The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both - Vaclav Havel
WHILE Israel fights Hezbollah with tanks and aircraft, its supporters are campaigning on the internet. Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.
In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.
Jonny Cline, of the international student group, said that Jewish students and youth groups with their understanding of the web environment were ideally placed to present another side to the debate.
“We’re saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don’t ignore it, change it,” Mr Cline said. “A poll like CNN’s takes just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be changed. What’s vital is that the international face of the conflict is balanced.”
Yes, that's right: what's supposed to be a place of open debate becomes a weapon of propaganda. What a lesson in Liberal Democratic values these students are getting. And they are supposed to become the next political elite? G-d help us all...
Doron Barkat, 29, in Jerusalem, spends long nights trawling the web to try to swing the debate Israel’s way. “When I see internet polls for or against Israel I send out a mailing list to vote for Israel,” he said. “It can be that after 15 minutes there will be 400 votes for Israel.
“It’s very satisfying. There are also forums where Lebanese and Israelis talk.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry must avoid direct involvement with the campaign but is in contact with international Jewish and evangelical Christian groups, distributing internet information packs.
Amir Gissin, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s public relations director, said: “The internet’s become a leading tool for news, shaping the world view of millions. Our problem is the foreign media shows Lebanese suffering, but not Israeli. We’re bypassing that filter by distributing pictures showing how northern Israelis suffer from Katyusha rocket attacks.”
Bypassing filters... These people obviously don't watch the news or have a built-in filter causing temporary blindness when the Western media report from inside Israel. I've seen reports of Katyusha damage and the difficult situation of the Israeli citizens in Northern Israel from the BBC, ABC, Sky, CNN, CBS, Euronews and Fox.
"Our problem is the foreign media shows Lebanese suffering, but not Israeli." No, your problem is that they don't ONLY show Israeli suffering and that, how bl**dy dare they, they show also the carnage in Lebanon...
A dog walks through the rubble of buildings hit by Israeli airstrikes in the nearly deserted town of Nabatiya, Lebanon, on Tuesday.
July 28, 2006 TYRE, SIDON and NABATIYA, South Lebanon -- The bombs came just as night fell, around 7 p.m. The locals knew that the 10-story apartment building had been the office, and possibly the residence, of Sheik Tawouk, the Hezbollah commander for the south, so they had moved their families out at the start of the war. The landlord had refused to rent to Hezbollah when they requested the top floors of the building. No matter, the locals said, the Hezb guys just moved in anyway in the name of the "resistance."
Everyone knew that the building would be hit eventually. Its location in downtown Tyre, which had yet to be hit by Israeli airstrikes, was not going to protect it forever. And "everyone" apparently included Sheik Tawouk, because he wasn't anywhere near it when it was finally hit.
Two guided bombs struck it in a huge flash bang of fire and concrete dust followed by the roar of 10 stories pancaking on top of each other, local residents said. Jihad Husseini, 46, runs the driving school a block away and was sitting in his office when the bombs struck. He said his life was saved because he had drawn the heavy cloth curtains shut on the windows facing the street, preventing him from being hit by a wave of shattered glass. But even so, a chunk of smoldering steel flew through the air, broke through the window and the curtain, and shot past his head and through the wall before coming to rest in his neighbor's home.
But Jihad still refuses to leave.
"Everything is broken, but I can make it better," he says, surrounded by his sons Raed, 20, and Mohammed, 12. "I will not leave. This place is not military, it is not Hezbollah; it was an empty apartment."
Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.
But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.
For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.
But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble.
In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist?
The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah's social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The "terrorist" organization Hezbollah is Lebanon's second-biggest employer.
People throw the phrase "ghost town" around a lot, but Nabatiya, a bombed-out town about 15 miles from the Lebanon-Israel border, deserves it. One expects the spirits of the town's dead, or its refugees, to silently glide out onto its abandoned streets from the ruined buildings that make up much of the town.
Not all of the buildings show bomb damage, but those that don't have metal shutters blown out as if by a terrible wind. And there are no people at all, except for the occasional Hezbollah scout on a motorbike armed only with a two-way radio, keeping an eye on things as Israeli jets and unmanned drones circle overhead.
Overlooking the outskirts of this town, which has a peacetime population of 100,000 or so -- mostly Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and its more secular rival Amal -- is the Ragheh Hareb Hospital, a facility that makes quite clear what side the residents of Nabatiya are on in this conflict.
The hospital's carefully sculpted and trimmed front lawn contains the giant Red Crescent that denotes the Muslim version of the Red Cross. As we approach it, an Israeli missile streaks by, smashing into a school on the opposite hilltop. As we crouch and then run for the shelter of the hospital awning, that giant crescent reassures me until I look at the flagpole. The Lebanese flag and its cedar tree is there -- right next to the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It's safe to say that Ragheh Hareb Hospital has an association with Hezbollah. And the staff sports the trimmed beards and polite, if somewhat ominous, manner of the group. After young men demand press IDs and do some quick questioning, they allow us to enter.
Dr. Ahmed Tahir recognizes me from a funeral in the nearby village of Dweir. An Israeli bomb dropped on their house killed a Hezbollah cleric and 11 members of his immediate family, mostly children. People in Lebanon are calling it a war crime. Tahir looks exhausted, and our talk is even more tense than the last time.
"Maybe it would be best if the Israelis bombed your car on the road here," he said, with a sharp edge. "If you were killed, maybe the public outcry would be so bad in America that the Jews would be forced to stop these attacks."
When I volunteered that the Bush administration cared little for journalists, let alone ones who reported from Hezbollah territory, he shrugged. "Maybe if it was an American bomb used by the Israelis that killed an American journalist, they would stop this horror," he said.
The handful of people in the town include some from Hezbollah's political wing, as well as volunteers keeping an eye on things while the residents are gone. Off to the side, as we watch the Israelis pummel ridgelines on the outskirts of town, one of the political operatives explains that the fighters never come near the town, reinforcing what other Hezbollah people have told me over the years.
Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered "Hezbollah" installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons -- they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed -- but for military ones.
"You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon," a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. "They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They're completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians -- no discipline and too much showing off."
Perhaps once a year, Hezbollah will hold a military parade in the south, in which its weapons and fighters appear. Media access to these parades is tightly limited and controlled. Unlike the fighters in the half dozen other countries where I have covered insurgencies, Hezbollah fighters do not like to show off for the cameras. In Iraq, with some risk taking, you can meet with and even watch the resistance guys in action. (At least you could during my last time there.) In Afghanistan, you can lunch with Taliban fighters if you're willing to walk a day or so in the mountains. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Fatah or Hamas fighter is almost ubiquitous with his mask, gun and sloganeering to convince the Western journalist of the justice of his cause.
The Hezbollah guys, on the other hand, know that letting their fighters near outsiders of any kind -- journalists or Lebanese, even Hezbollah supporters -- is stupid. In three trips over the last week to the south, where I came near enough to the fighting to hear Israeli artillery, and not just airstrikes, I saw exactly no fighters. Guys with radios with the look of Hezbollah always found me. But no fighters on corners, no invitations to watch them shoot rockets at the Zionist enemy, nothing that can be used to track them.
Even before the war, on many of my trips to the south, the Lebanese army, or the ubiquitous guy on a motorbike with a radio, would halt my trip and send me over to Tyre to get permission from a Hezbollah official before I could proceed, usually with strict limits on where I could go.
Every other journalist I know who has covered Hezbollah has had the same experience. A fellow journalist, a Lebanese who has covered them for two decades, knows only one military guy who will admit it, and he never talks or grants interviews. All he will say is, "I'll be gone for a few months for training. I'll call when I'm back." Presumably his friends and neighbors may suspect something, but no one says anything.
Hezbollah's political members say they have little or no access to the workings of the fighters. This seems to be largely true: While they obviously hear and know more than the outside world, the firewall is strong.
Israel, however, has chosen to treat the political members of Hezbollah as if they were fighters. And by targeting the civilian wing of the group, which supplies much of the humanitarian aid and social protection for the poorest people in the south, they are targeting civilians.
Earlier in the week, I stood next to a giant crater that had smashed through the highway between Tyre and Sidon -- the only route of escape for most of the people in the far south. Overhead, Israeli fighters and drones circled above the city and its outlying areas and regular blasts of bombs and naval artillery could be heard.
The crater served as a nice place to check up on the refugees, who were forced by the crater to slow down long enough to be asked questions. They barely stopped, their faces wrenched in near panic. The main wave of refugees out of the south had come the previous two days, so these were the hard-luck cases, the people who had been really close to the fighting and who needed two days just to get to Tyre, or who had had to make the tough decision whether to flee or stay put, with neither choice looking good.
The roads in the south are full of the cars of people who chose wrong -- burned-out chassis, broken glass, some cars driven straight into posts or ditches. Other seem to have broken down or run out of gas on the long dirt detours around the blown-out highway and bridge network the Israeli air force had spent days methodically destroying even as it warned people to flee.
One man, slowing his car around the crater, almost screams, "There is nothing left. This country is not for us." His brief pause immediately draws horns and impatient yells from the people in the cars behind him. They pass the crater but within two minutes a large explosion behind us, north, in the direction of Sidon, rocks us.
As we drive south toward Tyre, we soon pass a new series of scars on the highway: shrapnel, hubcaps and broken glass. A car that had been maybe five minutes ahead of us was hit by an Israeli shell. Three of its passengers were wounded, and it was heading north to the Hammound hospital at Sidon. We turned around because of the attack and followed the car to Sidon. Those unhurt staked out the parking lot of the hospital, looking for the Western journalists they were convinced had called in the strike. Luckily my Iraqi fixer smelled trouble and we got out of there. Probably nothing would have happened -- mostly they were just freaked-out country people who didn't like the coincidence of an Israeli attack and a car full of journalists driving past.
So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.
And the civilians? They see themselves as targeted regardless of their affiliation. They are enraged at Israel and at the United States, the only two countries on earth not calling for an immediate cease-fire. Lebanese of all persuasions think the United States and Israel believe that Lebanese lives are cheaper than Israeli ones. And many are now saying that they want to fight.
A boy stares from a bus window. His family has fled the fighting between Hizbollah and the Israeli army, and now he is on the road, somewhere in Lebanon. He is maybe four years of age; old enough to absorb horror but too young to analyse it. Such feelings are endemic in his land. Many of the Hizbollah fighters who fire rockets today remember being four years old in an age of devastation. Their apprenticeship in loss and hatred began in 1982, when Israel's invasion of Lebanon killed 19,000 people. Almost a quarter of a century on, the children of that war have come of age.
This time, the battles echo round a global theatre. Britain is outraged by Tony Blair's refusal to demand an instant end to Israel's assault. Full-page newspaper adverts by charities, religious groups and the trade union, Unison, demand an urgent ceasefire. A letter bearing 6,000 signatures is handed in at Downing Street.
The affiliation of the disaffected is a curious mix. Those filling a political vacuum include the Archbishop of Canterbury, cabinet dissenters, Tory warhorses, rock stars and former ambassadors. According to a Guardian poll, 61 per cent of people think Israel over-reacted to provocation, and 63 per cent say Mr Blair is wrong to tie himself so closely to George W Bush. Even on Iraq, there was no such groundswell.
Fractured, uneasy Britain has found a cause round which to coalesce. Old tensions are being smoothed and new alliances formed. A recent survey claimed that only 32 per cent of British Muslims had a favourable opinion of Jews. Now, members of both communities decry Israeli intemperance.
In America, there is no such uprising. As few as 7 per cent of citizens want their government to censure Ehud Olmert. As Paul Rogers of Bradford University points out, the backing comes not from the Jewish lobby, which is uneasy, but from many millions of Christian evangelicals for whom the Holy Land is sacred. Here, critics deplore the feeble package to come out of Washington. None but the most leathery neocon exalts Bush's imprimatur on an offensive that could yet draw in Syria or Iran, and his prosecution of a war on terror whose latest sideshow has reconciled the Sunni-led al-Qaeda with the Shia 'infidel' of Hizbollah.
The British protest is a showdown overBlair's long refusal to refute Bush's belief in rocket-borne democracies. This time, he may lay down his political life for that creed and his opponents may gladly claim the sacrifice. But the protest is more than a salvo against a Prime Minister in his struggling last days. It is a cry of rage against the politics of nemesis.
Four days after 7/7, Bush pledged the US would fight 'until victory is America's and there is no enemy'. Now, as deaths rise in Afghanistan and Iraq, jihadists multiply where none existed. The original estimate of terrorists dangerous to the US was 500 to 1,000. Five years after 9/11, the notion that Bush can kill all whom he has helped to create is political delirium.
For the dying and displaced of Lebanon, an instant ceasefire is imperative. Arab alienation, the threat to regional and global stability and the future of Israel itself all ordain that the fighting must stop. No civilised country should demand less. And yet, there is something unsettling in the certitude of the protest. As Bush and Blair have never learnt, conviction should have a small corner of doubt. This is mine.
British campaigners, who will never watch their homes burn and their children perish, have the luxury of seeing clearly. That gives them a duty not only to support the Lebanese but to understand why 95 per cent of Israelis still support Olmert and why they have cause to be afraid. Israel effectively pulled out of Lebanon six years ago, yet Hizbollah never abandoned its crusade against the Israeli state. In the latest battle, the shopping malls of Haifa have not yet become mass tombs, but that is because Katyushas don't fly straight, not for any qualm on the part of Hizbollah.
Those who rail against Israel's aggression are right. But they - and I - also risk playing a mirror image of Bush's game. This is not another round in the conflict of good and evil, but a greyer conflict than the partisans of either side allow. I do not defend Israel, whose slick PR cannot mask its despicable behaviour towards Palestinians and Lebanese.
Yet it seems odd, too, that Britons who distance themselves from their Prime Minister draw no distinction between Israeli citizens and their governing classes. There is a hint that the loathing of Israel's policies is sliding into contempt for Israel itself. Commentators are already starting to praise Hizbollah. In fact, the movement regards America as 'the great Satan' and Britain as 'evil,' and it behoves the West and all who negotiate.
Other reality checks are necessary, too. Bushites believe Hizbollah can be wiped off the planet. Some Western liberals, almost as fancifully, hope its fighters can be easily disarmed and kept at bay by peacekeepers with teeth. Welcome to dreamland. That is not to say that there are no solutions, though none is obvious. This conflict will end, sooner or later, with some face-saving deal, but nothing will be the same again.
The disaster unfolding in Lebanon is not a tableau of imperial tyranny at work. It is the vision of Western power imploding. On the last available figures, the US spent an annual $422.5bn on defence. The remaining two 'axis of evil' nations, North Korea and Iran, spent a combined $8.5bn, or roughly 2 per cent. Yet the West is not winning its conventional wars against other states, let alone prevailing against terrorist groups whose infrastructure and targets are not amenable to military force.
When politicians lose their compass, citizens can become the steersmen. That is why British protesters of all creeds and opinions must stay united to press for better diplomacy, better intelligence-gathering and a foreign policy not designed to alienate half the world. But critics losing faith in an obdurate Prime Minister may also have to question their own certitudes.
Those who die, in Lebanon and Israel, are the reminder of how the world has been destabilised by those blinded by self-belief. Unless certainty is tempered with humility and humanity, the future is not hard to read. Look into the eyes of any four-year-old refugee, on any road to nowhere. And wonder what he will be if he grows up.
In war as in war: Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized Israeli society in recent years is intensifying. The home front is cut in half: the north suffers and the center is serene. But both have been taken over by tones of jingoism, ruthlessness and vengeance, and the voices of extremism that previously characterized the camp's margins are now expressing its heart. The left has once again lost its way, wrapped in silence or "admitting mistakes." Israel is exposing a unified, nationalistic face.
The devastation we are sowing in Lebanon doesn't touch anyone here and most of it is not even shown to Israelis. Those who want to know what Tyre looks like now have to turn to foreign channels - the BBC reporter brings chilling images from there, the likes of which won't be seen here. How can one not be shocked by the suffering of the other, at our hands, even when our north suffers? The death we are sowing at the same time, right now in Gaza, with close to 120 dead since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, 27 last Wednesday alone, touches us even less. The hospitals in Gaza are full of burned children, but who cares? The darkness of the war in the north covers them, too.
Since we've grown accustomed to thinking collective punishment a legitimate weapon, it is no wonder no debate has sparked here over the cruel punishment of Lebanon for Hezbollah's actions. If it was okay in Nablus, why not Beirut? The only criticism being heard about this war is over tactics. Everyone is a general now and they are mostly pushing the IDF to deepen its activities. Commentators, ex-generals and politicians compete at raising the stakes with extreme proposals.
Haim Ramon "doesn't understand" why there is still electricity in Baalbek; Eli Yishai proposes turning south Lebanon into a "sandbox"; Yoav Limor, a Channel 1 military correspondent, proposes an exhibition of Hezbollah corpses and the next day to conduct a parade of prisoners in their underwear, "to strengthen the home front's morale."
It's not difficult to guess what we would think about an Arab TV station whose commentators would say something like that, but another few casualties or failures by the IDF, and Limor's proposal will be implemented. Is there any better sign of how we have lost our senses and our humanity?
Chauvinism and an appetite for vengeance are raising their heads. If two weeks ago only lunatics such as Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu spoke about "wiping out every village where a Katyusha is fired," now a senior officer in the IDF speaks that way in Yedioth Aharonoth's main headlines. Lebanese villages may not have been wiped out yet, but we have long since wiped out our own red lines.
A bereaved father, Haim Avraham, whose son was kidnapped and killed by Hezbollah in October 2000, fires an artillery shell into Lebanon for the reporters. It's vengeance for his son. His image, embracing the decorated artillery shell is one of the most disgraceful images of this war. And it's only the first. A group of young girls also have their picture taken decorating IDF shells with slogans.
Maariv, which has turned into the Fox News of Israel, fills its pages with chauvinist slogans reminiscent of particularly inferior propaganda machines, such as "Israel is strong" - which is indicative of weakness, actually - while a TV commentator calls for the bombing of a TV station.
Lebanon, which has never fought Israel and has 40 daily newspapers, 42 colleges and universities and hundreds of different banks, is being destroyed by our planes and cannon and nobody is taking into account the amount of hatred we are sowing. In international public opinion, Israel has been turned into a monster, and that still hasn't been calculated into the debit column of this war. Israel is badly stained, a moral stain that can't be easily and quickly removed. And only we don't want to see it.
The people want victory, and nobody knows what that is and what its price will be.
The Zionist left has also been made irrelevant. As in every difficult test in the past - the two intifadas for example - this time too the left has failed just when its voice was so necessary as a counterweight to the stridency of the beating tom-toms of war. Why have a left if at every real test it joins the national chorus?
Peace Now stands silently, so does Meretz, except for brave Zehava Gal-On. A few days of a war of choice and already Yehoshua Sobol is admitting he was wrong all along. Peace Now is suddenly an "infantile slogan" for him. His colleagues are silent and their silence is no less resounding. Only the extreme left makes its voice heard, but it is a voice nobody listens to.
Long before this war is decided, it can already be stated that its spiraling cost will include the moral blackout that is surrounding and covering us all, threatening our existence and image no less than Hezbollah's Katyushas.
From FireDogLake.com comes one of the funniest posts I've read in a while. Blogger Pam from Atlas Shrugs "vlogs" Nasrallah and Israel cancels her planned trip (to Israel). Don't miss Pam's YouTube vlogpost below!
We need to talk.
I thought we had a fucking deal. Me and all my liberal blogger cronies were going to blithely look the other way while you use overwhelming force against civilians in Lebanon, and you were supposed to take Pam from Atlas Shrugs and her excitable italics off our hands for a couple weeks.
And now I see that somehow in all the confusion last week, you backed off and now we’re stuck with her. From her blog:
The Press secretary of the Embassy of Israel called to cancel my trip to Israel. They recommend that I not go to Israel. Apparently they have canceled all my interviews and war coverage. Ugh.
Except to really get this statement in Pam-ese, it must be read:
Duh PRESS sick-ruh-tairy of duh EMM-buh-see of ISREE-uhl cuh-wald tuh KYEN-sul my trip tuh ISREE-uhl, etc….
In other words, someone in the Holy Land set up a bunch of interviews and events for her to attend and THEN looked at her blog and (eugh!) vlogs.
"Oh, shit! Itzhak! Get in here! We gotta problem!"
"Vhat? Vhat, Shlomo? Vhat’s so important it couldn’t wait until I’ve finished my coffee?"
"Remeber that blogger we’ve got coming from the US?"
Pam: "Betchoo wish yuh guhlfrinn’ was hot-like-me…"
"You’re right, Shlomo. We got a problem. You’d better call her and cancel."
"But! But! I set up all these interviews! What do I tell her?"
"Tell her we’re closed! Vhat do I care? Just make sure she doesn’t come here! Vhe got enough of a humanitarian crisis on our hands already!!"
Damn you, Israel. We were all sooooooo looking forward to it. Out of all the 101st fighting keyboarders, one, ONE (!!) conservative blogger gets ready to suit up and charge headlong into a war zone and you cancel??!! It was all going to be so exciting! Pam in Tel Aviv, desperately trying to find a Saks because she left her lip-liner back on Long Island. Pam in desert fatigues a la Judy Miller and Edina Monsoon, drunkenly attacking a bunch of Israeli peace protestors, "ANTI-SEMIIIIIIITES!!" she screams, then mounts an IDF bulldozer and drives into the crowd, "SAY HELLO TO RAYYY-CHULL FRICKIN’ CORRIEEEE FUH ME, YA MOOOOOOO-SLUM SYMPUH-T’IZAAAAHSS!!"
And all for nought. You took it all away from us, Israel. And you’re going to PAY.
Hizbullah wants an immediate ceasefire and is ready to swap the two abducted Israeli soldiers "in six hours" after it comes into force, according to officials from Amal, a Shia party allied to Hizbullah.
Hizbullah has entrusted Amal with negotiations for a prisoner deal, realising that it cannot be a direct partner to talks. Nabih Berri, Amal's leader, who is also speaker of the Lebanese parliament, met Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, on Tuesday in a clear sign that Washington sees him as a conduit to Hizbullah.
"Mr Berri says he can get the Israeli soldiers sent back in return for Lebanese prisoners in six hours after a ceasefire," Ali Hamdan, the head of Amal's foreign affairs bureau, told the Guardian yesterday.
"He wouldn't say that if he didn't have assurances from Hizbullah."
Some Israeli analysts have said that Hizbullah's call for an unconditional ceasefire is a reaction to Israel's ground offensive in south Lebanon which is making slow headway in spite of relatively heavy losses among Israeli forces.
But a ceasefire call has been part of Hizbullah's position virtually from the start of Israel's air attacks and before Israeli ground troops crossed the border in strength. Criticising the US rejection of a ceasefire, Mohammed Fneish, one of the two Hizbullah ministers in the Lebanese government, told the Guardian last Saturday: "Rice is not allowing a ceasefire in order to put Israel back into a position where it is the state that controls the whole Middle East."
The ferocity of Israel's reaction to the soldiers' abduction surprised Hizbullah, Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of the Hizbullah politburo, has admitted.
Hizbullah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has denied Israeli claims that more than 100 of his fighters have died. Israel claims the toll includes several senior commanders as well as the organisation's deputy secretary general, allegedly killed in an air strike on Tyre. Mr Komati said 25 guerrillas had been killed. Confirmation of either side's claims is impossible.
In spite of Israel's relentless air strikes Hizbullah continues to fire Katyusha rockets into Israel. Some 84 struck cities all over the north yesterday bringing the total since the conflict began to 1,400. Twenty Israeli civilians have been killed.
In his latest television appearance this week, Sheikh Nasrallah warned his viewers not to be taken in by Israeli claims. "I am stressing to you - we don't hide the number of our dead. If a large number of our men are killed - we wouldn't hide it but on the contrary we'd be proud of it ... You must listen to us and not to the enemy's psychological warfare," he said.
Hizbullah's call for a ceasefire make political sense for the Shia militia since it would mean the failure of Israel's effort to recapture its abducted soldiers without negotiations. It would also end the flight of thousands of refugees and make it easier for them to go home.
On this Hizbullah is fully in tune with the Lebanese cabinet. The government's line is that Israel must accept an immediate ceasefire, abandon the Sheba'a farms area it has occupied for almost 40 years, give Lebanon maps of the mines laid during Israel's previous occupation of south Lebanon, and pay compensation for the damage done by its relentless attacks.
Once a ceasefire is in place Hizbullah is "more than ready to sit down and talk" about disarming its forces Mr Fneish, told the Guardian. But he rejected any role for foreign powers in the issue.
"This is a matter for the Lebanese. Nobody can deny the national right to resist," he said.
Amal is emerging as a key player in the search for a new Lebanese consensus. It disarmed most of its militia after Israel withdrew in 2000 and says it has been helping Hizbullah to switch to being an entirely political party.
Professor Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University said Sheikh Nasrallah was facing a grave crisis. "It's not only a question of what weapons and capabilities Hizbullah has. Mr Nasrallah's ambition to turn a militia into a mass movement has been destroyed. Now he's fighting for his survival."
Meanwhile, Iran has denied an Israeli report that Sheikh Nasrallah is hiding in the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
Attacks on Israel:
Hizbullah has fired more than 1,400 rockets at northern Israel since the offensive began in Lebanon. Wednesday's total, 151, was the highest since the start of the fighting. Here is a daily list of rocket attacks, provided by the Israeli army:
NAZARETH - This week I had the pleasure to appear on American radio, on the Laura Ingraham show, pitted against David Horowitz, a "Semite supremacist" who most recently made his name under the banner of Campus Watch, leading McCarthyite witch-hunts against American professors who have the impertinence to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Arabs have minds and feelings like the rest of us.
It was a revealing experience, at least for a British journalist rarely exposed to the depths of ignorance and prejudice in the United States on Middle East matters -- well, apart from the regular whackos who fill my email in-tray. But five minutes of listening to Horowitz speak, and the sympathy with which his arguments were greeted by Laura ("The Professors -- your book's a great read, David"), left me a lot more frightened about the world's future.
Horowitz's response to every question, every development in the Middle East, whether it concerns Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria or Iran, is the same: "They want to drive the Jews into the sea". It's as simple as that. Not even a superficial attempt at analysis; just the message that the Arab world is trying to finish off the genocide started by Europe. And if Laura is any yardstick, a lot of Americans buy that stuff.
Horowitz is keen to bang the square peg of the Lebanon story into the round hole of his claims that the "Jews" are facing an imminent genocide in the Middle East. And to help him, he and the massed ranks of US apologists for Israel -- regulars, I suspect, of shows like Laura's -- are promoting at least four myths regarding Hizbullah's current rockets strikes on Israel. Unless they are challenged at every turn, the danger is that they will win the ground war against common sense in the US. The first myth is that Israel was forced to pound Lebanon with its military hardware because Hizbullah began "raining down" rockets on the Galilee. Anyone with a short memory can probably recall that was not the first justification we were offered: that had to do with the two soldiers captured by Hizbullah on a border post on July 12.
But presumably Horowitz and his friends realized that 400 Lebanese dead and counting in little more than a week was hard to sell as a "proportionate" response. In any case Hizbullah kept telling the world how keen it was to return the soldiers in a prisoner swap. Hundreds of dead in Lebanon, at least 1,000 severely injured and more than half a million refugees -- all because Israel is not ready to sit down at the negotiating table. Even Horowitz could not "advocate for Israel" on that one.
So the chronology of war has been reorganized: now we are being told that Israel was forced to attack Lebanon to defend itself from the barrage of Hizbullah rockets falling on Israeli civilians. The international community is buying the argument hook, line and sinker. "Israel has the right to defend itself", says every politician who can find a microphone to talk into. But, if we cast our minds back, that is not how the "Middle East crisis", as TV channels now describe it, started. It is worth recapping on those early events (and I won't document the long history of Lebanese suffering at Israel's hands that preceded it) before they become entirely shrouded in the mythology being peddled by Horowitz and others.
Early on July 12 Hizbullah launched a raid against an army border post, in what was in the best interpretation a foolhardy violation of Israeli sovereignty. In the fighting the Shiite militia killed three soldiers and captured two others, while Hizbullah fired a few mortars at border areas in what the Israeli army described at the time as "diversionary tactics". As a result of the shelling, five Israelis were "lightly injured", with most needing treatment for shock, according to the Haaretz newspaper.
Israel's immediate response was to send a tank into Lebanon in pursuit of the Hizbullah fighters (its own foolhardy violation of Lebanese sovereignty). The tank ran over a landmine, which exploded killing four soldiers inside. Another soldier died in further clashes inside Lebanon as his unit tried to retrieve the bodies. Rather than open diplomatic channels to calm the violence down and start the process of getting its soldiers back, Israel launched bombing raids deep into Lebanese territory the same day. Given Israel's world view that it alone has a right to project power and fear, that might have been expected.
But the next day Israel continued its rampage across the south and into Beirut, where the airport, roads, bridges, and power stations were pummelled. We now know from reports in the US media that the Israeli army had been planning such a strike against Lebanon for at least a year.
In contrast to the image of Hizbullah frothing at the mouth to destroy Israel, its leader Hassan Nasrallah held off from serious retaliation. For the first day and a half, he limited his strikes to the northern borders areas, which have faced Hizbullah attacks in the past and are well protected.
He waited till late on June 13 before turning his guns on Haifa, even though we now know he could have targeted Israel's third largest city from the outset. A small volley of rockets directed at Haifa caused no injuries and looked more like a warning than an escalation.
It was another three days -- days of constant Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, destroying the country and injuring countless civilians -- before Nasrallah hit Haifa again, including a shell that killed eight workers in a railway depot.
No one should have been surprised. Nasrallah was doing exactly what he had threatened to do if Israel refused to negotiate and chose the path of war instead. Although the international media quoted his ominous televised message that "Haifa is just the beginning", Nasrallah in fact made his threat conditional on Israel's continuing strikes against Lebanon. In the same speech he warned: "As long as the enemy pursues its aggression without limits and red lines, we will pursue the confrontation without limits and red lines." Well, Israel did, and so now has Nasrallah.The second myth is that Hizbullah's stockpile of 12,000 rockets -- the Israeli army's estimate -- poses an existential threat to Israel. According to Horowitz and others, Hizbullah collected its armoury with the sole intent of destroying the Jewish state.
If this really was Hizbullah's intention in amassing the weapons, it has a very deluded view of what is required to wipe Israel off the map. More likely, it collected the armory in the hope that it might prove deterrence -- even if a very inadequate one, as Lebanon is now discovering -- against a repeat of Israel's invasions of 1978 and 1982, and the occupation that lasted nearly two decades afterwards.
In fact, according to other figures supplied by the Israeli army, at least 2,000 Hizbullah rockets have already been fired into Israel while the army's bombardments have so far destroyed a further 2,000 rockets. In other words, northern Israel has already received a fifth of Hizbullah's arsenal. As someone living in the north, and within range of the rockets, I have to say Israel does not look close to being expunged. The Galilee may be emptier, as up to third of Israeli Jews seek temporary refuge in the south, but Israel's existence is in no doubt at all.
The third myth is that, while Israel is trying to fight a clean war by targeting only terrorists, Hizbullah prefers to bring death and destruction on innocents by firing rockets at Israeli civilians.
It is amazing that this myth even needs exploding, but after the efforts of Horowitz and co it most certainly does. As the civilian death toll in Lebanon has rocketed, international criticism of Israel has remained at the mealy-mouthed level of diplomatic requests for "restraint" and "proportionate responses".One need only cast a quick eye over the casualty figures from this conflict to see that if Israel is targeting only Hizbullah fighters it has been making disastrous miscalculations. So far some 400 Lebanese civilians are reported dead -- unfortunately for Horowitz's story at least a third of them children. From the images coming out of Lebanon's hospitals, many more children have survived but with terrible burns or disabling injuries.
The best estimates, though no one knows for sure, are that Hizbullah deaths are not yet close to the three-figures range.
In the latest emerging news from Lebanon, human rights groups are accusing Israel of violating international law and using cluster grenades, which kill indiscriminately. There are reports too, so far unconfirmed, that Israel has been firing illegal phosphorus incendiary bombs.
Conversely, the breakdown of the smaller number of deaths of Israelis at the hands of Hizbullah -- 42 at the time of writing -- show that more soldiers have been killed than civilians.
In fact, although no one is making the point, Hizbullah's rockets have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military sites across the Galilee.
Nasrallah seems fully aware that Israel has an impressive civil defense program of shelters that keep most civilians out of harm's way. Unlike Horowitz I won't presume to read Nasrallah's mind: whether he wants to kill large numbers of Israeli civilians or not cannot be known, given his inability to do so.
But we can see from the choice of the sites he is striking that his primary goal is to give Israelis a small taste of the disruption of normal life that is being endured by the Lebanese. He has effectively closed Haifa for more than a week, shutting its port and financial centres. Israeli TV is speaking increasingly of the damage being inflicted on the country's economy. Because of Israel's press censorship laws, it is impossible to discuss the locations of Israel's military installations. But Hizbullah's rockets are accurate enough to show that many are intended for the army's sites in the Galilee, even if they are rarely precise enough to hit them.
It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.
Hizbullah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage of civilian deaths as Israel -- each wants the balance of terror in its favour -- but it is nonsense to suggest that Hizbullah's goals are any more ignoble than Israel's. It is trying to dent the economy of northern Israel in retaliation for Israel's total destruction of the Lebanese economy. Equally, it is trying to show Israel that it knows where its military installations are to be found. Both strategies appear to be having an impact, even if a minor one, on weakening Israeli resolve.
The fourth myth is a continuation of the third: Hizbullah has been endangering the lives of ordinary Lebanese by hiding among non-combatants.
We have seen this kind of dissembling by Israel and Horowitz before, though not repeated so enthusiastically by Western officials. The UN head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, who is in the region, accused Hizbullah of "cowardly blending" among the civilian population, and a similar accusation was leveled by the British foreign minister Kim Howells when he arrived in Israel.
In 2002 Israel made the same charge: that Palestinians resisting its army's rampage through the refugee camps of the West Bank were hiding among civilians. The claim grew louder as more Palestinian civilians showed the irritating habit of getting in the way of Israeli strikes against population centres. The complaints reached a crescendo when at least two dozen civilians were killed in Jenin as Israel razed the camp with Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers.
The implication of Egeland's cowardly statement seems to be that any Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hizbullah's reluctance to conduct the war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof that they are terrorists.
Egeland and Howells need reminding that Hizbullah's fighters are not aliens recently arrived from training camps in Iran, whatever Horowitz claims. They belong to and are strongly supported by the Shiite community, nearly half the country's population, and many other Lebanese. They have families, friends and neighbors living alongside them in the country's south and the neighbourhoods of Beirut who believe Hizbullah is the best hope of defending their country from Israel's regular onslaughts.
Given the indigenous nature of Hizbullah's resistance, we should not be surprised at the lengths the Shiite militia is going to ensure their loved ones, and the Lebanese people more generally, are not put directly in danger by their combat.
If only the same could be said of the Israeli army and airforce. One need only look at the images of the victims of its strikes against residential neighborhoods, car, ambulances and factories to see why most of the dead being extracted from the rubble are civilians.And finally, there is a fifth myth I almost forgot to mention. That people like David Horowitz only want to tell us the truth.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His book "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democatic State" is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net.
That most "anti-Semitic" of all British newspapers is at it again: this time they're featuring an article by Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister of Disinformation (I meant Tourism) and member of Israel's Security Cabinet. Mr Herzog's monotonal views are already well known, through several of his interviews with the BBC.
Some may wonder how, as a man of the left and Israel's peace camp, I can at the same time be a member of a government now fighting a war in Lebanon. The answer is the same one that Clement Attlee or even Harold Wilson would have given: when your very existence is under threat, you have the right to defend yourself, and the responsibility to your people to defend their security. Let's be clear: Hizbullah is a terrorist organisation. This is not a political issue, it is not an ideological issue; it is a matter of survival. That is why I and the vast majority of the Israeli population support this military response.
You'd have thought that when addressing the British public, Herzog would have perhaps refrained (pardon the pun) from merely parroting what he routinely feeds the Israeli electorate. You'd have thought wrongly...
Israel today is facing a sustained onslaught from one of the world's most dangerous and effective terrorist organisations. In the past few days, 1,000 rockets and 1,200 mortar rounds have been hurled across the border by Hizbullah at hospitals, schools and homes. Their intention is the killing and maiming of Israelis in general. Israel is fighting back. Israel's use of force is entirely proportionate to the extent of the threat that Hizbullah poses. A third of our people are in immediate danger of Hizbullah missiles and are sheltering for fear of their lives. The whole of the north of our country has in effect been shut down. International law recognises the right to respond to the extent of a threat, and Israel has therefore acted within international law.
Our goals are clear. Israel was forced to enter this conflict after an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah terrorists across the border, in which three soldiers were killed, and two kidnapped. The attack, one of many in recent years, was made possible because of an abnormal political situation in Lebanon. Since May 2000 the southern part of that country has effectively been hijacked by a terrorist organisation. Hizbullah controls the border, and administers every aspect of life for the residents of southern Lebanon. The organisation is armed, trained and kept afloat by foreign powers - Iran and Syria are at the forefront.
This terrorist organisation openly desires the destruction of Israel. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is an anti-semite, and is one of the most cynical leaders in the region. He uses Lebanon as a launch pad to pursue his own agenda with a wilful disregard of the hardship and pain he has brought on his fellow countrymen and women in Lebanon.
This situation is unacceptable. It will not continue. Israel's goal, first and foremost, is to ensure that, when our operations end, Hizbullah no longer controls the border with Israel, and may not reignite fighting at its whim. This is why a simple ceasefire, as attractive as it sounds, is not enough. It would allow Hizbullah, as it has done for six years, to rest, regroup, replenish supplies, and then start the fighting all over again.
Mr Herzog's cackling about "existential war" may go down very well with the Israeli public, but it ignores one crucial truth: Hezbollah wasn't seeking all out war with Israel; it wanted, illegally, to orchestrate a prisoner swap by abducting Israeli soldiers. It wasn't seeking the destruction of Israel and Herzog knows it but wilfully ignores it.
There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.
This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.
The goal of ending Hizbullah's capacity for aggression can be achieved in a number of ways. From our point of view, the obvious solution would be the deployment by the Lebanese army of its forces throughout the entirety of Lebanese territory. This is in accordance with the norms of life in sovereign countries. It is also required by Lebanon's obligations according to UN resolution 1559. We are told, however, that the Lebanese army is weak and small, and contains within its own ranks a considerable number of Hizbullah sympathisers.
So be it. Clearly, it is imperative that the international community endeavours to help the Lebanese government to reach a situation where it is able to effectively police its territory, and prevent it from being seized by armed organisations in the pay of foreign states.
The international community has already proved that with solid, unified support it helped Lebanon rid itself of Syrian occupation. The same international will must now be garnered to rid Lebanon of Hizbullah. For the interim period, however, Israel could accept the deployment of a sizeable, effective international force along the border.
Hopefully, the Israeli action of recent days has disabused Hizbullah and its backers of the notion that Israel is a "paper tiger", lacking the will to act in its citizens' defence. If this lesson has not been absorbed, and the aggression recommences, Israel will be prepared, if necessary, to mobilise once again.
Israel, a "paper tiger"? What planet does this man live on? It is precisely the IDF's overwhelming air superiority that allowed them to bomb Lebanon's cities and infrastructure, as well as most recently also fleeing civilians. The IAF can do this because it is completely unchallenged. Look in contrast to the IDF's approach to ground incursions: these operations are marked by caution and proportionality because Hezbollah's capacity to put up lethal resistance is very, very considerable.
It is to be hoped that arrangements of this type, along with the immediate return of the kidnapped soldiers, will now be enforced upon Hizbullah. The lives and dignity of the people of both Lebanon and northern Israel have for too long been forfeit to the whims of a terror group in the pay of a neighbouring dictatorship. It is time for this situation to end. Hizbullah's immoral and illegal behaviour must end so a new era may dawn on the region.
If this "new era" of the region is to include reinvigorating the quest for a just solution to the Palestinian question, then I can only applaud it. But will it? Or are we merely seeking to rid Lebanon of Syrian/Iranian influence in Israel's neighbour?
BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew unannounced to Beirut on Monday to seek a "sustainable" ceasefire in Lebanon, where Hizbollah guerrillas were battling an Israeli tank incursion in the south.
Rice met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora after her heavily guarded motorcade sped through Beirut from the U.S. embassy to the north where her helicopter had landed from Cyprus.
"Thank you for your courage and steadfastness," she told Siniora, who has repeatedly pleaded for an immediate ceasefire.
There was no immediate word the outcome of her meeting with Siniora, which lasted more than two hours, longer than planned.
On her way to the region, Rice said she wanted to create conditions for a sustainable ceasefire in a war that has cost 373 dead in Lebanon and at least 37 Israeli lives in 13 days.
Israel, after initially dismissing the idea, now says it would be willing for an international force to dislodge Hizbollah from south Lebanon and take control of Lebanon's border with Syria to stop the guerrillas re-arming.
"It doesn't matter who runs the mission, it's just important that the mission is accomplished," Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Amir Peretz had earlier also indicated that an international force to control South Lebanon would be acceptable to Israel.
How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.
I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.
They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.
And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.
I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city - once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year.
At the empty Etoile restaurant - best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined Jacques Chirac - I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the façade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few metres away.
Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared and then turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"
And now it is being un-built. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.
But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue - what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?
I think we know what it tells us. And yet I feel confident that if U.S. support for the Israeli campaign results in violent blowback, our politicians, pundits, and editorialists will once again don the American bridal veil of innocence, and profess bewilderment that anyone would want to harm us. Larry C. Johnson at No Quarter spells out the shock that may be in store:
"During the next two weeks we are likely to see combat in southern Lebanon intensify. Most of the action will be on the ground rather than in the air. Both sides will suffer significant casualties. If the United States is perceived (emphasis on perceived) as encouraging or directing the Israeli response [we're already beyond that point, given the NY Times front page story this morning about the US rushing precision-guided bombs to Israel], the odds increase that Hezbollah will ratchet things up another notch by playing the terrorist card.
"We should not confuse Hezbollah with Al Qaeda. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international network. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international political and financial network. They have personnel and supporters scattered in countries around the world who have the training and resources to mount attacks. Hezbollah has no qualms about using terrorist attacks as part of a broader strategy to achieve its objectives. The last major Hezbollah attack against the United States was the June 1996 attack on the U.S. military apartment complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah also organized the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. But they also have exercised restraint when they felt they could achieve their objectives through political means. The ten year hiatus in major mass casualty attacks could come to a shattering end in the coming months, and American citizens are likely to pay some of that price with their own blood."
[snip, Fisk continues]
And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft - perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this - came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.
I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.
And a few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.
And why? Be sure - the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated.
I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon At War". "Beirut Under Siege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila".
Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in September of 1982 while Israeli troops - as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry - watched the killings. I was there. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.
Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed last week, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.
I am back on the sea coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care," she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.
This war must be stopped now and immediately. From the start it was unnecessary, even if its excuse was justified, and now is the time to end it. Every day raises its price for no reason, taking a toll in blood that gives Israel nothing tangible in return. This is a good time to stop the war because both sides can claim they won: Israel harmed Hezbollah and Hezbollah harmed Israel. History shows that no situation is better for reaching an arrangement. Remember the lessons of the Yom Kippur War.
Israel went into the campaign on justified grounds and with foul means. It claims it has declared war on Hezbollah but, in practice, it is destroying Lebanon. It has gotten most of what it could have out of this war. The aerial "target bank" has mostly been covered. The air force could continue to sow destruction in the residential neighborhoods and empty offices and could also continue dropping dozens of tons of bombs on real or imagined bunkers and kill innocent Lebanese, but nothing good will come of it.
Those who want to restore Israel's deterrent capabilities have succeeded. Hezbollah and the rest of its enemies know that Israel reacts with enormous force to any provocation. South Lebanon is cleaner now of a Hezbollah presence. In any case, the organization is likely to return there, just as it is likely to rearm. An international agreement could be achieved now, and it won't be possible to achieve a better deal at a reasonable price in the future
Israel's other goals - returning the captured soldiers and the elimination of Hassan Nasrallah - will anyway be more difficult to achieve even if the war goes on for weeks and months. The IDF is now asking for "two more weeks" and in another two weeks it will ask for "another two weeks." A decisive victory is not in the offing.
On the other hand, the price is skyrocketing. Every day increases international criticism of Israel and hatred of it. That is also an element in "national security." As opposed to the choir in Israel that makes a false presentation as if the world is cheering Israel, the images from Beirut are causing Israel enormous damage, and rightly so. Not only in the streets of the Arab world is more and more hatred being sown, but also in the West. Not only hundreds of thousands of Lebanese but tens of thousands of Westerners fleeing from Lebanon are contributing to the depiction of Israel as a violent, crude and destructive state.
The fact that George Bush and Tony Blair are cheering Israel might be consolation for Ehud Olmert and the media in Israel, but it is not enough to persuade millions of TV viewers who see the images of destruction and devastation, most of which are not shown to Israeli audiences. The world sees entire neighborhoods that have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing in panic, homeless, and hundreds of civilians dead and wounded including many children who have nothing to do with Hezbollah.
The continuation of the war therefore is neither moral nor worthwhile. The economic blow the war caused to Israel will even remain limited if the war ends now. A lethal summer will exact a much greater economic price.
The Israeli rear, which has so far displayed impressive resilience, will not remain indifferent in the shelters for much longer. Slowly, the cracks will open and citizens will begin to ask why we are dying and what we are killing for. That's just the way of war. At first, nobody asks why, but the more entangled they become, the more difficult the questions become.
We've been here before, more than once. Wars began with broad national approval and ended with a great crisis. Those who bask now in the consensus should know that nothing lasts forever. The war will become an imbroglio. When it becomes apparent that the air force is not enough, the ground invasion that has already begun will intensify. The cliche about the Lebanese quagmire will be revalidated, and when the soldiers are killed, as is already happening daily, in house to house hunting, the protests will rise and divide society.
Now Israel is hoping for the elimination of Nasrallah. That's an atavistic impulse, even if understandable, which seeks the head of the enemy in order to prove our victory over him. There's no wisdom or practicality in it. Once again it is worth reminding ourselves of the dozens of people Israel assassinated in Lebanon and the territories, from Sheikh Abbas Mussawi to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, each replaced by someone new, usually more talented and dangerous than the predecessor. The goals of the war should not be dictated by dark impulses, even if they come in response to the wishes and demands of the mob. The only advantage that would benefit Israel from the elimination of Nasrallah would be that maybe it would bring about an end to the warring. But it can be halted even without that. The other desired goal, the return of the prisoners, will anyway only be achieved through negotiations to release prisoners. Israel could have done that before the war.
It is still too early to weigh out the balance of achievements and failures of this war. The day will come when it will become clear that it was purposeless, as are all wars of choice. Ceasing it now guarantees a limited achievement at a limited price. Continuing it guarantees a heavy price without any guarantee of a suitable reward. Therefore, Israel must cease and desist. The president of the United States can push us to continue the war all he wants, the prime minister of Britain can cheer us in parliament, but in Israel and Lebanon, the blood is being spilled, the horror is intensifying, the price is rising and it is all for naught.
Ministers and MKs began to express reservations in recent days over an expanded ground operation in Lebanon. Among those willing to publicly express their opinion were Ministers Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), who stressed that the operation had been planned based on the fact that there was no need for a ground incursion. Additional ministers expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that a diplomatic initiative had not yet been presented.
"It is important that alongside a military operation, diplomatic efforts are pursued, and the fact that the world is letting us continue military operations should not lead us to believe that there is no need for dialogue and a diplomatic plan," Pines-Paz told Haaretz on Saturday.
Statements were also made by Labor and Meretz MKs, who criticized the abandonment of a diplomatic track and expressed concern over a possible massive ground operation in Lebanon.
According to MK Danny Yatom (Labor), now that it is clear that ground troops are operating in Lebanon, one must ask about the scope of the operation. Yatom, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, plans to raise the issue at a committee meeting Monday.
"I want a clear, rather than vague, report on what the ground troops are doing in Lebanon, the number of troops, and whether there are plans to expand the operation. I vehemently oppose a large number of ground troops entering Lebanon. This has not yet been discussed, and if it happens, I want to know. We must be alert," Yatom said.
"Up until now, we've been supportive. We all support the military operation, but the time has come to ask decision-makers some questions," a Labor MK said.
Meretz leaders held a meeting Thursday on the fighting in the north, at the end of which they called on the government to try to reach a cease-fire and start negotiations.
Meretz faction whip MK Zehava Gal-On was adamant in stating that Israel should operate according to Israeli, not American, interests and should not let Israel Defense Forces troops become U.S. President George W. Bush's cannon fodder.
As the tv networks give unlimited airtime to Israel’s apologists, the message rolls out that no nation, least of all Israel, can permit bombardment or armed incursion across its borders without retaliation.
The guiding rule in this tsunami of drivel is that the viewers should be denied the slightest access to any historical context, or indeed to anything that happened prior to June 28, which was when the capture of an Israeli soldier and the killing of two others by Hamas hit the headlines, followed soon thereafter by an attack by a unit of Hezbollah’s fighters.
Memory is supposed to stop in its tracks at June 28, 2006.
Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.
Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.
Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32.
That’s just a brief trip down Memory Lane, and we trip over the bodies of twenty dead and forty-seven wounded, all of them Palestinians, most of them women and children.
Israel regrets… But no! Israel doesn’t regret in the least. Most of the time it doesn’t even bother to pretend to regret. It says, “We reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever we want. We reserve the right to assassinate their leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, tear out their olive groves, and when they try to resist we call them terrorists intent on wrecking the ‘peace process’”.
Now Israel says it wants to wipe out Hezbollah. It wishes no harm to the people of Lebanon, just so long as they’re not supporters of Hezbollah, or standing anywhere in the neighborhood of a person or a house or a car or a truck or a road or a bus or a field, or a power station or a port that might, in the mind of an Israeli commander or pilot, have something to do with Hezbollah. In any of those eventualities all bets are off. You or your wife or your mother or your baby get fried.
Israel regrets… But no! As noted above, it doesn’t regret in the least. Neither does George Bush, nor Condoleezza Rice nor John Bolton who is the moral savage who brings shame on his country each day that he sits as America’s ambassador (unconfirmed) at the UN and who has just told the world that a dead Israel civilian is worth a whole more in terms of moral outrage than a Lebanese one.
None of them regrets. They say Hezbollah is a cancer in the body of Lebanon. Sometimes, to kill the cancer, you end up killing the body. Or bodies. Bodies of babies. Lots of them. Go to the website fromisraeltolebanon.info and take a look. Then sign the petition on the site calling on the governments of the world to stop this barbarity.
You can say that Israel brought Hezbollah into the world. You can prove it too, though this too involves another frightening excursion into history.
This time we have to go far, almost unimaginably far, back into history. Back to 1982, before the dinosaurs, before CNN, before Fox TV, before O’Reilly and Limbaugh. But not before the neo-cons who at that time had already crawled from the primal slime and were doing exactly what they are doing now: advising an American president to give Israel the green light to “solve its security problems” by destroying Lebanon.
In 1982 Israel had a problem. Yasir Arafat, headquartered in Beirut, was making ready to announce that the PLO was prepared to sit down with Israel and embark on peaceful, good faith negotiations towards a two-state solution.
Israel didn’t want a two-state solution, which meant -- if UN resolutions were to be taken seriously -- a Palestinian state right next door, with water, and contiguous territory. So Israel decided chase the PLO right out of Lebanon. It announced that the Palestinian fighters had broken the year-long cease-fire by lobbing some shells into northern Israel.
Palestinians had done nothing of the sort. I remember this very well, because Brian Urquhart, at that time assistant secretary general of the United Nations, in charge of UN observers on Israel’s northern border, invited me to his office on the 38th floor of the UN hq in mid-Manhattan and showed me all the current reports from the zone. For over a year there’d been no shelling from north of the border. Israel was lying.
With or without a pretext Israel wanted to invade Lebanon. So it did, and rolled up to Beirut. It shelled Lebanese towns and villages and bombed them from the air. Sharon’s forces killed maybe 20,000 people, and let Lebanese Christians slaughter hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Chatilla.
The killing got so bad that even Ronald Reagan awoke from his slumbers and called Tel Aviv to tell Israel to stop. Sharon gave the White House the finger by bombing Beirut at the precise times -- 2.42 and 3.38 -- of two UN resolutions calling for a peaceful settlement on the matter of Palestine.
When the dust settled over the rubble, Israel bunkered down several miles inside Lebanese sovereign territory, which it illegally occupied, in defiance of all UN resolutions, for years, supervising a brutal local militia and running its own version of Abu Graibh, the torture center at the prison of Al-Khiam.
Occupy a country, torture its citizens and in the end you face resistance. In Israel’s case it was Hezbollah, and in the end Hezbollah ran Israel out of Lebanon, which is why a lot of Lebanese regard Hezbollah not as terrorists but as courageous liberators.
The years roll by and Israel does its successful best to destroy all possibility of a viable two-state solution. It builds illegal settlements. It chops up Palestine with Jews-only roads. It collars all the water. It cordons off Jerusalem. It steals even more land by bisecting Palestinian territory with its “fence”. Anyone trying to organize resistance gets jailed, tortured, or blown up.
Sick of their terrible trials, Palestinians elect Hamas, whose leaders make it perfectly clear that they are ready to deal on the basis of the old two-state solution, which of course is the one thing Israel cannot endure. Israel doesn’t want any “peaceful solution” that gives the Palestinians anything more than a few trashed out acres surrounded with barbed wire and tanks, between the Israeli settlements whose goons can murder them pretty much at will.
So here we are, 24 years after Sharon did his best to destroy Lebanon in 1982, and his heirs are doing it all over again. Since they can’t endure the idea of any just settlement for Palestinians, it’s the only thing they know how to do. Call Lebanon a terror-haven and bomb it back to the stone age. Call Gaza a terror-haven and bomb its power plant, first stop on the journey back to the stone age. Bomb Damascus. Bomb Teheran.
Of course they won’t destroy Hezbollah. Every time they kill another Lebanese family, they multiply hatred of Israel and support for Hezbollah. They’ve even unified the parliament in Baghdad, which just voted unanimously -- Sunnis and Shi’ites and Kurds alike -- to deplore Israel’s conduct and to call for a ceasefire.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these little excursions into history, even though history is dangerous, which is why the US press gives it a wide birth. But even without the benefit of historical instruction, a majority of Americans in CNN’s instant poll –- about 55 per cent out of 800,000 as of midday, July 19 -- don’t like what Israel is up to.
Dislike is one thing, but at least in the short term it doesn’t help much. Israel’s 1982 attack on Lebanon grew unpopular in the US, after the first few days. But forcing the US to pressure Israel to settle the basic problem takes political courage, and virtually no US politician is prepared to buck the Israel lobby, however many families in Lebanon and Gaza may be sacrificed on the altar of such cowardice.
Israeli warplanes continued their bombardment of Lebanon yesterday, defying a demand by Kofi Annan for an immediate end to fighting on the ninth day of a war that has led to the "collective punishment of the Lebanese people" .
Two countries, the US and Britain, defiantly refused to back the international clamour for an immediate ceasfire between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. Their ambivalence about civilian deaths in Lebanon has given Israel a powerful signal that it can continue its attacks with impunity.
However, Israel's ground offensive against Hizbollah was blunted when four of its soldiers were reported killed in clashes in south Lebanon. Across the country clouds of smoke appeared as the aerial bombardment continued and the evacuation of foreign nationals, including Americans, was stepped up. Israel said it would allow humanitarian aid to flow into Lebanon as international outrage grew over civilian casualties which are now above 300.
Mr Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, used his emotive statement to the Security Council to reflect the deep-seated international unease about the human cost of Israel's response to the onslaught of rockets from Hizbollah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran. "What is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities," he said. However, he added that there were "serious obstacles to reaching a ceasefire, or even to diminishing the violence quickly."
An official close to the secretary general said he had taken soundings with "everyone" before making the statement. Mr Annan was also due to brief the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, last night on the findings of a UN mission which concluded there should be a temporary cessation of hostilities.
The statement was sharply criticised by Israel and the United States. In London, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, told the Cabinet that those calling for a halt to hostilities, including the French government, were in effect demanding a one-sided ceasefire "with rockets still going into Israel".
Using similar language, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, said: "The first thing that must be addressed is cessation of terror before we even talk about cessation of hostilities."
John Bolton, the American ambassador, said: "As we've said repeatedly, what we seek is a long-term cessation of hostilities that's part of a comprehensive change in the region and part of a real foundation for peace, but still no one has explained how you conduct a ceasefire with a group of terrorists."
Britain and the US say they are not opposed to a ceasefire, but that Hizbollah must first stop firing missiles from south Lebanon into Israel and release two abducted soldiers. Countries such as Russia, which are calling for an immediate end to the fighting, have accused Israel of harbouring broader strategic goals than the simple return of the soldiers.
Although he accused Hizbollah guerrillas of holding "an entire nation hostage", the UN chief accused Israel of a disproportionate response. "While Hizbollah's actions are deplorable, and Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned," he told the Security Council. Israel must make "a far greater and more credible effort ... to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure".
Tony Blair spelt out the British position on Wednesday. "This would stop now if the soldiers who were kidnapped wrongly... were released," he said. "It would stop if the rockets stopped coming into Haifa, deliberately to kill innocent civilians. If those two things happened, let me promise... I would be the first out there saying: 'Israel should halt this operation'."
Britain, the US, Israel and many of the other 189 UN General Assembly members will state their positions today at a public meeting of the UN Security Council as the 15-member chamber tries to reach a consensus on how to end the conflict. But the positions of the five permanent members of the council appear increasingly to reflect those before the Iraq invasion - with the US and Britain on one side, and France, Russia and China on the other.
France is president of the Security Council this month and is therefore charged with trying to bridge the gap between the opposing sides.
The EU said yesterday that a ceasefire was essential before any peacekeeping mission can be deployed to southern Lebanon, and said the two sides were "not listening enough" to calls for an end to violence.
Matti Vanhanen, the Prime Minister of Finland, which holds the EU presidency, did not specify that he wants an immediate ceasefire - thereby avoiding a direct clash with Britain. However, Mr Vanhanen' allies said he privately supported the idea of an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Of the European countries, the UK has expended most diplomatic effort in trying to head off calls within the EU for an immediate end to the fighting. European diplomats believe that the US will only contemplate ceasefire calls when Ms Rice visits the region next week, giving Israel's offensive several more days.
Mr Vanhanen's comments went further than a carefully crafted declaration agreed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, in which the UK resisted calls for an immediate ceasefire. But the Foreign Office said it agreed with Mr Vanhanen's comments yesterday because he said only that an end to hostilities was a precondition of sending an international intervention force.
What was said
Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations
"What is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities."
Matti Vanhanen Prime Minister of Finland, which holds the EU Presidency
"All parties to the conflict must first commit to a ceasefire."
Dan Gillerman Israel's Ambassador to the UN
"The first thing that must be addressed is cessation of terror before we even talk about cessation of hostilities."
John Bolton The United States' Ambassador to the UN
"What we seek is a long-term cessation of hostilities... but still no one has explained how you conduct a ceasefire with a group of terrorists."
Tony Blair Prime Minister
"If it is to stop, it has to stop by undoing how it started. And it started with the kidnap of Israeli soldiers and the bombardment of northern Israel. If we want this to stop, that has to stop."
Israeli warplanes continued their bombardment of Lebanon yesterday, defying a demand by Kofi Annan for an immediate end to fighting on the ninth day of a war that has led to the "collective punishment of the Lebanese people" .
Two countries, the US and Britain, defiantly refused to back the international clamour for an immediate ceasfire between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. Their ambivalence about civilian deaths in Lebanon has given Israel a powerful signal that it can continue its attacks with impunity.
However, Israel's ground offensive against Hizbollah was blunted when four of its soldiers were reported killed in clashes in south Lebanon. Across the country clouds of smoke appeared as the aerial bombardment continued and the evacuation of foreign nationals, including Americans, was stepped up. Israel said it would allow humanitarian aid to flow into Lebanon as international outrage grew over civilian casualties which are now above 300. (Read full article)