by Gerry Foley / August 2006 issue of Socialist Action
Despite the talk of a UN-bartered ceasefire, it appears that the Israeli assault on Lebanon may be prolonged. This is essentially because the Zionist state has been not able to achieve its military or political objectives of intimidating the populations of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
In particular, Israel has been unable to stop or even reduce the retaliatory missiles rained on it by the Arab resistance organization Hezbullah. In the first week of August more than 100 missiles hit Israel every day—some, for the first time, coming within 30 miles of Tel Aviv. (The Hezbullah leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, has threatened to launch heavy long-range missiles at the Israeli center if Israel presses its bombing campaign and ground invasion further).
The Israeli military seems to be holding back on a major ground invasion out of fear of the casualties it would suffer in close combat with the well-armed and highly motivated Hezbullah fighters. The Arab resistance fighters are equipped with effective anti-tank missiles that can piece Israeli armor and have already inflicted significant losses on the invaders.
One analyst in the Israeli daily Haaretz complained that his country’s military has failed to provide Israel’s American big brother with the “cards” it needs to carry out its policy. By this, he apparently means that Israel has failed to destroy Hezbullah in southern Iraq in order to open up the way for the stationing of a so-called international force in the area to shield Israel from attack.
France is expected to play the leading role in any such force. On Aug. 4, France agreed to a draft UN resolution that calls for a total cessation of violence, which implies disarming Hezbullah.
The Israeli military’s response to its dilemma has been to escalate its bombing campaign. The Beirut daily L’Orient Le Jour estimated on Aug. 4 that the bombings had driven a million people, one fourth of the population, from their homes. It stressed that the bombing of bridges have divided Lebanon into a series of islands of separate communities.
Israel’s massive bombardment from the air is leading to more and more atrocious massacres. World public opinion was horrified enough to prompt a long series of hypocritical expressions of regret by imperialist leaders over the slaughter in Qana on July 31 in which a group of refugees, mostly children, died in the bombing of a multistory building. The original report was that 57 had been killed.
The Zionist press and apologists have been trying to minimize the impact of this atrocity by playing up the fact that so far only 27 bodies have been found (16 of them children). Actually 13 are counted as missing and there may be many more bodies in the ruins. In any case, there is no way to minimize that long row of small bodies in a Tyre hospital.
Moreover, the shock of the Qana bombing had barely faded when the Israeli air force killed dozens of farm laborers on Aug. 3 in a strike on the village of Qaa near the Syrian border. They were blown away while they were loading fruit into trucks.
There are many reports of dozens dead or trapped under rubble in other targeted areas. As long as Israel continues the sort of bombing that it has been doing, it is certain that there will be other massacres of innocents. These outrages are making Israel into a pariah state in the eyes of world public opinion and further blackening the image of the United States.
The question is whether the protest will become active enough to deter the imperialist murderers or whether public opinion will be fooled by the sending of a so-called peace-keeping force to southern Lebanon.
Since early on in the war between Israel and Hezbullah, the capitalist media have assured the public that the Israeli assault on Lebanon will be limited in time because the U.S. gave the Zionist state only about three weeks for its military operation before it forces a ceasefire. The reporters do not seem to realize how much they are highlighting the collusion in the slaughter between Israel and the United States.
This collaboration was made even clearer by a report in the July 22 New York Times that the United States was rushing “smart bombs” to the Israeli military: “The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, U.S. officials said Friday.
“The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the administration, the officials said.”
The report indicated, moreover, that Israel was planning a prolonged and intensive bombing campaign: “The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel had a long list of targets in Lebanon still to strike.”
Furthermore, as the bombing campaign has gone on, it has become more and more clear that at least one of its objectives is collective punishment. An Agence France-Presse dispatch published July 24 on the Aljazeera website reported: “The Israeli air force has been ordered to hit 10 buildings in south Beirut—where Hezbollah has its headquarters—for every rocket the group fires at the Israeli port of Haifa.
“‘Army chief of staff Dan Halutz has given the order to the air force to destroy 10 multi-story buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa,’ a senior air force officer told army radio on Monday.”
Such reprisals for guerrilla activity were characteristic of the Nazi occupation forces in Europe. In reaction against such horror, the Geneva Conventions, adopted in 1949, banned collective punishments.
The Swiss government, which is responsible for monitoring observance of the conventions, has already indicted Israel for violating this foundation document of post-World War II international law by its collective punishment of the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza. The Zionist regime was thus being branded for war crimes. The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Louise Arbour, also warned the Israeli rulers on July 19 that their actions in Lebanon could be judged to be war crimes.
It has also been revealed that the Israeli assault was a premeditated plan to cripple Hezbullah and intimidate the Arab resistance and not a response to any action by Hezbullah or Hamas. Matthew Kalman reported from Jerusalem in the July 21 San Francisco Chronicle: “Israel’s military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.
“In the six years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.
“‘Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,’ said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. ‘In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we’re seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it’s been simulated and rehearsed across the board.’
“More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving Power Point presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail.” In other words, Hezbullah’s attack on an Israeli border post was only a pretext for the assault on Lebanon.
It might even be surmised that Hezbullah fell into a trap. Hezbullah is by far the strongest Arab resistance force. It has come to be seen by the Arab masses as their avenger, the savior of their honor. That has become very clear as the press reports the response in the Arab countries to the Israeli assault.
In this position, Hezbullah bears a heavy responsibility. In the face of the Zionist campaign to crush the Palestinians in Gaza, Hezbullah could not just stand by. It had to do something. And then its action became the pretext for an escalation of Israel’s campaign to intimidate the Arab people of the region.
The Zionist rulers and their imperialist sponsors have so far thumbed their noses at outraged world public opinion. They are well aware that the Israeli settler state was imposed on the Middle East by force and is maintained by force in the face of the resentment of the Arab populations of the region.
However, the Hezbullah resistance to the Israeli army indicates the limits of the force that the Zionist rulers can bring to bear. The Hezbullah leaders have mastered the basic nature of guerrilla warfare—that is, their objective is not to defeat a regular army in open combat but to wear it out and impose ultimately unbearable costs. Their organization was forged and tempered in a guerrilla struggle against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
The leaders of Hezbullah are proclaiming that, no matter what it does, the Israeli military is not going to be able to stop the rockets, and that when it is clear that it cannot do that the Zionist state will suffer a major political defeat. At least partially, it already has, because Hezbullah has fought hard and effectively, and the Israeli military has had to acknowledge that.
For the humiliated and oppressed Arab people, this brave resistance is a decisive victory in itself. It is a demonstration that the Zionist state will never succeed in enduringly intimidating the Arab masses—and therefore it can never be securely established.
The greatest danger facing the Arab resistance, as always, is the treachery of the bourgeois states that claim to support it. The big business press itself has had to report how discredited the so-called moderate Arab governments are among their own people.
But Iran and Syrian also make more deals with the imperialists than they would like to be known. The U.S. is clearly applying pressure on Syria and even on Iran to isolate Hezbullah.
Also, since Israel politically and militarily can no longer bear the costs of occupying southern Lebanon, the United States and the Zionists want a so-called international force (an imperialist army under an international mask) to be stationed there to protect Israel. For this, it would also need the complicity of the Arab bourgeois governments, and that will undoubtedly be forthcoming if the political forces that oppose imperialist domination of the region are not able to combat this proposal effectively by mobilizing in the streets.
As for democrats and humanitarians in the imperialist countries, it is vital for them to defend the advance of world civilization attained after the defeat of fascism by actively denouncing the crimes of the Zionist regime and its imperialist sponsors in Lebanon and Palestine.
This is the only way to counter the threat of wider wars in the Middle East, for which the peoples of the imperialist countries themselves would have to pay a price—eventually even in blood. The present conflict may not lead immediately to a wider war, but it has already raised the specter of such a development.