Friday, July 14, 2006

Hizbullah, Lebanon, Palestine 

Some useful, sober analysis and background for those who want to know about the "Violence in the Middle East."

From the Guardian's longtime Middle East correspondent:

The Lebanese people, habitues as few people are of the lethal, violent and unexpected, yesterday awoke to the kind of news they thought they had put behind them. Their brand-new airport, the pride of their postwar reconstruction, had been bombarded by Israeli war planes along with a host of other infrastructure projects, bringing death and devastation on a more than Gazan scale.

For some it inevitably brought to mind a bleak winter day in 1968 when, out of the blue, helicopter-borne Israeli commandos landed on the old airport and blew up 13 passenger jets, almost the entire fleet of the national carrier. The pretext: of two Palestinians who killed an Israeli at Athens airport, one came from a refugee camp in Lebanon, then an entirely peaceable country. The significance of this most spectacularly disproportionate reprisal was something the Lebanese could hardly even have guessed at then. But it was a very early portent of the long nightmare to come: military conflict with Israel, eventually to be compounded with an atrocious civil war that it did much to engender.

There is something ominously similar, in possible consequences, about yesterday's repeat Israeli performance. Ever since the Israelis ended their occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, this weak and diminutive country has enjoyed an almost unmarred respite from the turbulence of the region to which it so easily and habitually falls victim. But overnight it has been plunged back into the role it endured for a quarter century and more - that of hapless arena for other people's wars, as well as pawn in the ambitions and machinations of regional players far more powerful than itself.

It is only the players who change. After 1968 it was to be the Palestinian resistance movement, with Lebanon as its principal power base, that was Israel's antagonist in Lebanon. Now it is Hizbullah. To be sure, Hizbullah is Lebanese in everything that defines nationality, and it has cabinet ministers and members of parliament. That is why Israel could so plausibly blame the Lebanese government for the seizure of its two soldiers. Yet blaming Lebanon was as about as futile as blaming President Mahmoud Abbas for the earlier capture of an Israeli solder in Gaza. If Islamists act on their own in Palestine, Hizbullah does so even more blatantly in Lebanon. It is a virtual state within a state, with a militia more powerful than the Lebanese army. Of course, in its Lebanese self Hizbullah places that army in the defence of Lebanon. But it has another self - another identity, mission, agenda - that it always tries to reconcile with its Lebanese one, but in the final analysis cannot: that of universal jihad and all that now implies in terms of non-Lebanese regional ambitions, allegiances, obligations and constraints. Palestine now looms largest in that. Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, openly asserts it: Hizbullah's task is not merely to liberate the last pocket of Lebanese soil, the Sebaa farms, it is to help shape the outcome of the Arab-Israeli struggle.

There have been growing links between Hizbullah and its Palestinian-Islamist counterparts, for which it is a source of advice, arms, training and practical aid. Its latest exploit has long been coming. Of course, Nasrallah dutifully furnished a strictly Lebanese justification for it: a few Lebanese prisoners still in Israel's jails. But real motivation lay elsewhere, in the havoc Israel has been wreaking in Gaza, and the need for a display of solidarity with its suffering people. That furnished the clinching impulse, the opportunity for maximum political and emotional impact.

The other regional parties to this Hizbullah agenda are the Syrian and Iranian governments. Hizbullah didn't consult its own government, but it certainly wouldn't have done so daring and dangerous a deed without the encouragement or approval of the two governments to which it owes so much. Both have long been eyeing the ever-deteriorating Palestinian situation as a platform for the advancement of their own strategic or ideological agendas. For Iran, Palestine has been a top foreign-policy priority, not just for its own sake, but as an instrument in its drive for regional ascendancy. A long-standing sponsor of Hizbullah, it has more recently become one of Hamas too. It is said to exert its influence mainly through Khaled Meshaal, head of the Hamas leadership in Damascus. It is also said that Meshaal, with his hand over the military wing of Hamas, ordered last month's capture of the Israeli soldier to which the Hizbullah one was very likely the intended sequel.

All that the cynically pragmatic Syria Ba'athist regime wants, it seems, is to get out of Washington's doghouse and earn recognition that it is a key regional player that the US cannot ignore - and whose services, for a quid pro quo, it could usefully employ in places, such as Iraq, where it is in desperate trouble.

When Hizbullah did its deed it must have known that Israel's military response would out-Gaza Gaza. For if one such episode had constituted such a huge blow to what Israel calls its "deterrent power", which had at all costs to be restored, this second one surely multiplied it several-fold.

Hizbullah must also have known that it would exacerbate already very serious political and sectarian tensions inside Lebanon, putting itself and its basically Shia constituency at yet more dangerous cross-purposes with other communities who bitterly resent the way in which, with this single, sensational act on others' behalf, Hizbullah may have dragged the country into new miseries of death, destruction and woe. And, finally, it must have known that it has taken the whole of the Middle East another step towards the unprecedented region-wide tumult that very likely awaits it.

Lebanese apart, many Arabs, especially Islamists, are applauding Hizbullah's act, bring what it may - and none more so than its chief intended beneficiaries, the Palestinians, especially those doing battle in Gaza. As for its target, Israel, there could hardly be a more apt example of a nation reaping what it has sown. Israel took 18 years to extricate itself from the Lebanon morass - and only then at the price of leaving in place a triumphant Hizbullah of which, along with Iran and Syria, it justly ranks as a co-founder. Even as, on its new Gaza front, it is likewise turning Hamas and other Islamists into more formidable future foes than they already are, it suddenly finds itself confronted, in alarming and maddening fashion, with this monstrous legacy of an old one.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More Anti-Semitism 

Several months ago, when the Ned Lamont campaign was beginning to gain attention and momentum, speakingcorpse remarked ("jokingly") that it was only a matter of time before Lieberman began tagging the Lamont campaign as anti-Semitic. Well, that time has come!

Asked specifically if he felt that the wave of opposition to his candidacy had anything to do with his religion or his support for Israel, Mr. Lieberman paused, stepped toward the blue sedan that would speed him to a meeting outside of Hartford and said, "That's too big a question to answer on one foot. We should come back to answer that one." This extraordinary interest has led to some uncomfortable moments. Mr. Lieberman's supporters have come to suggest that much of the burgeoning liberal opposition to his candidacy is motivated by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment. Mr. Gerstein says he has detected what he calls a "growing strain of anti-Semitism on the far left," which he believes is in part fueling the strident opposition to Mr. Lieberman.

Just what this campaign needs! Just what the Democrats need! Just what America needs!

The Israeli "government" is a criminal enterprise 

Sadly, all of the ferment in the U.S. against Bush will amount to very little if the murderous and flagrant criminality of Israeli actions remains unspeakable. I see no condemnation or even acknowledgment in the "progressive" blogosphere of the massive international suicide-bombing campaign currently being perpetrated by the bloodthirsty gang known in polite circles as the Israeli "government."

[Just one more sign that "progressivism" equals sleepwalking towards death.]

Do you remember that Palestinian family that was "inexplicably" and "accidentally" blown up by Israeli shells as they sat on a Gaza beach? Do you remember the "targeted killing" of the Hamas official that also involved the "accidental" killing of 9 other Palestinians? Those state murders happened the day after Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas met and affirmed their willingness to continue "pursuing peace." The day after the state murders, the Israeli soldier was "kidnapped," and the day after that Israel launched its obviously pre-planned invasion of Gaza, cutting off power to millions, firing shells indiscriminately into civilian housing projects, killing dozens of random Gazans daily, kidnapping (no quotes there) the entire Hamas government.

The whole thing was planned and the Israeli "government" was waiting for a suitable "provocation." They had their moment when the soldier was "kidnapped," and they attacked Gaza. The subsequent Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel aren't in the least surprising, given the universal horror in the Arab (i.e., civilized) world at what was happening in Gaza.

The current Israeli government is perhaps worse than ours. At least some of the American murderers are stupid, demented fools who have bathed themselves in Arab blood as part of an orgy of self-righteous neo-pagan mania. Whereas Ehud Olmert appears to be an utterly cynical, coldly calculating murderer who can't possibly even half-believe in the stated reasons for his murdering. It's all just to stay in power for another day. Maybe his supporters are stupid, demented, self-righteous and/or frightened fools. But Olmert is just a vicious criminal.

He doesn't know or care what will become of Israel. The long-term future of that country is something that only idealists and children worry about. In the meantime, for Olmert and his henchmen, there is blood to drink. How else can he be sure to remain in power?

He's probably paying suicide-bombers right now to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv. He's probably sending top-secret Mossad units into Lebanon to fire rockets at northern Israel.

As this British novelist makes clear in her Guardian column, the time has come for sanctions, as a preliminary step in an international effort to stop the Israeli mayhem and murder:

Last Saturday, I had lunch with friends in London at a benefit for the medical school at the Arab University in Jerusalem. At home later, I watched the news on al-Jazeera: 12 more Palestinians killed by the Israeli army. There were sirens. There were young men bending to kiss the forehead of their fallen comrade while his mother sat rocking and speechless. There was a man hurrying through twisted metal, carrying the bleeding body of a little girl. There were women on balconies, boys holding toddlers, old men in kaffiyes, and they all said: "Where is the world? Where are the Arabs?"

I pressed a button and switched them all off. I went to bed and slept. Well, I sat on the edge of the bed for a bit. And before that I had watched the images replay in my head while I brushed my teeth and my hair. I had reminded myself to breathe properly and not to frown so hard. And after I went to bed I got up a couple of times to drink water - to try to push down whatever was sitting on my chest and making my breathing short and shallow. But, in the end, I slept.

I woke up this morning, and the day was fresh and new. And I had new emails. Some were from friends desperate to do something and debating what it should be. Some from groups and organisations drafting letters and appeals on behalf of the Palestinians and the Iraqis - yes, let's not lose sight of Haditha and Ramadi because it's Gaza's turn on the rack. And there were messages from the four corners of the earth that had started their e-life in Gaza. Here's one:

"Dear Friends Everywhere, I live in al-Twam, between Beit Lahia and Jabalia Camp. The Israeli troops are moving towards the area where I live. They are 2km away. In the last two days, 35 persons were killed and 120 injured. The Israeli troops are shooting and shelling randomly the houses of the civilians ... Now, while writing this email, at 10pm, the tanks are about 500m from my home. In the coming hours, my home will be in the invaded and reoccupied areas. I do not know what might happen later. My children are hearing the shootings and explosions. They understand that they are exposed to a threat from which no one can protect them ... The only thing I thought I could do is to send this appeal - and hope. Safwat Diab."

Mr Diab, your appeal has reached me as it has reached many, many people.

If Ehud Olmert thinks the actions of the Israeli army only affect Mr Diab and his neighbours, or even only Palestinians and Arabs, he is mistaken. The world is paying attention. Around the world, millions are bearing witness, and they hate being in the position of the bystander; they are taking action.

In October 2004, at the European Social Forum in London, an Israeli air-force pilot, Yonatan Shapira, called for sanctions against Israel. A year earlier, Shapira had refused to bomb Palestinian towns and had influenced 26 of his comrades-in-arms to do the same. He spoke of his love for his country and of his conviction that it was on the road to self-destruction. He had come to London to ask for help. Europe was Israel's only hope, he said: it must impose sanctions on his country and force it to make a real peace. About 3,000 people were on their feet cheering him.

A young Palestinian woman stood up and said that the last Israeli soldier she had seen had made her walk on the bodies of her cousins as she stumbled out of Shatila in 1982. Seeing Shapira and hearing his words reaffirmed her faith in a common humanity. Emotions ran high. It seemed that truth and reconciliation were almost within our grasp.

Yet nothing in the official world of politics reflects the popular will. Israel continues to enjoy favoured-nation status with a Europe that starves the Palestinians for electing Hamas. We, the citizens, busy ourselves raising funds for medical equipment, collecting books and signing appeals while the Israeli army picks off a few kids in Gaza, blows off a few limbs in Jenin, knocks down a few houses in Nablus - and offers funds and freshly stolen West Bank land to Jewish settlers recently evacuated from Gaza.

Three hundred British Jews have signed a letter strongly condemning Israel's actions. But we are all made complicit by the failure of our governments to act to stop Israel's barbarous campaign against the Palestinians. British Arabs feel doubly compromised as the world registers, yet again, the spineless behaviour of the Arab governments.

Since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Palestinian fighters, Israel has killed 60 Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is virtually inaccessible to foreigners, and there are reports Israel will soon close off the West Bank as well. Yesterday, in what appears to be an attempt to take the heat off Gaza, Hizbullah in south Lebanon attacked Israeli border posts and captured two soldiers. It is only a matter of time before things escalate. At the heart of it all is Israel's persecution of the Palestinians.

It's time to help the Palestinians not just survive within the parameters of Israeli policy, but to save them from Israel's brutal plan; to save Israel from itself; and to save the world from the effects of the terrible sorrow and anger that is the response of millions to the Palestinian anguish. It's time to make Israel face up to what it is and what it wants to become. It's time for sanctions.

Monday, July 10, 2006


I just bet my brother $100 that Ken Lay is not dead. He bet me $100 that Ken Lay is indeed dead, but was murdered.

There is simply no fucking way that the official story is the truth.

I've decided to open the floor to all comers. I'll take long odds and any other theories. Put your money where your mouth is in the comments.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?