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Gilbert Achcar: Israel's Dual Onslaught On Lebanon And Palestine
Interviewed by Paola Mirenda, Liberazione, 16 July 2006
ince last Wednesday, the Israeli Army has been imposing a siege on Lebanon and bombarding the country as a result of the abduction of two of its soldiers and the killing of seven others by a Lebanese Hezbollah commando unit. Israel's reaction was predictable, even in its disproportion. What are the political and strategic reasons that can be seen behind this action by Hezbollah?
The explanations that Hezbollah has given for its action are many. The first reason invoked is to try to obtain the release of prisoners — there are several Lebanese believed to be held in Israeli custody, although only two are officially detained by Israel (in addition to close to 10,000 Palestinian prisoners) — as well as to act in solidarity with the struggle of Hamas in Palestine, which is animated by a similar inspiration to that of Hezbollah, and to react to the ongoing onslaught on Gaza. Of course, it was logical to expect this violent retaliation on Israel's part, in light of what it did to Palestine in reaction to the abduction of another soldier.
In this crisis, there are many dimensions involved: international observers have discussed the possible role of Syria and, above all, Iran in what is occurring, and what calculations there are regarding the regional balance of forces. Tehran, whose relation to Hezbollah is similar to that of Moscow to the communist parties at the time of the "international communist movement," has been engaged for some time in an anti-Israeli bidding game against rival Arab governments in order to win over Sunni Muslim opinion. Iranian President Ahmadinejad's provocative statements since his election one year ago were part of this game, which fits in with Tehran's strategy facing the USA, at a time when American pressure on the nuclear issue is in full escalation. But, whatever the case, it can be said that what Hezbollah did has prompted a test of strength that risks costing them a great deal, as it is costing the whole of Lebanon very much already.