By Mike Head
24 July 2006
Protests were held in Israel, across the Middle East and around the world over the past few days condemning Israel’s US-backed war on Lebanon. In Arab countries, rallies again denounced the acquiescence of the Arab states in the onslaught. Elsewhere, the largest demonstrations, involving thousands of people, were held in the United States and in countries closely allied with Washington’s war aims in the region—Britain, Australia and Canada.
In Israel itself, some 2,500 people on Saturday attended a demonstration, marching from Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to a rally at the Cinemateque plaza. It was the second substantial protest in a week. But unlike previous antiwar protests in Israel, Arab organisations—among them Hadash and Balad—participated in the event in large numbers.
Among the protesters were people who had experienced counterattacks from Hezbollah rockets, but blamed the Israeli government. Tehiya Regev of Carmiel, whose two neighbours were killed in a Katyusha attack, told the Haaretz newspaper. “This war is not headed in the right direction. The captured soldiers have long since been forgotten, so I came to call for an immediate stop to this foolish and cruel war.”
The rally also had an anti-Washington theme, unlike previous antiwar demonstrations in Israel. In addition to the calls for the Israeli prime minister and defence minister to resign, there were slogans condemning US President George W. Bush. Alongside chants of, “We will not kill, we will not die in the name of Zionism,” were chants of, “We will not die and will not kill in the service of the United States.”
Demonstrators chanted: “[Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and Bush have struck a deal, to carry on with the occupation.” Others called on Israeli soldiers to refuse to do their duty.
Several antiwar protests took place in other parts of Israel. In the northern port city of Haifa, which has suffered dozens of missile strikes, around 50 demonstrators held a roadside protest on the corner of Lebanon Gate Street, under the watchful eye of the border police.
The protesters, some of them teenagers, waved placards and shouted slogans such as “Unconditional ceasefire now” and “Get out of Lebanon,” as some passing motorists honked their horns in rebuke and yelled abuse out their windows.
Many leaders of Israel’s traditional peace movement, such as the anti-settlement group Peace Now, opposed the rallies, some labelling them as “fringe.” But a protest spokesman noted that in the Lebanon invasion of 1982 it took more than 10 days of warfare to bring out this many protesters, marking the first crack in the official pro-war “consensus.” Many thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Arab countries on Thursday and Friday. Clashes broke out in Cairo between police and protesters who had gathered after Friday prayers at the Al-Azhar Mosque. Thousands of demonstrators shouted anti-Israeli slogans and denounced the recognition of Israel by Arab governments. Some police officers and demonstrators were wounded in confrontations with police.
In Jordan, some 2,000 people marched through Amman in support of Lebanon and the Palestinians after prayers, heeding a call by Islamists and union leaders. Hundreds of Syrians also took to the streets to denounce the attacks.
Hundreds of Iraqi Shiites rallied after imams led weekly prayers with condemnations of Israel, the US and many Arab governments. They included some 300 members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement who marched in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.
On Thursday, more than 100,000 people in Yemen turned out for a rally in support of the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples in the face of the Israeli blitz.
Demonstrations have been held in numerous US and Canadian cities over the past several days. One of the largest was in Dearborn, a largely Arab-American suburb of Detroit. Carrying banners saying “Stop Israeli Terrorism” and chanting antiwar slogans, some 10,000 people rallied to demand that the US government put pressure on Israel to halt attacks in Lebanon.
Marchers carried signs saying “Down, down Israel” and chanted, “One, two, three, four. Stop the bombing. Stop the war.” Saying that Israel was killing children and bombing innocent citizens, one of the speakers, Osama Siblani of the Congress of Arab-American Organizations, said: “This is terror.” The crowd cheered loudly in response: “They are cowards.”
Several hundred demonstrators gathered in downtown Chicago on Saturday, carrying banners that read: “The Right to Fight Or The Might to Smite,” or “Not with our money, not in our name.” Dale Lehman, a 60-year-old Jewish resident of Chicago, said: “I’m outraged as an American, I’m outraged as a human being at what is happening to the people of Lebanon.”
In San Francisco on July 13, “Chants of “Free, free Palestine” and “Bush/Olmert you can’t hide, We charge you with Genocide,” filled the street in front of the Israeli Consulate. About 700 demonstrators demanded an end to the bombing of Gaza and Lebanon.
Four days later, on July 17, Jewish peace groups in the Bay Area held a demonstration during the lunch hour in front of the Israeli consulate. Following a short rally, 18 Jewish protesters were arrested in a civil disobedience action. The protesters were herded into police vans, driven to the main jail, cited and released.
In New York, as many as 1,500 people rallied in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations in New York on July 18. The crowd, which included many young Arabs and children, chanted, ‘Free, free Palestine! Free, free Lebanon!’”
Across Canada, protests were held in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa over the weekend. In Toronto, the participants marched from the Israeli consulate to the US consulate, demanding an immediate ceasefire.
Throughout Britain, tens of thousands of people joined weekend demonstrations in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected criticism of Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon and refused demands that he make any call on Washington and Tel Aviv to implement a ceasefire.
The protests were organised by the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and several Lebanese organisations to denounce Israel’s “crimes against humanity.” The demonstrations were held in several towns and cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and London.
The largest protest was held in London, where an estimated 20,000 participated in a demonstration through the capital, including a march past the US Embassy. People of all nationalities and denominations took part, including a large contingent of Lebanese and Palestinian youth.
A heavy police presence guarded the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Some 50 police officers and metal barricades prevented the demonstrators gaining any access to the main entrance, as protesters shouted slogans such as, “George Bush, terrorist” and “Down, down, USA.”
Speakers at the main rally included George Galloway from the Respect-Unity Coalition, Yasmin Ataullah of the British Muslim Initiative, and a representative from the Jewish Socialists. Betty Hunter, general secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said, “The main purpose of this demonstration is to say to Tony Blair and our government that we are ashamed of the position they are taking which is basically to collude with the war crimes of Israel.... We are here to demand that the British government changes its policy.”
Some 2,000 people joined a demonstration outside the BBC headquarters in Manchester to protest the BBC’s pro-Israel coverage of the war in the Lebanon.
In Spain, tens of thousands of people took part in Middle East peace marches through the streets of a number of cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, Murcia, and Valladolid. Several rallies denounced Israel’s “disproportionate” use of military force. Protesters carried Lebanese and Palestinian flags, and banners with slogans such as “Israel out of Lebanon,” “Against war and occupation. Peace in the Middle East,” while chanting slogans like “Israel murderer,” or “Zionist=Terrorist.”
In Stockholm, where 2,000 marched to the Israeli embassy, several hundred protesters clashed with police. Two people were arrested.
Other demonstrations took place in Geneva, Paris, Strasbourg, Warsaw, Vienna, Moscow and Amsterdam. In Geneva, 500 people marched in silence behind a coffin meant to symbolise the death of the conscience of the United Nations.
Several protests were held in South Asia—in Indian Kashmir, cities across Pakistan and the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Hundreds of demonstrators in Malaysia burned Israeli flags. Thousands marched in Indonesia, accusing Israel of atrocities against civilians. In Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province, about 3,000 people marched to the provincial parliament in protest, the state Antara news agency said.
A peaceful march by about 300 people in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday ended in a confrontation with police, who attempted to arrest a protester who pulled down the US consulate’s flag. After being defended by the crowd, a man was later arrested and charged with trying to escape lawful custody and “disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.” - http://wsws.org/articles/2006/jul2006/medi-j21.shtml
THE REAL AIMS OF THE US-BACKED
ISRAELI WAR AGAINST LEBANON
Statement of the Editorial Board
21 July 2006
As the onslaught against Lebanon enters its tenth day, Israeli troops are poised for a full-scale invasion that has been prepared by murderous aerial bombardment, and the far-reaching imperialist aims of the war have become all too clear.
With the full political, financial and military backing of the United States, the Zionist regime is attempting to transform Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate. This military operation is a continuation and escalation of the imperialist geo-political restructuring of the Middle East and Central Asia that began with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and whose goal is the establishment of US domination of the entire region.
The immediate aim of this war—the elimination of Hezbollah as a military and political force within Lebanon—is directed against all mass resistance to Israeli and American domination of the country. The Bush administration and its allies in Jerusalem see this as an essential step toward: 1) the removal of the Syrian Baathist regime, and 2) the launching of a full-scale war against Iran.
While the Israeli government and the Bush administration endlessly repeat propaganda claims that the attack on Lebanon is an act of “self defense” prompted by the seizure of two soldiers, this assertion enjoys no credibility among knowledgeable observers.
As the Financial Times of London wrote in its lead editorial of July 17, “Israel’s massive bombardment of Lebanon by land, sea and air in response to Hezbollah’s cross-border raid last week is now about a great deal more than recovering two Israeli soldiers seized by Islamist guerrillas—and it probably always was.”
Similar assessments have been published in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as numerous newspapers internationally. They simply state what is by now obvious: the Israeli attack on Lebanon is the realization of a long-planned act of aggression.
Recent events have placed in clearer perspective the significance of the February, 2005 assassination of the Lebanese multi-billionaire and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hariri was killed by a massive explosion that destroyed his motorcade in Beirut four months after he resigned his post as prime minister in protest against the decision of Emile Lahoud, an ally of Syria, to extend his term as president of Lebanon. The United States and France, the country’s former colonial ruler, immediately blamed Hariri’s death on Damascus. Their anti-Syrian allies within Lebanon, predominantly based on the more affluent social layers, seized upon Hariri’s killing to launch the so-called Cedar Revolution, which resulted last year in the withdrawal of Syrian troops, which had occupied Lebanon since the 1970s.
If, in fact, the Syrian regime was behind the killing, it carried it out because it had become convinced that Hariri had lent his support to a US-Israeli plan to drive Syria out of Lebanon, in preparation for an assault on the Hezbollah movement, which enjoys mass support among the impoverished Shiite population and dominates the south of Lebanon. It was well aware that this would be followed by an offensive against the Baathist regime in Damascus itself.
It is, on the other hand, eminently possible that the killing was a provocation organized by Israeli or American intelligence agencies for the purpose of creating a pretext for carrying through the same plan.
In either case, the current Israeli offensive is the implementation of precisely such an operation. The Cedar Revolution itself produced disappointing results in the eyes of the Israelis and Americans. Under the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution co-sponsored by Washington and Paris, Syria was obliged to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. The power of its Hezbollah ally, however, remained intact.
Indeed, at the height of the anti-Syrian agitation, marked by well-publicized demonstrations in Beirut organized by Maronite Christian forces and other Lebanese parties aligned with Washington, Hezbollah organized far larger counter-demonstrations that brought hundreds of thousands into the streets of the capital. With the specter of a new civil war before it, the government that emerged from the Cedar Revolution felt obliged to make a settlement which included the admission of Hezbollah representatives into the cabinet.
In an article published July 20, the New York Times reflected the frustration within the Bush administration and American ruling circles: “Despite the hopes raised by the so-called Cedar Revolution, which ended nearly three decades of Syrian control, the government remains trapped in the sectarian straitjacket of a system that apportions political offices by religion.” (The Times has no similar objections to the “sectarian straitjacket” of Lebanon’s neighbor to the south, which not only apportions all political power to representatives of one religion, but defines itself as a “Jewish state”).
This comment points to the real purpose of the current onslaught against the Lebanese people. Its aim is a thoroughgoing political restructuring of the country, in which the fiercely pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli sentiments of the Shiite masses are to be crushed and the power of right-wing, pro-US forces—above all, the Christian Phalange—vastly expanded.
This is an attempt to reverse the outcome of the Lebanese civil war, which raged from 1975 until 1990. The US, Israel and other imperialist powers, notably France, played a central role in inciting that long and bloody conflict and keeping it going, including the introduction of American and French military forces and an Israeli invasion in 1982 that was followed by an 18-year Israeli occupation of the south. Washington’s chief ally was the fascistic Phalange, which headed a coalition of right-wing forces arrayed against an alliance of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Lebanese Left.
Imperialist intrigue and intervention succeeded in driving the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon, but the eventual settlement curtailed the power of the Phalange, on the one hand, and saw the rise of the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah on the other. This is what Washington is determined to change. Significantly, the current Israeli offensive has enabled the US to move its military forces into Lebanon for the first time since they were withdrawn in the aftermath of the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut in October of 1983.
Israel has a long history of attempting to transform Lebanon, through a combination of military pressure and political alliances with right-wing forces in that country, into a virtual protectorate.
In March 1978, in the midst of the Lebanese civil war, Israel sent military forces across the border into Lebanon, justifying its actions as a response to PLO terrorist activity. Though compelled by international pressure to withdraw after its military operations had resulted in more than 2,000 Lebanese deaths, Israel maintained control of a 12-mile strip north of the border by sponsoring a right-wing militia, dubbed the South Lebanon Army, under the proxy leadership of one Major Saad Haddad.
The war forced the PLO’s expulsion from Lebanon and led to the Israeli-sanctioned slaughter of thousands of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese fascist militiamen.
The United States also became involved in the subjugation of Lebanon, with the Reagan administration stationing Marines in Beirut. But direct US participation in attacks on the poorer neighborhoods of Beirut (which were shelled by American naval vessels) created deep hostility, leading to the suicide bombing in which nearly 250 Marines were killed. The Reagan administration decided to cut its losses and withdraw from Lebanon.
The Israeli regime, however, sought to maintain control over substantial portions of south Lebanon. It was out of the popular resistance to the occupation that Hezbollah emerged as a powerful military and political force. The guerrilla war conducted by Hezbollah eventually forced Israel to withdraw its forces in 2000.
The current war is not only about wiping out Hezbollah, but destroying any resistance within Lebanon to US and Israeli domination. This desired end goes a long way in explaining the means that are being employed. Israel is carrying out an indiscriminate bombardment of the south, the home of the poor Shiite population and the main base of support for Hezbollah. The Israeli military is deliberately targeting the entire civilian population, destroying whole villages and making the entire region uninhabitable.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Israel has ordered all Lebanese living in the southern sector below the Litani River to evacuate the region within 24 hours.
The goal is to turn south Lebanon into a no man’s land so as to prepare the ground for the entry of either Israeli troops or a combination of Israeli and American forces, with perhaps other national contingents operating as an “international peace keeping force” with the imprimatur of the United Nations.
The Israeli offensive is above all a war against the Lebanese poor. The more affluent residential neighborhoods of Beirut and other parts of the country have been largely spared. This is in keeping with US and Israeli policy during the civil war, when they were allied with the Phalange against the Shiite masses and the Palestinian refugee population.
The unleashing of death and destruction against southern Lebanon is combined with a bombing campaign aimed at the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut and against airports, ports, roads, bridges and power stations in the rest of the country. The objective is to wreck the country’s infrastructure. In order to remake Lebanon politically, it first must be gutted physically. This gives some idea of what US imperialism and its junior partner, Israel, have in store for the people of Syria, Iran and beyond.
Nor is there any reason to believe Israel’s disavowals of plans for a full-scale ground invasion. The more Israeli leaders discount such a move, the more likely it becomes. While the scale of the bombing in south Lebanon is sufficient to kill many thousands of people, it will not achieve Israel’s aims of destroying Hezbollah as a military and political force, and converting Lebanon into a Zionist protectorate.
Citing the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, NBC’s evening news program reported Thursday that several thousand Israeli troops have begun crossing the border into southern Lebanon.
The United States is playing a decisive role in the war. It sanctioned the war in advance and is working in the closest collaboration with the Israeli military’s US-made and American-financed war machine to carry it out.
On the diplomatic level, the Bush administration is openly aligning its moves with the military objectives and political calculations of the Israeli government. Washington is coordinating US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s impending visit to the region with Israel to give the Israeli military all the time it wants to inflict maximum possible destruction in south Lebanon. As the New York Times reported on July 19, “American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces.”
There is no precedent for the US government’s open opposition to a ceasefire. The Wall Street Journal, in a fairly frank assessment of US policy published July 19, began by recalling Washington’s diplomatic role when the last major conflict erupted between Israel and Hezbollah:
“Ten years ago, when Hezbollah and Israeli forces engaged in a multiweek bloodbath, President Clinton sent Secretary of State Warren Christopher to the region for six days of intensive shuttle diplomacy between Damascus and Jerusalem. In the end, he won a cease-fire deal that ended the fighting, at least temporarily.
“Today, the Bush administration has a starkly different approach.”
The US is fully and openly legitimizing war as an instrument of foreign policy. This is a continuation of its military aggression in Iraq, and an anticipation of future aggression against Syria, Iran, and other countries. It is bound up with the Bush doctrine of “preemptive war,” which has been embraced by the entire American political establishment and both parties of American imperialism—the Democrats as well as the Republicans.
Washington’s determined effort to allow Israel to continue the slaughter in Lebanon underscores that the current war is part of US imperialism’s drive, by any and all means, to establish American supremacy throughout the Middle East.
Whether this reckless and criminal military adventure will, in the short term, further this objective or lead Washington into an even deeper debacle in the region remains to be seen. -
AMERICAN MEDIA UNQUESTIONINGLY
DEFENDS ISRAELI VIOLENCE
By David Walsh
21 July 2006
The American public is deliberately being kept ignorant about the history and reality of the situation in the Middle East, as part of the combined effort by Washington and Tel Aviv to impose their brutal will on the people of the region.
The major television networks and cable channels, through which much of the population receives its information about world events, have played an especially foul role in concealing the real political and social questions. To watch the television news channels and network news programs for a single afternoon and evening is largely to bathe in ignorance and reaction.
This begins with the manner in which the Middle East conflict is portrayed. The language and phrases used are carefully calibrated to conform to the arguments of the Israeli government and its sponsors in the US.
The television news programs inevitably present the current conflict as a struggle between Israel and “terrorists.” Right-winger and xenophobe Lou Dobbs of CNN, for example, on Wednesday evening, in the course of a one-hour program, repeats this thought no less than eight times: “Israel tonight is stepping up its offensive against terrorists in Gaza,” “Israeli troops tonight are fighting Hezbollah terrorists in one of the biggest ground battles of this conflict,” “Hezbollah terrorists tonight are firing a barrage of rockets at cities and towns in northern Israel,” and so forth (from CNN transcripts).
Without fail, as well, any reference to the fighting must place the blame for its eruption on Hamas and Hezbollah, not long-term Israeli ambitions. Bob Schieffer, on the CBS Evening News Wednesday, for example, almost in passing, refers to Hezbollah as the group that “started the trouble in Lebanon.” Tucker Carlson of MSNBC explains that Hezbollah “sparked the conflict.” On CNN, Miles O’Brien comments, “At the same time, Israeli troops have moved into central Gaza. Six Palestinians killed in that offensive. That operation began last month after Palestinian militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier.”
No hint emerges from any of the television news programs that underlying the massive Israeli operation might be geopolitical aims, that what we see unfolding is an operation that has been long in the planning and only waiting for a pretext. Such a possibility is not even suggested.
The news on American television is nothing but propaganda. It has, in fact, a totalitarian character. No effort is made to educate the public. The news is delivered for the most part by ignorant individuals, unaware of history and social reality, simply repeating lines fed to them.
When there is any question about the nature and scope of the current operation in Lebanon and Gaza, the television news programs simply turn to the State Department or the Israeli government itself for clarification.
For example, when is an invasion not an invasion? When the Tel Aviv regime says so. O’Brien of CNN, on the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, July 19: “Israeli troops are on that side. They say it’s not an invasion, they say it’s part of an effort to root-out Hezbollah bunkers, strongholds and those rockets which continue to besiege the northern part of Israel.”
And when is the destruction of a country’s infrastructure no such thing? Also when the Israelis say so. Israel is not responsible for the destruction of bridges, roads, tunnels, apartment complexes, port facilities, factories. The “terrorists” are responsible. Israeli hands could not be cleaner. A parade of Zionist government officials appears on American television: on Wednesday alone, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (to borrow a phrase from Philip Roth, speaking with “all the cold authority of that voice dipped in sludge”), former prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, Israeli ambassador to the US, Dan Gillerman.
All the veteran Israeli leaders have blood on their hands. They bandy about the word “terrorist,” but the state of Israel was formed through explicitly terrorist means and the various political figures have personally participated in or presided over deadly military operations against the Palestinian, Lebanese and Jordanian populations.
They are all well-trained practitioners of the Big Lie—that tiny Israel is under siege from its barbarous Arab neighbors. They know the “hot buttons” to push. They interact with their US interviewers like members of the same club. Israel, they seem to suggest, is “America in the Middle East,” practically the 51st state.
Peres appears at least twice on US television Wednesday, on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC and “Larry King Live” on CNN. Both interviewers are deferential to the veteran war criminal. Peres claims to King, “Israel didn’t start the war. Israel didn’t attack anybody. We gave back to Lebanon all the land, all the water.... We were living for six years in total peace. We didn’t hurt anybody.”
Peres, of course, is lying. Israeli history in relation to Lebanon is one of provocation, violence and criminality. Before Israel’s establishment, Zionist leaders envisioned a greater Israel that would include the southern portion of Lebanon as far as the Litani River (perhaps Israel’s military goal today in any invasion). In the 1950s, the Israeli government considered the fracturing of Lebanon, the establishment of a Christian state and the annexation of the southern part of the country.
Between 1968 and 1974, the Lebanese army recorded more than 3,000 violations of Lebanese territory by Israeli armed forces; 880 Palestinians and Lebanese were killed in the attacks. Some 150 Palestinian camps and villages in southern Lebanon were razed and olive groves and crops destroyed.
In March 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon, killing more than 2,000 people and making some 250,000 homeless. In one of the most gruesome crimes of modern times, the Israelis allowed their allies in the fascist Southern Lebanon Army to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982, where the latter carried out the slaughter of an estimated 2,000 men, women and children. An Israeli inquiry later found that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for the massacre. The Israeli military proceeded to occupy southern Lebanon for another 18 years, during which time countless Lebanese and Palestinians suffered at their hands.
For the American television networks, however, history began when Hamas guerrillas seized a single Israeli soldier on June 25.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu, the extreme right-winger beloved of the neo-fascists in the Republican Party, defends the killing of civilians to MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson. In keeping with the Zionist regime’s line (and the line of every imperialist bully), civilian deaths are the fault of the “terrorists,” who insist on mingling with the general population. “If you have to take out a rocket emplacement in a crowded neighborhood, you have to do it,” explains Netanyahu, to which Carlson audibly adds, “That’s right.” Carlson is an empty-headed yuppie, formerly of CNN where he was most famous for his bow tie, who suggested in 2001 that torture “may be the lesser of two evils.”
When Lebanese casualties are mentioned by the television news, they are inevitably balanced by reports of Israeli deaths and wounded, as though the figures were equivalent. On Wednesday afternoon, the Fox News Channel’s John Gibson, a fanatical right-winger, intones, “Hezbollah attacked the holy city of Nazareth,” where a rocket killed two Israeli Arabs. The various news commentators are astounded to learn that local residents blame Israel, first, for not providing bomb shelters for the predominantly Arab population, and, second, for launching its attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.
“Hundreds dead, more than a thousand wounded, half a million displaced” proclaim the various anchormen and women, not bothering to explain that the overwhelming majority of those suffering are Lebanese civilians. With a vast military preponderance, the Israelis are targeting a virtually defenseless population. Wednesday witnesses the highest daily toll of civilian casualties yet, with some 70 killed, and this fact is barely mentioned.
If the American television networks had the slightest honesty, they would have begun their news programs Wednesday with the fact that Louise Arbour of the UN High Commission on Human Rights suggested that Israel might be guilty of war crimes. She declared that the obligation to protect civilians during hostilities is entrenched in international law, “which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Moreover, she argued that individual political leaders could find themselves charged with war crimes, adding, “I think one must issue a sobering signal to those who are behind these initiatives to examine very closely their personal exposure,” she told the BBC.
The International Red Cross, the enforcer of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war, also declared Wednesday that Israel had violated the principle of proportionality provided for in the Conventions and their protocols. US television reports none of this on Wednesday.
The fighting is invariably described as “fierce exchanges between Hezbollah guerillas and the Israelis,” again, as though there were some sort of equivalence between the Islamic movement’s Katyusha rockets and mortars, and the Zionist military’s F-16 bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Almost unavoidably, glimpses of the truth appear on American television news programs. Certain reporters on the spot in Lebanon, obviously affected by the mass suffering, provide some picture of what life is like under the Israeli siege.
Nic Robertson of CNN reports on the bombing of a food distribution warehouse in Beirut, which burns for hours. He warns of a “humanitarian crisis in the making,” with half a million people out of a population of 4 million displaced, “airports bombed, ports blockaded.” Cooking gas is difficult to find, he reports, and food will run out. CBS News carries a report from southern Lebanon—a father has lost two children to an Israeli bomb.
Over the bomb crater, the father demands to know, “Do you see Hezbollah fighters here?” David Wright of ABC News notes, “Civilians have borne the weight of this war.”
One of the most moving encounters appears on ABC, with an Ethiopian woman, who works as a maid in Beirut. The young woman is crying, obviously terrified, cowering in a doorway. The reporter notes, with sympathy, “No ship is coming for her.”
The hostility of the Lebanese population to the Israeli war and the backing of the resistance cannot be entirely evaded. CBS News notes that Hezbollah is “drawing support from the war meant to destroy it.” Even a Fox News report from a park in Beirut, where the homeless are camped out, has to admit that there are “no hard feelings toward Hezbollah.” An aid worker tells the Fox reporter, “the refugees here adore Hezbollah.”
A British ITN report on the devastation of Lebanon, shown on MSNBC, however, is the most forthright piece of reporting to appear on the US television networks Wednesday.
Genuine bloodthirstiness also raises its head. Carlson of MSNBC casually asks the former prime minister Netanyahu if the latter doesn’t think it would be a good idea if Israel were to bomb Syria. Carlson likes the question so much, he asks it twice on his program.
Billionaire reactionary Steve Forbes, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, appears on Fox News to advocate “letting ’em fight” in the Middle East. Crushing Hezbollah will be good for stocks, we learn.
Brit Hume of Fox News somewhat mournfully asks his usual panel of Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke and Mara Liasson “how long can the US hold out” against the pictures of refugees and devastation in Lebanon before it is forced to pressure Israel into considering a ceasefire. Not long, they regretfully reply.
The Israeli embassy, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the entire Zionist lobbying enterprise expend vast amount of time and money to intervene in and manipulate the US media. The lobbying in and of itself would not be successful if its aims did not coincide with American imperialist policy. Apart from that, the pro-Israel operation would simply be considered a criminal conspiracy.
How else to explain certain stories that suddenly appear on each television network and cable channel simultaneously? On Wednesday, for example, the various American news programs, as though on cue, run stories on the supposed threat posed by Hezbollah terrorist attacks in the US.
Each of the networks or channels treats the story with its own particular touch. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News pulls no punches. “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” an afternoon program, asks Wednesday, “Are Hezbollah cells a bigger threat than Al-Qaeda?” Brian Levin, “terror analyst,” and Wayne Simmons, a former CIA operative, unsurprisingly, answer in the affirmative. Simmons suggests, without providing a shred of evidence, that Hezbollah is “much more of a threat than Al-Qaeda.” Fox subsequently runs a headline, “FBI hunts for Hezbollah sleeper cells inside US.”
Not to be outdone, CNN asks its viewers, to most of whom the question has no doubt never occurred before: “How concerned are you about Hezbollah attacks in the US?” The cable channel’s Wolf Blitzer, formerly the Jerusalem Post correspondent in Washington, warns of “fears that Hezbollah is going to hit the US.”
The CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer also introduces the allegation with a sensational headline, “Hezbollah in the US,” only later to half-debunk the story by pointing out that Hezbollah supporters in the US have never been charged or suspected of any terrorist attacks.
Another carefully coordinated story appears on CNN and other channels Wednesday: about a group of American Jews emigrating to Israel. CNN reports, “For Jehuda Saar, a father of three, the fighting only strengthened his resolve to pick up his family and leave New Jersey.” Saar comments, “Without shooting one bullet, without holding a gun, we’re Israel’s best weapon against any detractor, anyone that wants to destroy Israel.” However, 22-year-old Steven Rubin is more than eager to “shoot bullets” and “hold a gun”; he plans to join the Israeli army.
Rubin tells CNN that the current fighting “only makes me want to go there more. And it validates everything I’ve been thinking for the existence of the state of Israel to see how important everything is at this point.” More than a few of Israel’s most fanatical settlers come from Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey and Long Island.
Conveniently, Arye Mekel, Israeli Consul General is on hand for the departure of the group of émigrés at Kennedy Airport in New York. He tells CNN: “For us, for Israel, it’s a huge boost to our morale, feeling that fellow Jews around the world are not deterred.”
SUPPORTS ISRAEL'S WAR OF AGGRESSION
By Chris Marsden and Barry Grey
19 July 2006
On Tuesday, the seventh day of Israel’s air war on Lebanon, with some 250 civilians killed and much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, President George Bush issued yet another threat against Syria.
Declaring that Syria was “trying to get back into Lebanon,” he warned against any attempt to invite Syrian forces back into the devastated country little more than a year after Syrian troops were forced to leave as a result of a campaign orchestrated by the United States and France.
Bush’s statement was typical of the cynical and thuggish declarations coming from both Washington and Tel Aviv—all of which go unchallenged by the European powers and the Western media.
Bush charged Syria with meddling in the affairs of a country that is being reduced to rubble by bombs, missiles, ships and warplanes supplied by the US to its closest Middle East ally. And as he painted Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as the aggressors, he continued to oppose any cessation of Israel’s bombing of civilian targets throughout a defenceless Lebanon—a violation of international law that defines its perpetrators as war criminals.
Bush’s comments crowned a day of much vaunted diplomatic initiatives by the major powers and their cat’s paw, the United Nations, to resolve the Lebanese conflict along lines dictated by the United States and Israel. For its part, Israel made clear that it would accept nothing that cut across its current drive to destroy Hezbollah and transform Lebanon into a tool of Israeli policy, or its ability to launch future attacks against any and all forces or states that resist its imperialist designs.
The “international peacekeeping force” proposed jointly by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan is advanced in order to police such a victor’s peace. Its stated mission is to oversee the removal of any Hezbollah presence from the southern areas bordering Israel.
At the same time, the international force proposed by Annan and Blair would directly serve the interests of the major imperialist powers. It would provide Washington with an opportunity to establish a permanent military presence, working directly with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). White House national security spokesman Frederick Jones said, “We’re open to the possibility of that force being necessary.” Other US spokesmen, however, discounted the proposal.
The European powers welcomed the proposal, seeing it as a potential means of mitigating Washington’s dominant position in the Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first to pledge support for the force, along with the European Union. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin backed a deployment, while French President Jacques Chirac said he believed “some means of coercion” might be needed to enforce the UN resolution calling for the disarming of Hezbollah.
But even such a UN-run police force is deemed by Israeli Prime Minister Edhud Olmert to be an unacceptable limitation on Israel’s freedom of action. Military violence is the preferred method of both the American and Israeli ruling elites.
Israel will, moreover, be satisfied only with the complete subjugation of Lebanon and its reduction to an impotent client regime. As the Israeli daily Haaretz pointed out, the creation of a security zone in the south is considered insufficient by the Israeli Defence Forces as it would “not... prevent Hezbollah from deploying long-range rockets and missiles further north in Lebanon.”
Bush and Olmert insist that no ceasefire is possible until Israel has achieved its basic military objectives. In her discussions with UN representatives, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni insisted on the same conditions.
On this question Tel Aviv is knocking on an open door. UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said, after meeting with Livni in Jerusalem, “I think both parties agreed that it is necessary to have a political framework in order to reach, eventually, a cease-fire.”
The resolution issued by leaders of the Group of Eight at their summit in St Petersburg Sunday fully accepted Israel’s presentation of the conflict, blaming the outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon on Hezbollah and in Gaza on Hamas. It stopped short only of specifically identifying Syria and Iran, though this was the clear implication of the resolution and the specific intention of Washington and London.
Russian President Putin has since let it be known that this omission was a concession to Moscow. Yesterday Bush remedied this failing with his accusations against Syria.
Israel welcomed the G8 resolution as a legitimization of its attack on Lebanon. Livni stated, “Israel concurs with the position of the international community, which places responsibility for the conflict on extremist elements. Israel and the international community share a common problem—the presence of extremist terrorists.”
As far as the Olmert government is concerned, the realization of a Greater Israel, including the permanent annexation of most of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, demands the crushing of all resistance by the Palestinians and the Lebanese. Of necessity, it requires military action against Syria and ultimately Iran. Since the fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq, Iran is Israel’s only serious contender as a regional power.
The Bush administration has accused Damascus and Tehran of masterminding the actions of Hezbollah and Hamas at a time when it is pushing for international sanctions against Iran and meeting resistance from Russia and China. It sees Israeli aggression against Gaza and Lebanon as a means of furthering its own geo-strategic agenda in the Middle East.
An editorial in the July 18 Jerusalem Post, which supports the most hawkish elements within the Olmert government, stressed the unity of purpose between Israel and the US. It was entitled “Bush’s Brilliant Thought.”
After hailing the G8 resolution for “mentioning Hizbullah and Hamas by name and Iran and Syria by implication,” it praised Bush and Blair for being “more explicit” in identifying “the ‘root cause’ of the problem, namely Iran and Syria.”
It drew attention, in particular, to Bush’s statement, “[T]here seems to be a consensus growing that in order for us to have the peace we want... we must deal with... two nation states that are very much involved with stopping the advance of peace, and that would be Iran, and that would be Syria.”
The Post commented, “It has been the case for decades, but it is finally dawning on the world, that there are not two conflicts—the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Islamist-Western conflict—but one. As John Gibson, a commentator for Fox News, put it, ‘When the Iranians get nukes this ruckus we’re witnessing today will look like a walk in the park... It seems like a war between Israel and some terror groups. It’s really a war by Iran on us.’”
The editorial concluded: “As of Sunday, [Israel Defence Forces] sources stated that Israel had eliminated about 25 percent of Hizbullah’s missile capacity. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has said that Israel requires another week or two to finish the job...
“If Israel succeeds in destroying Hizbullah, it will have done the world, not only ourselves, a great favour. Bush and Blair, and perhaps other leaders, seem to understand this, and that the broader task of free nations is to confront Hizbullah’s sponsors in Damascus and Teheran.”
Even as Israeli bombs and missiles continue to rain on Beirut and other cities and towns in Lebanon, the US is working for a new resolution in the UN Security Council that will provide a legal fig leaf not only for intensified attacks on Hezbollah, but also for future military actions against Syria and Iran. -
US GIVES ISRAEL
A BLANK CHECK TO WAGE WAR
By Barry Grey
17 July 2006
The Bush administration has given Israel a carte blanche to wage war against Lebanon, bombing and killing as it sees fit. American diplomacy in the crisis precipitated by Israeli aggression first against Gaza and then against its neighbor to the north is concentrated on blocking any move for a ceasefire and concocting a pretext for future military action against Syria and Iran.
It is transparently clear that for President Bush it is of no consequence that tens of thousands of American citizens, not to mention other foreign nationals, are in harm’s way, as Israel continues to blast away at civilian populations in every part of the country, including the capital, Beirut. Already, eight Canadians have died as a result of an Israeli bomb attack on a house in southern Lebanon.
Far from issuing a warning to Israel to desist until the Americans can be evacuated, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been using every available forum to justify Israel’s savage assault and scotch all efforts to halt the lopsided fighting, in which Israel has an overwhelming military advantage.
The US government’s indifference to American life, as well as Lebanese and, for that matter, Israeli, should serve as an object lesson on the cynicism and callousness of American imperialist policy—as well as its immeasurable hypocrisy. It is worth recalling that in 1983 the Reagan administration used a non-existent danger to a handful of American students in Grenada as the pretext for invading the Caribbean island nation after factional warfare had erupted within the ruling New Jewel Movement.
The entire American political establishment, Democrats no less than Republicans, and the mass media are proclaiming in unison that Israel is the victim and the militant Islamic groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, and their political allies, Syria and Iran, are the aggressors. They repeat endlessly that Israel is merely exercising its “right to defend itself,” and the blockade and bombing of a sovereign country, Lebanon, was provoked by Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
They conveniently ignore the statements of the families of the captured Israeli soldiers, who have demanded that the Israeli government negotiate with Hezbollah for the release of their loved ones as part of a prisoner exchange, and criticized their own government for refusing to take diplomatic steps, wondering out loud whether the soldiers have been abandoned in the pursuit of expansionist aims.
In Orwellian fashion, any form of Arab resistance against Israel is branded as “terrorism,” while the indiscriminate bombing of cities, villages, roads, power plants, airports and bridges is called “self-defense.”
One example of Israeli self-defense occurred on Saturday, in the deadliest single attack on Lebanese civilians since Israel launched the war last Wednesday. According to Reuters, residents sought to leave the border village of Marwaheen in southern Lebanon after the Israeli military ordered them to evacuate over a loudspeaker. Israel then bombed a civilian convoy trying to leave the village, killing 16 people.
Even the pro-US regime in Beirut, the product of the American- and European-orchestrated Cedar Revolution of 2005, was flatly turned down when it requested that Washington call for a ceasefire. The same governments and media outlets that hailed the “revolution” which supposedly established Lebanese sovereignty by expelling Syrian troops now either overtly or tacitly endorse Israel’s onslaught against the “sovereign” country.
In reality, the carnage in the Middle East—which has the potential of exploding into a far wider war—is the outcome of the imperialist and colonialist policies of the United States and its major client regime, Israel, in Palestine, Iraq and throughout the region.
It is difficult to capture in words the depths of cynicism expressed in the statements of American leaders and politicians. In his typically crude and stupid manner, Bush in effect called on Hezbollah and its hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Shiite supporters to commit suicide. Following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, the US president declared: “The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking.”
The same basic line was put forward on the Sunday news programs by representatives of the administration and both political parties. Interviewed from the site of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Rice reiterated on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” the firm opposition of the US to a ceasefire and repeated the US-Israeli demand that Hezbollah be removed from southern Lebanon and disarmed, along with threats against Syria and Iran.
Jane Harman, the California Democrat who is the ranking member of the House of Representatives Select Intelligence Committee, responded to Rice’s comments by saying, “I was positive about what she said as far as she goes...” She stated the obligatory, “I do think Israel has a right to defend herself,” and then sought to attack the Bush administration from the right, denouncing it for not acting sooner to disarm and remove Hezbollah.
Declaring the political/guerrilla movement, which has a mass base of support among the impoverished Shiite population of Lebanon and holds positions in the Lebanese cabinet, to be “more dangerous than Al Qaeda,” she went on to describe Israel’s three-week-old attack on Gaza and its war against Lebanon in openly racist terms: “Israel is draining the swamp here, both in Lebanon and in Gaza...”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator George Allen, Republican from Virginia, declared his unqualified support for Israel, and then gave vent to the visceral hatred of the Arab masses that animates US policy, saying, “Now, there was a glimmer of hope when that reptilian terrorist corrupt Arafat died...”
His Democratic counterpart, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, began by saying it was necessary to “begin any discussion of this recognizing that what has happened over the last several days occurred because of Hezbollah and Hamas’ highly provocative, despicable actions...”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, former Republican speaker of the house, Newt Gingrich, not only defended Israel’s actions and called for Hezbollah to be “cleared out” of southern Lebanon, he said that the events in Lebanon were part of a new “world war” against terrorism and terrorist regimes such as North Korea, Iran and Syria.
Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, an announced contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, called Israel’s actions “a totally legitimate self-defense effort” prompted by an “unprovoked effort by terrorist organizations supported by outside states to destroy a democracy” in the Middle East.
The New York Times, in an editorial published Saturday, offered a particularly cynical and dishonest whitewash of Israel’s aggression in both Gaza and Lebanon. Declaring unequivocally that responsibility for the “latest outbreak” in “the circle of violence in the Middle East” rested with Hamas and Hezbollah, the Times cautioned that Israel needed to calibrate its military response, “however legally and morally justified,” so as to deny the Islamist groups “opportunities to rally broader Arab support.”
The newspaper went on the say that Israel was “fully justified in treating [the capture of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah] as unacceptable acts of aggression,” and to denounce the “provocateurs of Hamas and Hezbollah and their allies in Damascus and Tehran.”
As the Times well knows, this is an utterly potted version of events, ripped out of their real political and historical context.
This latest eruption of military aggression by Israel is the outcome of an unrelenting campaign of violence and repression systematically pursued, with the support of the United States, since 2000. In September of that year, after President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak failed to extract a total capitulation from Yasser Arafat at the Camp David talks, Ariel Sharon staged his infamous provocation at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Sharon’s demonstration of Israeli contempt for the Palestinians and their claims to sovereignty over the city was calculated to provoke angry protests, which were then seized on to initiate a new level of repression.
Sharon’s action, which was tacitly supported by the Clinton administration as well as Barak, signaled a decisive shift from any negotiated settlement with the Palestinians to a policy aimed at the destruction of the Palestinian Authority.
Under Bush, this policy was intensified, and Israel was given a blank check to pursue its war against the Palestinian and Arab masses. The Bush administration saw unfettered Israeli violence against any and all forms of Palestinian resistance as conducive to its own plans to invade Iraq and establish American hegemony and unchallenged control over the Middle East’s oil wealth. Israel was to function as Washington’s junior partner and major enforcer in upholding US dominion over the area.
Washington abandoned any pretence of even-handedness in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and gave its blessing as Israel launched a campaign of provocations, military violence, targeted assassinations, economic sabotage and land grabs that has continued to the present. Israel made a practice of launching attacks so as to frustrate new attempts by the Palestinian leadership to initiate negotiations toward a diplomatic settlement.
Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, and its dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza in 2005, both of which are presented by Israel’s apologists as peace moves, were in fact part of a strategy to unilaterally draw Israel’s borders, annexing a large part of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, and leaving the Palestinians with discontinuous rump territories that could never form the basis of a viable state.
For the past six months, ever since Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections, Israel has been carrying out a military and economic siege of the Occupied Territories. Israel stepped up its military offensive in recent weeks, launching hundreds of shells at Gaza and killing at least 14 civilians.
The raid by Hamas into Israel and its capture of an Israeli solider on June 25 provided the pretext for the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to launch its incursion into Gaza. That Israeli escalation coincided, by no means accidentally, with Hamas’ acceptance of an agreement committing Hamas to a “two-state” solution that implicitly recognized Israel.
Such a development was anathema to Israel, which does not want any kind of peace deal and is determined to prevent the creation of even a truncated Palestinian state. The Israeli attack on Gaza put paid to the efforts of the Hamas leadership and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to fashion a new basis for negotiations.
There is, in fact, compelling evidence that the Israeli government allowed the cross-border Hamas raid to take place. Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, insisted in the aftermath of the raid that it had given the government and the Israeli Defence Forces a specific warning that militants intended to use a tunnel to abduct soldiers at a crossing on the southern part of the Israel-Gaza border.
This was the context—more than two weeks into a brutal Israeli offensive in Gaza—in which Hezbollah carried out the raid across Israel’s northern border that resulted in the killing of eight Israeli soldiers and capture of two others.
Hezbollah is a bourgeois nationalist movement with broad support within Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. It has won support in large part because of its armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, which extended from the Israeli invasion of 1982 until Israel’s pullout from southern Lebanon in 2000.
It has every right to carry out actions against Israeli military targets, under conditions in which Israel continues to maintain a brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israel and the US are now demanding either the destruction of Hezbollah, or its removal from southern Lebanon. Such a policy would entail the killing of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Shiites and the eruption of a new civil war in the country.
This only underscores that the real target of US and Israeli policy is any and all resistance by the oppressed masses of the Middle East to the colonialist aims of both powers.
ISRAELI ATTACK ON LEBANON
THREATENS TO ENGULF ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST IN WAR
Statement of the Editorial Board
15 July 2006
The Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, with bombings and missile strikes and the imposition of an air and sea blockade, has brought the Middle East to the brink of all-out war. The attack on Lebanon, fully endorsed by the Bush administration, coincides with Israel’s ongoing assault on the Palestinian population of Gaza, 1.5 million people who are enduring the fourth week of a siege, with electricity cut off and food supplies running low.
The Olmert government in Israel has seized on two incidents involving the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, first in Gaza on June 25, and then on Wednesday on the Lebanese border, as pretexts for an enormous military operation that was clearly prepared long in advance. It remains to be seen how far the Israeli offensive will go—to Beirut, or even to Damascus—but it is clearly aimed at accomplishing strategic objectives that have no relationship to the incidents that supposedly provoked it.
No one can seriously suggest that bombing Lebanese towns and villages, imposing a naval blockade and attempting to assassinate Sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, are methods likely to win the freedom of the captured Israeli soldiers. The two soldiers taken by Hezbollah are far more likely to die as a result, killed either by their captors or by Israeli bombs.
Likewise in Gaza, the indiscriminate killing of dozens of Palestinians with bombs, shells and air-to-ground missiles will do nothing to win the release of Gilad Shalit, the private seized by Islamic militants in their raid across the Gaza border into southern Israel.
There is a long history of Israel using such events as the excuse for carrying out military actions that have a far broader strategic purpose—going back to 1978, when a full-scale invasion of Lebanon was launched using the shooting of the Israeli ambassador to Britain by Palestinian militants as a pretext. Only much later did it emerge that the invasion had been long planned, awaiting only the proper incident to provide a suitable official justification.
The same pattern is repeated in Gaza and Lebanon today. The Israeli regime has made no secret of its desire to smash up the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The economic blockade imposed in January, after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections, has been escalated into a full-scale military blockade of Gaza, where Hamas has its main political support.
In Lebanon, the goal of Israel is, at a minimum, the physical destruction of Hezbollah, the Shiite Islamic movement which dominates the southern third of the country. A full-scale invasion of southern Lebanon by Israeli ground forces is more than likely. Israeli Defense Minister Peretz said, “If the government of Lebanon fails to deploy its forces, as is expected of a sovereign government, we shall not allow Hezbollah forces to remain any further on the borders of the state of Israel.” In other words, if the Lebanese army does not suppress Hezbollah—and no one expects it to—then the Israeli army will do so.
US military intervention in Lebanon is also likely. US media reports Friday suggested that the initial planning for such an intervention was well advanced, with 2,200 Marines to be deployed as a helicopter-borne force that would land near Beirut on the pretext of protecting the 25,000 American citizens now trapped in Lebanon by the Israeli blockade.
Separate or joint US and Israeli air strikes against Syria and Iran, and even a ground invasion of Syria, are also possible. Certainly the main focus of the Bush administration, the congressional Democrats and Republicans, and the American media has been to blame Syria and Iran for the crisis, claiming that those regimes were pulling the strings in Hezbollah.
The US media has suggested that Hezbollah’s kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers was specifically ordered by Tehran in retaliation for the referral of Iran to the UN Security Council earlier this week, in the ongoing dispute over its nuclear research program. The Bush administration has likewise blamed Syria for the ongoing insurgency in Iraq’s Anbar province, since supplies and recruits have come across the Syrian border.
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq have produced a holocaust for the Iraqi people: a mounting slaughter in which tens of thousands have been killed, by sectarian gangs and militia, by car bombs and other terrorist acts, and by bombs, shells, missile attacks, indiscriminate shooting or outright murder on the part of the American occupiers.
Last week it was reported that 1,595 bodies had been brought to the Baghdad morgue during June, the largest monthly death toll yet in the escalating civil strife. The US military death toll is well over 2,500. Combined with the death toll for US soldiers in Afghanistan, Bush will soon be responsible for the destruction of more American lives than the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
The Bush administration will not retreat from Iraq and cannot maintain the status quo, as the country slides deeper into civil war and popular opposition to the war mounts among the American people. A sizeable section of the US ruling elite, frustrated by the quagmire in Iraq, believes that the only hope of military success lies in “expanding the problem,” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has put it. They believe that Iran is using its growing influence on the Iraqi Shiite parties and militias to undermine US control of the puppet regime established in Baghdad, and that a military confrontation with Tehran is inevitable.
The Wall Street Journal is the semi-official voice of these layers, and it published an editorial Friday, entitled “States of Terror,” which openly advocated military action against both Syria and Iran. The editorial declared, “There will be no resolution in Lebanon and Gaza until the regimes in Syria and Iran believe they will pay a price...”
Criticizing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her pro forma appeal that “all sides must act with restraint,” the Journal said, “The White House has cited Syria and Iran as the culprits behind this week’s events, but more forceful words and action are called for.”
The mushrooming crisis in the Middle East is a predictable consequence of the massive military intervention by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the increasingly aggressive and reckless policy of American imperialism throughout the region. This includes the carte blanche given by the Bush administration to Israel to use its US-financed and US-built war machine against its neighbors and against the persecuted and oppressed Palestinian people.
The policy of United States and Israel is based on a never-ending cycle of war. The Bush administration rests its entire foreign policy on the belief that American military power and high-tech weaponry can solve every problem. The Zionist project is similarly predicated on unrestrained use of force against the Palestinians and other targets, such as Hezbollah. Both policies have proven to be disastrous for the people of the region, including the Jewish population of Israel.
As a US client state, Israel has long been dependent on a vast flow of economic and military aid from Washington. For the last decade, it has sought to exploit the unchallenged international supremacy of the United States, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, to reject any negotiations for a territorial settlement with the Palestinians and instead impose its dictates unilaterally on the Palestinian Authority.
This was the content of the Sharon government’s withdrawal last year from Gaza, closing down a handful of unviable settlements in order to draw an international border with 1.5 million Palestinians on the other side, insuring a Jewish majority in Israel and the remaining occupied territories for at least another decade.
Similar concerns are driving the Olmert government’s policy of wall-building and resettlement on the West Bank. While planning to abandon a handful of Zionist settlements, Olmert’s government is drawing the new border unilaterally to give the best land to the Israelis, including all of Jerusalem, while the Palestinians are relegated to a rump state on barely 60 percent of the occupied territory.
In the last few days, the American media has been filled with denunciations of Hamas and Hezbollah, portraying them as terrorist organizations and fitting targets for a massive escalation of military force. But in the final analysis, the real target of the United States and Israel is not this or that organization, but the oppressed masses throughout the Middle East. They aim to destroy the will to struggle of the tens of millions of people who have never accepted the Zionist dispossession of the Palestinian people, and who will never accept the US conquest of Iraq and the establishment of a neo-colonial stooge regime in Baghdad.
There is a profound sense in which the policies of the United States and Israel appear counterproductive and self-defeating. The Bush administration played a major role in creating the current Lebanese government, and the forced withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon has been touted as one of its few foreign policy successes in the Middle East. Yet the Israeli attacks threaten to undermine and discredit the regime in Beirut, which is compelled to stand by impotently while Lebanese citizens are slaughtered, now in the dozens, soon perhaps in the hundreds and thousands.
Similarly, it might appear irrational that an administration which has been unable to subjugate Iraq (population 26 million), would attack Syria (population 18 million) and even Iran (population 75 million). But such attacks are the logical outcome of the imperialist perspective that it is possible for American imperialism to impose its will on the Middle East, and obtain control of the region’s vast oil resources, through sheer force of arms.
In reality, the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq has proven a strategic disaster for American imperialism. It has aroused the population of the entire region, and literally billions of people throughout the world, dispelling illusions that the United States could be identified with democracy, freedom or opposition to colonialism.
It is now 58 years since the state of Israel was established, and 39 years since the Six-Day War which expanded Zionist control of Palestinian territory to include the West Bank and Gaza. These six decades have been an unending chain of violence—war, repression, terrorism, assassination, the expulsion of populations. Now a new and even more terrible war threatens.
The first premise of any solution to the crisis of the Middle East is the removal of American imperialism from the region. The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party demand the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and an end to Washington’s military and financial sponsorship of Israeli domination over the Palestinian people.