We are witnessing real time unchecked killer machines at work. This is all surreal. It appears that the world for the innocent seems no safer today than when the Nazis and the Fascists were at work. Whatever the explanations, the outcome of deliberate Israeli and retaliatory Hizbullah action is mayhem. Global paralysis is facilitating Lebanese and Israeli deaths and colossal destruction of Lebanon. Innocent civilians fleeing to safety are being hit by Israeli bombs and missiles. Near 400 Lebanese have been killed and nearing a million rendered homeless. In Israel too Hizbullah’s retaliatory missile attacks have also tragically left few innocent Israeli civilian dead. All this mindless killing of innocent citizens is condemnable.
As Israeli bombs and missiles rain carnage on Lebanon world’s major powers still decry Hizbullah’s provocation. The capture of two Israeli soldiers and the subsequent deaths of six more as they entered Lebanon to free the two, has been widely accepted as justification for Israel’s relentless air, sea and air attacks and blockades.
There are major holes in this justification. One, that there are 10,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners, mostly civilians, in Israeli jails and there is no way legal or political route to their release. But the world doesn’t care. Two, stonewalled by Israel’s intransigence on the prisoners’ issue the Hizbullah militia devised their own method for the release of Lebanese prisoners. Use captured Israeli soldiers, swap them for Lebanese prisoners. And it worked. Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak both opted for swap arrangements. For example in January 2004, Israel released about 400 Lebanese and Arab prisoners while Hezbollah returned a reserve Israeli colonel and the bodies of three soldiers under a German-brokered agreement.
Three, Israel was intent on destroying the Hizbullah at an opportune moment. Israeli’s military strategists have been claiming that Hizbullah’s rockets arsenal had been growing. Zvi Shtauber former head of Strategic Planning for Israel’s armed forces and now head of Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv told the Economist (July22-28)that, "It was clear we couldn’t live with the missiles…the question was when to do it." Israel opted to use the arrest of soldiers as pretext to remove what it had concluded was threat to its security.
In search of security Israel resorted to State-terrorism in Lebanon that produced the carnage. However with language play Israel seeks to play down the scale and the consequences of its horrendous actions. They are terming it pin-point incursions; "limited strikes." But media reports tell another story…Israeli bombs and rockets battering innocent children and women. Instead of engagement and compromise death and destruction of the opponent has been a key element of Israel’s security strategy. Palestinian and Lebanese guerilla leadership is routinely assassinated, also causing death to innocent civilians qualified as ‘collateral damage.’
On July 23 BBC reports that Jan Egeland the Chief of UN Emergency Relief shocked that in Southern Beirut "block after block" of buildings had been leveled by Israel’s bombings. England said Israel’s "disproportionate response" was a "violation of international humanitarian law." Contesting Israel’s repeated statements that it was allowing safe access to humanitarian groups he said "So far Israel is not giving us access." Moreover the mass scale destruction of roads, bridges and trucks will make aid distribution difficult even when Israel allows to dock at the Beirut port.
The world has facilitated Israel’s continuing crime. As always the muted Arab and Muslim response are inconsequential. UN’s early murmuring against disproportionate response, were initially ignored. Led by the United States the international community has given Israel a carte blanche to do whatever Israel considers necessary to promote its security. This was conveyed by the mild worded G-8 summit statement. Ironically it is a security-starved nuclear-state. It is not held to any accountability; it is not expected to abide by any international norms laid down for inter-State relations.
Washington has emerged as the core accomplice in Israel’s devastating and illegal war on Lebanon. It gave Tel Aviv the green light to continue the bombings. Bush has defended Israel’s battering of Lebanon. It is Israel’s right to act in "self-defense", he says. Washington okays Israel’s bid of seeking security by inflicting mayhem on another people. Surely this is disservice to a close friend. Yet it continues. The attempt to discuss the Lebanon situation in the UNSC was vetoed by the US. The US Congress, the House and the Senate both, passed resolutions supporting Israeli action. The US is reportedly rushing precision-guided bombs to Israel. By preventing any concrete action taken at the UN to censure Israel’s war on Lebanon, Washington has ensured that Israel can continue the illegal one-sided war unfettered.
In handling the Lebanon crisis US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is at her weakest. bout Israel’s relentless bombing and land attacks killing hundreds of Lebanese civilians, displacing half a million plus and reducing parts of Lebanon to rubble, she says it signifies "the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one." Her words would make for parody, if the backdrop wasn’t unstoppable blood-spilling in the region stretching from Afghanistan to Palestine.
Another Rice statement that "a cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo" conveys Washington’s position that the problem with the "staus quo" is the presence of an armed Hizbullah. History lesson is different. The primary problem with the status quo is the unresolved Palestinian problem. Rests are the inevitable ‘secondaries.’ But this truth gets drowned in the ballot logic.
For the Bush administration a fair and swift settlement of the Palestinian issue is not a priority policy concern. If Washington has talked of a two-state solution, it has certainly not worked judiciously to make it happen. Taking punitive action against groups and states it has dangerously labeled as terrorism-related is. In giving Israel the green light to destroy Lebanon, Washington erroneously believes that Israel’s military might will wipe out Hizbullah, Hammas and Islamic extremism, help take punitive measures against Iran and Syria, structure Lebanese politics according to Israel’s security needs and drive fear into the Palestinian hearts. This is hubris. It is sheer stubbornness that makes Washington believe that military force, the very policy tool that has produced a disaster in Iraq will produce success in Lebanon and Palestine.
America’s promise of a brave new Middle East is increasingly being reduced to a ghastly joke. The list of blunders is endless. The Iraq invasion, based on untruth has turned Iraq into a death zone. No less than dozens of Iraqis are now dying daily. Yes daily. US has lost 2000 of its own men too. In Afghanistan, the New York Times has finally conceded, all is not well. Its more than Pakistan mischief, there are problems within Afghanistan. Meanwhile all these American operations are costing the US army more than just the lives of America’s best men. Its honor is taking a battering. The gruesome stories of some US soldiers torturing prisoners, many of them innocent, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanomo bay just don’t end.
It turns out that ‘Project democracy’ in the Middle East too has gone sour. Washington welcomed the first democratically elected government in the region, the Palestinian government, with sanctions and censures. Lebanon the other country with a democratic government is being pulverized by Washington’s key ally.
In the Middle East, Washington’s proverbial ‘ostrich with its head in the sand’ attitude will solve nothing. No matter what their problems, countries including Syria and Iran and groups like Hammas, Hizbullah and the talibaan, will have to be engaged. They constitute part of the current reality. Washington will ignore them at its own peril. Similarly on Palestine there is no substitute for a just solution. A nuclear armed highly militarized Israel, a ‘pacified’ Arab elite and a Palestinian people under constant siege can only provided the illusion of a ‘solution.’ And also the mere illusion of peace and stability.
Diplomacy was forsaken by the US for the use of force. How many more blunders will it take the US to realize that its ways are wrong. Banishing and vanquishing governments, political groups and militias doesn’t work. Engagement, adjustment and compromises are ways towards genuine multilateral security. Nothing else will work. The road to Israeli security runs through the creation of a legitimate Palestinian homeland.