives of suspects, demolition of their family homes, and extralegal assassination, sometimes at the hands of a death squad, or at others times by lobbing missiles or five hundred pound bombs into sleeping apartment blocks or noonday traffic. Passports are not issued to these citizens, and those who take advantage of scarce opportunities to study or work abroad are denied re-entry.

The apartheid state in question is, of course, Israel. Its first class citizens are Israeli Jews, the majority of them of European or sometimes American origin. The second class citizens are Israeli Arabs, who enjoy significant but limited rights under the law including token representation in the Knesset. The eleventh class citizens are not citizens at all. They are Palestinians. One expects to be able to say that Palestinians live in Palestine and are governed by Palestinians, but the truth is something different. The areas in which Palestinians may inhabit have shrunk nearly every year since the Nakba, their name for the wave of mass deportations, murders, the dispossession, destruction and exile of whole Arab towns, cities and regions that attended the 1948 founding of the state of Israel. As the whole world, except for the US public knows, Palestinians have lived under military occupation, without land, without rights, without hope, for nearly sixty years now.

The difference between life inside and outside the US corporate media bubble is extraordinarily clear on this question. US authorities subsidize the state of Israel to the tune of at least six billion per year, and corporate media take great pains to protect US citizens from news of actual human and legal conditions their tax dollars pay for. The ugly and racist realities of Israeli society and life under Israeli occupation are rarely discussed anywhere most consumers of media might find them. It is nearly taboo in mainstream US print and broadcast media to apply the words racist or apartheid to the state of Israel or its policies, or to call its control at the point of a gun of millions of non-citizens what it is, namely the longest standing military occupation in the world today. In the US media, and on the lips of every administration since Harry Truman's Israel is “a democracy”, whatever that word has come to mean.

Though news stories in the US talk about autonomous “Palestinian areas” allegedly controlled by Palestinian authorities, often referring to Gaza and the West Bank by name, actual maps displaying the geographic boundaries of the so-called Palestinian controlled areas are rarely seen by American viewers, let alone maps comparing the size of Palestinian areas year to year, or showing the steady encroachment upon Arab land and water resources year to year by Israeli settlements, military outposts, Israeli-only roads, free fire zones and Israel's wall. The massive and militarized apartheid wall, as the rest of the world calls it, is termed a “separation barrier” or a “separation fence” in the US media, an understandable precaution against hordes of terroristic former owners of the land who lurk just outside.

Still, when you Google the terms Israel + apartheid, you get 5.5 million hits. A lot of somebodies somewhere are making the connection without the help of CNN, ABC or Fox News.

The parallels with apartheid South Africa are many and striking. Like its earlier apartheid cousin, Israel menaces all its neighbors with an impressive array of nukes and the largest military establishment in the region. As Noam Chomsky observed back in 2004:

”Not discussed, in the US at least, is the threat from West Asia. Israel's nuclear capacities, supplemented with other WMD, are regarded as "dangerous in the extreme" by the former head of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Gen. Lee Butler, not only because of the threat they pose but also because they stimulate proliferation in response. The Bush administration is now enhancing that threat. Israeli military analysts allege that its air and armored forces are larger and technologically more advanced than those of any NATO power (apart from the US), not because this small country is powerful in itself, but because it serves virtually as an offshore US military base and high tech center. The US is now sending Israel over 100 of its most advanced jet bombers, F16I's, advertised very clearly as capable of flying to Iran and back, and as an updated version of the F16s that Israel used to bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981....”
The old South Africa bombed, strafed and invaded all its neighbors with some regularity, crippling their commerce and extracting horrific death tolls from refugee camps and other civilian targets. The last time Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon, it left 30,000 corpses.

White South Africans rightly fretted at the fact that they were a minority ruling over an unhappy majority, and concocted schemes to exile the country's black population to isolated rural reservations it called bantustans. Israeli pundits calmly discuss the demographic bomb, their name for the fact that second and eleventh class citizens, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians will soon outnumber them within the borders of their supposed “Jewish state” while Israeli politicians sit in Knesset and hold ministries in successive governments openly calling for mass deportations and ethnic cleansing.

White South Africans constructed for themselves a bogus scriptural narrative in which the God of Abraham promised them somebody else's land, and brought it into modern history with the embellishment that they were holding the line for the free world against godless communism and the black menace. How similar is Israel's line that European Jews are promised the land of Muslim and Christian Arabs, and that they now hold the line for the free world against radical Islam and those ungrateful brown people?

We at BC have to believe that if the American people knew the truth about what their tax dollars pay for in Israel and what is left of Palestine, there would be a deep and widespread revulsion, similar to that occasioned by US support for apartheid in South Africa. But there are important differences between that time and this one. Though unspeakably odious, racist South African was only marginally important to US interests. By contrast, the maintenance of Israel's apartheid regime, essentially a white hi-tech and military outpost in the middle of all those brown people sitting atop a large share of the world's proven oil reserves is absolutely central to US foreign policy for the foreseeable future. The US is Israel's banker, its arms depot, and its principal diplomatic sponsor. The US is far more complicit in the crimes of the Israeli state than it ever was in South Africa.

Racism and apartheid being what they are, and our historical experience in America being what it is, African Americans have a crucial role to play. African Americans have seldom supported US imperial adventures overseas as readily as whites. Our American experience inclines us to a skeptical appraisal of our government's means and motives at home and abroad. Even though we live as much within the media bubble as white America, where images of the broken and mangled families, the incinerated homes and bombed hospitals are hard to come by, our skepticism leads us to sympathize with those who live at the sharp end of US foreign policy far more often than do our white neighbors.

Our first duty is to tell the truth to each other. We must combat among ourselves the bogus historical narratives which permit indifference to US policy in the Middle East in general, and support of Israeli apartheid in particular. The churchgoers among us urgently, publicly and repeatedly must confront and debunk the nonsense which holds that “wars and rumors of wars” are something predestined to happen in the biblical holy land for what they are – bad scripture and fake history. We need to interrupt, correct and school everyone who talks to us about a “cycle of violence” in the Holy Land, as though some raggedy fool with a suicide belt, or a few hundred fighters with small arms are or ever have been equivalent to the devastation wrought by the established gulags, checkpoints, airborne firepower, economic strangulation, house demolitions and nuclear armed might of the Israeli state. The two sides do not have access to anything like equal means of inflicting violence, and so cannot be equally culpable or equally responsible for stopping that violence.

We need to catch up with the rest of the civilized world, and talk about what we can do to emphatically withdraw our support from the apartheid state of Israel and its immoral and illegal occupation regime. The Presbyterian church, for example, has in the past considered selective divestiture from Israel and from US companies who profit from the occupation, as have the Anglicans. Both might do so again. What can our churches, our unions, our local elected officials, our young people do? What will we do?

Apartheid in South Africa eventually bit the dust mostly because the inhabitants of that country, black, brown and white resisted it, putting their bodies and lives on the line. Their resistance was aided and abetted materially, financially, politically and spiritually by people of good will the world over. Someday the sun will rise on a post-apartheid Jerusalem, one that belongs to all the people who live there of whatever origin. This is bound to happen because Palestinians as well as substantial numbers of Israeli Jews do and will continue to resist the regime. They will do what they can. What will we do?

Bruce Dixon can be contacted at bruce.dixon@blackcommentator.com.

Pan-African News Wire said...

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2921

Action Alert

'Because This Is the Middle East'
CBS' Schieffer ignores context in Mideast crisis

7/19/06

On July 16, CBS Face the Nation host (and CBS Evening News anchor) Bob Schieffer dedicated the entire Sunday morning news show to the Middle East conflict. In his closing editorial, he adapted a well-known fable in an attempt to explain the causes of the current conflict—or rather, the lack of causes:

"Finally today, when the war broke out in the Middle East, the first thing I thought about was the old story of the frog and the scorpion who were trying to cross a river there. The scorpion couldn't swim, the frog was lost. So the scorpion proposed a deal, ‘Give me a ride on your back, and I'll show you the way.’ The frog agreed, and the trip went fine until they got to the middle of the river, and then suddenly the scorpion just stung the frog. As they were sinking, the frog asked, in his dying breath, ‘Why would you do that?’ To which the scorpion replied,
‘Because this is the Middle East.’"

Lest there be any doubt about who is the frog and who is the scorpion in that parable, Schieffer went on to spell it out:
"It is worth noting that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip did not kidnap that Israeli soldier and provoke all of this because the Israelis were invading Gaza. No, all this happened in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, which was what the Palestinians supposedly wanted. But this is the Middle East. Why would fundamentalists in Gaza and Lebanon choose to provoke this war at this time? There is no real answer except this is the Middle East."

Schieffer was echoing the media’s conventional wisdom in portraying the Palestinian raid that captured the Israeli soldier as an inexplicable provocation. The New York Times, in a June 29 editorial headlined “Hamas Provokes a Fight,” declared that "the responsibility for this latest escalation rests squarely with Hamas," adding that "an Israeli military response was inevitable."

The media assumption is that in withdrawing from Gaza in September 2005, Israel ended its conflict with at least that portion of Palestine and gave up, as Schieffer put it, "what the Palestinians supposedly wanted."

In reality, however, since the pullout and before the recent escalation of violence, at least 144 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli forces, often by helicopter gunships, according to a list compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Only 31 percent of the people killed were engaged in hostile actions at the time of their deaths, and 25 percent of all those killed were minors.

From the time of the pullout until the recent upsurge in violence, according to B’tselem’s lists, no Israelis were killed by violence emanating from Gaza. Although during this period Palestinian militants launched some 1,000 crude Kasam missiles from Gaza into Israel, no fatalities resulted; at the same time, Israel fired 7,000 to 9,000 heavy artillery shells into Gaza.

On June 9, just two weeks before the Hamas raid that killed two Israeli soldiers and captured a third, an apparent Israeli missile strike killed seven members of a Palestinian family picnicking on a Gaza beach, which prompted Hamas to end its 16-month-old informal ceasefire with Israel. (Though Israel has denied responsibility for the killings, a Human Rights Watch investigation strongly challenged the denial, calling the likelihood of Israel not being responsible "remote"; Human Rights Watch, 6/15/06.)

Hamas has repeatedly pointed to the Gaza beach incident as one of the central events that prompted its cross-border raid—indeed, Schieffer's own CBS Evening News has reported that claim (CBS Evening News, 6/25/06). Even so, Schieffer seems unable to recall this recent event (see Action Alert, 6/30/06 ).

Hamas also points to the capture of some of its leaders by Israel as the provocation for its raid. If Israelis had every right, as Schieffer said, to respond with force to the capture of one soldier by Hamas, then how are Palestinians expected to feel about the more than 9,000 prisoners captured and held by Israel—including 342 juveniles and over 700 held without trial (Mandela Center for Human Rights, 4/30/06)?

Moreover, Israel's withdrawal did not remotely give Palestinians
"what they wanted." In addition to its continued deadly attacks on Gaza, Israel has continued to control Gaza’s borders and has withheld tens of millions of dollars of tax revenue in response to Hamas’ victory in democratic elections in January 2006.
Israel’s actions crippled the Gaza economy and prompting warnings from the U.N. of a looming humanitarian disaster (UNRWA, 7/8/06).

None of this is to say that Hamas, which has regularly ignored the distinction between military and civilian targets, does not share part of the blame for the current crisis. But to act as though Israel had been behaving as a peace-loving neighbor to Gaza until the soldier’s capture is a willful rewriting of very recent history. The most Schieffer can bring himself to say about Israel is this:

"Israel had every right to respond, and it did. But again, this is the Middle East, so perhaps a response may have made it all worse by giving moderate Arabs in the region an excuse to distance themselves from Israel."

Israel’s “response” has resulted in the deaths to date of at least 103 Palestinians, while no Israelis have died other than one soldier killed by friendly fire (New York Times, 7/19/06). Meanwhile, Israel has also destroyed Gaza's main power plant and its water system, leaving tens of thousands of Gaza families without access to food, water and medical care (Oxfam, 7/19/06). In Lebanon, Israel has killed over 300 people, the vast majority of them civilians, wounded over 1000 and displaced half a million (MSNBC, 7/19/06). To call such devastation an "excuse" for Arabs to “distance themselves from Israel” is a trivialization of real human suffering.

Why is Bob Schieffer allowed to get away with such shallow, dismissive coverage of complicated and tragic events? Because it’s the Middle East.

ACTION: Please ask Bob Schieffer to accurately report the history and current reality of the conflict in the Middle East.

CONTACT:
Bob Schieffer
CBS Face the Nation
202-457-4481
ftn@cbsnews.com

You can also contact CBS's
"Public Eye" ombudsman:
publiceye@cbs.com

Mark Weisbrot on Mexican election, James Zogby on Gaza crisis (7/14/06-7/20/06)

Feel free to respond to FAIR (fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Israel calls up army reservists

Friday 21 July 2006 12:07 PM GMT

Lebanon's soldiers may soon be up against Israel's army

Israel has called up army reservists in preparation for a ground invasion of Lebanon and Beirut has promised that the Lebanese army will resist any Israeli offensive.

The Israeli army told 3,000 reserves to report for duty, an Israeli military source said on Friday, a day after Amir Peretz, the defence minister, refused to rule out a land offensive.

"There is no intention of occupying Lebanon, but if certain things must be done, we will do them without hesitating," Peretz said.

Senior army commanders have also refused to dismiss speculation that a large-scale ground invasion would soon be launched.

"It's possible that in the coming days our ground operations will increase," Brigadier-General Alon Friedman, in charge of army operations in the north, said.

Israel also dropped leaflets over Lebanese border villages warning civilian inhabitants to leave their homes before an Israeli offensive. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled.

Lebanon will fight

But Elias al-Murr, the Lebanese defence minister, said on Friday that the Lebanese army would fight any Israeli invasion.

"Our constitutional duty is to defend Lebanon as a Lebanese army. This is our role.

"Any Lebanese citizens, Christians or Muslims, who want to defend their land are welcomed.

"Defending one's land can be done in several ways, either helping the army with food or water, giving psychological or political support because this is a war opened on all fronts."

But al-Murr said the Lebanese army would not be working directly with Hezbollah.

"But for the resistance (Hezbollah) to enter the army and fight alongside the army, this is not an option, because the army can't fight like the resistance, nor can the resistance fight like the army."

Lebanon's army is drawn from all the country's religious communities and has remained largely neutral in the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

However, at least a dozen of its soldiers have been killed after Israeli aircraft targeted its bases.

Fresh attacks

The increasing signs of a ground war comes as Israeli aircraft attacked targets throughout Lebanon for the tenth successive day, bringing the Lebanese toll for the conflict to more than 340.

Targets across Lebanon were hit on Friday morning, with at least 10 people being killed.

Jets bombed Hezbollah targets in Beirut, the Bekaa valley and southern Lebanon and also hit a previously-bombed bridge on the main Beirut-Damascus highway.

In the Baalbek, a city in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa valley, Israeli aircraft bombed Hezbollah buildings, killing at least three civilians, hospital staff said.

In the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, hospital authorities overwhelmed by the number of dead have begun temporarily burying the dead in mass graves.

Hezbollah rockets

Israel says that its air attacks aim to prevent Hezbollah launching more rockets at Israeli cities.

Hezbollah has fired more than 900 rockets at northern Israel, killing 15 civilians. Nineteen Israeli soldiers have also been killed in the conflict.

The resistance group launched at least 10 more rockets at Israeli towns and cities on Friday morning.

Three missiles landed in Haifa, Israel's largest city, wounding at least 19 civilians.

Agencies
You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/22060D49-9841-40F1-BD91-33E9CD62AD70.htm


Hezbollah stands fast

Thursday 20 July 2006 9:10 PM GMT

Nasrallah said there were more surprises to come for Israel

Hezbollah's leader has told Aljazeera that its leadership remains functioning, despite Israeli claims.

In an interview with the TV channel, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah would not be released even "if the whole universe comes against us".

He said that the soldiers would be freed only as part of a prisoner exchange agreed through indirect negotiations.

Israeli aircraft had dropped 23 tonnes of explosives on a site in southern Beirut on Wednesday night, claiming that it was an underground bunker where Hezbollah leaders, possibly including Nasrallah, were meeting.

Hezbollah immediately denied that the building was a bunker and said that none of its members was hurt.

It said the site was a mosque that was under construction.

Nasrallah said: "I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare that we have not been harmed."

Secret location

Aljazeera, which aired only excerpts of the interview, said it was taped earlier on Thursday.

The interviewer said the meeting took place amid tight security precautions but did not say where.

Nasrallah also denied claims by Israel to have destroyed half of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal, calling the claims "baseless".

He said: "Hezbollah has so far stood fast, absorbed the strike, retaken the initiative and made the surprises that it had promised, and there are more surprises."

He said that a Hezbollah defeat would be "a defeat for the entire Islamic nation".

Agencies
You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/2D4790EA-6BAF-4E69-BCE0-16FF068570F0.htm


Catastrophe looming

Friday 21 July 2006 2:26 PM GMT

Philippe Douste-Blazy has called for an immediate ceasefire

France has said the conflict in Lebanon could end in catastrophe while the UN has warned the humanitarian situation in the country is deteriorating.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the situation on the ground in Lebanon had "significantly deteriorated and there is an urgent need to help civilians".

"The spiral of violence can only lead to a catastrophe," he said on Friday.

Speaking after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Fawzi Sallukh, Douste-Blazy called for an immediate ceasefire and for humanitarian aid to be allowed in to ease the suffering of the civilian population.

"We are trying to reach a ceasefire, establish humanitarian corridors and call on all parties to exert self-restraint," he said, emphasising that France has "denounced the actions of Hezbollah and the disproportionate response of Israel".

Resolution

He backed the proposal by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, for a settlement that would include the release of the two captured Israeli soldiers, an international conference on Lebanon and the deployment of a stabilisation force on the Lebanon-Israel border.

Douste-Blazy also called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 which demands the disarmament of militias in Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese army along the borders with Israel, which have been under the control of Hezbollah.

But Lebanon's foreign minister, Fawzi Sallukh, accused Israel of having prevented the implementation of resolution 1559 by launching the offensive and by targetting Lebanese army bases.

On Monday Douste-Blazy accompanied his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to Beirut in a show of French support for Lebanon.

Humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the UN and Red Cross have said that the humanitarian situation in Lebanon is deteriorating rapidly as the country becomes more isolated because of damage to roads, bridges and other structures.

Because of the destruction and the danger of being hit, people have been afraid to go out, and relief has been difficult to provide, officials from the UN said.

Although supplies are stockpiled, ready to be sent in, moving them has been delayed because of destroyed infrastructure.

The World Health Organisation says it is very concerned about the lack of electricity in hospitals, safe passage of ambulances and access to people in the south of the country.

Christiane Berthiaume, a spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme, said the agency was appealing to all parties to the conflict to guarantee the save passage of relief supplies.

"A number of different routes, land, sea and air will be required to facilitate the rapid flow of humanitarian goods to the most affected areas."

She said UN convoys will be clearly marked and officials will give advance notice to the warring sides.

Agencies
You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/97ED02C9-B073-4F5F-AB28-B96EE6104B8E.htm


South Beirut suburb devastated

by Cilina Nasser in Haret Hreik, Beirut
Friday 21 July 2006 6:35 PM GMT

Many buildings in Haret Hreik are unrecognisable

After more than a week of heavy bombardment, south Beirut suburb Haret Hreik resembles a Hollywood-like scene of apocalypse.

As we drove through the rubble-strewn road in the predominantly residential area that also contains Hezbollah's main offices, the smell of smoke and acrid burning filled the air.

We had to wait for Ghassan, a Hezbollah media officer, to escort us.

The two minutes of waiting felt very long, an eerie, tense silence bearing testimony to the fact that Haret Hreik had become a ghost town.

To my relief, Ghassan showed up in a BMW with a driver and asked us to follow him.

Moments later, two young men riding a motorcycle emerged from out of nowhere and fired several warning shots in the air until the driver stopped.

They were security members of the Shia party and the group's media officer had to explain to them that he was showing journalists where the Israeli bombings had hit.

Hezbollah are on high alert for spies. On Wednesday, the party detained 26 people in the southern suburbs of Beirut to interrogate them on suspicion that they were marking buildings for Israel to shell.

Hard to recognise

It was hard to recognise Haret Hreik, with many buildings levelled. The few buildings which stood were blackened by the fires which raged within from bombs and missiles days earlier.

We had to navigate through the debris from destroyed buildings, which was strewn about the streets. Furnishings from apartments had been thrown by the blasts and hung from balconies and open windows.

Cars and other vehicles, their colours either faded or difficult to discern from their shrouding of dust, were tossed on their sides, some bent and misshapen under layers of concrete, brick and metal.

Even residents who fled the area and came to check on their homes when the bombing subsided said they could not easily identify streets where they had once shopped with their families.

Ihsan Mroweh, a civil engineer, fled the area a day before the Israeli bombardment of the southern suburbs of Beirut. When he returned to check on his home, which he renovated only three years ago, he could not find it.

Memories destroyed

He spotted the street he lived in only after seeing a shop there that was still intact. "I counted the flattened buildings one by one, and the third was mine. It was also reduced to rubble," he told Aljazeera.net.

"My wife and I have so many memories in this house. Losing my property is terrible, but what hurts even more is losing all the pictures of my children and their belongings since they were little," he said bitterly.

Mroweh was lucky that his wife and children were on a family visit to Kuwait when the Israeli offensive against Lebanon was launched last week. More than 300 people have been killed, an overwhelming majority of them civilians.

Despite the huge destruction that has gripped the area, Ghassan, the Hezbollah media officer, tried to be optimistic. "We will rebuild all of this," he said with a smile.

When asked where the Hezbollah press office was, which in normal circumstances, would be frequented by journalists, he pointed to a building still standing at the end of one road. It had been struck and several of its balconies had collapsed.

Al-Manar TV

Just a few days earlier, I visited that office to interview Hezbollah's senior press officer, Hussein Naboulsi, about the developments. "What are you doing here?" He asked me.

"We are evacuating our offices. You should leave now," he said.

The area then was still bustling with people strolling the streets casually despite the bombing earlier that July 13 of Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station.

Al-Manar escaped with only some equipment damaged. It was about 100 metres away from the press office.

Upon arrival, an official in charge of the channel's security had told me to leave the area. Asked if I could interview the news editor of the television station, he answered: "There's nobody there. We evacuated it and you should go too. It's a target."

A few days later, Al-Manar was levelled along with the many other buildings there. The only way anybody can identify the channel's premises now is by a banner greeting visitors at the entrance that identifies that the television station once stood here.

Aljazeera
By Cilina Nasser in Haret Hreik, Beirut
You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/206A75F7-6115-48DB-B828-FF3D35794F31.htm

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