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the violent invasion of Gaza « Previous | |Next »
July 10, 2006

The violence between Israeli and the Palestinians continues to worsen. The news reports justify the Israeli pressure on Palestinian civilians by saying that the problem is the Palestinians --they started the conflict. The violent Israeli invasion of Gaza is just a response to what the Palestinians started. Media coverage of events in Gaza illustrates how the Australian mainstream media privileges the Israeli narrative, and frequently ignores both Palestinian experiences and international law.


Gideon Levy comments on this Israeli rhetoric as follows:

"We left Gaza and they are firing Qassams". Israel is causing electricity blackouts, laying sieges, bombing and shelling, assassinating and imprisoning, killing and wounding civilians, including children and babies, in horrifying numbers, but "they started." They are also "breaking the rules" laid down by Israel: We are allowed to bomb anything we want and they are not allowed to launch Qassams. When they fire a Qassam at Ashkelon, that's an "escalation of the conflict," and when we bomb a university and a school, it's perfectly alright. Why? Because they started. That's why the majority thinks that all the justice is on our side. Like in a schoolyard fight, the argument about who started is Israel's winning moral argument to justify every injustice.

Why coudn't Israel release some of the Palestinian soldiers and civilians it has kidnapped in exchange for the captured israeli soldier Gilad Shalit? Would that not be appropriate and right?

The Israeli pressure on the Palestinians is meant to break the civilian population, isn't it. Israel's incursion aims to collapse Hamas and the Bush administration is basically sympathetic with Israeli goals. Having locked itself into the untenable position of rejecting the results of the Hamas election six months ago in Palestine, the Bush administration and Israel now find themselves facing a full-scale insurgency. Both countries have only a military solution.

And if Hamas fails, as Washington wants, what will happen on the day after? Chaos? Anarchy?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:07 AM | | Comments (17)


It is not just the Israelis that think that the attack on the post inside Israel was a foolish act. Specifically because this happened at a time when the militants saw that Hamas (the pragmatic government in the PA, not the people abroad) was beginning to come to reason. Those who did this do not care about their people; not when they kidnapped the soldier and not when they shot rockets at purely civilian Israeli targets. No one should be foold by their overtures. Even President Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed the perpetrators of this act did so against the interests of the Palestinian people as is unfortunately now evident

The Australian newspaper has a report downloaded from the Sunday Times, which says that:

Syria is crucial to the outcome because it is the home of exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and other senior Hamas figures who are regarded as beholden to Mr Assad. According to Palestinian sources, Mashaal plotted the capture of Corporal Shalit, who was seized by Palestinian militants. It was the fulfilment of many statements that Mashaal has made that the only way to win the release of Palestinian prisoners is to capture an Israeli soldier and bargain with his life. Hamas has said it will free the soldier only in return for the release of Palestinian women and children in Israeli jails.

Khaled Mashaal distributes the funds received from Iran and the Gulf States.

Still, the Israeli response is disproportionate, don't you think?

The report adds that in Gaza, there is overwhelming support for Hamas's resistance to the Israelis. Most Palestinians support the demand that Palestinian prisoners, in particular women and youths under 18, be returned in exchange for the captive Israeli soldier.

Proportionality is a matter of view. If Israel had truly used its entire military might, you would not see nither Lebanon or Gaza. The ratio of casulaties so far in the Palestinian Israeli conflict (and I hate a numbers game) is 1:4 i.e 4 Palestinians killed for every dead Israeli. Now either the Israeli army is only 4 times stronger than Hamas (surely you do not believe that); or the Israelis are trying to practice utmost restraint in the face of an enemy that chooses to hide behind civilian targets. The same goes for the recent escalation in Lebanon. There too Israeli Lebanese civilian killed ration is 1:10 (10 Lebanese for each Israeli), again showing the case that Israel is trying to practice restraint in the face of an enemy using civilians as a shield. Because again, the IDF is more than 10 times stronger than Hezbollah.

As for the alleged rising support for Hamas (and Hezbollah as some may claim now), that is a story the Israelis are hearing for years. The fact is that Lebanon had 6 years to dismantle Hezbollah, and everybody knows it: the G8, the gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanese and Arab newspapers. However they have been allowed to continue. All this must end for both Israel and Lebanon's sake. Rising or declining support for either Hezbollah or Hamas does not matter to them as long as they face the rockets on a daily basis

I have argued that the disproportionality of the Israeli response to Hezbollah and Hama indicates a particular military and political strategy--the destruction of Hezbollah and The kidnapped soldiers are the excuse for the shock and awe that takes out the infrastructure of Lebanon and the destruction of Gaza.

The contradiction here is that Israel says they are not at war with Lebanon and that it is up to the Lebanese government to deal with Hezbollah. Now
Lebanon does not see it that way at all. They say the Israeli intervention is an invasion of a sovereign country.

I cannot see how a weak Lebanese government is more persuaded to disarm/dismantle Hezbollah by these Israeli actions: destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon is a strange way to offer help.

To Gary

I understand what you are saying but still do not agree with it. In order for the Lebanese government's sovereignty to be breached as they say, they must first have a sovereignty. The fact is that they have had six years to dismantle Hezbollah and have avoided doing so for fear of a civil war. Israel ought not pay the price for Lebanese fears. If the IDF stopped its campaign and set idley by as an Israeli militia pounded Lebanon constantly, you would have been correct to point to an Israeli government blame for this. So why won't you extend the same to Lebanon?

As for the persuation of a weak Lebanese government, this pressure does unfortunately help. It allows them to call for international help for the execution of resolution 1559 without necessarily opting for a civil war. Something similar to telling the people "the international pressure forced me" as opposed to taking the initiative.

Finally with regards to the Israeli strategy, I truly doubt that there is an underlying objective other than the end of the threat and the return of the soldiers. No one in Israel wants to return to either Gaza or Lebanon. Had they truly wanted it, particularly in the case of Gaza, they would have been better off staying in and holding the positions rather than get out and reconquer them following a huge rapture in Israeli society. Instead these recent escalations follwoing withdrawals give ammunition to Israeli groups that support a hidden agenda such as the one you describe. Groups that the recent pull out from Gaza and the Lebanon withdrawal 6 years ago have proven to be marginal in Israeli society. Hope this gives you some food for thought

I do not understand what you are saying here:

In order for the Lebanese government's sovereignty to be breached as they say, they must first have a sovereignty. The fact is that they have had six years to dismantle Hezbollah and have avoided doing so If for fear of a civil war. Israel ought not pay the price for Lebanese fears. If the IDF stopped its campaign and set idley by as an Israeli militia pounded Lebanon constantly, you would have been correct to point to an Israeli government blame for this. So why won't you extend the same to Lebanon?

My assumption is that Lebanon is a sovereign nation-state. Are you saying otherwise---as I guess? If so why? Your account is not how the Lebanese understand Lebanon. I see no reason why we should dismiss the Lebanese account of their sovereignty

If Hizbullah--ie., the militia in southern Lebanon-- fires missiles across the border to Israeli cities, don't these missiles make the Israeli conception of buffer zones militarily obsolete and politically irrelevant? So a political solution is required, is it not? Israel cannot achieve physical security without political security, and that cannot be achieved except by negotiating with its adversaries .

Re your remarks on Israeli strategy. It appears to me that this is premised upon the use of military power to achieve political goals. That is the IDF position and it indicates the shift of power from the civilian government to the defence forces. I see little evidence of a diplomatic solution being pursued by the Israeli government (or the Bush administration) that responds simultaneously to the legitimate rights of both sides. AlI I see is the use of military power to achieve political goals---which you support when you say that:

...this pressure [on the Lebanese government by Israel] does unfortunately help. It allows them to call for international help for the execution of resolution 1559 without necessarily opting for a civil war.

'pressure' is strange word to use---it implies diplomacy backed by threat. That is not what happened in Lebanon with Israel's bombing of Beirut's international airport and power station. The Lebanese reaction is pointed. Moreover the attacks by Israel on Lebanese army and navy units on 17 July questions the very existence of such a policy of forcing Lebanon to curb Hizbollah by inflicting damage and punishment on it. If Lebanon is to be "encouraged" to rein in Hizbollah, then attacking the Lebanese armed forces makes no sense.

The Israeli account is that Arab extremism lies at the root of the fighting and so the Israeli government is pushing the disarmament of Hizballah in Lebanon and uprooting the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. It says that the crisis will end when Israel's terms are implemented: the kidnapped soldiers are returned, Hizbullah is disarmed, and the Lebanese army protects Israel's northern border.

How is it achieving this?

Israel has a standard military response of inflicting enormous punishment on the land and on the people who harbour tHamas and Hizballah. Presumably, it wants to make their life so unpleasant that they will get angry at the terrorist groups who provoke it. The terrorist groups will thus lose strength, political power and moral authority, on top, of course, of any casualties they suffer.

Is this working? Well, what began as a limited operation to retrieve a captured soldier has deteriorated into a major international crisis and a destructive regional conflict. Morevover communal punishment actually helps the terrorists. However annoyed the population is about the provocations of the terrorists, their long-term hatred of the terrorists' enemy redoubles.Military solutions to political problems is a limited strategy. The IDF should know that from its past actions in occupying Lebanon. So should the polticians.

My position is that the collective punishment of the people of Lebanon by the Olmert Government has no justification. Since Israel has stated that Iran and Syria are behind Hezbollah's actions, so it is hypocritical to unleash its wrath on the people of Lebanon. Remarks about it wanting to take Lebanon 20 years backwards in its infrastructure expresses a desire is to impose collective punishment on the Lebanese people--not just to disarm Hizballah as you suggest.

That collective punishment from continual large-scale bombing could be seen as a preparation for a major ground assault by the IDF within the next few days.

To Gary

I appreciate your lengthy response. It shows you put a lot of thought into it. You are correct in assuming that i claim Lebanon's government has no sovereignty. Had it had sovereignty we would not be in this mass since the Lebanese government would have been the one to decide when and when not to attack Israel. Instead it is Hezbollah that holds the monopoly on the use of force making it the de facto "government" of Lebanon to the dismay of many Lebanese who are pissed at the fact the border was quiet for the past 6 years since the last time Hezbollah provoked Israel through kidnapping. If the Lebanese government wants to truly be considered sovereign it must disarm Hezbollah as UN resolution 1559 demands. Israel cannot be the target of the Lebanese government's reluctence to deal with Hezbollah for fear of civil war. either they do it or as we unfortunately see now, Israel is going to come in and do it for them. They have been able to kick Syria out, they can kick Hezbollah. furthermore, as for the kidnapped soldiers, you are right. This operation's objective has gone beyond the kidnapped soldiers and moved to the complete elimination of the firing of rockets on Israel.
Finally, with regards to the military pressure for diplomatic means, Lebanese prime minister has called upon the International community to come to Lebanon's aid and assist the government in establishing Lebanese sovereignty over ALL of Lebanon including Hezbollah-land down south. He can only do it now without risking a civil war because unlike a self-initiative, he can present this not as a vandeta against shi'ia Muslims the way Nasserallah would twist it if he tried, but as a response to growing international and military pressure on Lebanon. Hope this helps understanding the strategy. The way ME politics works is very different than what you might think. Honor and dignity as well as power play bigger role than co-op and logic.

as I understand it from reading Anthony Cordesman over at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Hezbollah has 2 ministers in the Lebanese Cabinet of 24 ; the Lebanese government designated Hezbollah as a "resistance movement" to Israel,allowing it to operate as a paramilitary force and keep its arms; Lebanon's "unity" is still more a shell than a reality as its leadership and politics remain divided along sectarian lines (Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shi’ite Muslim).

Cordesman argues that Lebanon’s major security challenge has long been national unity, and this challenge is likely to remain its key security problem indefinitely into the future. Lebanese forces can only be as effective as Lebanese political unity and the ability of its various sects to compromise and live in peace. If its political system fails, there are no lasting military solutions. Cordesman goes to say that the Lebanese:

...government...has shown great caution in attempting to actively control Southern Lebanon and bring Hezbollah under its control. The Lebanese government must still evaluate every use of military force in the context of Lebanon's history of civil war, and the risk of dividing its military forces if they are used for any mission that major factions do not perceive as being in Lebanon's national interest.

He adds that:
Lebanon has been subjected to criticism from the UN concerning its inaction in disbanding Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah since the Israeli pullout. Lebanon has replied that it has chosen to act against the militant groups through dialogue and not more violence

In the light of this Israeli asking for the impossible. Lebanon cannot deliver what Israel demands. As Cordesman points out:
the Lebanese military has been severely hampered by the ethnic and religious divisions in Lebanon, and the role Syria played while its forces occupied the country. Many Lebanese Shi’ites see local movements like the Hezbollah as a guarantee to their security, and even many non-Shi'ites see it as the force that defeated Israel and forced it to end its occupation of Southern Lebanon.

Israel knows all that.It could have decided to do a tit-for-tat re these captured soldiers as it has done in the past re excursions over the northern border, but it decided otherwise. It has escalated the conflict, as you acknowledge.

From the Lebanese perspective Cordesman says:

Lebanon needs to develop forces that can secure its borders, and act as a deterrent to any further Syrian and Israeli incursions. It needs forces that can bring the Hezbollah and Palestinian paramilitary and terrorist elements under control and fully disarm them, and that can ensure that Iran, Israel, and Syria cannot use Lebanon as a proxy in their conflicts and struggles.

Israel is using Lebanaon as a proxy in its conflict with Syria and Iran. Lebanon is being played.

Nothing Israel is doing is helping Lebanon develop the capabilities it needs to deal with internal security threats, to deter a limited expansion of a conflict between its neighbors into Lebanese territory, waters, or air space, or to bring the Hezbollah under central government control, disarm Hezbollah and the concealed weapons stashes in other militias, and putting Lebanese central government forces truly in control.

Israel is doing the opposite.

To Gary
If what you are saying about the Lebanese government legalizing Hezbollah as a resistance movement, then they should not be surprised they are attacked for if this is true then they sanction the attack; but it is not true. The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora said so time and time again almost losing his voice from screaming that. As for the Lebanese people that are in Israeli prisons, you would be wise to ask why that is. Samir Kunter, who shiekh Hassan Nasserallah put at the top of his list for prisoners to release and that for him all this chaos has behun, is a Lebanese who infiltrated Israel to the city of Naharyia, killed a police officer and then went into an aprtment and murdered a mother and her two infants. As for other militias, there are no other ARMED militias. Hezbollah is the only relic of the civil war. Also, please do not put words in my mouth as I do not put words in yours. I acknowledge that the situation has become much more than the kidnapping of soldiers and has become an issue of Israel under threat of rockets as well; but the escalation is blamed squarely on Hezbollah who decided to fire the rockets and kidnap the soldiers. Finally, I hope your Mr. Cordesman is wrong with the unity being an indefinite security challenge for Lebanon. Because this as we see, results in attacks on Israel. And as long as that is the case, Lebanon is going to have larger issues than unity to worry about.

The Shiite Lebanese-Australian citizens in Australia who have lost the family and loved oens fron Israeli bombing are quite clear about Hezbollah---it is all that protects them from the Israeli. They had no defences in the 1980s from Israeli invasion and occupation.

That indicates a moving behind Hezbollah not a turning away. The Israeli actions created Hezbollah in the 1980s and the actions today are reinforcing popular support for Hezbollah.

The Lebanese government is talking in terms of collective punishment of the Lebanese people by Israel. Your view that:

I acknowledge that the situation has become much more than the kidnapping of soldiers and has become an issue of Israel under threat of rockets as well

does not come to grips with the extent of Israeli destruction of Lebanon.

If that is the way the Lebanese Australian is clear about Hezbollah, then this conflict will not end. Do not forget, it was Hezbollah that decided to cross the border and raid Israel, not vise Versa. As I mentioned, for the past 6 years the border has been quiet except for the kidnapping of the soldiers in 2000 shortly after Israel withdrew and occasional rocket attacks on Israel. I hope that the guy you talk about would understand that Nasserallah unfortunately sacrificed his family to release Samir Kunter - A Lebanese Hezbollah man who infiltrated Israel killed a police officer and murdered a mother and two infants in their aprtment in Naharyia. That is the person for which Nasserallah sacrificed your poor friend's family. He thought Israel would fall for the trick of bodies for peisoners again as it did 6 years ago, but as I noted in my blog, it is a trick that only worls once. The next time, as we can see, it does not. As for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1980, it was done due to similar reasons as today: Lebanon could not contain its militias and Israel could not continue to pay the price for it. Back then skirmishes and raids on Israeli towns were also prevelent, causing the army to enter.

you keep on repeating the same point---Hezbollah stated the conflict on the northern border and Israel retaliates. Why, when that point is not contested?

Your argument is that the effects of Hizbollah's incursions and the many hundreds of rocket strikes into northern Israel mean that there is no alternative. Both the Israeli government and the Bush administration believe that Hizbollah can be crippled if not destroyed, and Israel made safe again. They reckon that Hizbollah miscalculated.

What is not considered by you is that the reality may actually be very different, and there is a strong argument that what Israel is doing in Lebanon is actually going to make Israel substantially less secure.

What you do is ignore my point is that because the Israeli reaction is way over the top---its the massive damage to the Lebanese economy as a whole (not just Hizbollah in southern Lebanon). Such military action may well not achieve Israeli's stated political aim----getting the Lebanese government to disarm the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon (note militia, not the political party whose existence you do not acknowledge).

What the military overkill is doing is uniting Lebanon against Israel. The military tactics are not delivering the political goal--nor did they do so in the 1980s. The IDF was forced to withdraw from southern Lebanon.

Israeli is seen by the Lebanese asbeing no different to Syria--an occupying power that has no respect for Lebanese sovereignty or security.That situation reinforces the need for Hezbollah to resist Israel and to protect the Shiite Lebanese in southern Lebanon.

What you are saying again and again is that Israel is right in what ever it does, and that all fault lies with Hezbollah (or Hamas). So they should be destroyed I do not accept that account. Nor do the Lebanese.

You do even grant that Lebanon is a sovereign nation-state. You want Israel's existence as nation-state to be recognized as legitimate but you are not willing to do the same for Lebanon.

Your argument that Israel's actions only strengthens support for Hezbollah is a well known one. Fortunately it is not supported by the facts and any one who follows Hezbollah closely can see that. It began with the media blitz on Israel that went terribly wrong: First reports that Israel is targeting purely civilian targets as indicated by Hezbollah organized tours and then the reporters reporting that this was not actually true and that they were under the watchful eye of Hezbollah security. Add to that the attack by Yan Egland, UN humanitarian coordinator who blamed the civilian casualties on Hezbollah hiding among civilians (something he did only after he left Lebanon, away from the clutches of Hezbollah). As for support at home, Hezbollah's frantic declarations make it clear that it is wanning. First you have the deputy head of the political wing saying they did not expect such a response; then you have Nasserallah himself anouncing a few days ago that Israel and the US planned this invasion for September and that his action only made it closer. This is a new claim that only came after things went wrong and its motivation is obvious: to shed responsibility from Hezbollah in the eyes of the Lebanese public who blames it for what has happened. This claim also beggs the question of if he knew that why did he go on with the attack? Israel into S Lebanon is something tantaumont in Israeli thinking to the US back to Vietnam as one Israeli military official put it. i.e. again, Nasserallah only put those claims to try and vindicate Hezbollah's blame in the eye of the public in Lebanon. This is also evident by Hamas and other factions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the return of the soldier for future release; something they were not willing to consider before that. This is only because they know Hezbollah is losing support and that Israel will no longer react in a doocile manner

Finally one comment as to what this whole crisis will do to the rules of the game in the Middle East and for peace in the region. Concerning peace, it is clear we can all forget about it anytime soon. Both sides are in such a state of animosity it is impossible to overcome. As for the rules of the game, this has completely changed them from now on, and only for the better because it will be quiet from now on. Attacks on Israel by both Hezbollah and Hamas will cease once this operation is over for they will now know that Israel has the capacity to lose all inhibitions and patience. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is only fear that brings logic into terrorist groups that would otherwise not think of it.

I'm sorry. I'm not persuaded by your Israeli case.

This defines Hizbollah solely as a terrorist organisation and gives no recognition of Hizbollah's wider role in Lebanese society or its progressive integration into Lebanese politics. The Israeli case that the Lebanese government must take control of its entire territory is made without any appreciation of the point that Hizbollah is a larger political party in the Lebanese parliament than Likud is in the Knesset. The Israeli case also professes a belief that the destruction being caused in Lebanon will turn most Lebanese against Hizbollah.

Despite the Australian print media's 'Israeli take' on the conflict ( it is seen in the context of joint United States-Israeli operation that is becoming integral to George W Bush's global war on terror) I am increasingly persuaded that there is far more to this than a case of Hizbollah provocation justifying an Israeli act of self-defence.

I am increasingly of the view that such a provocation may have been just the kind of pretext Israel was looking for to wade into Lebanon. It looks increasingly as if Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalised more than a year ago.

The war aim to destroy Hizbollah is one for which Israel was the most prepared. The preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board.

Lebanon is entitled to defend itself against its destruction by another nation state---in the forrm of an intensification of air raids as towns and villages in southern Lebanon are destroyed prior to temporary occupation by Israeli troops.

I am utterly confused by the various descriptions of Israeli-American relations. When Israel was percieved as a lamb for not responding for the past six years, it was said that "the Zionists control America"; now Israel is "a tool in the hands of the United States"? Could you please decide?

As for Hezbollah as part of the Lebanese society; this is not entirely accurate. Hezbollah only helps Shia who support it; not anyone else. Also their presence in both government and parliament sums up to 2 ministers and 8 members of parliament. Last but not least, the social services are only a hoaks so Europeans and others would find it hard to define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization even though half of the organization is an armed militia undermining the Lebanese government. You say Israel is unreasonable in demanding disarming of Hezbollah by the government; then what do you say about Israel's dismantling and outlawing of Kahana Khai in the late 80s even though they were representing many settlers and had a party in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, while conducting their acts of terror? could you please explain to me why is it that you practice this double standard? should Israel now allow Kahana Khai based on your explanation?

I never said that "the Zionists control America"; nor did I say that Israel is "a tool in the hands of the United States"? Where do you get that from?

I talk in terms of the identity of the US and Israeli national interest. The US national interest is an imperial one, as the US is a hegemonic power.

The strategy is to make Israeli a hegemonic regional power in the Middle East.That is the endgame. The overwhelming impression of the tactics deployed is that time and time and again is that Lebanese civilians are attacked and only civilian infrastructure is targeted. These attacks include the use of cluster munitions.

The difference between Hizbollah and Kahana Khai is determined by the sovereignty of nation states. Hizbollah is a part of Lebanon, Kahana Khai is a part of Israel. But then, strangely, you don't recognize the sovereignty of Lebanon.

First of all, you ask where did i get your comments about the Israeli-US connection, yet here you are again saying that Israel is a tool in the hands of US hegemony. See your previous comment on 'the Israeli take' and Israel being part of the global war on terror.

As for Khana Khai and it being part of Israel... it is not. As I said the movement was OUTLAWED in the late 80s just as Hezbollah should be.

Finally with regards to Lebanese sovereignty and disrespect of it, you really have to decide who is the sovereign of Lebanon. The fact Hezbollah has two members of cabinet and 8 members of parliament does not give it the right to circumvent government decision and drag Lebanon into war through the kidnapping of the soldiers and barraging Israeli northern border for it! On the other hand, if you support your words that Hezbollah is Lebanon, then you should be seeing the fact that Israel DOES respect Lebanon sovereignty: Hezbollah chose to get into war with Israel, and as it according to you represents Lebanon, it most certainly got it. And isn't that what respecting the sovereignty of a country all about? respecting a country's decision like the decision of going to war.

If you truly support Lebanese sovereignty (i.e. the elected government of Fouad Seniora) then you should be calling as well for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the assuming of responsibility in the area by the Lebanese army and government.