Thursday, August 31, 2006

America's claim to be Lebanon's 'friend' lacks credibility

I don't over quote The Daily Star but this editorial rings very true indeed.

America's claim to be Lebanon's 'friend' lacks credibility


The current "talking points" of US officials include an assertion that Washington's "support" for Beirut is dependent on the latter's taking bold steps to disarm Hizbullah. This is accompanied by a tacit threat that if Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's organization continues to exist in its current form, Israel will resume its offensive against Lebanon - this time with even more of a green light from an increasingly impatient America. During the 34-day onslaught that ended on August 14, the US government appears to have experienced internal divisions over the extent to which it should encourage and re-supply the Jewish state, but the end-result was a policy of unconditional backing for a campaign that primarily destroyed civilian lives and civilian property. Any suggestion that the current administration is a "friend" to Lebanon is therefore viewed with understandable skepticism.

From the perspective of many Lebanese, being America's friend carries precious few benefits. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has done his utmost to respect US wishes on a variety of fronts, only to be sent away empty-handed whenever he has asked for anything in return. American policy vis-a-vis the devastating war with Israel was no more than a highly purified version of this formula, with Washington repeatedly claiming that it was concerned about the stability of Siniora's government but simultaneously helping the Jewish state to mete out more and deadlier punishment.

Especially in this part of the world and particularly for a tiny country like Lebanon, the absence of effective support means no support at all. The presence, meanwhile, of active and enthusiastic support - diplomatic, economic, military - for a powerful invader is difficult to see as anything other than unabashed betrayal.

Lebanon and the wider Middle East need a powerful force to help local fires from spreading across the region. The United States has the might and the influence to supply such a stabilizing influence, but it has thus far lacked two other necessary qualities: even-handedness and consistency. This is indeed a tragedy of the highest order, for what other nation on the planet has so storied a history upon which to base its credentials as an honest broker and a supporter of democratic freedoms? Washington's selective enforcement of both US and international law - always to the benefit of Israel - robs it of the credibility it needs to be trusted by Arabs and Muslims, let alone to call itself their "friend." The current situation in Lebanon is just the latest episode of a long-running horror show of American inconsistency, and the Lebanese need look no further than Palestine for another recent one: the collective punishment and economic strangling of a people who dared to elect a government that defied Washington's diktats.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

War Jokes

(another of the infamous Johnnie Walker ads in Lebanon prepared by the local office of Leo Burnett)

Abul Abed and Other Jokes Make Post-War Healing Process Easy
Lebanese may have lost homes, loved ones and livelihoods, but one thing they haven't lost in the aftermath of the war is their legendary sense of humor. Jokes helped them survive Israel's devastating military onslaught and are now making the post-war healing process a lot easier.
Anecdotes are to be found everywhere -- in living rooms, text messages, television shows, e-mails and even blogs, where some Israeli users have been less than amused. Amid sad stories about lost loved ones, destroyed homes and impoverished people who had to live in public schools, they joke about everything: the Israelis, the Americans, the Arabs, but mostly they tell self-deprecating gags.
Three Hizbullah fighters run out of Beirut's southern suburbs after Israeli raids, flashing the victory sign. Actually, no. They were really pointing out that there were only two buildings left standing.
Why did rents go up in Ain el-Rummaneh district overlooking the southern suburbs? Because it has sea view now!
Why are coquettish elderly Lebanese women very happy about the war? Because it took them back 30 years.
Why will Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah win the Nobel Prize for Education? Because he is the only man who sent one million people to school in just two days.
But they also tell jokes of bravery against the Israelis.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sitting in his office wondering how to invade Lebanon when his telephone rang. Beirut's most famous imaginary character announces to him in a heavily accented voice: "This is Abul Abed and I am calling to tell you that we are officially declaring war on you." "How big is your army?" replies Olmert. "Right now," said Abul Abed, "there is myself, my cousin Mustafa, my next-door neighbor Abu Khaled, and the whole team from the tea house. That makes eight!"Olmert paused. "I must tell you Abul Abed, that I have one million men in my army waiting to move on my command."Abul Abed paused, then said: "Mr. Olmert, the war is still on! We have managed to acquire some infantry equipment!""And what equipment would that be Abul Abed?", Olmert asked. "Well sir, we have two Mercedes 180s, and a truck.""I must tell you Abul Abed that I have 10,000 bombers and 20,000 fighter planes. My military complex is surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missile sites. And since we last spoke, I've increased my army to two million!""Mr. Olmert, we have to call off this war," said Abul Abed."I'm sorry to hear that," said Olmert. "Why the sudden change of heart?""Well," said Abul Abed, "we've come to realize that there is no way we can feed two million prisoners!"
Israel's systematic destruction of bridges in the offensive launched after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 has also been a source of inspiration.
Olmert sent a commando operation deep into Lebanon. Mission: Capture Lebanese diva Fairuz. He insists on finding the only bridge he did not destroy: an imaginary bridge evoked for decades in a romantic Fairuz aria."On the bridge 'Lawziyeh,' under the shade of the leaves," goes the song.
Early one day, a man rushes desperately to the dentist. "Please take out my bridge, or the Israelis will bomb it!"
Advertising agencies have also entered the game. A gigantic black poster covers the entire side of a five-story building: It shows the golden Johnnie Walker character with his top hat and waistcoast blithely striding after leaping over a gap on a destroyed bridge. Internet users are sharing a picture of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the arms of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in light summer clothes, standing under the shade of palm trees at a sandy beach. It is a parody of the "Axe Effect" attraction campaign by the namesake deodorant brand.
Jokes are also abundant about the Arabs too. After Saudi Arabia decided to donate half a billion dollars to rebuild Lebanon, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the capture of six Israeli soldiers at the border.
Amid a mass evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon, Palestinian refugees who have been stranded in Lebanon for nearly 60 years are ecstatic: the Palestinian Authority has decided to evacuate its nationals as well.
But in a country that has repeatedly been invaded by Israel, the one joke everyone likes to tell remains: An Israeli recently arrives at London's Heathrow airport. As he fills out a form, the customs officer asks him: "Occupation?" The Israeli promptly replies: "No, just visiting!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wines of the Bekaa

I wrote this last week after a trip to the Bekaa Valley. It originally appeared on the guardian blog. There are some pics to go with it but i'll have upload them later.

Message in a Bottle
Ramsay Short
The Guardian

Though Israel bombed economic targets, including dairies, bottling plants and even a chewing gum factory, all over the valley in its war with the Iranian-backed Hizbullah guerrillas, Lebanon's award-winning vineyards were spared.

"Ksara never stopped harvesting during the worst years of the civil war, and we would not have stopped now even if the ceasefire was not in place," says Charles Ghostine, Ksara's managing director.

And how could he? Sales of Lebanese wine in Europe and further afield soared during the recent conflict.

"Buying a bottle of Lebanese wine felt like you were supporting us here," agrees Ramzi Ghosn, co-owner of the French-Lebanese winery Massaya. "People wanted to show their solidarity with the Lebanese cause. And how better to do that than to buy a few bottles? A bottle of wine in Lebanon has its own message, one of tolerance and communication between cultures."

The problem now is getting all the new orders shipped out while Israel still blockades the ports. Ghosn estimates that the war cost Massaya between $5,000 and $8,000 a day. That figure is mounting by the hour, he says, as long as his shipments remain stuck at port.

But Ghostine is more optimistic - as long as the peace holds. "We are considering sending out orders through Syria via the port of Latakia, even though it will cost $2,000 to $3,000 more per shipment. But we are the biggest winery in Lebanon and can handle such costs."

"We are blessed by God. It was a nightmare as we waited for the war to stop. Even now, most of our grape pickers who are Syrian have not returned, having fled the country, and we are using all the vineyard staff and local Bedouin to do the harvesting."

Lebanese wine production is tiny in international terms. Even Israel produces upwards of 11m bottles a year. But its market share abroad and growth in sales in increasing annually.

Ksara, which is also Lebanon's oldest vineyard, founded in 1857 by French Jesuit missionaries, produces 2m bottles of wine a year, of which half are for export, and had a turnover of $8.7m million in 2005. The young upstart Massaya makes 500,000 bottles a year, with 80% going abroad, and had a turnover of $1.8m (nearly £1m) last year. Between them, Lebanon's 12 winemakers produce between 6m and 8m bottles a year and export a total of 2.5m. If the harvest had not begun yesterday, the 2006 vintage might well have been lost.

Ksara aims to produce 2.7m bottles by the end of 2007, while the other elder statesmen of the Lebanese wine industry, Kefraya and Musar, are also increasing their number of vines and output.

The nation's winemakers grow their grapes in the magical Bekaa, an inland plain whose porous, fertile soil yielded native vines millennia before the Romans built a temple to Bacchus, god of wine and nature, 2,000 years ago at Baalbeck, the easternmost point of their empire. (The Bekaa is also, of course, a heartland of Hizbullah.)

Ksara introduced noble grapes to the region in the late 1970s, and all the vineyards concentrate on quality over quantity to increase their international exposure, operating under the rules of the Office International de la Vigne et du Vin.

Despite the ferocity of Israeli bombing throughout the Bekaa, the producers refused to give up on their vines. Over a simple lunch of local halloumi cheese, freshly baked bread and a fine bottle of rose at his Massaya property near Chtoura, in the central Bekaa, Ghosn explains why he would not leave the plantation even when his offices were severely damaged by the massive bombing of nearby factories.

"When I was boy, in 1975, my father took the family and left the country after we had been threatened by local militia at the start of the civil war," he says. "We didn't return until 1992. I could not leave again."

IDF Report Card

This is a long article that was published in the Jerusalem Post (Aug.24) on the strategy behind the Israeli offensive in Lebanon. It is a fascinating read into what happened, how it happened and why it happened. The original article can be found here.

IDF Report Card

On July 11, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz picked up the phone and called a hotel in the North to make a reservation for a family vacation. Two days before that, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam held a security assessment at headquarters in Safed and decided to lower the level of alert along the northern border, raised two weeks earlier following the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in the Gaza Strip.
On July 12, however, Halutz's plans for a vacation went down the drain and instead of going up north to relax, the chief of staff flew up to direct Israel's war against Hizbullah. Two reservists had been kidnapped in a cross-border attack and the government had decided to launch a military offensive in Lebanon.
The decision itself was a major shift in Israeli policy. Since the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Israel has largely restrained itself in the face of Hizbullah provocations. The kidnapping of three soldiers in 2000, as well as the attempted kidnapping in December 2005, all went unanswered by Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas were still allowed to maintain their outposts just a stone's throw away from the northern border. This time however, the "Zimmer Policy," according to which Israel turned a blind eye to the Hizbullah buildup as long as the zimmers and hotels in the North were full, was discarded and Israel went to war.
There is no doubt that Israel was completely taken by surprise by the kidnappings of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser on July 12. Halutz claims that he ordered the Northern Command already back in March to begin preparing for an escalation with Hizbullah in the summer of 2006. In June, the Northern Command held a massive exercise during which it drilled scenarios following the kidnapping of IDF soldiers by Hizbullah, including a massive invasion into Lebanon. Nevertheless, Halutz's call to reserve hotel rooms in the North and Adam's decision to lower the level of alert point in a different direction.
But the lack of intelligence was not the only mistake made throughout the month of fighting in Lebanon. Defense Minister Amir Peretz quickly set up an inquiry commission - led by former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak - to investigate the IDF's management of the war. But that panel has now suspended its work as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert deliberates the establishment of another commission, possibly state-appointed.
These are some of the issues whichever commission is ultimately appointed will have to deal with.

Ground Invasion
While there were many disagreements throughout the entire month of fighting, on a whole, the top IDF brass admit that there has never been such a willing and supportive political echelon as the Ehud Olmert-Amir Peretz duo.
On July 12, several hours after the kidnapping, Halutz went to the cabinet and presented the IDF's air campaign, which included strikes on Beirut's International Airport, as a possible response. To the IDF's surprise, the cabinet immediately approved the plan.
But the air raids quickly exhausted themselves and it became clear that Hizbullah would not be sufficiently weakened by air. Instead, the IDF began launching pinpoint raids into Hizbullah strongholds such as Bint Jbail and Maroun a-Ras along the northern border. Those also proved to be ineffective. Dozens of soldiers were killed and Hizbullah continued to succeed in firing over 100 rockets a day at northern Israel. The next natural step was to launch a larger-scale ground invasion. But something delayed both a ground invasion, and the call-up of reservist forces.
This is where the versions become conflicting. Version A: Adam claims that he was ready at the end of July to launch a widespread ground invasion into Lebanon and that for two weeks troops milled outside Lebanon awaiting orders. Troops inside Lebanon were also frozen in place and, according to frustrated brigade commanders, the lack of movement put the forces on the defensive and gave the upper hand to Hizbullah fighters.
Version B: Sources in the General Staff claim that it was in fact Adam who was hesitant in launching the massive ground operation. He was scared, they said, of the results. There was also Halutz, who for the first three weeks of the war repeated in closed-door meetings that he was opposed to a ground invasion, and that he would only recommend one if there proved to be no alternative. The heavy loss of life in Bint Jbail and Maroun a-Ras also assisted in reducing the support for such an invasion.
Then there is Version C: Olmert's version. He claims that the first time he saw a plan to invade Lebanon with tens of thousands of troops was the day before the plan was approved by the cabinet on August 9. (That contradicts Adam's version that the force was in place already by August 1.)
Factually, Olmert might be telling the truth, and it could be that he only saw the plan on a map laid out on his desk at the Prime Minister's Office on August 8, but he was certainly familiar with such a plan way before then. Indeed, Peretz ordered the IDF on August 3 to begin preparing for a large-scale incursion and an advance to the Litani River - 40 kilometers into Lebanon - in a bid to gain control of Katyusha launch sites.
Logically, the Litani Plan made sense and high-ranking members of the General Staff were already pushing it in the first weeks of war. According to Military Intelligence, close to 70 percent of the rockets raining down on Israel were fired from areas just south and north of the Litani River.
It was in these parts south of the Litani that Hizbullah's elite Nasser Unit was waiting with thousands of troops and functioning command and control centers in underground bunkers, spread out in some 130 villages, laying mines, ambushes and just sitting and waiting for the Israeli tanks to come rolling in. Only a ground presence there, IDF officers claimed, could have curbed the rockets.
But when the push to the Litani finally began, it no longer made much sense due to the looming cease-fire. On Friday August 11, the United Nations Security Council convened and approved a French and American-backed cease-fire resolution. Despite the decision, the IDF pressed forward with its invasion and in some of the fiercest fighting during the war, 12 soldiers and some 80 Hizbullah gunmen were killed as a tank column suffered numerous hits from Hizbullah-fired anti-tank missiles as it tried crossing the Saluki Stream.
This all happened a mere couple of hours after the cease-fire was passed and left soldiers from Armored Brigade 401 wondering what their comrades had died for, considering that IDF officers had said from the outset that the Litani Plan would likely take a week. What was the point of the brief and very bloody operation, those artillery soldiers asked, especially considering that two days after crossing the Saluki, they crossed it again - this time heading home?
Anti-tank missiles
Going into this war, the IDF knew Hizbullah was armed with some of the most advanced anti-tank missiles in existence. Soviet-built Sagger, Cornet and Fagot anti-tank missiles, the French MILAN and the US-built TOW were all known to be in Hizbullah warehouses. What surprised the IDF was the amounts. They seemed at times to be endless. The anti-tank missiles were not only lethal against tanks, as in the battle of the Saluki, but were also effective when fighting against the IDF's infantry forces, such as during the fighting in the village of Dbil, not far from Bint Jbail, where nine reservists were killed August 9 when a building they occupied was hit by missiles and collapsed.
Contrary to public perception, the number of tanks penetrated by missiles was not as high as it originally seemed during the fighting, when the IDF Spokesperson's Office seemed to be constantly updating reporters of another tank hit.
Thousands of anti-tank missiles were indeed fired during the 35 days of fighting, but while soldiers told stories of deadly missile attacks on IDF tanks, Commander of the Armored Corps Brig.-Gen. Halutsi Rudoy told The Jerusalem Post that out of the almost 400 tanks that operated in Lebanon, only a few dozen were hit by anti-tank missiles and only 20 were actually penetrated. In total, 40 tanks were damaged and 30 tank crewmen were killed.
Altogether, the Merkava tank stood up well against the missiles and the explosive devices Hizbullah planted on roads leading to villages in southern Lebanon. No tank, officers explained, is fully resistant to missiles and bombs, but the Merkava did prove the claim that it is one of the most protected tanks in the world.
What these officers take issue with is the Defense Ministry's refusal to push ahead active-protection projects for the tanks, such as the Rafael-developed Trophy system, which is designed to detect and eliminate a missile threat with a launched projectile. The Trophy, senior officers involved in the design of the Merkava tank told The Post, was capable of neutralizing all of the anti-tank rockets in Hizbullah's arsenal.
"Money is what is killing and injuring soldiers," explained a high-ranking officer involved in the development of the Merkava. "The Trophy system is supposed to be there to provide the answer to this threat but due to budget constraints the soldiers are paying the price."
Off the coast of Beirut everything looks different. The fighting in Lebanon seems distant as the waves lap against missile ships. The war is certainly not at sea.
That is what the Navy thought until the fateful night of July 14 when an Iranian C-802 radar-guided missile struck the INS Hanit patrolling off the coast of Beirut. The Navy is in the midst of an internal investigation into the attack, in which four soldiers were killed, with the main questions surrounding a decision by commanders not to activate the Barak anti-missile system, designed to intercept incoming missiles like the C-802.
Senior officers claimed this week, however, that since that unfortunate incident, the Navy has proven its effectiveness in the war. On July 13, a day after the kidnapping of Goldwasser and Regev, the cabinet instructed the IDF to impose a sea blockade on Lebanon, which will remain in effect, a high-ranking Naval officer estimated this week, possibly for several more months or until a multinational force completes its deployment in southern Lebanon.
Most of the Navy's vessels are participating in the blockade, which is the longest and most extensive operation the Israeli Navy has ever carried out. According to the officer, the decision by the Lebanese government to send the Lebanese army into southern Lebanon for the first time in over 30 years was partially due to the pressure the blockade created.
"The blockade was effective," the high-ranking officer said. "The Lebanese economy is paralyzed and that was our goal."The Navy has since learned its lesson from the Hanit incident and has activated the Barak systems on all its missile ships operating off the Lebanese coast. A commission of inquiry will, however, have to try and answer why the Navy was unaware that Hizbullah possessed such missiles and why the Barak was not fully activated.
The first 34 minutes of this war were dazzling. IAF fighter jets swept across Lebanon and wiped out in just over half-an-hour most of the guerrilla group's long-range missiles and launchers. In total, over 94 targets were hit, strikes made possible by precise intelligence and perfect execution by well-trained IAF pilots. Those first 34 minutes were characteristic of the IAF's overall contribution to the war in Lebanon.
In total, the IAF few over 15,500 sorties in Lebanon and struck over 7,000 targets. Pictures now emerging from Beirut and other parts of Lebanon show unprecedented destruction, flattened buildings and split roads and bridges. The Air Force was also behind much of the damage caused to Hizbullah infrastructure, especially in the Dahiya stronghold in southern Beirut. F-16 fighter jets repeatedly bombed Hizbullah command and control centers and destroyed some, although not all of them.
But alongside the successes, the IAF also encountered some difficulties throughout the fighting in Lebanon. One such difficulty was the attempt by the Air Force to copy its successful targeted-killing policy from the Gaza Strip to Lebanon.
These attempts were unsuccessful and at one point, a frustrated head of IAF Intelligence, Brig.-Gen. Rami Shmueli, announced during a press briefing that he had ordered his subordinates to stop analyzing Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's taunting daily televised speeches, implying there was nothing of substance to them. There was also the strike on a bunker in Beirut when a wave of F-16 fighter jets dropped 23 tons on the target after obtaining what turned out to be incorrect intelligence that Nasrallah and other Hizbullah leaders were holed up inside.
The upside to the difficulty in obtaining intelligence, officers explained, was that it caused Israel's three intelligence organizations, Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Military Intelligence, to forgo their "daily ego wars" and to work together during the war in unprecedented harmony.
The IAF's helicopter squadrons also suffered losses throughout the war in three different incidents: One transport helicopter was shot down over Lebanon, two Apache attack helicopters collided midair over northern Israel and another Apache Longbow crashed in Israel under mysterious circumstances, most probably due to a mechanical failure.
There was also the accidental bombing in Kfar Kana in which 28 people, including children, were killed after what now appears to have been an unexploded IAF bomb blew up and destroyed homes in which Lebanese refugees were hiding. The IDF insisted it had warned residents of Kfar Kana of the imminent air strikes and that the village was a launching pad for Katyusha rockets, some of which were fired at northern Israel from the vicinity of the bombed home.
The Kfar Kana incident demonstrated the weak side of Israel's PR machine. The morning of the bombing, every news network in the world connected to the live feed Al-Jazeera was providing from Kfar Kana which showed rescue workers removing the bodies of children from under the rubble. But while Israeli spokespeople claimed that Kfar Kana was a launching pad for Katyusha rockets, they failed to present proof until a military press conference 12 hours later. An earlier presentation of those pictures might have minimized the damage to Israel's reputation. As it was, the damage wrought by the attack convinced US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that Israel should suspend air activity for 48 hours. Israel acquiesced.
This war was definitely the reservists' war. It began with the kidnapping of two reservists in a cross-border Hizbullah attack and continued with the mass recruitment of reservists who fought in Lebanon. In total, 46 reservists were killed during the month of fighting. But while the IDF reported a 100 percent enlistment among reservists, the soldiers who have now taken off their uniforms are complaining of shortages in equipment and entry into battle without proper training.
Possibly one of the greatest disgraces of the war were the shortages in water and food described by reservists. Other soldiers spoke about shortages in equipment. Reservists from the elite Egoz unit were forced to collect donations from abroad after they were sent into battle without flak jackets.
Others spoke about how they were left with no choice but to loot local Lebanese stores. One reservist said he knew beforehand that the IDF would fail to provide for its soldiers and brought US dollars with him, leaving bills in family homes where he and his comrades ate.
Chief IDF Reservist Officer Brig.-Gen. Danny Van-Buren told The Post this week that the military will investigate the run-up to the war and will work to better prepare reservists for future challenges.
"We need to train the reservists more than in the past," Van-Buren said. "We also need to ensure that there is better equipment for reservists and that if they are sent into battle they will be equipped with the best equipment the IDF has."
Responding to reports about reservists who collected money abroad to purchase flak jackets, Van-Buren said: "This is a reality we cannot accept and we need to ensure that our soldiers have everything they need."
The IDF acknowledges that there were glitches in the supply of food, water and equipment to soldiers and reservists but places most of the blame on the current and past governments which over the years have slowly cut away at the defense budget.
"Since we didn't have all the money we wanted, we had to give preferences to soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," says head of the IDF Logistics and Medicine Branch Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi. "I wish we had money to buy all the equipment we wanted but when there are budget constraints we need to decide what our preferences are." Apparently, the preferences weren't with the reservists.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Letter by Einstein and Co.

This is a letter that fell on my lap which was written by famous American Jews including Albert Einstein in the late 1940s. It was written to denounce a visit by Menachem Begin.

Letters to the New York TimesDecember 4, 1948

New Palestine Party Visit of Menachem Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.
The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.
Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.
The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village
A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants — 240 men, women, and children — and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.
The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.
Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.
During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.
The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies Seen
The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.
The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.

Isidore Abramowitz, Hannah Arendt, Abraham Brick, Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo, Albert Einstein, Herman Eisen, M.D., Hayim Fineman, M. Gallen, M.D., H.H. Harris, Zelig S. Harris, Sidney Hook, Fred Karush, Bruria Kaufman, Irma L. Lindheim, Nachman Maisel, Symour Melman, Myer D. Mendelson, M.D., Harry M. Orlinsky, Samuel Pitlick, Fritz Rohrlich, Louis P. Rocker, Ruth Sager, Itzhak Sankowsky, I.J. Schoenberg, Samuel Shuman, M. Znger, Irma Wolpe, Stefan Wolpe
New York, Dec. 2, 1948

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Post-war Ads

Just to show you some of the post-war adverstisments that have been covering buildings in Beirut. The resilience of Lebanese to continue on living will never be shattered.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

UNIFIL with 'teeth'

U.N. Resolution 1701 has authorized up to 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers. Contributions from member nations so far amount to:
-- Italy has agreed to send up to 3,000 troops.
-- France said it will deploy 2,000 troops, including its current 200-member contingent in Lebanon.
-- Finland said it would send up to 250 peacekeepers by November.
-- Germany will not send troops, but will offer naval forces to help patrol the Lebanese coast.
-- Greece has pledged to send naval vessels
-- Netherlands said it would not send troops but may also offer navy a patrol vessel.
-- Spain has reportedly offered between 1,000-1,200 troops.
-- Poland has offered 500 soldiers.
-- Belgium is sending 400 troops, including anti-mine experts, and medical units.
-- Bulgaria said it is willing to send troops, but has not given a number.
-- Turkey has indicated it will contribute troops, but has not given a number.
-- Bangladesh has offered two mechanized battalions with 1,600-2,000 troops. (So far refused by Israel)
-- Indonesia has offered one mechanized battalion and an engineering company totaling about 1,000 troops. (So far refused by Israel)
-- Malaysia pledged one mechanized battalion and Nepal pledged one mechanized infantry battalion, also totaling 1,000 soldiers. (So far refused by Israel)
-- Britain said it would send Jaguar ground attack aircraft and Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, known as Awacs, in addition to a navy frigate. It also offered to help train and equip the Lebanese military and support enhanced command and control technology for the force.
-- The United States said it doesn't plan to participate but does expect to provide logistical assistance to the force.

UNIFIL with 'teeth'
“If, for example, combatants, or those illicitly moving weapons, forcibly resist a demand from them, or from the Lebanese Army, to disarm,” then armed force could be used, Annan said. He added, however, that disarming Hezbollah — a central goal of two United Nations resolutions on Lebanon — “is not going to be done by force.”
The expanded peacekeeping force’s mandate is to support the Lebanese Army in enforcing the resolutions. But disarmament of Hezbollah “has to be achieved through negotiation, and an internal Lebanese consensus, a political process, for which the new Unifil is not, and cannot be, a substitute,” Mr. Annan said. Unifil is the acronym for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Media control

Israel's 'Moral High Ground'
It keeps getting lower…
by Justin Raimondo

The other day on CNN's Reliable Sources, Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks revealed the true face of the utter ruthlessness that underlies Israel's actions on the ground in the Middle East:

Howard Kurtz: "And joining us now here [in] Washington [is] Anne Compton who covers the White House for ABC News, and Thomas Ricks, Pentagon reporter for the Washington Post and author of the new book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Tom Ricks, you've covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don't have two standing armies shooting at each other?"

Thomas Ricks, reporter, Washington Post: "I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon."

Kurtz: "Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of its fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?"

Ricks: "Yes, that's what military analysts have told me."

Kurtz: "That's an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here."

Ricks: "Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well."

Just when you thought Israel's high moral ground couldn't get any lower, they go and do something like this. Maintaining the moral high ground is always a dicey matter for a brazen aggressor, but making sure some of your own civilians die as you wantonly slaughter your neighbors is unique in the annals of war propaganda. Not even the Nazis pulled crap like that.

I don't like to make such comparisons, but in view of Ricks' reportage it is clearly not hyperbole. And so what has been the response of the Israelis and their American amen corner? On a later program, Howard Kurtz had this to say:

"One other note. On Reliable Sources two weeks ago, Washington Post Pentagon reporter Tom Ricks said he'd been told by U.S. military analysts that Israel was leaving some Hezbollah rocket launchers intact because the killing of Israeli civilians provided an image of moral equivalency in the war. Post editor Len Downie, responding to a letter from former New York mayor Ed Koch, says he told Ricks he should not have made those statements.

"Ricks told the New York Sun that he accurately reported the comments from analysts but that, quote, 'I wish I hadn't said them, and I intend from now on to keep my mouth shut about it.'"

Translation: What I said is true, and I promise never to say it again.

Here is a textbook example of what scholars John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt call "the Lobby" in action, and some pretty quick action at that. No sooner had Ricks' comments hit the airwaves than the Lobby went into overdrive, screeching the old familiar refrain, the standard response to any suggestion of Israeli government perfidy: "Blood libel!"

That was their "rebuttal" to professors Mearsheimer and Walt when they wrote that the Lobby has effectively seized control of American foreign policy. They've always come back with the "blood libel" canard when confronted with footage of IDF soldiers shooting at Palestinian teenagers armed with slingshots. That was their reply when Fox News' Carl Cameron reported that the Israelis may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and not told us. It's their stock answer when backed against a wall, and I doubt that anyone takes it seriously anymore.

Besides which, the average human being, reading former New York mayor Ed Koch's blovation addressed to Ricks' editor, hasn't the foggiest idea what a "blood libel" is, historically. Even given this arcane knowledge, how is accusing Israelis of sacrificing their own children the equivalent of the old "blood libel" – which averred that Jews used the blood of Christian children in a religious ceremony involving the making of matzohs? (See, I told you it was obscure, not to mention weird). The difference is that the "blood libel" was popularized by crazed anti-Semites in Czarist Russia, while Ricks was citing "a senior Israeli official." That official, and not Ricks, is the proper object of Mayor Big Mouth's ire. But let's be clear: Ricks' only sin is letting the cat out of the bag.

Koch's letter is revealing in more ways than he intends. In his usual, overwrought style, he tells us that when he first heard Ricks' statements about the IDF deliberately risking Israeli casualties for the sake of public relations,

"I was shocked. … Still, I thought to myself, anything is possible in a war. There are crazy people on both sides of every war, but, Dear God, I hope this never happened."

In other words: he was shocked precisely because he found Ricks' reporting all too believable. As do I.

The reason I believe it is due to the unique position of Israel as a settler state, i.e., a foreign graft affixed to a Middle Eastern tree. While not denying the historical attachment of the Jewish people to Palestine, what I mean to say is that the impetus for the creation of the Jewish state came primarily from abroad: Zionism was a movement founded in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, not a national liberation movement spawned in the Holy Land itself. As such, it has always depended on foreign support, and not only from the Diaspora: military aid from the United States is central to its survival strategy. That's why media coverage, and "the narrative," is so important to the Israelis – important enough to sacrifice a few of their own on the altar of "public relations."

Leave it to the Huffington Post to chime in with the New York Sun, actually celebrating the silencing of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. And Hollywood is not far behind, with a recent full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times, paid for by Israeli gazillionaire Haim Saban, that attacks the Lebanese for daring to defend themselves and makes no mention of the 1,300-plus Lebanese victims of Israeli aggression. Tears for Darfur, but none for Beirut: that's the "liberal" wing of the Amen Corner for you.

In his interview with Kurtz, Ricks had this to say:

Kurtz: "Tom Ricks, the New York Times reported the other day, quote, 'Israel is now fighting to win the battle of perceptions,' which to me says the battle of headlines. And, in fact, an Israeli cabinet minister was quoted, not by name, as saying, 'That the narrative at the end, is part of the problem.' I'm starting to hear echoes of Iraq."

Ricks: "Echoes of Iraq, yes. But also the Israelis are very sophisticated in their handling of the media. They consider it part of the battlefield, officially. The word 'narrative' always comes up with conversations with Israeli national security officials. They consider shaping the narrative, the battle for the narrative, to be key as part of any war fighting. So they see the media as part of the battlefield. And, in fact, there's some belief from our reporters that they have occasionally targeted the media."

Sure they've targeted the media, and not only on the battlefield – you'll notice that Koch and CAMERA didn't dispute this rather more sensational accusation – but in this country as well. That's what organizations like CAMERA are all about. The minute you say anything about Israel that (a) is true and (b) discredits the Jewish state, a tremendous ruckus is raised, and no slimeball is spared in the slinging. After all, if they'll sacrifice their own citizens for the sake of "the narrative," then what won't they do to foreign reporters who have the gall to expose their methods?

The "narrative" Israel is trying to sell the American public is that the Jewish state is once again being targeted by "terrorists" – yet the pictures coming out of Lebanon show us who the real terrorists are, no matter how hard CAMERA and its allies, including AIPAC, work to "spin" the story in a more favorable direction. Their only alternative is to go into denial mode and claim that the photos are "staged" – a macabre tactic that mocks both the living and the dead. In the case of Ricks' reporting, they can only harass his editor until he issues a one-sentence "rebuke" – in an exercise of power that the Lobby always denies having. Because, you understand, to even write about how they engineered this "rebuke" is, in itself, a "blood libel."

The Killing Goes on

(Above: A cluster bomb from the 1960's. Below: A map of the locations where cluster bombs have been found in South Lebanon)

Israel is being investigated by its fellow ally’s State Department for the illegal use of American-made cluster bombs on south Lebanon. Apparently Israel not only violated the Geneva Convention for using cluster bombs on civilian areas but also secret agreements with the United States that restricts when it can employ such weapons. According to the New York Times, the investigation by the department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls began this week, after reports that three types of American cluster munitions, anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area, have been found in many areas of southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian casualties, even till today.

The agreements that govern Israel’s use of American cluster munitions go back to the 1970’s, when the first sales of the weapons occurred, but the details of them have never been publicly confirmed. The first one was signed in 1976 and later reaffirmed in 1978 after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon. News accounts over the years have said that they require that the munitions be used only against organized Arab armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973.
A Congressional investigation after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon found that Israel had used the weapons against civilian areas in violation of the agreements. In response, the Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on further sales of cluster weapons to Israel.

A report released Wednesday by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center, which has personnel in Lebanon searching for unexploded ordnance, said it had found unexploded bomblets, including hundreds of American types, in 249 locations south of the Litani River.
The report said American munitions found included 559 M-42’s, an anti-personnel bomblet used in 105-millimeter artillery shells; 663 M-77’s, a submunition found in M-26 rockets; and 5 BLU-63’s, a bomblet found in the CBU-26 cluster bomb. Also found were 608 M-85’s, an Israeli-made submunition.
The unexploded submunitions being found in Lebanon are probably only a fraction of the total number dropped. Cluster munitions can contain dozens or even hundreds of submunitions designed to explode as they scatter around a wide area. They are very effective against rocket-launcher units or ground troops.

In 1982, delivery of cluster-bomb shells to Israel was suspended a month after Israel invaded Lebanon after the Reagan administration determined that Israel “may” have used them against civilian areas. But the decision to impose what amounted to a indefinite moratorium was made under pressure from Congress, which conducted a long investigation of the issue. Israel and the United States reaffirmed restrictions on the use of cluster munitions in 1988, and the Reagan administration lifted the moratorium.

The use of these weapons is hotly opposed by many individuals and groups, such as the Red Cross, the NGO Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high proportion of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. The particular threat this weapon poses to civilians exists for two main reasons. First, because of the weapon's very wide area of effect, accidentally striking both civilian and military objects in the target area is possible. The area affected by a single cluster munition, also known as the footprint, can be as large as two or three football fields. This characteristic of the weapon is particularly problematic for civilians when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas and has been documented by research reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action. Secondly, depending on type and their use, between 1% and 40% of the bomblets do not explode on impact. These unexploded ordnance (duds) present a particularly dense and dangerous form of post-conflict contamination and may unintentionally act like anti-personnel land mines (which have been banned in many countries under the Ottawa Treaty) for several years.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Death Tourism

This is probably the most scary advertisement I have ever seen. Israeli officials have been able to turn their "struggle for survival" - as they call it - into a tourism business that costs $1,895 per person excluding airfare. "Experience a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Israel's struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today," reads the advertisment (click here to see it). Oh, and mission participants - as they are called - are required to make a tax-deductible donation of $500 to $5,000 to Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center to assist in the funding of the terror victim litigation against the Palestinian terrorist organizations, their leaders and financial patrons. I think it is rather ludicrous to transform such serious situations into a fantasy business that does only one thing: instigate more hate and fear.
One of the testimonials read: "Whether it was observing a terror trial outside Beit El, cruising the Kinneret in the beautiful moonlight, staring down Hizzboulah terrorists across the Lebanese border, or meeting the key policy makers and shapers in Israel, each stop on the odyssey connected me more and more to the tribulations and triumphs of our amazing Israeli brothers and sisters." It feels great that another person now clearly views all of Lebanon as a terrorist organization. Thank you Shurat HaDin for turning the region's crisis into a Disney Middle East where people don't even see that human beings are dying in the thousands, on all sides.

The itenerary includes:
- Briefings by Mossad officials and Shin Bet commanders.
- Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
- Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
- Live exhabition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
- Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
- First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points.
- Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
- Meeting Israel's Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
- Briefing by Israel's war heros who saved the country.
- Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
- Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan hights, water activities on Lake Kinneret, a cookout barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem's Old City.

The Aftermath? Maybe not

The war between Israel and Hizbollah might be over for now, but a new war within Lebanon has just started. We are facing mountains of problems from all sides - be it economically, socially, politically or enviromentally.
Economically the country has lost in total over $15 billion according to a UNDP estimate, out of which $3.6 billion accounts for direct physical damage. All of the 15-years of reconstruction we were so proud of are gone to waste in one month. And add to that the problem of our public debt - which equals over 180% of the GDP or $40 billion - and the situation becomes very strenuous. Hopefully, the donor conference to be held in Sweden on 31st August will raise enough money to pull Lebanon out of an imminent financial and economic disaster.
Socially, the Israeli/Hizbollah war has clearly divided the Lebanese people – the Shias on one side and everyone else on the other (read article below). This new situation can become very dangerous in a country where people are loyal to their sects. If flared up by any miniscule event, the divisions could transform into civil strife – a condition which no one desires in Lebanon.
Politically, apart from the internal divisions between Hizbollah and the rest of the parties, the country is still under a constant blockade by Israel. All planes departing or landing in Rafik Hariri International Airport have to make a forced stop-over in Amman to be searched by Israeli officials. And not a single boat can enter or leave the country. Such a blockade is making the situation much more difficult for anyone to enter into internal dialogue since the country’s sovereignty is still under attack.
Enviromentally our sea shores are completely devestated. Some 15,000 tons of fuel oil have leaked from the Jiyeh Power plant polluting over 150 kilometers of the Lebanese coast - a catastrophe which is beggining to be compared to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that devestated Alaska's Prince William Sound. Plans for clean-up are already being sketched out but apparently the operation would take nearly a year to complete and cost some $64 million.
And the worst part is that a lot of people still don’t believe the war is over. It might be for now, but some don’t think for long: “A frightening side to this long-term promise for believers in the UN ceasefire is that Hizbollah has encouraged its Shia population to rent homes in Khalde, south of Beirut, since it intends to delay its entire city construction project for a year - because of its conviction that the ceasefire will break down and that another Israeli-Hizbollah war will only wreck newly built homes.” This was written by Robert Fisk on the 24th of August 2006 (click here to read the article).

Rifts over Hizbullah form Lebanon's new green line
Declan Walsh in Beirut
Thursday August 24, 2006
The Guardian

Only in Beirut do war scars and champagne chic blend so easily. In Achrafiye, an upmarket district of hip restaurants and nightclubs where a bottle of bubbly can cost $1,000, a ravaged building totters over a street corner.
Bullet holes pock the walls and the windows have long disappeared. Rubbish and barbed wire clog the front door and weeds sprout from the upper floors. The lonely ruin is what remains of the Green Line, the infamous boundary that divided Christian East and Muslim West Beirut during the 17-year-old civil war of the 1970s and 80s. Until recently it was a reminder of a bitter conflict most Lebanese thought was over. But since this summer's 34-day war with Israel, there are fears of fresh divisions within Lebanese society that could heave the country into a new era of turmoil.
The new green line wobbles uncertainly around the role of Hizbullah. As Israeli warplanes pulverised Lebanon's infrastructure and laid entire villages to waste, many Lebanese silently rallied around the fighters' resistance. But since a ceasefire took hold 11 days ago, sectarian dissent has slowly swelled.
Druze, Sunni and some Christian leaders blame Hizbullah for provoking Israel and are demanding the group submit to the national government. "The [political] situation has become dramatically worse since July 12," said Michael Young, opinion page editor at the Daily Star newspaper. "The perception among non-Shia communities is that Hizbullah went to war without consulting with anyone."
Some quietly suggest Israel should have gone further to crush the militant group. "I wish with all my heart this war had not ended," one Christian woman, who asked not to be named, said in the southern city of Tyre.
An exception is the Christian leader Michel Aoun, who has forged an alliance with Hizbullah in what he depicts as an effort to build bridges with Muslims. But this is controversial among other Christians, who say Hizbullah has let countries such as Syria and Iran use Lebanon as a battleground for their interests.
The fiercest argument centres on disarmament. Israel, the US and the UN say Hizbullah must surrender its arms to ensure peace. "To play a patriotic role they don't need weapons," said Elias Attallah of the Democratic Left party. "An army and a resistance movement cannot live side by side. In Lebanon no community can accept domination by another. Otherwise it will lead to war."
Others say such demands may be incendiary. "If the government persists in trying to disarm Hizbullah and if the US keeps pushing them, this will create sectarian tensions, a split in the army, and could very well lead to a civil war," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a lecturer at the American University of Beirut who has written a book on Hizbullah.
Among its Shia supporters, at least, Hizbullah is riding a wave of popularity. In Beirut yesterday officials handed out thick wads of US dollars to war refugees whose houses had been destroyed. The funding is widely believed to come from oil-rich Iran, Hizbullah's main sponsor.
Musa Trablisi, 57, slipped $12,000 (£6,340) into his pocket, the maximum under Hizbullah's compensation system. His house in Ainata near the Israeli border has been flattened, he said. Even so, his loyalties were clear. "As long as Israel attacks and bombs our country, and as long as our government is paralysed, I am with Hizbullah," he said.
One solution could be to rejig Lebanon's political structures. Under the country's sectarian power-sharing system, based on a 1932 census, Shia are under-represented in the government, civil service and top ranks of the army.
But efforts to reach an internal settlement are constantly buffeted by outside forces. Some feel Lebanon's future lies in the hands of powerbrokers in Washington, Tehran and Damascus. "Geographically we are in the wrong place, like Poland during world war two," said Khaled Daouk, a Sunni businessman.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Who won?

This is from the Salt Lake Tribune. Seemed appropriate though we must not forget the dead and the families that lost their loved ones. Incidentally I see that Lebanon is nor represented in the caricatures...


The images above are of the Maliban bottling factory in the town of Chtoura on the road to Damascus in Lebanon’s historic Bekaa valley.
Or rather it was the Maliban bottling factory. Now it is a mess of twisted steel, broken glass and shattered concrete. I was there Tuesday on a two-day trip through the battered Bekaa returning Wednesday night.
The destruction of this modern bottling plant was mind-blowing. All the more so as it is owned by British Indian family from Uganda, the Madhvanis. For 40 years they have invested in the plant, and the people of the Bekaa. 360 employees and their families lived from the factory. Now all are unemployed and one who happened to be in the factory at 12.35pm on August 4 when four massive Israeli missiles hit the building, is dead.
The man in the picture above has managed the plant, which was one of the Lebanon’s biggest industrial enterprises exporting to the Middle East and Europe and turning over $26 million annually, for 34 years. His name is Aurobindo Roy Chowdhury.
‘We didn’t even hear the planes. If I hadn’t closed for business three days earlier 150 staff could have been dead. It is a disgrace,’ he says.
‘I lived here throughout the Civil War, the Israeli air raids of the 1990s, never did we close, and never did I think they would hit us. In all my years I can tell you no Hizbullah were ever here. This is a legitimate business enterprise that has been destroyed. Israel must pay to rebuild us.’
There is little doubt in Roy Chowdury’s mind, or Beirut Live’s, that this attack and the one on the Liban Lait milk factory halfway between Zahle and Baabeck (which produced exactly the same results as the pictures above) was designed to attack the people and damage Lebanon’s economy.
‘It would cost between $60 and $70 million to rebuild from here,’ he says, and there is no guarantee that the Madhvanis will do so considering the huge cost and the instability of the region.
One man in the factory told me that Israel always wanted to hit Maliban as the Madhvanis had declined to open their business in Israel way back in the 1960s.
What is certain is that this bombing which Israel has offered no concrete explanation for was designed to inflict maximum damage on the people of the Beqaa and any support they might have for Hizbullah and Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, as well as seriously harm Lebanon’s economy.
The Israeli policy seems to have been (I say seems because Israel never ever takes responsibility for actions it knows to be reprehensible - eg. Rachel Corrie), ‘if we cannot destroy the magical guerillas lets harm business.
45 factories were hit during the July campaign. None were proved to have Hizbullah fighters or any weapons inside. At Liban Lait even the cows were not spared Israel’s wrath.
And after 35 days of conflict no one has won anything and everybody has lost.
There is little doubt that there was a major economic objective to this war. Hurt the nation’s business and financial status as much as possible, put economic pressure on the government and perhaps that will cause them to blame Hizbullah and fight them, seems to have been the Israeli aim. What others are there?
‘There have never been weapons in this factory,’ says Roy Chowdury. ‘Never. And now the lives of hundreds have been placed in the balance. Shame on the Israeli prime minister.’
And oh what a surprise… the British Government, in its duty to its citizens and business wherever they are, hasn’t even bothered to a lodge an official complaint to Israel.

War Crimes

Amnesty International released its report on the war in Lebanon in which it clearly condemns the Israeli aggression as war crimes. It states that Israel deliberatly targeted civilians and the country's infrastructure as part of its military strategy. Israel's statement that it was targeting Hizbollah who were using civilians as human shields "rings hollow," stated the respected organization. It's time that IDF stops acting as a bully and starts abiding by the Geneva Convention. Why did Israel target a milk factory for example? RS visited the bombed site in the Bekaa yesterday and he will update you on that soon. Some sources claim that the Lebanese milk factory had won a profitable EU contract recently, beating an Israeli milk factory who came in second place. If this is true or untrue, the question still holds: why a milk factory?
Here is an extract of the report by Amnesty International, entitled: Lebanon: Deliberate destruction or "collateral damage"? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Deliberate destruction or ‘collateral damage’?
During more than four weeks of ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces, the country’s infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale. Israeli forces pounded buildings into the ground, reducing entire neighbourhoods to rubble and turning villages and towns into ghost towns, as their inhabitants fled the bombardments. Main roads, bridges and petrol stations were blown to bits. Entire families were killed in air strikes on their homes or in their vehicles while fleeing the aerial assaults on their villages. Scores lay buried beneath the rubble of their houses for weeks, as the Red Cross and other rescue workers were prevented from accessing the areas by continuing Israeli strikes. The hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who fled the bombardment now face the danger of unexploded munitions as they head home.

The Israeli Air Force launched more than 7,000 air attacks on about 7,000 targets in Lebanon between 12 July and 14 August, while the Navy conducted an additional 2,500 bombardments.(1) The attacks, though widespread, particularly concentrated on certain areas. In addition to the human toll – an estimated 1,183 fatalities, about one third of whom have been children(2), 4,054 people injured and 970,000Lebanese people displaced(3) – the civilian infrastructure was severely damaged. The Lebanese government estimates that 31 "vital points" (such as airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities) have been completely or partially destroyed, as have around 80 bridges and 94 roads.(4) More than 25 fuel stations(5) and around 900 commercial enterprises were hit. The number of residential properties, offices and shops completely destroyed exceeds 30,000.(6) Two government hospitals – in Bint Jbeil and in Meis al-Jebel – were completely destroyed in Israeli attacks and three others were seriously damaged.(7)

In a country of fewer than four million inhabitants, more than 25 per cent of them took to the roads as displaced persons. An estimated 500,000 people sought shelter in Beirut alone, many of them in parks and public spaces, without water or washing facilities.
Amnesty International delegates in south Lebanon reported that in village after village the pattern was similar: the streets, especially main streets, were scarred with artillery craters along their length. In some cases cluster bomb impacts were identified. Houses were singled out for precision-guided missile attack and were destroyed, totally or partially, as a result. Business premises such as supermarkets or food stores and auto service stations and petrol stations were targeted, often with precision-guided munitions and artillery that started fires and destroyed their contents. With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave. The lack of fuel also stopped residents from getting water, as water pumps require electricity or fuel-fed generators.

Israeli government spokespeople have insisted that they were targeting Hizbullah positions and support facilities, and that damage to civilian infrastructure was incidental or resulted from Hizbullah using the civilian population as a "human shield". However, the pattern and scope of the attacks, as well as the number of civilian casualties and the amount of damage sustained, makes the justification ring hollow. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy, rather than "collateral damage" – incidental damage to civilians or civilian property resulting from targeting military objectives.

Statements by Israeli military officials seem to confirm that the destruction of the infrastructure was indeed a goal of the military campaign. On 13 July, shortly after the air strikes began, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz noted that all Beirut could be included among the targets if Hizbullah rockets continued to hit northern Israel: "Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], as simple as that,"(8) he said. Three days later, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, a high ranking IDF officer threatened that Israel would destroy Lebanese power plants if Hizbullah fired long-range missiles at strategic installations in northern Israel.(9) On 24 July, at a briefing by a high-ranking Israeli Air Force officer, reporters were told that the IDF Chief of Staff had ordered the military to destroy 10 buildings in Beirut for every Katyusha rocket strike on Haifa.(10) His comments were later condemned by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.(11) According to the New York Times, the IDF Chief of Staff said the air strikes were aimed at keeping pressure on Lebanese officials, and delivering a message to the Lebanese government that they must take responsibility for Hizbullah’s actions. He called Hizbullah "a cancer" that Lebanon must get rid of, "because if they don’t their country will pay a very high price." (12)

The widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hizbullah. Israeli attacks did not diminish, nor did their pattern appear to change, even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.

For the full report click here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The cease-fire may be sticking but Israel's embargo keeps Lebanese and Lebanese goods prisoner

It's been a while I have not posted. Took the weekend off and travelled to the moutain resort of Faqra though still had to deal with the sounds of Israeli planes and choppers Saturday night as they airdropped commandos into Baalbek after flying over us. It was loud, offensive and of course a continued violation of Lebanese airspace and freedoms. Oh and it killed 5 supposed members of Hezbollah and failed to kill Sheikh Yazbeck which was its stated aim. Same old same old.
Meanwhile British Airways on its British Med subsidiary were supposed to begin flying direct to London this morning but my friend Clancy Chassay of The Guardian who was supposed to be on the flight was told it was cancelled. Why?
Because there was no way for Israel to screen it, its contents or passengers.
All other flights MEA, Lufthansa and more are forced to fly via Amman, the Jordanian capital, so Israeli officials can check all the flights leaving Beirut, adding 4 hours minimum onto any outbound journey.
Now while I can accept, just, Israel's 'need' to check incoming flights to Lebanon for supposed weapons replenishment to Hezbollah, I cannot accept Israel's need to check outbound flights. Are there going to be weapons on them? Does anyone really think that is possible. I can tell you it is not. What else? Terrorists? Please.
This is a continued attack on the Lebanese people and the freedoms of this nation.
No trade is yet moving in and out of Lebanese ports for the same reason. There is no way currently that Israel can examine all in and outbound ships. The result is the continued ruination of numerous businesses and a strangling of trade, aid, and so on.
Are the Lebanese expected to swallow these violations of the nation for months on end on the strength of that reasoning? How long are we expected to fly via Amman to go anywhere? Any countries Lebanese planes fly to will check all goods, etc on arrival methodically and with maximum security no doubt. Is a British Airways plane heading for London going to head directly for Tehran? What laws allow Israel to dictate the where and when of transport out of Lebanon?
And how long do the Lebanese have to suffer such humiliation?
It is unfathomable.

Brothers in Arms?

(The above flag is that of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; the lower of Hezbollah)

Even though we all know that Hezbollah is trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, it is rather surprising to see the shocking resemblance in their flags. Apart for the colors and the Arabic writing, the rest of the flag (hand, weapon, globe and leaf) are exactly the same.
Hezbollah is such a highly trained guerilla force, that it is now compared to the special forces of the Revolutionary Guards. Any thoughts on this close-partnership?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Above the Clouds

This week-end we were above the clouds in Faqra resort (as seen in pic). RS and I, along with a member of another blog ( decided we needed a really relaxing time-off from the city, the news and the politics. What better way then to head to the peaceful mountain resort where there is no humidity or heat. It was perfect timing as the war was over and we really deserved some quiet from the 30+ day nightmare we lived through continously.
But it was too good to be true. As soon as we arrived Friday evening to the stunning mountain resort, all we could hear were jet fighters and helicopters flying right above our heads. It was so loud we couldn't believe it was the Israelis. But it was. At that specific moment, the IAF was conducting mock up attacks on the city of Baalbeck, some 30-kilometers from our location. And a couple of hours later, IDF commandos landed in the same area and performed ground operations, over 100-km from the Israeli-Lebanese border. This was a major breach of the cease-fire agreement. I wonder what the Israeli government has planned for what it called "the next round" against Hizbullah.
Maybe we were wrong to dream that the war would be over...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

For the record

Israel broke the cease fire last night by launching a commando operation in the Beka'a Valley. Will the American people remember Condelezza's words as the UN resolution was being passed last week? She said "now we will know who really wants peace."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

End games?

Read this and the link below. Anyone having a party on Monday?

Iranian cataclysm forecast Aug. 22
Islamists seeking heaven could spark apocalypse, Princeton expert warns

© 2006

A top expert on the Mideast says it is possible Iran could pick Aug. 22, the anniversary of one of Islam's holiest events, for a cataclysm Shiite Muslims believe will forever resolve the battle between "good" and "evil."

Princeton's Bernard Lewis has written an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal advising that the rest of the world would be wise to bear in mind that for those who believe the end of the world is imminent and good, there is no deterrent even to nuclear warfare.

As WorldNetDaily has reported, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged his people to prepare for the coming of an Islamic "messiah," raising concerns a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic could trigger the kind of global conflagration he envisions will set the stage for the end of the world.

He's also said, in a WND report, that Islam and its followers must prepare to rule the world, because it is a "universal ideology that leads the world to justice."

Now comes Lewis, who notes that the world must be concerned about a leader for whom the possibility of death is not a deterrent.

"In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning," Lewis wrote. "At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead – hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers.

"For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint, it is an inducement," he said.

Lewis noted that Ahmadinejad has referred to Aug. 22 several times, including when he rejected – until that date – United Nations requests for nuclear program information.

Lewis, joining several other Mideast experts who have expressed similar concerns, said Aug. 22 corresponds to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427.

"This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back," Lewis wrote.

In Islam, as in other religious, certain beliefs describe the "cosmic struggle" at the end of time. For Shiite Muslims, Lewis wrote, this will be "the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil."

The significance, he said, is that there's a "radical" difference between Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons.

"This difference is expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers," he wrote. Iran's leaders now "clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced."

As for intent, a passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, reveals priorities: "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers (i.e., the infidel powers) wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom."

Lewis wrote, "This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadanejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind."

Lewis, the Cleveland E. Dodge professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, specializes in Muslim history and interaction between Muslims and the West.

His comments echoed those made just a few days earlier by Robert Spencer, another scholar of Islamic history, theology and law and the director of Jihad Watch.

In an article for, he wrote that Farid Ghadry, president of the Reform Party of Syria, noted the commemoration of Muhammad's ascent to heaven from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Spencer said the Night Journey, or Miraj, is what makes Jerusalem a holy site for Islam, and Islamic tradition believes Muhammad, along with the angel Gabriel, went to the Temple Mount, and then to heaven in a bathing of light over Jerusalem.

Spencer reported that Ghadry talked of Ahmadinejad's plans for an illumination of the night sky over Jerusalem to rival the light of that Islamic belief.

Ghadry said what the Iranian president is "promising the world by August 22 is the light in the sky over the Aqsa Mosque," Spencer said.

He said a nuclear attack on Jerusalem, or even a conventional attack, would be consistent with the references that have been made, including Ahmadinejad's talk that Israel "pushed the button of its own destruction" by returning fire for Hezbollah's rocket barrage.

Also, "Atomic Iran" author Jerome Corsi notes that it's less significant whether Hezbollah survives, "but it's really the first chapter in the play for Iran and the Shiite Islam nation to come to ascendancy in the Muslim world."

First is the battle against Israel and the United States, he said, then against Sunni Islam. Where that group is more dominant, he said, is in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where group members are "not unhappy to see Iran contained."

"They may launch an attack, but I still think if they had a weapon they would just go ahead and use it," Corsi said. "Terrorists don't brag about things they're going to do until after they do it."

He said the recent comments are more typical of terrorists' efforts to get attention.

"When Ahmadinejad is capable of taking action he will do it without any warning or bravado; he'll just do it," Corsi said.

In the updated edition of "Atomic Iran: How the Terrorist Regime Bought the Bomb and American Politicians," now available in paperback from WND Books, Corsi discusses many of the disturbing developments related to Iran.

Meanwhile, Tanzanian customs officials have uncovered an Iranian smuggling operation transporting large quantities of bomb-making uranium from the same mines in the Congo that provided the nuclear material for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 61 years ago, according to a recent report in the London Sunday Times.

A United Nations report, outlining the interception last October, said there is "no doubt" the smuggled uranium-238 came from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's mineral-rich Katanga province.

The smuggled uranium discovered by Tanzanian customs agents was hidden in shipment of coltan, a rare mineral used to make chips in mobile telephones. According to the manifest, the coltan was to be smelted in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan after being shipped to Bandar Abbas, Iran's largest port.

Uranium-238, when used in a nuclear reactor, can be used to create plutonium for nuclear weapons.

For further reading, more on religous side check this out:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back to "normal"

(downtown Beirut)

Driving to work seemed oddly ordinary today. Traffic was not stopped as it would normaly have been at 9:00AM, but there were plenty of cars on the roads. I was coasting along the highway when the sound of sirens interrupted my thoughts. Suddenly a black suburban with black tinted windows aggressively passed on my right, followed quickly by a second, third and a fourth all identical vehicles revving fast with identical plates, diplomatic ones, characteristically yellow. A gun barrel hung out the window of the last vehicle.The Americans are so obvious, I thought.

Although things seemed to be getting back to normal, I wondered how the mission would be received today. Usually the motorcade, which has been dramatically scaled down over the past ten years, featured a mix of white and tan suburbans—ten years ago they had gun turrets cut out of the roofs. But today they were all black, somber, like a funeral procession or perhaps something more sinister, at least in the eyes of some, maybe most. I remembered the bartender from last night, so brash in his socio-political commentary, accusing me of being unable to comprehend reality, when I questioned his view that “the Americans, the British, the French, all those who fucked us should be kicked out!” In particular, the American mission, he restated. The Lebanese prime minister would have done well, he said, to kick them “the fuck out”.
Joe is a bartender at one of the trendiest pubs in town. He is tattooed, light skinned, muscular, and loud, his accent vaguely American. Rumor has it that he often takes on work as a shipman to make a few extra bucks. He probably wouldn’t have much trouble fitting in as a New Jersey mechanic either.
“I saw you on CNN” he bellowed at me when I ordered a beer. “You’re on my shit list,” he said seriously, producing a mischievous smile. Later he would come around the bar and slap me five, saying he was just joking. The conversation seemed to deteriorate though when I suggested that Lebanese were a mix of all cultures and that Lebanon, by default, should be open to the rest of world. “What do we need from America,” he demanded. “We have oil, we have all the countries from here to North Africa.”
Do you like rock and roll? I asked. He hesitated, as if they question was irrelevant, but finally answered yes balefully, then waived me off. “You don’t understand,” he sputtered, his tone hardening. “You, you, you,” gesturing with his hands over his head as if to indicate some kind of indoctrination. “We are all a mix, aren’t we?” I asked. He winced, then briskly walked off with our spent ashtray and a couple of empty beer bottles.
Earlier I spoke to the bar owner, another stoic character but somewhat milder-- soft-spoken and aloof. He is an Italian-Lebanese and a well known entrepreneur in the local club scene.
He explained to me how he had forbidden many foreign news crews from filming at his bar. When I asked about a threat from militant groups, he recalled 1984 when in the midst of civil war the party of God had shut down many liquor stores in West Beirut. “It was my birthday,” he recalled, “and it was so hard to find alcohol.” Joe was more blunt. “Why?” he cried, when I asked about having the pub filmed. “Because people will be pissed off if they show us partying and drinking here while others are dying.”
I guess it was Joe’s attitude that I remembered most, perhaps unconsciously, when I looked upon the American motorcade as if it they would be seen more of as merchants of death rather than diplomats. After parking my car, I took the usual route to the office, walking in front of Lebanon’s largest mosque adjacent to the tomb of its founder, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. It’s not exactly clear when the mosque will open. Final touches on the ornate yellow stone building, which dwarfs all surrounding edifices with its towering minarets, have been ongoing for the last few months, just over a year after Hariri’s assassination. A man holding a hose pumped water at the landscaping out front as traffic passed by on a green light at the intersection behind him. Could I be wrong about worrying about all this stuff, I wondered. Is it right to just carry on now, as if nothing really had happened?

No time to waste, time to reconstruct

(Clean up crew in Dahieh)

Only a couple days since the end of the war and people have already focused their efforts on reconstructing the country and aiding the people who have no more homes. Hizbollah is already donating some US$15,000 to every person who has lost their homes. Prominent businessmen and private companies have already pledged money to reconstruct 12 bridges. The government is already surveying all the damages incurred and is getting ready to present its needs at an international conference expected to be held in Sweden on 31st August. Even airlines are planning to fly back into Beirut International Airport shortly, with MEA landing today and British Airways flying in early next week.
Our country shall never bend down and we shall show to the world what the word Lebanon really means.
However, it seems not everyone is very glad about the reconstruction conference Sweden will be hosting for Lebanon. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an anti-Semitism awareness group, on Wednesday slammed Sweden's plans to host an international aid conference for Lebanon as "discriminatory", saying the meeting should also address the needs of Israeli victims of the conflict. A statement issued by the Wiesenthal Centre accused the Swedish government of "exclusion and discrimination". Last I checked, not only is our country completely devestated by Israeli air raids, but we also recieve absolutley no yearly aid from America. If I am not mistaken, every single bridge, road, power plant, airport, factory, telecommunication center, water treatment plant in Israel is intact. If I am not mistaken there was absolutely no blockade in Israel. How is a Lebanon aid conference "discriminatory"? And please Wiesenthal Centre don't call us anti-semite, we all are semites here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hizbollah’s Outlook in the Current Conflict (Part II)

Here is the second part of the fascinating insight of Hizbollah and what their strategy could look like in post-war Lebanon. Enjoy the rare and unique read. You can find both articles on in PDF format or here at Beirut Live.

Part Two: Accommodating Diplomacy and Preparing for the Postwar Context
By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

The adoption of United Nations Resolution 1701 and a formal cease-fire raise hopes for peace in Lebanon. Yet many questions exist about the viability of the settlement, questions whose answers will depend significantly on Hizbollah’s outlook, both about the diplomacy that has taken place as well as its own position in Lebanon coming out of the current conflict. The issue of Hizbollah’s disarmament remains a powerful potential logjam, one that could result in continued strife, either between Israel and Lebanon, or within Lebanon itself.

Partial Accommodation to the Lebanese Government’s Initial Diplomatic Stance Hizbollah consistently called for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire to the fighting that started after July 12—or as Hizbollah termed it: “an immediate end to Israeli aggression.” The party was opposed to the principle of a conditional cease-fire as part of larger peace package. As explained by Mohammed Fneish, Hizbollah’s Energy Minister, “the discussion of a comprehensive solution is in our opinion a cover for the aggression and allows the United States to appear as though it is making an effort at a time when it was waging war on us.”
Despite these objections, the party leadership assented to the seven-point comprehensive cease-fire plan put forward by the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fuad Siniora, soon after the conflict began. Hizbollah’s two ministers expressed reservations about the various elements of the plan, but the party felt compelled to agree to it for the sake of a common Lebanese front. According to Fneish, who took part in the cabinet deliberations, Hizbollah endorsed Siniora’s proposal “to prevent transforming our battle with Israel into a domestic battle, and to avoid being accused of hindering efforts which could have reduced losses for Lebanon.”

In another sign of accommodation with the Siniora government, Hizbollah ministers approved a Lebanese cabinet decision in the first week of August to mobilize 15,000 Lebanese army troops for deployment to the south in the event of a cease-fire and an Israeli withdrawal. Attempting to justify this move to the party’s rank and file, Hizbollah’s Secretary General, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, commended the cabinet’s decision as an act that would “greatly help Lebanon and its friends to press for amending the draft resolution which is being prepared at the Security Council.”

Skepticism about UN Resolution 1701
Despite Nasrallah’s espousal of a political resolution to the crisis, Hizbollah remains wary of diplomatic initiatives by the international community and harbors a particular mistrust of the UN Security Council. This mistrust is evidenced by Nasrallah’s characterization of Resolution 1701 as “unfair and unjust” for absolving Israel of its “war crimes and massacres” while holding Hizbollah “responsible for starting the aggression.” Throughout the conflict, Hizbollah repeatedly rejected any “humiliating conditions” being imposed upon it or Lebanon, regardless of “how long the confrontation lasts” or “how numerous the sacrifices may be.” In this vein, Nasrallah urged the government on several occasions, including in a speech on August 9, to remain “steadfast” and not acquiesce to American- Israeli demands in the negotiation process.

Despite Hizbollah’s criticisms, Resolution 1701 constitutes at least a partial diplomatic victory for the group insofar as it was an improvement (from Hizbollah’s perspective) on previous drafts that were rejected by both Hizbollah and the Lebanese government. As Nasrallah puts it, the end result was “the least bad” of all the drafts. Hizbollah would therefore “not be an obstacle to any decision taken by the Lebanese government” and would “abide by” any cease-fire agreement worked out by the UN Secretary General “without hesitation.” The resolution was approved by the Lebanese cabinet on August 12 and, by extension, by Hizbollah’s ministers, although they voiced a number of reservations.

Prospects for a Cessation of Hostilities
Resolution 1701 calls for a “full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations,” after which the Lebanese government and reinforced up United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces are to deploy in the South, while Israeli troops withdraw “in parallel.” The implementation of this process is certain to be highly complicated and face a significant risk of failure.
Although both the Lebanese and Israeli governments acceded to Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call for a cessation of hostilities effective August 14, it is very possible that fighting will continue after that date, for two interrelated reasons: first, Israel is refusing to withdraw from Lebanon until international and Lebanese troops deploy; and second, Hizbollah intends to continue fighting as long as Israeli soldiers remain on Lebanese soil, as Nasrallah spelled out explicitly on August 12. This leaves an interim period of an estimated one to two weeks before UNIFIL troops are expected to arrive, during which the fighting is likely to flare up again.

Hizbollah’s First Clash with the Lebanese Government over Disarmament
In line with the Lebanese government’s seven-point plan, Resolution 1701 stipulates that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River be manned solely by 15,000 troops each from the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. Although the UNIFIL force has not been granted peace-enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it will have the right to “resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties.”
As noted above, Hizbollah agreed to this arrangement when it approved the government’s seven-point plan. Hizbollah made this concession relying on the solid relationship it had developed with the approximately 1,000 Lebanese army troops stationed close to the southern border area since the Israeli pullout in 2000, and the similar modus vivendi it achieved with the 2,000 UNIFIL forces stationed there since the early 1980s. Hizbollah also assumed that the Lebanese army’s role would be to secure Lebanon’s border, not Israel’s, as demonstrated both by Nasrallah’s recent assertion that the Lebanese army “are not forces that take orders from enemies” and Fneish’s assessment that “the army’s role would not be to protect Israel and it wouldn’t deploy according to Israel’s security needs.”

Hizbollah did not equate the Lebanese army’s deployment with its own disarmament and hence saw no potential clash between its armed forces and the army. This assumption was reinforced by there being nothing in the cabinet-approved plan explicitly suggesting that Hizbollah would be expected to disarm. Moreover, the fact that Resolution 1701 does not resolve the dispute over Shebaa Farms (the Secretary General is to present a proposal on this issue to the Security Council within 30 days of the date of the resolution) also gave Hizbollah what it viewed as further assurance that the Lebanese government would accede to its maintaining arms. A source with close links to the party suggested in a recent interview that Hizbollah was relatively confident that the government would be bound to its policy statement of July 2005, which clearly legitimized Hizbollah’s “right” to “complete the liberation of Lebanese territories,” meaning Shebaa. Hizbollah clearly envisaged an arms management as opposed to an arms decommissioning scenario whereby its arms would remain hidden, and hence deactivated, save for occasional attacks on the occupied Shebaa Farms area, which could be launched from its bases behind the Litani River.

These assumptions were shaken on August 13, however, in the immediate aftermath of the issuance of Resolution 1701 when cabinet members of the ruling majority called for a special session to deliberate on Hizbollah’s disarmament preceding the deployment of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. Hizbollah’s ministers refused to discuss the prospect of disarmament at the current time, for various reasons, including that Shebaa’s status would remain unresolved for another month. According to a source close to the Lebanese army command, the army command refuses to dispatch troops to the south if their mandate is rejected by Hizbollah.
Such a decision is not surprising given that an estimated 40 per cent of army conscripts are Shiites, while the army is known to be sympathetic to Hizbollah and enjoys good relations with Hizbollah’s military command. Moreover, it is likely that the army is keen to avoid a split in its ranks as has occurred in the past. Whatever the outcome of this deadlock might be, it is bound to complicate efforts to dispatch international forces to the area, while the political polarization underlying the deadlock may intensify in the near future.

Hizbollah’s Broader Rejection of Disarmament
Resolution 1701 reiterates the need to implement Resolutions 1559 and 1680, which call for the disarmament of Hizbollah (without mentioning Hizbollah by name), as part of a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire plan. In order to better appreciate the difficulties inherent in any effort to disarm Hizbollah in a postwar scenario, an examination of the party’s motives for maintaining its arms and refusing the integration of its military forces into the army is needed.
Most campaigns for Hizbollah’s disarmament are premised on the argument that a sovereign democratic state has to possess a monopoly over the use of force. Although Hizbollah has failed to publicly articulate an intellectually coherent counter-argument to these calls, party officials have attempted through various statements to justify Hizbollah’s armed status, including in interviews conducted by the author in June of this year.

According to Fneish, “the resistance did not emerge when the state was strong and in a position to protect its borders; it did not cause the weakness of the state. The resistance emerged because the state was already weak, it came because the state failed.” He adds that had it not been for the armed resistance, and the liberation of Lebanon from Israeli occupation, there would have been “no return of the state to the south.” In this view, the state lacked sovereignty because of successive Israeli invasions and occupations, not because of Hizbollah’s arms. Had the state assumed its role as a sovereign power and evicted Israel from its territory, there would have been no need for the resistance. Ali Fayyad, Politburo member and director of a think tank closely affiliated with Hizbollah, adopts a similarly utilitarian argument: “Society is more important than the state because the state is meant to serve society … when the state fails in carrying out some of its functions, society must help the state in carrying them out, even if the state doesn’t ask.” Thus, although Hizbollah officials agree “in theory” that a state must have a monopoly on the use of force, in practice they do not. In the words of Fneish, “confronting the danger to the country’s destiny is more important than the theoretical incompatibility of such means with the state’s authority.”

But this incompatibility is more than just theoretical for many critics of Hizbollah who see the organization as constituting a “state within a state.” In light of this, various proposals have been floated, which center on integrating the Hizbollah’s military capacity into the Lebanese army, such as one put forth by Terje Roed-Larsen, special UN Envoy for Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 on Lebanon. Asked in a June interview what he thought of Roed-Larsen’s proposal, Sheikh Nai’m Qassem, Hizbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, asserted that it “appears to be a solution but in essence, its aim is to eliminate the resistance,” and for that reason, its implementation was “out of the question.”

In May, Nasrallah publicly ruled out such a merger as well, arguing that “it is not a realistic option because this will weaken the Lebanese position in facing the much superior Israeli army.” He contended that even if the army had the needed manpower and budget to bolster its forces, the United States and other Western powers would not agree “to sell us qualitative arms that would guarantee air cover for the army.” Given these obstacles, Hizbollah’s armed forces are the only way of creating a “balance of power” with the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hizbollah asserts other grounds for objecting to the integration of its armed forces into the army. One such argument is that the “margin between the Resistance and army” is of benefit to the state insofar as it does not have to bear direct responsibility for any of the resistance’s activities. As Nasrallah pointed out earlier this year, “when any resistance under the army fires a single bullet, then the ministry of defense … and the entire state would be subject to direct attack.” For these and other reasons, Hizbollah offers few concessions on its arms other than “coordination without integration.” The farthest Hizbollah officials have gone is to suggest that Hizbollah’s armed forces would become a “reserve army,” which would coordinate with the Lebanese army on matters of strategy but not tactics. However, this would amount to little more than “calling resistance by another name,” to use Qassem’s terminology, given that Hizbollah’s military activities would remain under its own command.

It follows from this that Hizbollah is not willing to disarm in the foreseeable future. As Nasrallah has spelled out on several occasions, the party will remain armed for “as long as Israel remains a threat to the country.” In a speech earlier this year, Nasrallah suggested that only a “comprehensive settlement which would bring an end to the war” could neutralize that threat. From Hizbollah’s perspective, the security of Lebanon remains inextricably tied to the Arab-Israeli conflict, regardless of Israel’s fulfillment of specific Lebanese demands. Fneish articulates this view in stating that, “the problem wouldn’t be solved if Israel simply withdraws from Lebanon,” but would continue until a just and comprehensive regional agreement is in the offing. For Qassem, “when Palestinians are being killed on a daily basis on our very doorstep and when 300,000 or 400,000 Palestinians remain in Lebanon and cannot return to their country … this is aggression.” Asked to specify the exact conditions under which Hizbollah would no longer view Israel as a threat and contemplate disarmament, Qassem answers, “let’s not talk about the reaction but the action…. If the Israeli danger disappears one day and I have no idea how it would disappear, then the resistance which was a reaction to the Israeli danger would no longer be present. The struggle is therefore open so long as Israel is aggressive in its presence and existence.”

Hizbollah officials have insinuated on various occasions that the party might hold on to its arms indefinitely due to what it perceives as the perpetual threat posed by Israel. For example, Nasrallah described Israel as a “permanent threat which could turn into aggression at any time,” in the same breath as his utterances on a comprehensive settlement. In perhaps one of the clearest indications of Hizbollah’s view of the nature of the Israeli threat and hence Hizbollah’s determination to retain its arms, Qassem affirmed as recently as two months ago that, “our opinion is that Israel’s existence itself is a danger. Because the origins of Israel lie in the occupation of land and the violation of others’ rights. This is aggression. Every single experience we have had since 1948 until now is an experience of aggression, expansion, wars and displacement, imprisonment and killing. Parts of four countries were occupied under the banner of Israel’s existence.”

Hizbollah’s Postwar Plans
In the view of many observers inside and outside the region, including some in Israel, Hizbollah has effectively emerged as the military victor in this war by having survived and by inflicting losses against Israel throughout the conflict. Some Lebanese politicians representing the “March 14” political camp, as well as many non-Shiite Lebanese, have voiced fears about the political implications of a victorious Hizbollah. In an attempt to allay such concerns last month, Nasrallah responded: “I conclusively answer by saying, first of all, Lebanon and its people had an experience with how this resistance acted after the victory in 2000. Second, I assert from now on that victory will be for all of Lebanon.” The Hizbollah leader was referring to similar fears that were expressed in the aftermath of Hizbollah’s liberation of south Lebanon from Israeli occupation in 2000. As elaborated by Hizbollah Politburo member Ghaleb Abou-Zeynab, “the fear is that Hizbollah would change the entire political equation if it triumphs to eliminate others. There will be political changes but we have no intention of destabilizing the situation.”

These “political changes” that Hizbollah envisions are two-fold. The first relates to Lebanon’s political identity and foreign allegiances. Nasrallah alluded to the desired change when he recently urged the government “not to forget” how the U.S. administration failed it in its time of need, and cautioned those who continue to count on U.S. support. In an expansion of this stance, Abou-Zeynab claimed that those “who had previously relied on the outside for their policies or U.S. support for change, now have to rethink this in light of the new reality.” Hizbollah is making an assertive claim to Lebanon’s political identity, as exemplified by Abou Zeynab’s statement that, “Lebanon will be removed from the U.S.-French orbit.” By the same token, Nasrallah has vowed that “Lebanon will not be one of the locations of the ‘new Middle East.’”

The second change concerns a new hardening on disarmament. Now that Hizbollah has shown that Israel’s powerful, U.S.-backed military was unable to disarm it, it believes that nobody else can, least of all the weakened Lebanese government. Qomati boldly declared that the “resistance is a red line for us, handing [in] our arms is out of the question, even if Shebaa is liberated.” This view is likely shared among the approximately 96 percent (according to a poll carried out in Lebanon last month) of Lebanon’s Shiites who support Hizbollah. The hundreds of thousands of Shiites who have been displaced from predominantly Shiite areas are likely to be more united as a community, as well as angry and radicalized vis-à-vis Israel, and thus even more favorable to Hizbollah maintaining arms than in the past.

In light of these facts, the consequences might be dire if the Lebanese government ardently pursues the disarmament of Hizbollah. In the worst case scenario, civil strife would occur and the state would collapse. In the best case, all Shiite ministers would withdraw from the cabinet, leading to the government’s collapse. Ultimately, the ruling majority is likely to be faced with a troubling dilemma: either a state within a state or a state within a failed state.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is an assistant professor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. She writes regularly on Lebanese politics and is the author of Hizbullah: Politics and Religion