Archive for July, 2006

Israel, Lebanon and the Middle East; Peace and Social & Moral Responsibility

It was January 29, 2004 when Israel did a prisoner swap with Hezbollah.

According to the Guardian UK:

Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open.

This, along with the continued occupation of parts of Southern Lebanon, did not sit well with the militant group as FOX News reported:

At a mass rally in Beirut that Hezbollah staged to welcome the freed Arabs, the group’s leader warned it would kidnap more Israelis to use as bargaining chips if necessary to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners.

There are still some interesting controversies about the July 12 incident that have not been investigated. Hezbollah and Lebanese policies contend that Israeli soldiers crossed over to Lebanese territory, which sparked the battle. Asia Times noted this a few days after the incident:

To them, it is legitimate self-defense. They back this argument by saying that Israel still controls the Sheba Farms, which are part of Lebanon, and still has Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. Also, they add that the Israeli tank destroyed by Hezbollah, and the soldiers captured and killed on July 12, had trespassed into Lebanon’s side of the border with Israel.

However, the above Guardian article also noted that Hezbollah’s leader declared they had planned for five months to capture soldiers for their cause.

To make things more interesting, Farid Abboud, the Ambassador for Lebanon, told Jim Lehrer:

We did not declare any war. It was declared on us when our country was occupied by the Israelis, when prisoners were taken from Lebanon into Israel, and when Palestinian refugees were pushed inside Lebanon.

We did not occupy Israel; we did not declare war; we didn’t do anything. We don’t want any escalations.

At this juncture, if there is any solution to be found, it should be around a negotiating table. And there should be negotiations to the withdrawal of the Israelis from the Lebanese-occupied territories and to the release of Lebanese prisoners. That’s the only solution that will, you know, be feasible.

I’m not sure where the location of the attack took place. I understand that there was another battle, also, where during which the Israelis crossed Lebanese soil and that the casualties that fell then were inside Lebanon territory.

But that’s not very relevant. The issue is now that there are prisoners of Lebanon, detained by Israel, and there are Israeli prisoners in Lebanon, and there should be an exchange of prisoners.

We do not want any escalation, and I don’t think we have ever attacked Israel. I mean, Israel has always occupied our territory, and we have always defended ourselves. Our position has always been very reactive, defensive.

The ambassador was later “recalled to Beirut” for his comment.

One thing is sure. Israel has no moral or legal ground to stand on. They continue to occupy parts of Lebanon in defiance of UNSC resolution 509, which clearly stated that the council:

Demands that Israel withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon.

So long as Israel keeps Lebanese prisoners as “bargaining chips” and continues to violate international law and Lebanese sovcreignty, we cannot expect a “feasible” solution.

I happen to strongly agree with Abboud, the two states should return to a negotiations table (along with other regional states since this conflict is not just about these two states, but more to do with Israel’s actions and policies in the region as a whole), release all their prisoners to each other and Israel should end its occupation of Southern Lebanon (and Palestine) for the assurance of an end to hostilities towards Israel.

But of course, such an idea has been offered numerous times in recent decades and Israel rejects.

So what do we want: a continued escalation of violence where militants fight to do what citizens of the “free societies” – referring to US and Israel – refuse to do or will we take non-violent – and preferably legal – measures and demand an end to injustices and a “feasible” solution to materialize into reality?

I opt for the later.

What about You?

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Israel, Hezbollah and a little more context

There is all this talk going on with the media pundits about the military assault on Lebanon by Israel. Most in the Western, American and Israeli press blame Hezbollah. Some say it was the rockets, but the rockets came after the attacks. Some say it is because Hezbollah captured two of their soldiers, which did happen before the recent Israeli assault.

Is that what this conflict is about?

Is this when the context begins?

Are some asserting that Hezbollah carried out their attack without cause or provocation?

It appears that there is some intentional and selective historical amnesia going on.

No one disputes when and why Hezbollah was created: after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to kill what Avner Yaniv called the “peace offensive.” That is, Israel was being barraged with peace offers from the PLO that were undermining their expansionist policies so Israel had to invade Lebanon to drive them out and kill the offers. The jargon of a “peace offensive” has stuck around. Recently, the Washington Times referred to Iran offers as a peace offensive.

Anyway, Israel eventually pulled out of Lebanon in May 2000.

Since then Hezbollah has been operating primarily as an armed militia with a political wing. They are extremely popular with the Shiite majority in Lebanon.

Gilbert Achar recently said this in an interview:

WHATEVER ONE thinks about Hezbollah or the operation mounted by Hezbollah–and I do have my own reservations about its appropriateness with regard to its foreseeable consequences–this cannot by any logic justify what Israel is doing.

The killing of the seven Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two soldiers was an act of war, and Lebanon and Israel are two countries that are still at war.

Israel regularly encroaches on Lebanon’s sovereignty: it has attacked the country innumerable times, especially after 1967 (the first Israeli devastating attack on Beirut’s airport took place in 1968); it invaded a small piece of Lebanese territory in 1967 (the Shebaa farms), a big chunk of southern Lebanon in 1978, half of Lebanon in 1982; it then occupied a big part of the country until 1985, its southern part until 2000, and it still holds the stretch of Lebanese territory that it seized in 1967.

Since 2000, there has been an ongoing low-intensity war between Hezbollah and Israel: cross-border skirmishes, covert Israeli action in Lebanon, including assassination of Hezbollah leaders, etc.

But what Israel is carrying out now in Lebanon is massive retaliation against a whole population. It is holding a whole population and country hostage and trying to impose its conditions.

Also, the British government has split with the US over the aggression of Israel:

Downing Street sources said last night that Blair still believed Israel had every right to respond to the missile threat, and held the Shia militia responsible for provoking the crisis by abducting two Israeli soldiers and firing rockets into Israel [see comment above about “historical amnesia”]. But they said they had no quarrel with Howells’s scathing denunciation of Israel’s military tactics.

Speaking to a BBC reporter before travelling on for talks in Israel, where he will also visit the missile-hit areas of Haifa and meet his Israeli opposite number, Howells said: ‘The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people: these have not been surgical strikes. If they are chasing Hizbollah, then go for Hizbollah. You don’t go for the entire Lebanese nation.’ The minister added: ‘I very much hope that the Americans understand what’s happening to Lebanon.’

Israel is using precision weapons. They are mostly manufactured and provided by the US. Something that Stephen Zunes points out as illegal (since they are used for non-defensive purposes). So what does that so about bombing “the entire Lebanese nation”?

Since the pull out of Lebanon in 2000 Israel has continued its provocations as Achar correctly noted.

In the below posts are some articles about the actions by Israel prior to the capture of their two soldiers. I used primarily Western and Israeli sources to highlight that they are familiar with the conflict and that it did not begin with the Hezbollah seizure of two soldiers.

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Israel, Palestine, Lebanon

There is way too much that I would like to say on the conflicts that Israel is involved in – with massive US financing – but unfortunately I do not have the time.

Below are some articles that I felt expressed many of the points I would like to make.

The root of this conflict is not the capturing of Israeli soldiers. Besides, the day before the Israeli soldier was taken by Palestinian militants two Palestinians were taken by Israeli forces. A fact that is increasingly forgotten.

The root of this conflict is the occupation and Israels refusal to make peace with its neighbors.

For more than thirty years Israel has been rejecting peace; terms that have been in compliance with international law, while Israels continued actions – with massive US financing – continue.

The results are horrific.

Other than the below articles, you can also find much more information via the Palestinian Pundit and Angry Arab News Service. Their blogs can be found on the sidebar under “Blogs and People.”

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The US Military Has "Ministry Advisory Teams" For Iraqi Ministries To Help Them "Think"

So lets keep in mind that Paul Wolfowitz was a chief architect of the war on Iraq and now heads the World Bank by appointment of President Bush. You would think that what follows seems very suspicious for a “sovereign” country.

The fact that our military has “ministry advisory teams” for the Iraqi government-elected-under-occupation that help them “think” in conjunction with the World Bank on many “challenges and issues” should come as no surprise. This is the new imperialism.

That Iraqi’s are seeing a dramatic rise in gas prices due to what General Caldwell calls the “price liberalization” in the “key aspect” of “[p]art of the World Bank’s requirements, as they move on for their monetary fiscal responsibility they have to establish here in this country” is also no surprise.

What we are witnessing is the oil companies being catered to by forcing the Iraqi public to pay excessive prices for gasoline (aka “price liberalization”).

Imagine paying more than $10 a gallon here; add the current violence (most linked to the war and occupation); prior effect of the three wars; an ongoing occupation; US/UK imposed sanctions; and the former reign of Saddam Hussein and what you get is a glimpse into Iraqi life.

Anyway, General Caldwell conducted todays (07/05/2006) Defense Department briefing.

One question and answer – the last one – stood out:

Q: General, when you were doing an assessment of the past months’ successes and challenges, you mentioned the price of gas, the availability of gas was — did you mention gas, or did you just say electricity?

GEN. CALDWELL: I said gasoline.

Q: Okay. Anyway, so as I gather, the price of gas in the black market today hit one dollar for a liter. What role does the U.S. military have in helping deal with those shortages and bring the price down, since that is so crucial to everything that happens in this country?

GEN. CALDWELL: Bobby, obviously we’ve got what we call ministry advisory teams that work with the ministries to help them think through some of these challenges and issues. Price liberalization is a key aspect. Part of the World Bank’s requirements, as they move on for their monetary fiscal responsibility they have to establish here in this country, and they have certain gates where they’re supposed to be going through the liberalization of gas prices. They haven’t always been well-announced in advance, which leaves people to believe sometimes it’s a last-minute decision, but it’s not at all. You can actually lay that out and see when that should be occurring by what they had — they, the Iraqi government, had worked out with the World Bank and others.

But we’re here to support the government of Iraq in any way they want, and we provide any assistance they ask. They have the lead in this. It’s their responsibility to decide. They make the decisions how they’re going to do it; we don’t. We strictly provide advisory support in any manner we can. So we have no say so in the final decisions of any of that, it’s strictly an Iraqi decision.

Okay, thank you very much.

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