Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beware the `new order' Israel is imposing

I post this article because it raises a number of issues in terms of Israel's conduct that all of us should be aware of. It comes from the Indian newspaper The Hindu. RS

Beware the `new order' Israel is imposing

Siddharth Varadarajan

No peace or stability can emerge in West Asia through occupation, subjugation, and the military slaughter of civilians.

ON JULY 28, 1989, a detachment of heavily armed Israeli commandos descended upon the southern Lebanese village of Jibchit. The time was 2 a.m. They burst into the home of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, leader of the Hizbollah militia, beat up his wife, and shot dead a neighbour before bundling the Sheikh and two other men into a helicopter. One of those seized was a young man named Hashem Fahaf who had no connection to Hizbollah, the other was the Sheikh's bodyguard.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which carries a helpful if damning account of the kidnapping on its website, "Israel had hoped to use the sheikh as a card to affect an exchange of prisoners and hostages [held by Hizbollah] in return for all Shiites held by it."

So brazen was Israel's action that the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution (No. 638) calling for the "immediate safe release of all hostages and abducted persons, wherever and by whomever they are being held." Needless to say, Tel Aviv ignored the resolution. After all, kidnapping non-combatants, including minors, and holding them hostage, was an integral part of Israel's military strategy. In May 1994, Israeli soldiers abducted a prominent Lebanese businessman and former commander of the Shia Amal militia, Mustafa al-Dirani, and brought him into Israel. The aim of that kidnapping was to try and get information about the location of Ron Arad, an air force navigator who had been shot down over Sidon in 1986 during Israel's ongoing aggression against Lebanon.

Mr. Fahaf, whose presence Israel refused to recognise for years, spent 11 years in jail before the Supreme Court finally ordered his release. He was allowed to return home along with 18 other Lebanese nationals who — the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in August 2003 — had been held "according to the official version ... as `bargaining chips' for Ron Arad". Two of those released had been kidnapped as boys and had grown into adulthood in captivity.

Sheikh Obeid and Mr. Dirani were finally released in 2004, after being held hostage by the Israeli government for 15 and 10 years respectively. Both men spent extended periods of time at Camp 1391, dubbed Israel's Guantanamo, a prison whose existence the Israeli authorities do not freely admit to. There, Mr. Dirani was raped, sexually abused, and tortured by Israeli soldiers. A lawsuit filed by him against the State of Israel is currently pending before a judge in Tel Aviv. He is claiming NIS 6 million ($150,000) in damages.

The 2004 release was part of a general prisoner swap brokered by the German government in which Hizbollah released an Israeli businessman and reserve colonel seized in 2000 in order to force Tel Aviv to free Sheikh Obeid. Hizbollah also returned the bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed in action. In exchange, Israel set free the Sheikh, Mr. Dirani, and 33 other Lebanese and Arab hostages, as well as 400 Palestinian prisoners. It also returned the bodies of 59 Lebanese nationals killed by its security forces over the years.

It is necessary to recall this entire sordid episode in order to put in perspective Hizbollah's foolish action of seizing two Israeli soldiers across the blue line dividing Lebanon from Israel. Thanks to Israel, kidnapping and hostage-taking — as well as the targeting of non-combatants and even children — have become "acceptable" military tactics in the region though one would be hard pressed to come across any reference to Sheikh Obeid or Mr. Dirani in the international news coverage that followed Hizbollah's action. The Shia militia wants Tel Aviv to free the handful of Lebanese prisoners still in Israeli jails who were promised freedom in 2004 but never released. Most prominent among them is Samir Kantar, captured in 1978 during a guerrilla raid on an Israeli settlement near the Lebanese border. Kantar was found guilty of killing a civilian man and his young daughter and sentenced to more than 500 years in prison by an Israeli court. The Israeli authorities may baulk at releasing a "convicted child killer." But in rejecting the possibility of a negotiated settlement and indiscriminately bombarding Lebanon, Tel Aviv has turned its own soldiers into the executioners of children. When a well-marked United Nations post takes a direct hit and ambulances are struck — according to a recent dispatch by Robert Fisk — with missiles that pierce the Red Cross and Crescent symbol right at the centre, it is hard to accept the Israeli claim that all civilian deaths were unintended.

Real war aims

Recalling the recent history of kidnappings is also necessary for another reason: To puncture the myth that the disproportionate and utterly criminal Israeli military response that is pulverising Lebanon and its people today is somehow driven by an urge to free its two kidnapped soldiers.

Read what Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. National Security Advisor, told a small gathering in Washington last week about this. "I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect — maybe not in intent — the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages ... Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hizbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you're killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. And more likely than not you will not intimidate them. You'll simply outrage them and make them into permanent enemies with the number of such enemies increasing."

On a par with the fantasy that the latest Israeli aggression against Lebanon is about protecting the legitimate security interests of Israel is the demand being raised in various quarters for a NATO peacekeeping force to be deployed on the Lebanese side of the border in order to disarm Hizbollah. Frequent reference is made to Security Council resolution 1559 of 2004, which called on the Lebanese government to assert its sovereignty over the whole of its territory and disarm the Shiite militia. When it suits Israel and the United States, United Nations resolutions such as 242 and 338 on Palestine or 638 on releasing hostages can be ignored for years on end. But other resolutions acquire a Biblical patina and instant compliance is required of them. By grossly interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs, Resolution 1559 was clearly ultra vires of the U.N. Charter. That is why it passed with the barest possible majority. Russia and China chose to abstain rather than exercise their veto because the resolution envisaged no enforcement mechanism. In any case, it is absurd for Israel — which is bombing Lebanon at will and sending in its troops — to speak in favour of a resolution that calls for the Lebanese government to assert its sovereignty.

As the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, has said, the current offensive against Lebanon — like the 1982 invasion which led to two decades of occupation — was prepared in advance in anticipation of a suitable provocation. Hizbollah's kidnap raid provided the Olmert regime the excuse it needed to launch a war for the physical elimination of the militia and the eventual installation of a pliant regime in Lebanon that would do Israel's — and the U.S.' — bidding. In many ways, the script is not that different from the manner in which the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian guerrillas gave Tel Aviv the pretext to do something it was itching to do ever since Hamas won the elections.

In both cases, Israel and its principal international backer, the U.S., have proved how bogus is their vision of a "New Middle East" centred around respect for democracy and human rights. By attacking Gaza and Lebanon, that too with such overwhelming and disproportionate military force, Israel has decisively turned its back on the possibility of a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians and Syrians. The Olmert regime has no intention of relinquishing its illegal control over land and aquifers that belong to others. The U.S. does not want democracy to flourish in the region. Nor does Israel. What it wants are partners who are too weak, isolated or pliant to insist on their rights. What it has in mind are unilateral outcomes, imposed through gunboat negotiations if possible or through war if necessary. In both cases, the active support of the Bush administration and the silence of the rest of the world are essential.

The refusal of the U.N. to condemn the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, its failure to bring about an immediate ceasefire despite the mounting civilian toll, and its inability to get Israel to lift its inhuman blockade of Gaza and release the Hamas Ministers and MPs it kidnapped last month are paving the way for a human tragedy of monumental proportions. As long as the world continues to appease Israel in this manner, the people of the region — and especially the Israelis — will never know peace.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu


Blogger Rick said...

Terrific article; thanks for sharing.

3:06 AM  
Blogger daooch said...

Wouldn't just releasing the kidnapped soldiers put enough international pressure on Israel to pull back their military operations? Hizbullah may claim that their attacks south of the border is purely reactionary to attacks onto them, but, the soldiers' release is one move they can initiate. Seems like it would be a be a good way to put Israel back on the political defensive.

Then again, Hizbullah's hardcore supporters wouldn't like that move at all, would they? Just another sign of weakness prolly.


3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article as cited as an opinion article in The Hindu.

In the news industry, opinion articles are not subject to the same level of fact checking as regular news articles. They are reprinted in whole according to the author, and rebutted by individuals at a later date.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Aryan said...

First I must commend the the authors on the excellent blog they have come up with.
As for the authenticity of the contentions made in the article,being a reader of The Hindu for the last 15 years I can vouch for it,it doesnt publish unverified news reports or articles.It was founded by Mahatma Gandhi and still maintains the standards ,so it isnt the top seller :D

4:50 AM  
Blogger denibell said...

Thank you sooo much for doing this blog. As a 30 year old female who has been pretty much self absorbed with all the problems conserning me and my home - you have truely opened my eyes to alot. I live in new orleans louisiana that was devistated a year ago by the hurricane Katrina. it's hard to see and consider others when your world has been turned upside down. I found myself really sympathizing with the people in lebanon. My heart goes out to them because here they are stuck in something most have no control over - just like the people of new orleans - only thing is the worst was over in days when the water went down and people were saved - these people have no "receeding water" and they live with it everyday. may you all be safe and God bless you all!!!

5:18 AM  
Blogger CAPTAIN BEYOND said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i liked your article, also, thanks for sharing

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is your CNN appearance anywhere on the web? i missed it and want to see!

9:20 AM  
Anonymous erna said...

IMHO this bloodshed of innocent people, destruction of my beautiful Beirut, the environmental desaster is due to plans which were drawn some time ago between the Neoconservatives in the US and Israeli Think Tanks, for instance:
"A Clean Break - A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" (1996)
Please google, yahoo (also Overseas), plenty of facts.
I am outraged and sad that innocent people have to perish because of those people's IDEOLOGY.
(Project for a New American Century)
I feel for the Lebanese people
Love and peace

4:27 PM  
Blogger Lilu said...

One needs to note that this isn't an article, it's an opinion piece and a very biased one at that.

A few facts to be corrected:
- the three soldiers whose bodies were returned by Hizballah for Obeid and Dirani in 2004 were not 'killed in action', they were abducted by Hizballah in a planned operation. They were apparently killed during the kidnapping attempt, probably due to some miscalculations by Hizballah regarding the explosives they were using in the operation, which killed (or fatally injured) the soldiers instead of just lightly injuring them.

-Israeli action in Lebanon is not officialy driven by the urge to free the two kidnapped soldiers, officially it is actually mostly driven by the urge to free its citizens (mostly the residents of the north) from the threat of constant missile attacks and terrorist attacks carried out by Hizballah (apparently this is what the writer refers to by "fantasy" though the connection between that sentence and the paragraph that follows is unclear).

-I'm not sure of why the writer keep refering to Tel Aviv, when the capital of Israel is Jerusalem and that is where the government(the Knesset) sits and operates.

Someone messed up the fact checking I think.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think ur facts are a bit messed up :

- u r messing up 2 things on one side the 3 kidnapped soldiers end on the other side the bodies it is not the same thing there was both!!

- officialy the mission started with one goal and that is to free the soldiers and then it became a bigger operation to eliminate hizballah not becoz they wanted to free the citizens of the north as u said, my god this sounds silly even responding to it, i mean do u really think they want to free u? if this is true y would they hit the north?? why would they hit everywhere in lebanon?! do u think they r killing their army for u to be free?? wow thats a big sacrifice !! the only reason they want to eliminate hizballah is becoz its becoming too strong for them over the years in is a big threat for their country!!!
u said : "officially it is actually mostly driven by the urge to free its citizens " officially means that the Knesset approved it and said it to the public, well no 1 did so it is not official its just ur opinion...

-the writer is referring to Tel Aviv becoz it is the economical capital...i quote from a site: "Without doubt, Tel Aviv is the center of commercial life and leisure in Israel. By far the greater part of Israeli's financial and commercial world is located in Tel Aviv and its surroundings. The city is some 20 km. from Ben-Gurion Air Terminal, Israel's international airport at Lod. Number of residents - approximately 364,000."

some1 messed up the fact checking i u know.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Lilu said...

Friend, it seems you have a slight problem with english, I imagine this is where your confusion comes from. It seems you didn't understand the writer's english or mine, and sure is hard to understand any of yours (especially in paragraph 1). I would suggest a short course or use of dictionary.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so this is all u can say bt what i wrote ?! dont u have some kind of stupid answer ?! well the fact is i didnt read all of what the writer said, my comment was based on urs !! woops sorry i wrote an "e" instead of an "a" in the first paragraph (and not end) u seem like a logical guy my friend...

10:28 PM  

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