- Created: Sunday, 20 September 2009 13:06
- Written by Bob Shepherd
The Israeli invasion and murderous onslaught on Lebanon, fully backed and supported by the US and Britain, lasted 34 days and left over 1,200 Lebanese dead. It destroyed the infrastructure of large parts of the country, particularly the Shia areas in the south and the southern suburbs of Beirut, and created over one million refugees. However, the Zionists failed to achieve their war aims: the release of two captured soldiers, the defeat and disarmament of Hizbullah and its expulsion from Lebanese border areas south of the Litani River. Hizbullah guerrilla fighters fought the Israeli invasion forces with tenacity and courage and in the process gained what Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah called ‘a strategic and historic victory’ over Israel. Hizbullah’s victory was also undoubtedly a strategic defeat for imperialism in the Middle East. BOB SHEPHERD reports.
The Israeli attack on Hizbullah was sanctioned and encouraged by both US and British imperialism as the first shot in a proxy war on their behalf against Syria and Iran. It was to be the next stage in imperialism’s attempt to restructure the Middle East and Central Asia in its own interests. That was the reason why the US and Britain blocked calls for an immediate ceasefire throughout the month of July and gave the green light to Israel’s continued targeting of the civilian population in the south of Lebanon. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hassan Nasrallah recognised this too:
‘They want to put an end to any resistance of any sort…They want to delete the word resistance, render it taboo. The same applies to martyr, jihad, steadfastness, combat, liberation, freedom, dignity, pride, honour…All these meanings have to be removed from the Lebanese dictionary, from the press, from political debates, from the political mind and from the popular psyche. This is what Israel is actually doing. America needs this to reshape the region.’
At a press conference on 21 July, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quite explicit in her reason for not supporting an immediate ceasefire: ‘I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante. I think it would be a mistake. What we are seeing here, in a sense, is the growing, the birth pangs of a new Middle East.’ That these ‘birth pangs’ were at the expense of the lives of hundreds of Lebanese people was of no consequence to Rice and the representatives of imperialism: they hold the people of the Middle East in racist contempt.
At the beginning of August Israeli Prime Minister Olmert boasted that one of the accomplishments of Israel’s military action was that ‘…all the population which is the power base of the Hizbullah in Lebanon [has been] displaced’. To achieve this displacement, Israel had destroyed whole villages, massacring women and children in the process: up to 45% of all dead and wounded, were children according to estimates made by Save The Children. Even UN peacekeepers were not safe from Israel’s bombardment: on 25 July four UN soldiers were killed when Israel, according to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, ‘deliberately targeted’ and bombed a UN observation post where they were based.
In beating back the Israeli invasion, the determination of the Lebanese resistance has completely upset the plans of imperialism. Hizbullah was not, as Israel and the imperialists had hoped, isolated and vilified for causing the Israeli attack. In fact, the reverse was the case – Palestinian militants from the refugee camps in Lebanon and fighters from Amal and the Lebanese Communist Party supported it militarily. Surveys showed that as the Israeli attack intensified support for Hizbullah rose to over 80% amongst all sections of Lebanese society.
As it became clear that, far from defeating Hizbullah, Israel was getting a bloody nose from their fighters, the UN Security Council, with the backing of both the US and Britain, moved to agree a ceasefire from 14 August. The resolution called for the deployment of a UN force of up to 15,000 troops alongside the Lebanese army within the border area with Israel, the simultaneous withdrawal of Israeli troops and the disarmament of Hizbullah. Nasrallah has replied that Hizbullah will not disarm until the Lebanese army is capable of defending the country from Israeli attacks, adding on 13 September that ‘the resistance is present south of the Litani River and in the whole south of Lebanon…nobody can prevent us from being present on our territory or from defending our territory, our honour and our homeland’.
Once it became clear that a UN-brokered ceasefire was imminent, Israel stepped up its terrorist attacks on Lebanon with the explicit aim of preventing Lebanese refugees from returning to their homes in the south of the country. It undertook a series of bombing raids in the 72 hours before the ceasefire came into effect, which involved the dropping of more than 700,000 bomblets across southern Beirut and in the villages and fields of the south of the country. This was 60% of the total dropped throughout the onslaught; it is thought that 130,000 remain unexploded. Civilians are now dying as they tread on these anti-personnel mines. The Zionists also used phosphorus shells, which can cause excruciating burns and are prohibited internationally: the overwhelming majority were fired in the last 10 days of the war.
Israel has continually violated Lebanese airspace since the ceasefire and maintained its air and sea blockade of the country until 7/8 September. Although the majority of Israeli troops have left Lebanon, they still occupy a strip of land along the border. The UN has agreed to broker a deal to obtain the release of the two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hizbullah was the pretext for the war. This will undoubtedly require the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, a demand Hizbullah made before Israel launched its onslaught. The status of the Shebaa Farms area is now on the agenda of the UN with promises to define once and for all whether the area is part of Lebanese territory.
The growing crisis in Palestine
Since the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian Resistance forces in Gaza on 25 June, the situation facing the Palestinian people in Gaza has become desperate as Israel has imposed an economic blockade by maintaining an almost complete closure of all border crossings into Gaza including the Rafah crossing from Egypt. As the situation has deteriorated the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has had to feed 830,000 Gazans out of a population of 1.4 million. On 10 September UNRWA began an emergency food distribution programme; this had been delayed by a week because of the border closures. As it is, the food distribution is limited to families with at least eleven members. John Ging, UNRWA Gaza Field Director, described the situation as ‘desperate and unprecedented…there is not enough food in Gaza, even we at UNRWA are struggling to get the food in’.
The closure of the border crossings and the attacks Israel launched after 25 June which destroyed Gaza’s only power plant along with roads and water pipes have led to the collapse of the Gazan economy. Only 40 of the 150 major companies in Gaza are still running and unemployment is now over 60%. Hospitals, businesses and homes are without electricity and running water. Between 25 June and 13 September, Zionist forces killed 228 Palestinians, including 48 children, and wounded over 800 more (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights). The Zionist state has recorded eight Israelis killed by Palestinians over the same period. Five of these were soldiers and two were settlers on the West Bank.
No PA employee has received an official wage since March because of the international sanctions on the Hamas government. Fatah, acting in the interests of imperialism, has been attempting to use this economic crisis to undermine the Hamas government. It convinced PA civil servants to begin an open-ended strike from 2 September calling for the payment of the wages they are owed. Schools that were due to open for the new term were affected, more so in the West Bank than Gaza, where Hamas is stronger. The strike seemed to be losing momentum in mid-September as negotiations on a National Unity government proceeded. These have moved slowly. Having rejected Hamas’ offer of a National Unity government in January, Fatah is intent on using Hamas’ international isolation and the current economic crisis to regain its political influence. The discussion between the two organisations has centred on the Palestinian Prisoners National Conciliation Document which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, implying acceptance of the State of Israel. The Document also calls for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Hamas has declared that as the party with the most votes, it would keep the Prime Minister’s office and have more government Ministers than Fatah. However, it would allow Abbas as President to deal with all negotiations with Israel. Although Abbas announced on 11 September that a new government would be formed within a few days, five days later he called a halt to the process while he visited his paymaster in Washington. Both Bush and Blair have repeated that they will not endorse a new Palestinian Unity government until it recognises Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous agreements made with Israel. These are all steps that Hamas has refused to take. The pressure on Hamas is intensifying, but the victory of Hizbullah in Lebanon will have strengthened its position.
Blair the war criminal visits the Middle East
Blair visited the Middle East in early September in an effort to bolster the position of British and US imperialism after the debacle of the Lebanese invasion. First stop of course was Israel where he met Prime Minister Olmert. Olmert was fulsome in his praise, describing Blair as ‘a true and proven friend of the State of Israel…Britain is Israel’s staunch ally and a trusted partner’. The following day he went to Ramallah to make just that point. Before his arrival, Palestinian activists issued a statement branding him persona non grata and declaring, ‘he is coming here to wash his hands that are dripping with Lebanese blood with Palestinian water’.
The day after, and it was on to Beirut to meet Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora, and to try to shore up the pro-imperialist forces within the Lebanese government. The Lebanese Communist Party and other anti-imperialist organisations held protests against Blair’s visit and Hizbullah’s two ministers in the government refused to meet him. Galeb Abu Zeinab, a leading member of Hizbullah, said: ‘Blair was a true partner in the killing of children and the destruction of thousands of homes, if he hadn’t fully supported the US-Israeli position the war would not have happened in the way it did…He is a full partner in the atrocities and I think he should be prosecuted as a war criminal alongside Bush and Olmert.’ Never have truer words been spoken!
This puts even more responsibility on anti-imperialist forces here in Britain to build opposition on the streets to the war crimes of the Labour government and British imperialism and to build support for the resistance in the Middle East.
FRFI 193 October / November 2006