- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:42
- Written by Bob Shepherd
The murderous Israeli onslaught on the people of Lebanon has been sanctioned and supported by both the US and Britain. The murder of hundreds of Lebanese civilians, 45% of whom are children according to Save The Children, the forcing of over 500,000 people from their homes making them refugees, and the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon are all a consequence of imperialism’s attempts to restructure the Middle East and Central Asia on its terms. This began with the wars and subsequent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and continues now with imperialism’s propaganda war against Syria and Iran. Bob Shepherd reports.
In its attempt to destroy Hizbullah, Israel is fighting a proxy war on behalf of imperialism against Syria and Iran. In all the media talk about Iran supplying Hizbullah with arms and rockets, the fact that the bombs raining down from Israeli aircraft causing mass carnage are US bombs and the aircraft are US-made goes deliberately unreported. The US and Britain blocked calls for a ceasefire at both the G8 summit in Russia and the UN Security Council meeting of 14 July, giving Israel the green light to intensify its attack on Hizbullah and the Lebanese people. Britain and the US along with Israel are guilty of war crimes under the Geneva Convention.
On Wednesday 12 July in an act of solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza, Hizbullah fighters launched a military strike at Israeli forces along the border with Lebanon, capturing two Israeli soldiers in the process. Hizbullah declared they would be released in exchange for Lebanese and other Arab prisoners held in Israeli gaols, some for over 20 years. The Zionist response was to launch a deadly and bloody attack on Lebanese civilians and the civilian infrastructure of the country, just as it had on Gaza when Palestinian resistance groups there captured an Israeli soldier on 25 June. The atrocities they have committed in Lebanon include the massacre of 15 children from the border village of Marwaheen on 15 July. This happened as people fled from their homes after Israeli loudspeakers ordered them to leave their border village: as they left in cars and vans Israeli planes attacked them, murdering 20 Lebanese civilians including the children.
Immediately after the Hizbullah action, the Zionists announced a blockade of Lebanon’s ports, declared its airspace closed and bombed the main road between Beirut and Damascus. Beirut’s main airport and power station were also attacked along with at least two other airports and Lebanon’s main sea ports. In addition, Zionist forces bombed roads, bridges and petrol stations in different parts of the country. All the bridges across the Litani River were destroyed, effectively cutting off the south from the rest of the country. The poor Shi’ite areas of south Lebanon and south Beirut, the bases of Hizbullah’s support, were targeted and hundreds of civilians killed. On Monday 17 July, five days into Israel’s murderous assault, the Lebanese government issued the first detailed report of the devastation. Amongst the many properties listed as destroyed or damaged were a hospital and several schools, whilst a total of 38 roads had been cut off by bombs and 42 bridges had been destroyed.
Israel’s murderous assault did not go without challenge as Hizbullah showed it had the resources to strike back. As Israeli military units crossed the border into Lebanon in response to the Hizbullah operation, Hizbullah forces blew up the first Israeli tank when it was only yards over the border, killing its crew of four. The Israeli army did not venture any further. Hizbullah also fired rockets at Israel’s top secret military air-traffic control centre in Minron and other rockets that hit deep into Israel striking the cities of Tiberius and Haifa. They also launched an unmanned flying drone at an Israeli warship that was shelling Beirut, killing four sailors. But however resourceful and courageous Hizbullah forces may be, this is not a battle between equals: they face the fourth or fifth strongest military power on earth, a terrorist state intent on the death of Lebanese civilians and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure.
The ferocity and wide range of Israel’s attacks point to the fact that they are using the capture of the two soldiers to pursue a wider political aim: that of destroying the influence of Hizbullah and in the process striking a blow against Iran and Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has said that the attack on Lebanon will not cease until Hizbullah is disarmed and Lebanese forces replace Hizbullah along the Israel-Lebanon border, claiming that Hamas and Hizbullah are operating with the support of the ‘axis of evil that stretches from Tehran to Damascus’.
Gaza – blockaded, shelled and bombed
On 25 June, some three weeks before the Hizbullah action, a joint Palestinian resistance force including the armed wing of Hamas carried out an audacious military strike against the Israeli army at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Gaza, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing a third. The resistance forces stated that their condition for releasing the soldier was ‘the freeing of Palestinian women, children, chronically sick and those in detention for more than 20 years’. The Zionists hold over 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, of whom 150 are women and 330 are children.
Israel and the imperialists have been determined to destroy the Hamas Palestinian government. To that end there has been an almost total blockade of Gaza, with the border crossings closed and a block by the US and the EU on aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). No PA employee has received an official wage since March. The effects of this have been disastrous: on 7 June, John Ging, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza Field Director, described the general living conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Gaza as ‘deplorable and getting worse.’ Without money, the local authorities had been unable to pay salaries or any other bill for three months. ‘In every municipality I have visited this week the situation is the same,’ Ging reported, ‘Garbage trucks are sitting idle while rubbish piles up, sewage treatment plants are struggling to remain operational, fuel for water pumps is running out and mosquito infestation is out of control in many areas as there is no money to purchase expensive pesticides.’
Alongside the economic blockade, the Zionists have stepped up their military onslaught on the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. A report issued by the Palestinian National Information Centre detailed that for the month of May Israeli forces killed 44 Palestinians, wounded 183 and arrested 481. On 9 June, the world witnessed the horrific pictures of the little Palestinian girl, Huda Ghalia, hysterical after an Israeli shell landed on a north Gaza beach killing seven members of her family including her mother and father. Four days later, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car in Gaza City carrying two Islamic Jihad militants. As people gathered to give medical help, a second missile was fired, killing a further 10 people including four medical personnel and two children. On 20 June in another missile attack on a car in Gaza, this time carrying a militant from the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, three passing children were killed. On 22 June a missile attack on a house in Khan Younis, Gaza, killed a pregnant woman. In the month up to 24 June Israeli forces had killed 47 Palestinians.
The Palestinian military attack on 25 June was therefore a response to the continuing massacre of Palestinian civilians, one which is completely under-reported in the British media. The scale of the Israeli reaction, a co-ordinated attack on the civilian infrastructure in Gaza and the Hamas government, showed that the Zionists were going to use the capture of the soldier to pursue their wider political agenda,. On 28 June Israel launched a military onslaught under the grotesque banner of ‘Operation Summer Rain’. Zionist bombers blew up the main power station in Gaza which supplies 60% of Gaza’s electricity, three road bridges and a main water supply pipe. The same day, four Israeli jets flew over Syrian territory breaking the sound barrier over the Syrian Presidential Palace. Israel also targeted government buildings and occupied Gaza International Airport and a strip of land adjacent to Rafah. In the north of the strip, Israel occupied areas of Beit Hanoun. Hundreds of Palestinians were made homeless and are being put up in UNRWA school buildings.
Zionist Interior Minister Avi Dichter announced at a press conference on 29 June that Israel had decided to disband the Hamas-led government. That night, Israel arrested 64 Hamas PA officials including eight Ministers and 22 members of the Palestine Legislative Council. Shimon Peres, Israeli deputy Prime Minister and Labour Party leader, said that criminal charges would be brought against the arrested PA Ministers. Proving that this was no knee-jerk reaction to the capture of the soldier, the commander of the Israeli army Central Command said the arrests were planned two months previously.
Britain, the US and Israel – the real ‘axis of evil’
In the period 6-12 July the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights documented 76 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. This figure includes nine members of one family killed on 12 July by a 550lb bomb dropped on their home while they slept in Gaza City. But when Qatar put forward a resolution the next day at the UN Security Council calling for a halt to Israel’s military activities in the Gaza Strip, it was vetoed by the US whilst Britain abstained. Even though the first point in the resolution called for the release of the Israeli soldier, British UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said that although he was ‘concerned about the suffering of the Palestinian population’ he ‘regretted’ he could not support the resolution as it ‘was not sufficiently balanced’. Zionist forces murdered 121 Palestinian people during the first three weeks of July, including 24 children, and injured over 550. One Israeli soldier had been killed. What a notion of ‘balance’ – pure racism!
On 14 July the UN Security Council met again at the request of Lebanon. The Lebanese representative called on the Security Council to establish a ceasefire. The US and Britain ignored the call. The political reasoning behind this lack of action became clear at Blair and Bush’s joint press conference at the start of the G8 conference in St Petersburg on the same day. Bush declared that ‘One of the interesting things about this recent flare-up is that it helps to clarify a root cause of instability in the middle-east and that’s Hizbullah, Hizbullah’s relationship with Syria, Hizbullah’s relationship with Iran and Syria’s relationship with Iran’. Blair agreed completely, stating that Iran and Syria were backing ‘extremists’ who want to derail efforts to strengthen democracy in Lebanon and ‘end the process that could lead to the two-state solution’ in Palestine. Bush gave both his and Blair’s approval to Israel’s military action: ‘Our message to Israel is to defend yourself but be mindful of the consequences.’ The consequences Bush and Blair are concerned about are the destabilisation of the new pro-imperialist government in Lebanon – but not the deaths of a few hundred Lebanese or Palestinian civilians.
We have to be clear: ‘the axis of evil’ in the Middle East is Britain, the US and Israel. They are guilty of war crimes, of the slaughter of thousands of ordinary men, women and children in the interests of imperialism. In Britain we have a duty to act against Blair and the Labour government: they are in the forefront of these massacres. All those opposed to the war crimes of this Labour government need to unite to build a mass anti-imperialist movement on the streets that fights Labour imperialism and supports the anti-imperialist struggles of the people of the Middle East.
Fight Labour imperialism!
Isolate the racist Israeli state!
Victory to the Palestinian people!
Victory to the people of Lebanon!
London march in solidarity with Palestine and Lebanon
Over 10,000 people marched in central London on 22 July to show their solidarity with the people of Palestine and Lebanon under brutal attack from Israel with the full backing of the British Labour government. Marchers were prevented from demonstrating their anger at Blair and the Labour government in the heart of Whitehall as the march bypassed Parliament Square and Downing Street. The march was called by the Stop the War Coalition. FRFI, Victory to the Intifada supporters, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) and the International League for Peoples’ Struggles formed a noisy, militant anti-imperialist contingent. The megaphone was used from start to finish, including within the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act exclusion zone, showing that the recent police arrests for megaphone use are arbitrary and punitive. The speakers at the rally included the usual opportunists such as Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour Party supporters whose calls for a leadership change continued the age-old illusion that the imperialist racist Labour Party would be altered by a change of personnel. By contrast George Galloway, Respect MP in east London, made an important political intervention, calling for a victory to the Lebanese resistance led by Hizbullah and challenged Blair to a meeting in court as he continued to assert that Hizbullah (proscribed in Britain) has never been a terrorist organisation.
In 1982 Israeli forces led by the then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon invaded Lebanon. They advanced as far as Beirut in a drive to expel Palestinian PLO fighters who were based in south Lebanon at the time. Israeli jets ruthlessly bombed and shelled civilian populations and also used barbaric phosphorus bombs, a chemical weapon whose vapour burns the lining of the lungs when inhaled. Over 25,000 people died in a murderous onslaught, including up to 3,500 Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, massacred by the Lebanese fascist Phalange with Zionist encouragement. In 1985, Israel withdrew to a unilaterally declared security zone, a southern strip of Lebanon that they occupied until 2000.
It was during this period that Hizbullah came into being, based among the mass of the poor Shias of southern Lebanon and south Beirut and looking to the victory of the Iranian Islamic Revolution for inspiration. Hizbullah set up schools and medical centres among the poor Shias and led the resistance to the Israeli occupation, fighting both the Israeli army and the collaborationist South Lebanon Army that Israel had set up and funded. The Zionists continued to use terror tactics against the Lebanese people: in April 1996, they shelled a UN building in Qana, murdering 109 civilians. In 2000 Israel was forced to withdraw from its ‘security zone’, worn down by the continued attacks from Hizbullah and with its South Lebanon Army smashed in the process.
After the Israeli withdrawal, Hizbullah remained as an armed force in the south and called for the Israeli withdrawal from the area known as the Shebaa Farms, a strip of occupied Lebanese territory adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights. As justification for its continued occupation of this area, Israel, supported by the UN, claims it is Syrian territory!
FRFI 192 August / September 2006