Sunday, July 23, 2006

Israeli/US War on Lebanon Builds Support for Hezbollah

Leviathan run amok

By Pepe Escobar

Hezbollah may be writing the book - at least for now - of fourth-generation war. Hezbollah had a reputation as an extremely disciplined, mobile guerrilla force. Now Hezbollah has fully revealed itself as a more than competent asymmetrical actor.

Hezbollah controls a great deal of territory - Beirut's southern suburbs, vast areas in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, which is sandwiched between two mountain ranges along the Syrian border. Hezbollah enjoys staunch popular support running to probably one and a half million people, almost half the population of Lebanon. And Hezbollah has been capable of unleashing some relatively sophisticated military operations against Israel using both conventional and unorthodox weapons.

It's still impossible to assess the ramifications of Hezbollah's
prestige in the Arab street being tremendously enhanced after its military success for the past week - which include delivering missiles to the heart of Israel. But the Arab street has certainly registered the communique by the House of Saud against Hezbollah, as well as the thunderous silence-cum-embarrassment displayed by the US client regimes of Egypt and Jordan.

A certified effect of the Israeli bombing barrage will be to draw newer, thicker waves of moderate Muslims toward political - and radical - Islam. The perception in the Arab street - as well as for most of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims - has been reinforced: the US/Israel axis seems to hold a license to kill Arabs with impunity.

For its part, Israel's Leviathan-run-amok tactic of trying to turn the Lebanese as a whole against Hezbollah seems to be doomed to failure. This is especially because compounding Israel's trademark collective-punishment techniques - bombing bridges and an international airport, killing scores of civilians indiscriminately, turning Beirut into Gaza - shines President George W Bush's imperial indifference, not to mention the international community's. Just as in 1982 - when president Ronald Reagan said it was all right for Ariel Sharon to invade Lebanon - now Bush says it's all right for Israel to bomb Lebanese civilians.

Israel does not listen to anybody - be it the toothless United Nations or the even more cowardly European Union. Beirut is in panic. According to Hanady Salman, a journalist at As-Safir newspaper, the population widely expects that "as soon as the evacuation of foreigners will be completed, the Israelis will have a freer hand". Not by accident, all the areas bombed by Israel - and most of the civilians killed - are among the poorest in Lebanon.

Hezbollah is convinced it got its overall strategy right - factoring all the angles of the Leviathan-run-amok response; so there's no way the Lebanese people as a whole may blame Hezbollah for the escalation. Moreover, Hezbollah is a key force in fractured Lebanon. The majority of Lebanon's population is Shi'ite: at least 45% (in south Beirut, this correspondent was repeatedly told they may be from 55% to 60%). Christians are no more than 30%. The majority of Shi'ites - mostly poor, with very extended families, and a great deal of them basically peasants - support Hezbollah. Symbolically, fiercely independent Hezbollah represents the revenge of the oppressed - not only against the well off Sunni and Christians but against the Israeli invaders.

Hezbollah is a genuine resistance movement, such as Hamas in Palestine. Israel's military logic rules that it must crush any Arab resistance movement. Now Israel seems to have found two pretexts to try to crush simultaneously both Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel's modus operandi is to take entire populations hostage.

French social scientist Alain Joxe has demonstrated how these policies are "technical experiments" always observed with extreme interest by the Pentagon. The stateless Palestinians have been taken hostage in two giant, unconnected gulags in Gaza and the West Bank. Now the experiment - through relentless bombing - applies to a whole sovereign country. But Israel is also reaping - in the form of Hezbollah's renewed fourth-generation war efforts - what it sowed with its debasement of Palestinians.

The absence of a level playing field is glaring. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) may kidnap a doctor and his brother - two civilians - from their home in Gaza. But Leviathan runs amok when Hezbollah captures soldiers (according to Israel that's "illegitimate and illegal"). Meanwhile, Israel's Defense Ministry places "the head of the snake" in Damascus, even while the IDF uses the same questionable methods - toward civilians.

The taboo - never questioned by the bulk of Western mainstream media - runs that Israel is allowed to kill innocent civilians without expecting any retaliation. The Lebanese French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour summed it up: the "international community" supports Lebanon without condemning Israel, which is reducing a sovereign country to rubble.

Our way or the (bombed) highway

Israel's logic is unilateral. It has blamed the Lebanese government as a whole. Hezbollah has only a small role in the Lebanese government; it is actually in the opposition. Power in Beirut is in the hands of US and Sunni Arab allies. The Hariri clan, mired in dodgy deals, remains extremely powerful. Fouad Siniora, a banker, the new Lebanese prime minister - and a strong critic of Syria - defines Hezbollah as a "legitimate resistance" group. As such, it should not be disarmed.

Thus Israel's real objective must be to provoke civil war in Lebanon - just as it did everything to provoke civil war in Palestine. The strategy is always the same. Israel wants Fatah to crush Hamas in Palestine, and now it wants the government in Beirut to crush Hezbollah. Or else ...

It was Hezbollah's hardcore warriors - trained by Syria and Iran - who ultimately expelled Israel from Lebanon in 2000. It's difficult for Westerners - or non-Arab Asians - to understand how powerfully symbolic this is in the Arab world: it means that Hezbollah was the only Arab military force ever to defeat Israel. Not surprisingly, even Lebanese Sunnis approve what Hezbollah is doing - they interpret it as solidarity with Hamas and the Palestinian struggle (as Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, made it all too clear).

Moreover, Israel's Leviathan-run-amok response has only served to rally Sunnis behind a "Lebanon under siege" banner.

The relationship between Iran and Hezbollah is not unlike Moscow's with assorted communist parties during the Cold War. There are no directives issued from Tehran - as Washington neo-cons see it. Hamas may be Sunni and Hezbollah may be Shi'ite, but both parties - supported by Syria and Iran - converge as resistance movements based on a platform of national struggle against
foreign (Israeli) occupation.

There's nothing sectarian about it. On the contrary, Hezbollah shows total solidarity with Hamas. And way beyond Israel identified as the common enemy, both Hamas and Hezbollah clearly identify the not-so-invisible big enemy behind, the US, for which Israel is a kind of "militarized offshoot", in the words of Noam Chomsky. Virtually every Lebanese knows that the missiles currently exterminating their compatriots were made in Miami, Duluth and Seattle.

Whatever the outcome, blowback will be inevitable. Osama bin Laden, in one of his videos, told the world how he burned with anger when he saw the Israeli bombing of the "towers" of Lebanon during the 1982 invasion. The new Osamas in the making may be Sunni or Shi'ite, it doesn't matter: what matters is what they identify as the American/Israeli license to kill (mostly poor, defenseless) Arabs.

Iran for its part may have been a full Hezbollah supporter, but now it's as much a staunch supporter of Hamas. As Nasrallah has emphasized on many occasions, Hezbollah as a resistance movement is not engaged only in the liberation of the Sheba Farms, still occupied by Israel; Hezbollah sees itself as a powerful actor positioned right at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As Lebanese-born Gilbert Achcar, a political-science professor at the University of Paris-VIII, puts it, "The main source of destabilization in the region is this violent and arrogant behavior of Israel that is in full harmony with the equally arrogant and violent behavior the United States displayed in Iraq." No change is in sight, not when Bush's "Greater Middle East" has revealed itself for what it is - a fallacy.

When in doubt, invade

The Israeli public relations machine - in English, thus widely monopolizing the airwaves, unlike Hezbollah, which expresses itself in Arabic - brags that now it's time to finish off Hezbollah. That makes no sense - because Hezbollah is a mass movement with roughly 1.5 million adherents. To finish off Hezbollah means in practice to finish off all poor Lebanese Shi'ites.

Iran and Iraq would never let it go unpunished. Israel also conveniently forgets that Hezbollah itself should not even exist - after all, it was founded to fight the Israeli invasion (in 1982) and occupation (until 2000) of southern Lebanon.

Israel's three basic demands, passed to Beirut by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, are the return of two captured Israeli soldiers now under Hezbollah; a Hezbollah withdrawal to the Litani River, which is roughly 45 kilometers north of the current Lebanese-Israeli border; and no more rocket attacks against Israel.

Most of this could have happened before Israel illegally -international law is clear about it - started bombing a sovereign country. They could have traded prisoners. And there would be no Hezbollah rocket attacks because there would have been no Israeli indiscriminate bombings. One thing is certain: there is absolutely no chance the Lebanese will accept retreating to the Litani River. That would mean the establishment of a new Israeli de facto border. The only way Israel can annex these waters is by invading southern Lebanon - again.

That's what the Stratfor Intelligence Report said would happen. "The Israeli Defense Forces is preparing for a major, sustained assault into southern Lebanon to eliminate the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah," said the report. "The assault will extend at least to the Litani River - the first natural barrier, roughly 20 miles into Lebanon - and possibly all the way to areas south of Beirut ... Israel stands on the verge of attempting to completely annihilate Hezbollah in southern Lebanon."

Sounds like wishful thinking. And Hezbollah will do anything to prevent it from happening any time in the future. The key question remains. The Lebanese government knows that if it accedes to Israel's demands, there will be another civil war in the country. At least for the moment, Lebanon seems to be hanging on, engaged in passive resistance against collective punishment.

As Israel wages war on the Palestinian people and now the Lebanese people, Hezbollah may be betting that Lebanon as whole will be able to absorb the extreme limits of collective punishment - and in the end the resistance movement will still come out alive. Now that would be a lesson for the ages.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)


1) Turn the aggression into a setback for the US-Zionist hegemony
2) Nasrallah addresses Lebanese, resistance, Zionists and Arab leaders
3) PFLP salutes and admires fighting people of Lebanon


1) Stop the Israeli terror war!
Turn the aggression into a setback for the US-Zionist hegemony!

With the backing of the US Israel is systematically bombing the only
democracy of the Middle East deliberately targeting the civilian population and the infrastructure. Lebanon is democratic because its people could liberate itself from Zionist occupation and imperialist predominance thanks to the popular resistance embodied and led by Hizbullah.

In Lebanon Israel has suffered it most shaking defeat ever since eventually being forced to withdraw its occupation troops. The result of 25 years of war was to leave the country and especially the South to a victorious popular anti-imperialist movement based on the poor Shiite masses but drawing support also from other confessional groups and the middle classes. Israel never could accept this ignominy.

Riding on the wave of the ultra-aggressive US imperial war drive Israel is trying to take revenge with the declared aim to smash Hizbollah. But as we can see in Iraq it is more than questionable whether this all-out war of aggression will reach its aims. On the contrary it is pretty possible that in mid-range terms it will backfire providing another element eroding the American Empire.

The first phase of the war is clear: destroying the entire infrastructure
and terrorising the civilian population first of all the poor Shiite
constituencies of Hizbollah. Who has seen the pictures of the systematically flattened Southern suburbs of Beirut got an idea how Israel intends to displace the population to clear the ground for an invasion. These appalling war crimes against the civilian population are no "collateral damage" but they are deliberately committed in order to destroy the social habitat upon which Hizbollah has been built.

Less than any regular army Hizbollah cannot be smashed only by coward air warfare. The wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq have already toughed that lesson. If the Israeli army command claims to have destroyed half of Hizbollah's operational capacity it is an outright propaganda lie. They know well, and the corporate press is whispering it, that they need to attack on the ground.

Therefore the just beginning second phase will be the invasion pushing Israeli positions at least up to the Litani river. The Zionist incursion will meet determined resistance causing them heavy losses. It will take months not weeks. Even if Israel will be able to re-occupy this part of the South it will have in no way obtained its proclaimed war aims namely the destruction of Hizbollah.

So if they stop short at the Litani it is already a half defeat for Israel.
It is therefore possible that the Zionist war machine will push ahead to the North. Their only real possibility to inflict a defeat on Hizbollah is to advance up to Beirut smashing the popular guerrilla on the ground. Exactly for that purpose they want to displace as many people as possible.

Even the most stubborn guerrilla resistance cannot stop the Israeli army's invasion as long as they maintain Washington's backing. But in this asymmetric war between a high tech regular army being de facto part of the U.S. global military machine and a people's guerrilla the Zionist territorial advance is no criteria for defeat or victory. On the contrary the more the invader is stretched, the more territory it must secure the better the military conditions of the resistance are. Hizbollah can only wish to drag the Zionist army into the war theatre where they can use their prime strength - the support of the people and the familiarity with the environment - and where they already defeated Israel once. 2006 is not 1982. In difference to 25 years ago when the Lebanese people had to build their resistance from the scratch now Hizbollah can confront the occupier with a powerful irregular army. Today the conditions for a successful resistance are even better.

If Israel withdraws soon - as they promise - they will have to leave without having accomplished their aim which means a victory for Hizbollah. On the other hand, if they stay longer, their will add a new focus of politico-military resistance against the US Empire in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan. History shows that Israel is not able to politically sustain years of occupation once again. Thus all elements indicate that the US-Zionist offensive can turn out as a trap for themselves.

The longer the war will continue the more the world's and Europe's public opinion will turn against Israel. As we have seen with the war against Iraq this cannot stop the US-Zionist machine but it nevertheless increases the political costs for them. And it helps to build the anti-American front which is steadily growing not only among the oppressed people but also within the European people.

While today there is an overwhelming consensus for the aggression within Israel, continued losses and military troubles will change even the relationship of forces within this reactionary colonial people as it was the case during the first occupation of Lebanon.

A decisive question is the impact of war on the political scenery within Lebanon itself. The openly pro-Israeli forces have been definitely defeated in the protracted combined civil and national liberation war. This is best expressed by the curiosity that the leader of the pro-Zionist Maronite right, General Aoun, in the last elections ran on the list of Hizbollah. Also the pro-imperialist anti-Syrian coalition which sprang up after the assassination of prime minister Hariri in 2005 was short lived. It is one thing to get rid of the asphyxiating Syrian politico-military presence and another to build a lasting pro-Israeli coalition.

It is clear that both the Maronite as well as the Sunni bourgeoisie want a normalisation disarming Hisbollah and taming it into the political system. Despite the pressure by imperialism enshrined in UN resolution 1559 for disarming Hizbollah, no government could so far dare to instigate a new civil war which they would inevitably loose. Now there is the direct Zionist imperialist intervention to fulfil this aim.

While it is very unlikely that Israel can "root out" Hizbollah as it
declares, the Lebanese masses are certainly tired of war. In order to stop the Israeli mass terror the elites might be able to build a coalition pressing Hizbollah into a compromise which they might have troubles to refuse. Also their own constituencies, which suffer most from the Israeli aggression, could push for it. This could possibly mean that Hizbollah withdraws from the South where the weak Lebanese army might be deployed to.

The longer the Israeli military campaign continues without producing the proclaimed results the US might try to save the situation pushing for so-called multinational troops in the South to monitor a ceasefire. Given the overwhelming Zionist military power such a partial withdrawal would not amount in a defeat for Hizbollah as they maintain the bulk of their military organisation.

Popular liberation war against the US' "Greater Middle East"

The fresh Zionist aggression against Lebanon must be understood as an element of the US' Greater Middle East project. It's essence is to subdue the region - whether "rogue states", popular movements or military resistance groups - by brute military force. Actually this is the core element of the construction of the American Empire. The permanent pre-emptive war is based on an aggressive offensive military strategy which is turning out to be a hubris. We already can see in Iraq and Afghanistan that the US first of all lacks the political hegemony to create functioning puppet states according to their model of "export democracy". The more armed aggressions they start the more popular resistance they evoke.

Already by now they have understood that the main actors against their dominion will not be states but irregular armed forces which they happen to call "terrorist". Islam is providing the politico-cultural platform for the resistance which is being supported by the broad masses.

The only form to inflict a historic defeat on Zionism and imperialism is a liberation war based on the support of the popular masses. For the time being the gap between the Islamic forces collaborating with the pro-imperialist regimes like the network of the Muslim brotherhood on one side and the radical Islamic anti-imperialist forces on the other side is still too big. The problem of movements like Al Qaida is a purely military approach combined with a politico-cultural narrow sectarian agenda. While their military radicalism and steadfastness is drawing popular support their sectarian attitude leaves the masses with the collaborationists. In Iraq for example we need to unify Shia and Sunni against the occupation while Al Qaida is driving a wedge between them.

A popular liberation war all over the Arabo-Islamic region must be combined with a strong politico-cultural liberation front organising the poor classes beyond their confessional identity on a national base. In this way the nucleus of a new state apparatus based on the popular masses can be set up. To push ahead and ultimately lead this process is the role of revolutionary anti-imperialism.

Support Hizbollah and the Lebanese people's resistance against the Zionist aggression!
Support the Iraqi resistance to end US occupation!
Support Hamas and the Palestinian people's resistance against Zionism!
For one democratic anti-imperialist state in entire Palestine!
No war on Iran and Syria!
Popular liberation war to smash the American Empire!

Anti-imperialist Camp
July 22, 2006


2) The hopes of every oppressed, every lover of steadfastness

Statement from the General Secretary of Hizballah, His Excellency Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, to the Nation, the Lebanese people, the resistance fighters, the Zionists and the Arab leaders

In this first address that I give in these days following Operation True
Promise, I would like to say a few words - a word to the Lebanese people, a word to the resistance fighters, a word to the Zionists, and a word to the Arab rulers. I will not offer words to the international community because I have never for one day believed that there is any such thing as an international community, just as many in our nation feel.

First, I say to the Lebanese people: dear people - who embraced the
resistance, by whom the resistance was victorious, and for whom the
resistance won its victory on 25 May 2000 - this people who were the makers of the first victory in the history of the Arab struggle with the Israeli enemy, despite the basic inequality in forces, and in spite of the fact that the majority of our Arab brothers and the majority of our Muslim brothers abandoned us and despite the silence of the whole world, this Lebanese people made the miracle of the victory that stunned the world and humiliated the Zionists. Those Zionists look upon this people in a special, unique way because they accomplished in the history of the struggle with them a special and unique accomplishment. The battle today is no longer a battle over prisoners or the exchange of prisoners. It might be said that the Zionist enemy is responding any time there is any operation where men are captured anywhere in any part of the world, by any army or any state that has borders and regulations. What is taking place today is not a response to a capture of their soldiers; it is a squaring of accounts with the people, resistance, state, army, political forces, regions, villages, and families that inflicted that historic defeat on that aggressive usurper entity that has never accepted its defeat.

Full statement:


3) PFLP salutes and admires fighting people of Lebanon

Statement issued by the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine on the escalation of Zionist aggression against the territory of Lebanon and Palestine

The Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine calls on the Arab masses and their vital popular forces, it calls on the trade unions and federations to shoulder their responsibility and duty in defending Lebanon and Palestine and in going out in demonstrations and all forms of popular activity to pressure the Arab governments and to give all forms of support and assistance to the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples and their heroic resistance movements in defiance of the American-Zionist plan for the region.

Full statement:


Pan-African News Wire said...

Jonathan Cook: Israel's Long Roll Call of Dishonor

The true reasons for these deaths are concealed from credulous observers by Israel's use of Orwellian language.

By Jonathan Cook

The coastal road from Beirut to Khalde was bombed by an Israeli air strike 20 July 2006. Israeli air strikes have destroyed much of the Lebanese infrastructure and transport network.

The general surprise that Lebanese civilians are taking the brunt of Israel's onslaught -- and the unwillingness in some quarters of the media to report the fact -- reflects a poor understanding of Israel's historical use of violence. Since its birth six decades ago, Israel has always been officially "going after the terrorists", but its actions have invariably harmed civilians in an indiscriminate manner.

The roll call of dishonor is long indeed, but its highlights include: the massacre of some 200 civilians in Tantura, as well as large-scale massacres in at least a dozen other Palestinian villages, during the 1948 war that established Israel; Ariel Sharon's attack on the village of Qibya in 1953 that killed 70 innocent Palestinians; the Kfar Qassem massacre inside Israel when 49 farm workers were gunned down at an improvised army checkpoint; a massacre in the same year in the refugee camp of Khan Yunis, in Gaza, in which more than 250 civilians were killed; attacks on dozens of Palestinian, Egyptian and Syrian villages during the 1967 war; the killing of six unarmed Arab citizens of Israel in 1976; the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982; the unremitting use of lethal force by the army against unarmed Palestinians, often women and children, during the first intifada of 1987-93; the aerial bombardment of Qana in south Lebanon in 1996 that killed more than 100 civilians; and the endless "collateral damage" of Palestinian civilians during the second intifada, including a half-ton bomb that killed a husband and wife and their seven children a week ago.

The true reasons for these deaths are concealed from credulous observers by Israel's use of Orwellian language. When it says it is destroying the
"infrastructure of terror", Israel means it is crushing all Arab resistance to its territorial ambitions in the region. The "infrastructure" includes most Arab men, women and children because they continue to support -- against Israel's wishes -- their peoples' rights to self-determination without interference from the Israeli army.

In this sense, and others, there is very little difference between what Israel is doing in Gaza to overturn the democratic wishes of the Palestinian electorate and what it is doing in Lebanon to smash any hopes of a democratic future for its northern neighbor. In Gaza, it wants Hamas destroyed because Hamas is prepared to counter Israel's unilateral policies with its own unilateral agenda; and in Lebanon, Israel wants Hizbollah obliterated because it is the only force capable, possibly, of preventing a repeat of Israel's long invasion and occupation of the 1980s and 1990s.

By rounding up the Palestinian cabinet, Israel is not destroying terror, it is clipping the political wings of Hamas, those in its leadership who are quickly learning the arts of government and searching for a space in which they can negotiate with Israel. Through its rejectionist behavior, Israel is only confirming the doubts of those in the Hamas military wing who argue Israel always acts in bad faith.

Similarly in Lebanon, Israel is holding Hizbollah less to account with its attacks than the Lebanese people and their government, despite the latter's transparently shaky grip on the country. Israel's military strikes polarize opinion in Lebanon, weaken Fouad Siniora and his ministers, and threaten to push Lebanon over the brink into another civil war.

Israel is keen to talk about "changing the balance of power" in Gaza and Lebanon, implying that it is trying to strengthen the "democrats" against the "terrorists". But this impression is entirely false. Israeli actions are destroying what little balance of power exists in Gaza and Lebanon so that the two areas become ungovernable.

In Gaza, Israel has been engineering a debilitating struggle for power between Fatah and Hamas, while in Lebanon whatever hollow shell of national unity has existed till now is in danger of cracking under the strain of the Israeli onslaught.

Superficially at least, this seems self-destructive behavior on Israel's part, given that it has also been striving to detect the fingerprints of outside actors in Gaza and Lebanon.

In the case of Gaza, Israel points to Syria as a safe haven for the exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, to Hizbollah and Iran as sponsors of Hamas "terror" and even to a new al-Qaeda presence. In the case of Lebanon, Israel additionally identifies the strong ties between Hizbollah and Damascus and Tehran.

So why would Israel want Lebanon and Gaza to be ravaged by factional fighting of the kind that might make them more vulnerable to this kind of unwelcome interference from outside?

A history lesson or two helps clarify Israel's reasoning.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, Hamas was born during the upheavals of the first intifada and encouraged by Israel as a counterweight to the unifying secular Palestinian nationalism of Yasser Arafat.

In Lebanon, the Shiite militia Hizbollah was the inevitable byproduct of Israel's occupation of the south and its establishment of a mostly Christian proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army, against the Muslim majority.

In both cases it is clear Israel hoped that, by Islamizing its opponents in these regional conflicts, it would delegitimize them in the eyes of Western allies and that it could cultivate sectarianism as a way to further weaken the social cohesiveness of its neighbors.

Recently Israel has encouraged the slide deeper into Islamic extremism through its policies of unilateralism and its refusal to negotiate.

The same set of policies is being continued now in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon: the shattering of these two societies will only deepen the trend toward radical Islam. Islamic movements not only offer the best hope of local resistance to Israel for these weakened societies but they also offer a parallel social infrastructure of health care and welfare services as state institutions collapse.

There is immediate advantage for Israel in this outcome. With secular society crushed and Islamic resistance movements filling the void, Israel will be able to reinforce the impression of many in the West that Israel is on the front line of global "war of terror" being waged by a single implacable enemy, Islam. Israel's ability to persuade the world that this war is being waged against the whole "civilized" Judeo-Christian West will be made that bit easier.

As a result, Israel may be able to drag its paymaster, the United States, deeper into the mire of the Middle East as a junior partner rather than as an honest broker, giving Israel cover while it carves up yet more Palestinian land for annexation, puts further pressure on the Palestinians to leave their homeland, and destabilizes its regional enemies so that they are powerless to offer protest or resistance.

For some time President Bush has found himself in no position to criticize Israeli actions when Tel Aviv claims to be doing no more to the Palestinians than the US is doing to the Iraqis. If the US allows itself to be handcuffed to Israel's even more extreme version of the "war on terror", the consequences will be dire not just for the Palestinians or the region, but for all of us.

-Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, is the author of Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State, published by Pluto Press and available in the US from University of Michigan Press. His website is

Pan-African News Wire said...

Israeli troops praise Hezbollah tactics

Sunday 23 July 2006 8:42 PM GMT

Israeli troops say Hezbollah fighters are hard to beat

Israeli soldiers returning from the front in Lebanon say that Hezbollah has given them more of a fight than they expected.

They said they were battling an intelligent, well-prepared and ruthless guerrilla army whose fighters didn't seem to fear death.

"It's hard to beat them," one soldier said. "They're not afraid of anything."

The soldiers described exchanges of gunfire in between houses and on village streets with Hezbollah fighters sometimes popping out of bushes to fire Kalashnikovs, rocket propelled grenades (RPG) and anti-tank missiles.

The troops' comments underscored the enormous challenges faced by Israel as it seeks to neutralise Hezbollah, which captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, prompting massive air and ground reprisals.

Grief for Israel

Despite Israel's enormous firepower that has already killed at least 380 Lebanese, some military analysts say the war is not going particularly well for Israel.

The Jewish state, they say, has been unable to significantly push back the guerrillas or stop hundreds of their rockets from slamming into northern Israel and causing casualties.

For the past few days, Israel has been fighting for control of the tiny southern Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, located on a hilltop less than 500 metres across the border.

The army said it had taken the village, but gunfire and the blasts of artillery shells could still be heard on Sunday as tanks and helicopters pounded positions inside.

'Very smart'

Officers at the scene confirmed there was still fighting to do.

"They're not fighting like we thought they would," one soldier said. "They're fighting harder. They're good on their own ground."

One soldier said the guerrillas wore olive green army uniforms "to confuse us" because Israelis wear the same.

Others said Hezbollah hid underground in reinforced bunkers until they thought it safe to come out and attack.

The Israeli troops prefer to stay away from those bunkers, the soldiers said, instead calling in coordinates so forces massed behind the border can hit them with guided missiles.

"It will take the summer to beat them," said Michael Sidorenko, 21, resting in the shade of a road sign with other combat troops. On the hills behind him, loud gunfire and the constant thud of explosions could be heard.

"They're not normal soldiers, you know," Sidorenko said. "They're guerrillas. They're very smart."

Sidorenko said he saw Hezbollah fighters firing from behind Lebanese civilians.

"That's why our soldiers are getting killed," he said.

Of the 19 soldiers killed so far since fighting began, five have died trying to gain control of Maroun al-Ras.

To avoid more deaths among its troops, Israel has decided to limit its ground incursions to pinpoint operations near the border.

Tactical shortcomings

But military analysts say this tactic may well be insufficient to achieve Israel's goal of pushing Hezbollah back and destroying its ability to attack Israel.

Not every soldier described Hezbollah as fierce. One said that when Israeli troops show up in vehicles, the guerrillas "run like chickens."

Others wondered why Hezbollah had not yet attacked the nearly two-dozen army vehicles and hundreds of troops camped out in easy striking range below the hill on which Maroun al-Ras sits.

Most believed the guerrillas would rather keep aiming their rockets at major Israeli population centres such as Haifa. Eighteen civilians have died in such attacks on northern Israel.

The soldiers said Hezbollah had refrained from attacking them as they approached Maroun al-Ras in tanks and armoured personnel carriers, preferring instead to let troops reach the village and attack them there.

The fighting, they said, showed the guerrillas had used the six years since Israel withdrew from Lebanon to build bunkers, stockpile weapons and study tactics.

"They have good knowledge about where we are, what we're doing, what kinds of weapons we have," Sidorenko said.

"But it's better to fight them now than later, when they'd be even stronger."

You can find this article at:

Pan-African News Wire said...

U.N.'s Egeland denounces Israeli strikes

Updated 7/23/2006 3:47 PM ET

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.N.'s top humanitarian official on Sunday denounced the Israeli airstrikes that have devastated Beirut and southern Lebanon, saying civilians were paying a "disproportionate price" in the attacks targeting Hezbollah strongholds.

Jan Egeland inspected the destruction in south Beirut — a predominantly Shiite area that has suffered the brunt of the bombings. Israeli strikes hit the neighborhood hours before Egeland's arrival and six more missiles pounded it later, the first daytime attack there in days.

"It's terrible. I see a lot of children wounded, homeless, suffering. This is a war where civilians pay a disproportionate price in Lebanon and northern Israel. I hadn't believed it would be block by block leveled to the ground," he said. "A
disproportionate response by Israel is a violation of international humanitarian law."

He spoke as Canadians, Australians and other foreigners continued to flee the fighting in Lebanon. U.S. Consul William Gill said most Americans who wanted to leave had done so and U.S. evacuation efforts were nearly complete. The first Filipino evacuees were welcomed home by their president and British officials said the last large group of Britons had left.

Egeland appealed for safe passage for aid and said the United Nations would begin a relief operation in the next few days. But he cautioned the fleet of trucks and ships that will bring in supplies need free access and security, which are lacking so far.

Egeland said the United Nations will release an international appeal for aid for Lebanon on Monday. "It will be a large appeal. It's got to be more than $100 million," he said, adding that the long-term figure needed to rebuild devastated infrastructure would be "in the billions."

The humanitarian chief made his way around the piles of debris left by the bombardment in Haret Hreik, which houses Hezbollah headquarters and has been hit several times since the fighting began July 12. At one point, he noticed he was stepping on a school textbook buried in the rubble.

"The rockets going into Israel have to stop and the enormous bombardment that we see here with one block after the other being leveled has to stop," Egeland said. There is no military solution. It is only a political solution."

Egeland, who met with the Lebanese prime minister and other leaders to talk about aid, planned to travel Monday to Israel to coordinate the opening of aid corridors.

A humanitarian crisis is brewing in parts of Lebanon. The need for relief was greatest in south Lebanon, where bombed-out roads and continuous airstrikes have isolated communities.

The World Health Organization said 600,000 people have been displaced by the hostilities. Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour said close to 750,000 had fled their homes, nearly 20% of Lebanon's 4 million people.

The U.N. refugee agency was building up stocks of relief supplies in Syria in hopes of getting safe passage to reach displaced Lebanese in the mountains north of Beirut. It moved 500 tents, 20,000 mattresses and 20,000 blankets by convoy from Amman, Jordan, to Damascus on Friday and planned to move more supplies the same way Monday.

It reported that many of the 80,000 displaced people in the Aley region north of Beirut were living in schools and food stocks there were running low.

"People are traumatized and anxious. The conditions are very precarious," said Arafat Jamal, UNHCR's top official in Lebanon. "There's a lot of overcrowding, with people sleeping three families to a room and tremendous pressure on the sanitation facilities."

Israel has eased its blockade on Beirut's port to allow humanitarian supplies to pass through, but there appeared to be no letup in Israeli attacks on roads leading out of Beirut and along the route to Syria.

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