'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The UN Backs Israel/Other Random Observations 

UPDATE 3: Two interesting articles in the Observer provide some insight about the war in Lebanon. First, some IDF pilots are beginning to wonder about the nature of their targets:

Yonatan Shapiro, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot dismissed from reserve duty after signing a 'refusenik' letter in 2004, said he had spoken with Israeli F-16 pilots in recent days and learnt that some had aborted missions because of concerns about the reliability of intelligence information. According to Shapiro, some pilots justified aborting missions out of 'common sense' and in the context of the Israeli Defence Force's moral code of conduct, which says every effort should be made to avoiding harming civilians.

Shapiro said: 'Some pilots told me they have shot at the side of targets because they're afraid people will be there, and they don't trust any more those who give them the coordinates and targets.'

He added: 'One pilot told me he was asked to hit a house on a hill, which was supposed to be a place from where Hizbollah was launching Katyusha missiles. But he was afraid civilians were in the house, so he shot next to the house ...

'Pilots are always being told they will be judged on results, but if the results are hundreds of dead civilians while Hizbollah is still able to fire all these rockets, then something is very wrong.'

So far none of the pilots has publicly refused to fly missions but some are wobbling, according to Shapiro. He said: 'Their target could be a house firing a cannon at Israel and it could be a house full of children, so it's a real dilemma; it's not black and white. But ... I'm calling on them to refuse, in order save our country from self-destruction.'

Second, mass resistance appears to be developing among those who remain in southern Lebanon:

'I'm not like the Israelis,' Yahia said.

'I won't fight without a reason. But because I have a reason I will fight. Because this is my land, I am prepared to die for it. How could you stay silent when you see your land burn and your children get killed? The whole population here is now resisting.'

It is a crucial difference, he seems to suggest, which explains why Israel is struggling to make ground in this campaign - its soldiers are not fighting in their own villages to defend their homes. 'They hit and run,' Yahia said scathingly about the Israeli tactics. 'When they meet us they run like rabbits.'

It is something that strikes you forcefully when you reach the front line of this war. In these villages that form the strongholds of the Islamic Resistance, the men - many of them obviously fighters out of uniform - do not talk much in terms of ideology or religious fanaticism. They are not the zealots and jihadis that Israel claims. Instead, they talk about their damaged property and their livestock scattered by the shelling on the mountains. They talk about family who have fled and those who have stayed. And all the time they carefully skirt talk of the fighters. If they do talk politics it is sometimes with an unexpected spin. Several say that it is not so much the Israelis they blame for this - indeed, who they suggest would agree to a truce - but US President George Bush, who they claim is the real force behind the war.

While religion is an element, it is part of a much more complex formula. Yahia mentions that he follows Ayatollah Sistani, the moderate Shia leader in Iraq, and says he is prepared to be a martyr in this fight for his home. But it is said in a casual way. For Yahia, like the other men in the village, religion is important in the same way as his land, his home, his family and his people.

The south of Lebanon, with its Shia majority, is both strongly observant and socially conservative. 'We do have time to pray while we are fighting,' said Yahia. 'Some of us defend while others pray and then we pray while others defend. If I get an hour of rest I will try to visit my family. Otherwise we eat sand and bullets!'

As we talk, Yahia's commander and another younger fighter arrive to examine a dud shell. The older man is bearded and in his late fifties. 'I don't want to say how many fighters we have in Kfar Kila, but it is a large number. If the Israelis come again they will not get in.'

All the evidence suggests that the commander is not exaggerating. While uniformed members of the Hizbollah missile brigades in the villages around the largely Christian town of Marjeyoun are almost invisible, evidence of their presence is not. It suggests that the fighters here are more numerous, better armed and better trained than Israel imagined.

Even within the villages near the Israeli-Lebanese border, they recognize that this is our war. Only Americans remain unaware, at least for now.

UPDATE 2: Rather oddly, it appears that Hizbollah is more killing more IDF soldiers, and fewer Israeli civilians, while, with the IDF, the opposite is true, they kill far more Lebanese civilians than Hizbollah:

By the end of last week, 45 Israeli soldiers had died, and as many as 250 Hizbullah fighters had perished. Thirty-three Israeli civilians had been killed in the rocket barrages, while more than 480 Lebanese had died.

Note also that Hizbollah has been consistently disputing casualty figures provided by the IDF, so the number published in this Newsweek account may well be significantly lower, acknowledged by the reporter's use of the phrase: and as many as 250 Hizbollah fighters had perished. If you didn't already know, you have to read American news articles carefully.

Furthermore, note also, that at least 759 Lebanese have died since the war began, possibly more to be discovered in the rubble of buildings, with a third of the dead children under the age of 12. Meanwhile, today, Hizbollah rockets killed 12 IDF reservists and 3 civilians in northern Israel, again, possibly much the reverse of what the IDF has done in Lebanon, where it killed 19 civilians and a Lebanese soldier. Hizbollah casualties are admittedly unknown, but it is hard to imagine that they were substantial, given the failure of the IDF to publicize claims of this nature.

Expect to see American media deemphasize Lebanese casualties even more than they have previously done. On Friday, underscored links to articles on the websites for the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post all highlighted the destruction of the bridges connecting Lebanon to Syria, without mentioning 33 farmworkers killed nearby by IDF airstrikes. The Chronicle was the only newspaper to reference the deaths in explanatory text beneath the link, and, predictably, the Times headline in the Saturday print edition failed to note the deaths as well. Bridges are more newsworthy than people in this conflict, at least when the deaths are not Israeli ones. For more on this subject, visit Eli over at Left i on the News.

UPDATE 1: Living the Zionist dream, dying in defense of Israel. Apparently, extremist Islam is not the only practitioner of a seductive death cult, one that attracts from recruits from around the world:

Three soldiers with no family in Israel (termed 'lone soldier') have been killed since the fighting started in the North and two others have been wounded. Last Tuesday Staff Sergeant Yonatan Vlasyuk from the Ukraine, who served in an elite unit and lived with an adopted family in Kibbutz Lahav, was killed. A day later, Sergeant Assaf Namer of Australia, of Golani was killed, followed Tuesday by the death of an American, Staff Sergeant Michael Levin, a paratrooper. In the same incident another lone soldier in Levin's unit, Yonatan Marcus, was wounded. Another lone soldier, Ilan Grapel, of Queens, New York, was among 20 soldiers wounded Tuesday night in the battle of Taibe.

Major Avital Knacht, who deals with lone soldiers in the IDF human resources branch, said the IDF does not give out information about the number of its lone soldiers or those serving in combat units. However, she noted that the rate of volunteering for combat units among lone soldiers is higher than in the general population. Knacht said the lone soldiers "come to Israel ready to give their all, and the best way to do that is through combat duty."

Here's more, from today's Los Angeles Times:

O'Neil, 20, and several other soldiers at the Tiberias hotel are part of a program that brings Americans to Israel specifically to join the army to fulfill their concept of a Zionist mission.

Hundreds of young Americans have taken part. They come without their families. Some are placed in a kibbutz or similar situation, and all end up in the military. After a three-year tour of duty, many stay as residents and Israel gives them financial aid with school tuition and housing.

Zionists evidently receive their reward in this world, Muslims in the hereafter. And, even more, from the London Times:

At first sight Ben and his mates could be at a wedding party on the lawns of an hotel in his native Yorkshire. Except that this hotel is a short drive from the Israel-Lebanon border and, despite his Leeds accent, Ben is an Israeli soldier. He is also cradling an Israeli-army issue Colt AR15 semi-automatic rifle stamped “Property of US Govt”.

Ben, 26, who arrived in Israel last year, is one of thousands of those serving in the Israeli military either as newly arrived citizens or on army programmes for Zionists who want to defend Israel while deciding whether to emigrate.

Earlier in the day he was ducking Hezbollah mortars in the Lebanese village of Adessa, just across the border. Now he sits chatting in two languages about two lives — as a would-be medical student in Britain and as an Israeli soldier known among his colleagues for his stamina and ability to carry a heavy machinegun over long distances.

“My father is very supportive,” he tells The Times. “My mum is a bit anxious.” Ben arrived in Israel 15 months ago and serves in the Nahal Brigade, an infantry unit with a tradition of absorbing new immigrants.

INITIAL POST (The UN Backs Israel): Lebanon, Hizbollah, and their Sunni and Amal allies, find themselves fighting a war against much of the world, a world that seeks to legitimize the permanent presence of Israel troops in southern Lebanon:

Lebanon rejects a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to end 26 days of fighting because it would allow Israeli forces to remain on Lebanese soil, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday.

Slamming the French-U.S. draft as biased, Berri said it ignored a seven-point plan presented by Lebanon that calls for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the return of all displaced civilians among other things.

"Lebanon, and all of Lebanon, rejects any resolution that is outside these seven points," said Berri, who has been negotiating on behalf of Hizbollah guerrillas.

"Their resolution will either drop Lebanon into internal strife or will be impossible to implement," he told a news conference.

The draft resolution, which the Security Council is expected to vote on either Monday or Tuesday, 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".

A senior Israeli government official said the Jewish state views the draft favorably, because it allows Israel to respond to Hizbollah attacks once a truce takes effect and did not order Israel to withdraw its 10,000 soldiers from southern Lebanon.

Israel wants its troops to remain until an international force mandated by the United Nations can take over.

Berri said that there could be no peace while Israeli soldiers remained on Lebanese soil.

It is easy to understand Berri's blunt dismissal of the proposal, after all, in 1982, the Israelis claimed that they were conducting a limited military operation in Lebanon to expel the PLO from southern Lebanon, but then proceeded to launch a full scale invasion and remain in southern Lebanon for 18 years, until they were expelled as a result of prolonged armed resistance by the indigenous Shia population.

Yet again, the UN finds itself the role of legitimizing imperial American policies in the region, regardless of the consequences. As Tariq Ali scathingly observed after a suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in August 2003:

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad shocked the West, but as Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from the Iraqi capital last week, there is a deep ambivalence towards the UN among ordinary Iraqis. This is an understatement.

In fact, the UN is seen as one of Washington's more ruthless enforcers. It supervised the sanctions that, according to UNICEF figures, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and a horrific rise in the mortality rate. Two senior UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest against these policies, explaining that the UN had failed in its duties to the people of Iraq.

Simultaneously the US and Britain, with UN approval, rained hundreds of tonnes of bombs and thousands of missiles on Iraq from 1992 onwards and, in 1999, US officials calmly informed The Wall Street Journal that they had run out of targets.

By 2001, the bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of Vietnam.

That's why the UN is not viewed sympathetically by many Iraqis. The recent Security Council decision to retrospectively sanction the occupation, a direct breach of the UN charter, has only added to the anger.

All this poses the question of whether the UN today is anything more than a cleaning-up operation for the American Empire?

If there was any doubt, the proposed UN resolution for a ceasefire in Lebanon dispels it. One can only look admiringly upon the political sophistication of the Lebanese: they attacked UN offices in Beirut about a week before the resolution came forward. Angered by the deaths in Qana, they understood that the UN would do nothing to protect anyone, an understanding tragically confirmed by subsequent events, and, even worse, would eventually exploit their suffering as a justification for intervening for the benefit of Israel.

Surveying the desolation around him, Robert Fisk whispers the unmentionable:

In fact, one of the most profound changes in the region these past three decades has been the growing unwillingness of Arabs to be afraid. Their leaders - our "moderate" pro-Western Arab leaders such as King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt - may be afraid. But their peoples are not. And once a people have lost their terror, they cannot be re-injected with fear. Thus Israel's consistent policy of smashing Arabs into submission no longer works. It is a policy whose bankruptcy the Americans are now discovering in Iraq.

And all across the Muslim world, "we" - the West, America, Israel - are fighting not nationalists but Islamists. And watching the martyrdom of Lebanon this week - its slaughtered children in Qana packed into plastic bags until the bags ran out and their corpses had to be wrapped in carpets - a terrible and daunting thought occurs to me, day by day. That there will be another 9/11.

In a world in which nation states cynically presume to dictate the fate of the people of Lebanon, others will emerge, to resist in their own way, no matter how gruesome and misguided. The oligopoly of violence enforced by the world's major powers dissolved a long time ago.

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