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Resist at your peril
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:05 PM
Humanitarian groups the world over are decrying Israel's punitive strikes on the hapless civilian population of Lebanon rather more firmly than governments, writes Gamal Nkrumah
Unexpected Israeli pounding jolted Lebanon out of a relatively quiet July, prompting international reactions. Western governments, and in particular the United States, were on the whole supportive of the Israeli aggression. The Europeans, with the possible exception of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, were less assertively pro-Israeli. Many European leaders expressed grave reservations about the bombardment of civilian targets.

"The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hizbullah on Israel," according to a statement issued by Finland, which happens to be holding the EU's rotating presidency. "The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified... actions, which are contrary to international humanitarian law, can only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution, and cannot serve anyone's legitimate security interests."

For one particularly influential player in Lebanese politics, France, Lebanon's former colonial master, officially reserved strong criticism for Israel's retaliatory measures. Reactions from Asian, African and South American countries were even more openly sympathetic to the Lebanese cause, while international relief agencies and human rights organisations spoke with a unanimous voice -- strongly condemning the Israeli battering of civilian targets in Lebanon. Indeed the Herculean efforts required to salvage the humanitarian situation in Lebanon have, not surprisingly, become the focus of United Nations affiliated organisations and human rights groups as well as humanitarian relief organisations worldwide.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:05 PM
Portrayed as the world's eternal victim, Israel in the eyes of the Americans is unquestioned, even when it is bombing civilians, writes Emad Mekay, in New York

For the United States, Israel is always the victim when at conflict with its Arab neighbours. Otherwise, the zealous mobilisation of US politicians and intellections in support of Israel's war against Lebanon and their justification of the bloodshed it has caused would be ludicrous.

On Sunday morning millions of Americas watched former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (Republican, Georgia) tell them that Israel's demolition of Lebanese infrastructure, targeting of civilians and total blockade of Lebanon was an act of self-defence. He and many other public figures in the US also parroted the Israeli line of blaming Iran and Syria for the events. There is, Gingrich said, a "Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas alliance trying to destroy Israel".

"You clearly have Iranian involvement; there are at least 400 Iranian guards in south Lebanon," he added without citing any evidence.

The US continues to back Israeli aggression with weapons and aid, justified by claims made by many pro-Israel intellectuals that this conflict is a world war that includes the United States. "I mean, this is absolutely a question of the survival of Israel, but it's also a question of what is really a world war," Gingrich said

Other neo-conservatives and staunch pro-Israel allies also saw opportunity in the lethal violence gripping Lebanon. William Kristol, editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard, told Fox News Sunday that the Israeli attacks were in response to the Hizbullah operation that lead to the capture of two Israel soldiers, failing to mention how the Lebanese government and Hizbullah have been pleading with Israel to return maps of some 140,000 mines it left when it was forced out of Lebanon in 2000.

Israel still holds Lebanese prisoners and thousands of Palestinians in its US-funded prisons. It has also rejected calls for a withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms area that it continues to occupy.

Kristol -- a main propagandist for the US invasion of Iraq -- also said that the Hizbullah operation was an "opportunity" for the US to be back on the offensive in the region after a series of setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups," he said.

"Israel is fighting four of our five enemies, in a sense, in the Middle East: Iran and Syria, sponsors of terror, Hizbullah and Hamas. Al-Qaeda doesn't seem to be directly involved. We have to take care of them in Iraq," Kristol added. "This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six months to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive," he said.

The US media has also played a role in downplaying scenes of civilian causalities on the Lebanese side. On Monday, the front-page picture of The Washington Post depicted Israeli rescue workers operating in Haifa. The day before was a bland, practically generic, picture of an explosion in Lebanon. Most headlines have either sympathised with Israel or undermined the gravity of Israel's attacks.

Alternatively, many TV stations sought to present the current crisis in terms of equal suffering; that Israeli civilians suffered under Hizbullah rockets as much as Lebanese civilians under Israeli aerial bombing.

More than 250 Lebanese, most of them civilians, including women and children, were killed in Israeli raids using 500-pound laser guided US-made bombs. The Lebanese economy suffered billions of dollars worth of damage after Israel targeted Beirut's airport, bridges, roads and factories. To date, 24 Israelis have been killed -- half of them uniformed soldiers in combat with Hizbullah fighters.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Jul 20th, 2006 1:07 PM
In ambition and miscalculation, Israel's latest Lebanese adventure looks ominously similar to 1982, writes Graham Usher

In October 2000 Hizbullah guerrillas captured three soldiers on the Lebanese border with Israel. Israel's then prime minister, Ehud Barak, chose not to respond. With the Al-Aqsa Intifada less than a month old, he was wary of opening a "second front." In April 2002 -- at the height of the Israeli army's re-conquest of Palestinian West Bank cities -- Hizbullah killed several soldiers on the border. Barak's successor, Ariel Sharon, too, did not respond.

Instead he warned Syria while continuing indirect negotiations with the Lebanese resistance that led, eventually, to the release of 410 Arab prisoners in exchange for the bodies of the three dead soldiers and the release of the Israeli "businessman" Elhanan Tennenbaum. Even Sharon, it seemed, accepted the status quo on the Lebanese- Israeli border, buttressed by 10,000-12,000 Hizbullah missiles aimed at Israeli cities.

On 12 July 2006 Hizbullah guerrillas captured two soldiers and, in battle, killed eight more. Israel, in occupation of Gaza for the first time in a year, responded by unleashing its worst ground, air and sea assault on Lebanon, certainly since Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996, and arguably since Operation Peace in the Galilee in 1982. Hizbullah hit back with rockets into Haifa and Tiberias.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clearly has no problem fighting on two fronts. Like Samson, he willingly upturned the "balance of fear" that had kept the peace on Israel's northern border for the last six years. As Azmi Bishara wrote in Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper, "Hizbullah did not engage in 'adventurism' against Israel. Israel engaged in war against Hizbullah."