Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Primetime Lies from the American Media

By JONATHAN COOK in CounterPunch [all emphasis is mine]

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.

17 Comments:

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Gert, Just to say that I want to thank and congratulate you for all your [ongoing] tireless efforts to inform.

Like yourself no doubt, I have been very, very busy - both online and [more so] offline. So, though I've not commented for some time, I want you to know that I still have been reading regularly - and it goes without saying that I shall continue to do so.

More power to your elbow, my friend.

 
At 11:52 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

"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."

Gert, Cook must be joking right? The good thing about writing for Counterpunch is you can publish stuff like this and have it accepted as gospel. This being said, I do find some articles they publish useful and informative.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger markfromireland said...

"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."

Is entirely correct you've obviously never lived in Southern Lebanon. I have, in fact most of my career as a peacekeeper was there.

The Hizb are a Lebanese staffed and directed organisation with a Lebanese agenda. They have military, social welfare, religious, medical, educational, etc etc wings. The central government has done damn all for the south. The Hizb who live there have. They're a very typical Islamic activism movement in that respect. They have made and implemented civilian evacuation plans and amazingly enough did manage to get a huge proportion of the population out. That's what you'd expect a government - which is what they are in Southern Lebanon to do. They duly did their not inconsiderable best. There is a foolish tendency in the west to see the Hizb as just a terrorist organisation they aren't. That they have sometimes used terrorist tactics is undeniable but to lump them in with for example Islamic Jihad is very foolish. Most of the

You've equally obviously never been a soldier under fire. Knowing that your family is safe - or at least not in the front line is an incentive to fight. I would have thought that was obvious after even a moment's reflection. Perhaps not.

While I don't agree with all that Cook writes I give him credit for investigating locally checking his facts, having a good network of informants and verifying what they tell him.

It comes from being part of the "reality based community" or to put it another way - he knows what he's talking about.

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Mark, thanks for your insight.

I see two main factors that contributed to the creation and continuation of Hizbullah - one indigenous (Israeli occupation of S. Lebanon) and the other foreign (Islamic revolution in Iran). This is something Cook ignores.

"I give him credit for investigating locally checking his facts, having a good network of informants and verifying what they tell him."

Out of curiousity, how do you know Cook's research methodology? Who or what are his sources? How does he verify them?

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Richard said...

** In 1975, I arrived in Beirut for the first day of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. Seven years later, I accompanied Israeli troops as they invaded Lebanon, and was with an Israeli armored unit in Nabatiyah when it shot its way through a procession of Shia worshipers marking Ashura. This notorious event, and brutal behavior by Israeli occupation troops, turned Shia’s against the Israelis and sparked the birth of Hezbullah. **

You can read the full report from which I've clipped this excerpt, right here.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger markfromireland said...

David - you really need to do some research. Sadly at present Southern Lebanon is a less than safe locale for you to toddle off to and get cracking on the said research.

For the record a hefty proportion of Hizb fighters and officers are Christian I'll repeat this for you:

"The Hizb are a Lebanese staffed and directed organisation with a Lebanese agenda."

Yes they have a religious agenda but they're policies and activities are overwhelmingly those a nationalist resistance style movement. Yes they originally were set up with the help of the Iranians and yes they get still get some help. The idea however that were ever under the control of iran or Syria is ludicrous to anyone who knows them. God help the Iranian (or Syrian) official who tries to order the Hizb to do something.

Your comment anent cook shows you don't know his writing. As to how I know his work methods. I've dealt with him and know plenty of people who've dealt with him - he's a terrier tell him something and he'll worry at it like a bone. He's a damned good journalist who starts out with questions not with pre-conceived notions (and he doesn't care who he pees off.) People on all sides have tried to spin him a yarn and regretted it. He'll publish the truth as he sees it on the basis of meticuluous research and cross-checking. Would that there were more like him.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Hi Mark. If Cook is the man you describe him as, I bet he was quite intersting to work with.

From what you have asserted here, it seems that the research I have done has told me something totally different from what your research has told you.

In 2003, professor Daniel Byman wrote in Foreign Affairs that"With support from Damascus, Tehran helped organize, arm, train, inspire, and unite various Shi’ite groups into the movement that became known as Hezbollah — “party of God.”

In John Esposito's 'Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam' he states "the radical organization Hizbullah emerged in the early 1980's as a resistance movement, inspired by Khomeini and supported by Iran, in reaction to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon." (p. 66)

Referring to Syria, historian Benny Morris in 'Righteous Victims' states "aware of their army's inferiority, they employed proxies: local Lebanese agents and guerilla-terrorist groups and militias, primarily the Shi'ite Amal and Hizbullah..." (p. 539).

In a primer on Lebanon in 1990, the Middle East Report stated that Hizbullah was a "3,500 strong shi'i militia...[that] supports the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon and is backed by Iran."

etc...

Cheers.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger markfromireland said...

Are you being deliberately disingenuous David? I said that they received support from both Iran and Syria. Now let's see:

In 2003, professor Daniel Byman wrote in Foreign Affairs that"With support from Damascus, Tehran helped organize, arm, train, inspire, and unite various Shi’ite groups into the movement that became known as Hezbollah — “party of God.”

"the radical organization Hizbullah emerged in the early 1980's as a resistance movement, inspired by Khomeini and supported by Iran, in reaction to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon."

Even Benny Morris admits that the Hizb are local Lebanese

Referring to Syria, historian Benny Morris in 'Righteous Victims' states "aware of their army's inferiority, they employed proxies: local Lebanese agents and guerilla-terrorist groups and militias, primarily the Shi'ite Amal and Hizbullah..." (p. 539)

As to the primer - don't quote something that was out of date 16 years ago at me as some kind of authority. Back in 1998 the Hizb announced that while they wanted a state organised along theory of velayat-e faqih lines that they accepted that in Lebanon this would never come to pass that it was an aspiration not a goal. You might like to note that every other local political entity in Lebanon took them at their word. There's a good reason for that. The Hizb rely in large measure on holding the moral high ground getting caught in a stupid lie would seriously erode their credibility amongst their supporters.

I note you haven't responded to my point about their support amongst Lebanese Christians even before the latest agression against Lebanon.

The Hizb are a Lebanese entity with a Lebanese agenda. They may, and do, support and receive support from external entities this does not alter the fact that their primary focus is upon Lebanon. No doubt you have the same problem with Muqdata al-Sadr who shares the same ideology as the Hizbullah but who is intensely nationalistic and, like the Hizb in Lebanon, profoundly hostile to foreigners invading or otherwise attempting to dominate his country be they Iran, the USA, or Israel.

Neither nationalism nor religion are dead and quite frankly I am tired of western secularists who have lied to themselves for years throwing their hands up in the air in horror like a troupe of marmosets who have just discovered that the world is a naughty place.

What is going on in the Middle East is primarily the result of Western Secular contempt for the people who live there. When people such as myself who actually know the place warned what was coming we were treated with contumely now we're being asked to please please help make it better.

No, let them reap what sowed it's the only way they'll learn. Colonialism was always a racist and evil thing, the current Western secular version of it is just as evil and just as bloodsoaked as its predecessor was and deserves the same fate.

 
At 1:11 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Sorry, I wasnt clear with my point. I dont see Hizbullah as entirely indigenous because it receives ideological inspiration from a regime whose foreign policy is to export an Islamist revolution. Whether it is staffed by locals or not, its a proxy.

Regarding Christian support of Hizbullah, Michael Young of the Daily Star recently stated: "The Lebanese people have watched as Hezbollah has built up a heavily armed state-within-a-state that has now carried the country into a devastating conflict it cannot win and many are fed up. Sunni Muslims, Christians and the Druze have no desire to pay for the martial vanity of the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nor will they take kindly to his transforming the devastation into a political victory. Some even welcome Israel’s intervention. As one Lebanese politician said to me in private (but would never dare say in public) Israel must not stop now. It sounds cynical, he said, but ‘for things to get better in Lebanon, Nasrallah must be weakened further.'"

Richard Beeston, who lived in Beirut, of the Spectator agrees with Young's assertion.

If they are only concerned with Lebanon, why do they state in their charter:

"we are an umma linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Muhammad. This is why whatever touches or strikes the Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere reverberates throughout the whole Muslim umma of which we are an integral part."

Take care.

 
At 2:14 AM, Blogger markfromireland said...

David by your logic:

The IRA freedom fighters under General Collins who killed and killed and kept on killing both regular British troops and the Black and Tans until the British empire signed a peace treaty and departed from the south of Ireland weren't indigenous either.

They were after all inspired by the American revolution and got a lot of their werewithal from donations by Americans.

Michael Young and Richard Beeston - Can't you do better than that? Michael Young writes for and about a tiny fragment of Lebanon's people. The westernised Christian elite - the phalange supporters.

Before I answer your final point I need some information:

1) Have you ever read the Qu'ran.

2) Do you believe in the separation of Church and State?

 
At 4:25 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Hi Mark:

You raise a good point but I see the difference in government support versus that of civil society. The IRA may have been supported by Irish-Americans, but this differs from Hezbollah being supported materially, financially and ideologically by a foreign state with a specific worldview and design for the Middle East. My interpretation of this is that it weakens the indigenous quality of Hezbollah.

And I dont necessarily see it as a coincidence that with growing intl pressure on Iran to stop their nuclear program they give the green light to Hezbollah to ignite the region. Like most political actors do when they are under pressure, they tend to want to distract everyone. Hamas did it in Gaza, Israel does it, America does it, and Hezbollah and Iran do it.

The reason I chose Michael Young as a source is because he is an editor of an important newspaper who also has Rami Khoury on staff. I think its an important source but obviously you seem to be more tapped into Lebanon than I.

I have never sat down and read the entire Qu'ran, I have read sections as well as a selection of hadith reports. Yes I believe in the seperation of Church and State. I have read 'Social Justice in Islam' by Sayyid Qutb which has influenced my view of Islamist movements.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Hi David:

"And I dont necessarily see it as a coincidence that with growing intl pressure on Iran to stop their nuclear program they give the green light to Hezbollah to ignite the region. Like most political actors do when they are under pressure, they tend to want to distract everyone. Hamas did it in Gaza, Israel does it, America does it, and Hezbollah and Iran do it."

Iran doesn't need to distract from the nuclear issue: it's currently holding all the cards because the US played its hand very badly and is now essentially backed in a corner. Which explains why they actually came up with quite a constructive and balanced offer.

For an evidence-based person you are now conjecturing in a very cavalier way: "Tehran ordered Hezbollah to create a distraction by igniting the region". What nonsense: who could even have predicted that the initial soldier kidnapping would lead to the current mayhem?

Also, even if your (not very educated) guess was correct, would Israel have been so foolish to rise to the bait? Would it be in the US's interest to prolong, or at least not shorten, the conflict? I don't think so.

All in all this situation is unlikely to affect the outcome of the nuclear showdown in August.

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger markfromireland said...

All right david first of all if you want to understand Islam you need to read the Qu'ran.

Secondly Islam is an intrinisically political religion it proposes an umma all Muslims accept the notion of an umma. The umma is the community of believers. The Qu'ran, the Hadiths and the sharia are a blueprint for a community of believers. Why do you think the Islamic calendar dates from the Hijra and not for example from when Muhammad started to receive the Qu'ran?

You should note that there's nothing intrinsically anti-democratic about this blueprint but that for as long as Muslims wth considerable justification feel that their very identity is in danger of being wiped out that they're going to resist having our interpretation of what constitutes good governance rammed down their throats.

Juan Cole today has saved me a lot of trouble about the Hizb so I suggest you toddle along and read him instead of my deathless prose :-) Once you've done that you'll understand the rest of what I've to say.

Qutb - is the founder of one (and only one) school of Sunni modern thought. Even the Ikhwanis now reject most of what he had to say. The idea that the Hizb would even remotely consider what he had to say is like saying that Russian and Spanish are in the same family of languages. They're both European languages and that's as far as it goes .....

You'd do better to read his "Signposts" or as one translation titles it "Milestones" but you need to read people like al-Bana first to see where it was he was coming from.

Still at least you went to one source albeit a very secondary one so some kudos for that.

I agree with Gert's points. Sorry this is so curt sounding I'm horribly rushed tonight.

 
At 11:29 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Gert:

Honestly, I will never comprehend the British method of debate. I'm once again surprised that you see my opinions as "uneducated conjecture" and, to boot, "nonsense". Well, at least you didnt you call them "laughable."

But anyways, I am working within the controversial assumption that Iran and Hezbollah work very losely together. I have read statements by Nasrallah that claim that he rejects any foreign pressure, but I feel like this may be for popular consumption.

The nuclear issue has put much pressure on the Iranian regime and while they currently may be in a position of superiorty because of European and American intransigence, they are indeed still under pressure. In addition, the regime faces robust domestic pressure. With a young population coupled with a poor economy and a high unemployment rate, the regime is seeking outlets. And what better way to distract the masses than to hold rallies under the banner of "the world without Zionism" and inflame the Arab-Israeli conflict through their Lebanese proxy.

As a result of the Cedar Revolution last year, Hezbollah was in a predicament. Holding positions in the government essentially meant waning popular support for their cause. While they do provide social services, this most likely was not enough. For Hezbollah to exist as many members want it to, they need to be in violent conflict with Israel or else they might as well disarm and join the traditional lebanese parties in non-violent political co-operation. Instead, Hezbollah resisted disarmament. Partly because they still viewed Israel as an occupier of Lebanese territory and partly because they refuse to reconcile with the existence of the Jewish State and partly because it would mean their end.

Similarly, Likud also needs unrest to achieve electoral success otherwise more moderate parties would gain power.

In regards to Israel's response, Iran and Hezbollah were quite aware that Israel for the first time in its history was ruled by what is essentially a 'civilian' administration. Accordingly, any threat to the Olmert-Peretz govt would mean a serious show of strength. And in the Israeli mindset, strength usually means military might.
All Israeli governments from 1948 on have operated with the mentality of the "Iron Wall." This is what we are seeing today. In Gaza, Israel went bizerk when Hamas attacked an military outpost and kidnapped a soldier. I doubt Hezbollah thought that Israel would act radically different after their own attack which yielded more dead and kidnapped soldiers.

Further, if we go back to April 2002 when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, we will see some parallels. In the end, Sharon successfully routed Fatah's terrorist side and seriously wounded Hamas' operational abilities. This military success assured future Israeli leaders that in order to properly deal with the terrorist threat, strong military action will be needed. In 2002-2004, Israel significantly crushed Hamas and Fatah but the only remaining threat was from the North i.e. Hezbollah.

While this policy is flawed, I think its important factor in what we are seeing today.

Just a theory.

 
At 12:22 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Mark:

During my year long course in Islamic history only a few sections from the Qu'ran were assigned as readings. Obviously, the prof, an expert in the field, believed that his students could get a better understanding of Islam and its history through the readings of various other sources including religious texts, scholarly works, poems, diaries, etc.

Where did you get your phd from? Where did you learn Arabic? Are you a professor? If so, at what university? I am interested in your credentials considering you seem to be an expert on the topic of Hizbullah and Islam, and firmly assert that I have a lot of learning to do.

So its only natural that I question the source from where all this advice is coming.

take care.

 
At 4:26 PM, Blogger Gert said...

David:

I sense you're taking offence when none was intended. I don't "see [your] my opinions as "uneducated conjecture [...]". I used the term as in the proverbial opposite of "educated guess".

Your points have been noted but I don't accept some of them as being other than mere speculation.

Here's how I see it:

1. There is a connection between Iran and Hezbollah but that doesn't mean Tehran had a "hand" in Hezbollah's decision.
2. Iran doesn't need this kind of distraction in regards to the nuclear issue. It could be argued that speculatively tying it's fate to the crisis in Lebanon would actually harm it's case, rather than further it.
3. Hezbollah could not have predicted Israel's ferocious response. A much stronger provocation could have triggered such a crisis but this wasn't used.
4. Only Hezbollah's capturing of the soldiers and Israel's overwhelming response are to blame for the crisis, not Iran.

I know you don't like what Israel is doing but you don't like to admit it and therefore prefer to bring in a third party to dole out culpability to. Your opinion on this matter is really a mirror image of "the US is fighting Hezbollah by means of its proxy, Israel".

Anyway, that's my little bit of speculation.

 
At 5:02 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Gert, I agree in principle with the action that is Israel is taking but I have admitted I dont like the way it is panning out, as I stated in my own blog piece -'Just War or Just Another War?'

Also, I dont really disagree with the assertion that the US may be fighting Hezbollah through Israel as a proxy. Both are allies and currently share a similar worldview. So this may be true.

Iran is to blame along with Israel and Hezbollah because they feed Hezbollah - without Iran Hezbollah would much weaker and probably not dare a military confontation. And let's not forget to blame Syria too. Everyone is belligerent.

I think Iran benefits from the region being inflamed. It provides substance to the regime's rhetoric about a cosmic battle between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. And with the media, international community and diplomats now turned back to Israel and the Arabs, the Iranians can continue to pursue their nuclear programme with far less publicity.

Iran from 1980's on has a history of meddling. Their foreign policy demands that the regime work to export the revolution. In the 1980s, Iran was assassinating Iraqi government officials. They also tried have the Iraqi shiites rise up and unite with Iran. They failed. I see their meddling in Lebanon as part of this wider programme.

 

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