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Today's war in Lebanon: The latest chapter of the original 1948 conflict
Raja Halwani, The Electronic Intifada, 16 July 2006
On the morning of Wednesday, 12 July 2006, members of Hizbullah penetrated the Israeli-Lebanese border, conducting a military operation that resulted in the wounding of a few Israeli soldiers and the abduction of two. Hizbullah demanded the release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for releasing the two abducted soldiers. Since then, Israel has carried a savage military campaign against Lebanon, first under the excuse of retrieving the two soldiers, but now under the excuse of also destroying Hizbullah and making sure that it not operate against Israel, the same excuse it gave about the PLO when it invaded Lebanon in the summer of 1982. Israel's military campaign has consisted of heavy aerial, naval, and ground bombardment of Lebanon's infrastructure: its main and subsidiary airports, seaports, highways, bridges, communications systems, and water and power plants. It is also completely blockading its ports and entryways. The casualties are anybody's guess, though so far news sources claim that over 140 Lebanese have been killed and hundreds more injured. Hizbullah has replied by firing Katyusha rockets, mostly against Israel's northern settlements, with a few rockets landing in Tiberias, Haifa, Acre, and Nazareth, resulting in some Israeli civilian casualties, though by far less than the Lebanese ones.
Was Hizbullah justified in its abduction of the two Israeli soldiers? In a sense, this was an unprovoked attack (as Israeli spokespeople have been saying over and over with relish, since it is so rare that Arab attacks on Israel are indeed unprovoked): the border with Lebanon has been relatively calm, and Israel has pulled out all its troops from Lebanon in May 2000 (with the exception of the Sheb'a Farms area, which Lebanon claims as part of its territory). That the Hizbullah attack was unprovoked in this sense is a strike against its justifiability. Moreover, and as some Lebanese politicians have said, Hizbullah made this decision unilaterally, without consulting, let alone getting the approval and endorsement of, the Lebanese government. This is a problem because Hizbullah could easily have figured out the severity of the Israeli response. It was thus willing to drag the entire country of Lebanon into a difficult situation (an understatement) when it was not in a position to do so: though it has members in the Lebanese parliament and two ministers in the Lebanese cabinet, Hizbullah is not the ruling party of the country and so should not undertake such decisions on its behalf.