As Israel's bombing of Lebanon continues unabated
into its fourth consecutive week, the United States says it stands ready to
provide food, medicine, and humanitarian assistance to the thousands of internally
displaced Lebanese caught in the crossfire.
But Washington has also decided to accelerate the supply of lethal weapons
to Israel "perhaps intended to kill the very Lebanese the United States
is planning to feed and shelter," says one Arab diplomat at the United Nations.
"It is U.S. hypocrisy at its worst," he told IPS, speaking on condition of
anonymity, because his country receives millions of dollars in U.S. economic
"The right hand obviously does not know what its left hand is up to. Or does
it?" he asked.
Irene Khan, secretary-general of the London-based Amnesty International (AI),
is equally harsh in her reaction. "It is ridiculous to talk about providing
humanitarian aid on the one hand, and to provide arms on the other," she says.
In the face of such human suffering in Lebanon and Israel, Khan says, "It
is imperative that all governments stop the supply of arms and weapons to both
Asked if there is a contradiction between the two, President George W. Bush
told reporters last week: "No. I don't see a contradiction in us honoring
commitments made prior to Hezbollah attacks into Israeli territory."
Bush also made an obvious slip when he said: "I am concerned about loss
of innocent life, and we will do everything we can to help move equipment
I mean, food and medicines, to help the people who have been displaced and the
people who suffer."
In a statement released last week, AI quoted British press reports relating
to two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes filled with GBU 28 laser-guided bombs
containing depleted uranium (DU) warheads and destined for the Israeli air force
landing at Prestwick airport, near Glasgow. The planes landed for refueling
and crew-rests after flying from the United States.
"Other reports claimed that the USA has requested that two more planes be
permitted to land in the UK en route to Israel in the next two weeks. The reports
said the aircraft will be carrying other weapons, including bombs and missiles,"
"The UK government should refuse permission for its sea and air ports
to be used by planes or ships carrying arms and military equipment destined
for Israel or Hezbollah," said Khan.
Amnesty International has also written to British Foreign Secretary Margaret
Beckett urging the government to suspend its own sale or transfer of all arms
and military equipment to Israel.
Beckett was quoted as saying: "We have already let the United States know
that this is an issue that appears to be seriously at fault, and we will be
making a formal protest if it appears that that is what has happened."
Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Israelis
of using artillery-fired cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon.
"Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when
used around civilians," Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW warned. "They
should never be used in populated areas."
Armed mostly with state-of-the-art U.S.-supplied fighter planes and combat
helicopters, the Israeli military is capable of matching a combination of all
or most of the armies in Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Syria, Egypt,
Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
The annual survey of U.S. arms sales, conducted by the U.S. Congressional Research
Service (CRS), shows a total of $8.4 billion of arms deliveries to Israel in
the 1997-2004 period, with fully $7.1 billion or 84.5 percent coming from a
single source: the United States.
A major factor in this trend was the rise in U.S. Foreign Military Financing
outright U.S. grants to Israel which now totals about $2.3 billion
a year paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Meanwhile, AI's Khan said the pattern of attacks and the extent of civilian
casualties show a blatant disregard of international humanitarian law by Israel
She also said that "direct targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure
and launching indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks amount to war crimes."
Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois
College of Law, says that the 192-member UN General Assembly must immediately
establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) as a "subsidiary
organ" under UN Charter Article 22.
The ICTI would be organized along the lines of the International Criminal Tribunal
for Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established by the Security Council in 1993.
"The purpose of the ICTI would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli
war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the peoples of Lebanon
and Palestine just as the ICTY did for the victims of international crimes
committed by Serbia and the Milosevic regime throughout the Balkans," Boyle
Furthermore, the establishment of ICTI by the General Assembly would serve
as a deterrent effect upon Israeli leaders, including the prime minister, defense
minister, the chief of staff, and Israel's other top generals that they will
be prosecuted for their further infliction of international crimes upon the
Lebanese and the Palestinians, said Boyle, author of Biowarfare and Terrorism
(Clarity Press: 2005) and Destroying World Order (Clarity Press: 2004).
Without such a deterrent, he said, Israel might be emboldened to attack Syria
with the full support of the U.S. right-wing neoconservatives, who have always
viewed Syria as "low-hanging fruit" ready to be taken out by means
of their joint aggression.
The Israeli press has reported that the Bush administration is encouraging
Israel to attack Syria. If Israel attacks Syria as it did when it invaded Lebanon
in 1982, Iran has vowed to come to Syria's defense.
"This scenario could readily degenerate into World War III," warned
Boyle. "For the UN General Assembly to establish ICTI could stop the further
development of this momentum toward a regional if not global catastrophe."
(Inter Press Service)