here we go again, it seems. Blood-thirsty Arabs Lebanese fundamentalists
of the Hizbollah, "the Party of God" bombed the Israeli
town of Shlomi (10.8), killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring
several others. Terrorist attack on civilians, three years after
Israel has withdrawn its very last soldier from Lebanese soil.
Isn't it the ultimate proof for the inherent terrorism of the
Arabs, the decisive evidence that no peace can be made with Muslims?
If you follow the media, it probably is. If you take a closer
look at the facts well, not quite.
Afraid of Hizbollah
its name, the Hizbollah are definitely no saints. Mother Teresa
would not have been able to drive the Israeli army out of Lebanon
after almost 20 years of ruthless occupation. The Hizbollah has
its own agenda and interests, political and otherwise, and a limited
fighting with Israel may well be among them. (But, as analysts
usually forget, Israel and its army have their interests too,
and peace might not be their top priority either.) An independent
militia is indeed something that no sovereign state can tolerate;
Israel is right in pointing that out. This, however, is not Israel's,
but Lebanon's problem a small, weak country, torn between conflicting
religious and ethnic groups (including 300.000 Palestinian refugees),
and regularly invaded and terrorised by its stronger neighbours
Israel and Syria. When Israel expresses concern for Lebanon's
sovereignty, one doesn't know whether to weep or laugh. The existence
of Hizbollah is none of Israel's business: It becomes Israel's
business only if it violates the rules of good neighbourliness.
this is the aim of Israeli propaganda: to portray the Hizbollah
as a terrorist group that violates the rules of the game. The
facts, however, are that the Hizbollah pretty much follows the
rules of good neighbourliness; it is Israel that breaches them.
Since Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon, Hizbollah has been
concentrating on two kinds of actions: anti-aircraft fire, and
a limited fighting against Israel confined to the Shaba Farms.
Let's see what it's all about.
the Israeli withdrawal, Hizbollah has fired no missiles at Israeli
towns, though it undoubtedly possesses such weapons. The Israeli
boy killed this week was hit by an anti-aircraft bomb that failed
to detonate in mid-air and exploded on the ground. "Collateral
damage", if you like.
anti-aircraft fire has a clear target: Israeli fighter jets that
regularly enter Lebanon's airspace, flying over the entire country
from south to north as if it were theirs. The intrusion flights
started in October 2000, just five months after the Israeli withdrawal,
following Hizbollah's kidnap of three Israeli soldiers at the
Shaba Farms. Last November, based on Lebanese sources, Israeli
journalist Daniel Sobelman reported how up to seven Israeli jets
at a time were flying in the skies of Beirut, drawing smoke-pictures
over the Lebanese capital and repeatedly breaking the sound barrier
in what Lebanese citizens conceived as humiliating and enraging
provocations. Hizbollah leader Nasrallah said the anti-aircraft
fire would cease as soon as the Israeli flights stopped; Israeli
army spokesman refused to comment on its operations (Ha'aretz,
who is the aggressor here, who is the terrorist? Sending fighter
jets across the border is the most obvious violation of sovereignty.
No country on earth would tolerate that. Hizbollah's ineffective
flak is a totally legitimate and justified act of self-defence.
Israel's accusation that Hizbollah aims its anti-aircraft fire
so that the left-overs fall on Israeli towns even if true
is chutzpah incarnate: if you break into my house, don't complain
that the wall I shove you at is rough.
imagine Israel's reaction if a foreign jet had dared enter its
airspace. Actually, why imagine? When a Libyan airliner no fighter
jet, mind you entered the country's airspace by mistake in February
1973, the Israeli Air Force shot it down, killing 106 civilian
passengers. Israel claimed that it simply followed international
law. Asked whether it would do it again, PM Golda Meir replied:
"without a doubt".
other Hizbollah front is the Shaba Farms, a 14km-long and 2km-wide
strip along the Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian border. The Hizbollah
claims that it is occupied Lebanese soil. Israel denies this,
and is supported by the United Nations. Knockout victory for Israel,
then? Not quite. Even Israel concedes the area is occupied, but
it claims to have taken it from Syria, not from Lebanon, and that
it should therefore be negotiated with Syria. Great excuse to
keep the fighting going, isn't it. Syria, for its part, says it
has given it to Lebanon. Anyway, all parties agree that the area
is indeed occupied by Israel. Violent resistance to occupation
is considered morally and legally legitimate; it does not matter
who carries it out. (Otherwise, the liberation of the Netherlands
in World War II should have been left exclusively to Dutch forces,
etc. obviously absurd.)
if we put aside Hizbollah's problematic position within the Lebanese
State, Israel's northern neighbour is in fact clearly playing
by the rules. It is Israel who is breaking the rules over and
over again, both by its occupation of the Shaba Farms and by violating
recent escalation was initiated by an assassination of a Hizbollah
leader in Beirut on August the 1st. Israel was the
prime suspect. As PM Sharon said when asked about assassinations
(perfectly reflecting his "integrity"): "Some of
the things we do we'll admit, other things we'll deny
this case, Israel neither admitted nor denied. Typical terrorist
conduct, by the way, precisely like Al-Qaeda's: terror attacks
without taking responsibility.
fact, the signs were on the wall well before it started: A leading
critical Israeli expert for the labour market, Dr Linda Efroni,
predicted it more than a month ago. In a television interview
regarding the rising protest in Israel against welfare cuts, she
warned that if social unrest did not stop, the government might
initiate an escalation along the Northern border.
aimed at distracting from social unrest, or (more likely) from
police investigation into criminal offences by Sharon's closest
allies including his own son, or simply expressing the desire
of the army, frustrated by a certain restraint imposed on its
actions in the Occupied Territories in the past weeks, to open
a new front in the North we have not heard the last of this
story. Though the recent round seems to have been contained by
international diplomacy (after all, given the fiasco in Iraq,
the US doesn't need another front right now), it will be used
to prepare the hearts for the next escalation, till the time is
ripe for an overall attack on Lebanon and Syria. After all, Israel
has never made secret of its refusal to tolerate the so-called
"terrorist Hizbollah threat" along its Northern border,
and that it would sooner or later have to "deal with it".
When official Israel says "deal", it means war in
this case, as I explained in an earlier column, war
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