Thursday, August 24, 2006

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).
mrtez

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.

17 Comments:

Blogger susu said...

UNLESS WE SHUN ALL OUTSIDE INTERVENTION THAT HAS BEEN OUR DOWNFALL DURING THE CIVIL WAR THIS FAULT WILL NOT CHANGE FOREIGN INTERVENTION HAS BEEN IN LEBANON SINCE 1840! HAS IT BRUOGHT STABILITY NOT IT SET US APART THROUGH SECTARIANISM!

2:31 PM  
Blogger Chris Baker said...

This was a compelling comment by MRTEZ. The Lebanese economic situation hasn't received much attention in the US. However the US wire services have picked up some very strong comments from Greenpeace on the environmental devastation caused by the massive Lebanese oil spill. Greenpeace is widely followed in the US because of their anti-whaling activism and disruptions. Hopefully the Lebanese government knows enough to take advantage of Greenpeace while they can.

This reminded me that one thing the Lebanese government may not understand is the need for English speakers without a strong Arabic accent who can do effective interviews for the US media. Some of the people "Democracy Now" has had on from Lebanon have been virtually unintelligible to me because of the accent.

However yesterday "Democracy Now" interviewed an Irish peace activist, Caoimhe Butterly, from a group called "Samidoun" out of Beirut. She is a volunteer who speaks English very clearly and so was especially compelling. Butterly talked about the tragic problem of unexploded cluster munitions in civilian areas in south Lebanon, which "Democracy Now" had a compelling segment on. It was one of their best segments on Lebanon in fact, partly thanks to Butterly. Apparently Israel dumped a lot of cluster munitions in civilian areas of south Lebanon leading up to the cease fire.

2:37 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

Another thing all of us can do is push the newspapers. I'm astounded that my "largest newspaper in Florida" has said NOTHING about the Amnesty International Report or the cluster bombs or the destruction of the bottling plant or much of anything about the aftermath. I've written to the "Letters to the Editor" to ask for equal time with "Primer" - an anti-defamation league organ for "promoting responsbile reporting in the Middle East". Primer is ALWAYs in the paper reporting why Israel is right and anyone else is wrong if there is the slightest hint of something negative being said about Israel.

I also emailed the editor of editorials, the national desk and the international "Special Reporter" with the question why there has been nothing said and providing a link to the Amnesty International report.

4:33 PM  
Blogger mejnuni said...

thank you for your blog site. Its informative moreso than US CNN or FOX NEWS.please keep it up and remember what governments got away with before the internet was opened to the public. Now the world can see and hear thanks to sites like yours.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Chris Baker said...

Amnesty International is out with a report yesterday (8/23) based on it's investigation and interviews. Below is an extract from the the report on so-called "collateral damage", a term used by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. Also Amnesty International has posted a set of satellite images showing distant and close-up images of south Beirut and Bint Jbeil - before and after: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/lbn-satellite-eng

Amnesty International is calling for a thorough investigation by the UN, through the UN Security Council. They don't reference the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which has already sent investigators to the area who are due to report back by Sept 1st I believe.

This is from page 2 of the Amnesty International report titled "Deliberate destruction or ‘collateral damage’?". It deals with statements by Israeli military officials which seem to indicate that the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure was a goal of the military campaign (link below). I changed the spelling and paragraphing slightly:
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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 Hezbollah positions and support facilities, and that damage to civilian infrastructure was incidental or resulted from Hezbollah 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 Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz noted that all Beirut could be included among the targets if Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah's actions. He called Hezbollah "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 Hezbollah. 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.
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Source: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE180072006

4:45 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Finally some smart people in Leb. So it's the Christians that may help kick HZ off the block. We know the Muslims won't do it.

As for the news reporting in the states, well they're just reporting what the masses want to read. Hcb calls me a fart in the wind. Well at least I'm something, your little letter to the editor was probably deleted as spam.

5:39 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

I was moved by this post in an Israeli blog - I'm not going to provide either the name of the author or the site because I'm certain that would lead simply to someone going there to unload some filth. However, I'm quite sure some of you have been to the same site and have read this post before.

I don't quote it for the purpose of bashing Israel - I quote it to buttress Lilu's comments to the effect that not all Israelis feel the same way. One of the reactions to her comment was "a tiny percentage of non-arab Israelis" may feel that way. I also don't mean it to have Israelis thinking it is somehow unpatriotic - it illustrates the real beauty of democracy: people can disagree and voice their disagreements without being "disloyal."

There are thoughtful people in Israel - contrary to some of the opinions expressed here. However, please don't read more into it than is there. The writer is as profoundly distressed with the writer's government as many of us are with our American government.

The post is entitled, "I'm pissed off"

I'm pissed off, I'm mad, I'm furious, I'm so angry, I feel like blowing some faces. And I'm freaking out inside me from the unbearable pain.

And what do I get from this? The excuse for this bloody war, namely, bringing back our kidnapped soldiers failed miserably: not one of them was handed back to us and most probably they will never be returned. We failed to immobilize Hizbollah or to disarm them. And now we are standing naked in front of the whole world, while Syria who is lurking for years in the shade, waiting for us to weaken, is rising its ugly head, threatening to fight us. And now when Syria has sufficient proof, it might attack us.

This current Lebanon war is the worst war in the history of the State of Israel. Why? Because we are the only ones responsible for all the our failings. The situation now was unlike that of the 6th Day War or the Yom Kipur War, because we were'nt dragged into a war. We initiated it. It seems that a grave intelligence failure such as happened at the Yom Kippur War led us to this. However, back then we faced a surprise attack, but now we are the ones who initiated the attack. This war is even worse then the First Lebanon War, as at that time, at least our citizans were not harmed.
But this time we really messed up. The mess was so great, much greater than that of theYom Kippur War. The Israeli citizans suffered the most. Nobody estimated that this "little" military operation will turn into a real war. Dan Halutz, our Chief in Command, relied on his air force, and being terribly naïve or simply too busy with his stock investments, and thus unable to judge the situation, truly believed that his fancy air force will finish the job at one strike, so nettly, just as the naive Americans during the first Gulf War, who believed that attacking the enemy with their newest air crafts for a couple of nights will be sufficient to defeat them. Our Prime Minister and our Minister of Defence surely believed Halutz and his empty vain promises, who probably spoke so proudly about his beloved air force, and so they gave their consent for the attack; agreed to rush hastily into it.

Im not saying that the our PM and his ministers are not to blame. The very fact that the PM and Minister of Defence are in power blames them. But Im afraid Halutz have promised the PM & Minister of Defence, who have no clue in military issuses, as everybody in Israel suspected it when this usless pair rose to power, that everything will be OK and that his fancy airforce will finish the job. And the rest is history: our attack wasn’t a short clean cut operation, in which our soldiers leave the battle field without a scratch, rush home to their loving wives, expecting to be praised by everyone, but a big failure which left our army with its pants down: shortage of food & water, no basic equipment, no proper orders, and above all, led by Generals who underestimated the power of the enemy.

I am not sure which one is best: a moran Minister of Defence such as Peretz, a killer Minister of Defence such as Sharon (during the first Lebanon War), or a stoned Minister of Defence who is unaware as to what is going on around him, being too busy stealing archeology items, such as Moshe Dayan at the Yom Kipur War?

But one thing I know for sure: I do not forget nor forgive. I'm mad and I refuse to forgive. Too many people were hurt in this war. Too many people lost their self respect. And all of us lost our shaken feeling of security. We all received a preview of what is going to happen here in the future, but its all in vain. Just in vain. We'll have to fight this war again some time in the future, which means, that this war was not only unnecessary, but also develish.

I admit that if any one among the men responsible for the biggest mess in the history of Israel, would feel so guilty to a point of taking his own life or die of a broken heart (as happened after the Yom Kippur War to Chief in Command David Elazar ) , my heart will not grieve over him.

6:01 PM  
Blogger susu said...

NO DARLING SAM ITS VERY COMPLICATED THEN KICKING HZ INTO THE WIND. THE CHRISTIANS U R TALKING ABOUT HAVE ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THIS ! IT DOES SERVE TO ALIENATE ONE PART OF PUBLIC AND THAT IS WHAT THEY WANT WHICH WILL ONLY WHICH WILL ONLY BRING TROUBLE FROM SYRIA BY ASSISANATION! THINK! BCS THE SITUATION IN LEBANON IS NOT SIMPLE IT HAS SO MANY LAYERS LIKE CATACOMBS!

6:04 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Then hopefully the rest of the Lebs will jion in and help dissarm HZ. Let them be a party not a terrorsit cell. Thats all they are, and now Iran is passing more money to them to look like innocent little angles adn helping to rebuild what they destroyed in the first place. Let me get my waders on, it's getting deep in here.

6:13 PM  
Blogger susu said...

HCB THAT LAST POST U MADE IS REVEALING BUT PUT ISRAEL'S BACK TO THE WALL AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN! HZ RIGHT NOW ARE ACTING LIKE THEY ARE HELPING BUILD THE SOUTH BUT THEY ARE ALSO BEING DISCRIMINATIVE AND ONLY GIVING THEIR SUPPORTERS MONEY AND NO ONE ELSE!

6:14 PM  
Blogger susu said...

DEAR SAM UR COMMENTS ARE UNTRUE DON'T THINK IRAN WHO R PERSIANS LIKE THE LEBANESE ANY BETTER THAN THE SYRIANS ! HZ IS WORKING ALONE WITHOUT MONEY FROM THEIR FOREIGN ALLIES! ABOUT THE DISARMING I DON'T KNOW ALTHOUGH I DO BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL NOT DISARM UNLESS ISRAEL'S THREAT OVER LEBANON AND THE CONFLICT WILL END.....PEACE I THINK EVERY LEBANESE JUST WANTS ALL THE PRISONERS IN BOTH CAMPS TO BE RELEASE AND GIVE US SHEBAA AND SEE HOW U WOULD HAVE WON AGAINST HZ WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT THINK ABOVE THE DETAILS LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

So the entire world is wrong in regardes to the supplies, arms and men? Iran and Sryia are so involved with the problem. they're using your people as martrys. They're the ones killing your people via Israel army. Be mad at them and read more about who is funding the HZ and where it gets it's arms and training.

So Israel has to stop threatening the HZ? when is the HZ going to stop killing Israeli's and capturing their soldiers on Israeli soil? They won't until HZ is under control via the international community.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

SUSU, where do you live?

6:44 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

susu - ignore it. You will only be angry and frustrated if you try to make sense of it and have a conversation or even an argument. It's babble intended as hurtful. Just ignore it as background noise. And please do NOT think that all Americans are like that.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Howard, affraid to let people have adisscusion that doesn't involve you?

I think it's time to let the Lebs make their own choices. But since your a traitor and a closet Socialist do your best to censor the world to your views by insults and properganda.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Tic Toc Howard..... Still waiting!

7:05 PM  
Blogger Mr Wrath said...

My opinion is that people in Israel, Lebanon, the middle east, and the entire world in general have every reason to fear the potential horrors of leaving Hezbollah or Iran intact with their current leadership. Comments like this one from Irans Ahmadinejad are the reason why...

"If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything… It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said..

"In the Qur'an, God commanded to kill the wicked and those who do not see the rights of the oppressed… If we abide by human laws, we should mobilize the whole Islamic World for a sharp confrontation with the Zionist regime… If we abide by the Qur'an, all of use should mobilize to kill."

People can believe what they want about Hezbollah and Iran, but when their leaders say these things, my opinion is quick to form.

2:20 AM  

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