Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel vs Hezbollah is not such a cake walk

Reports coming out of Lebanon indicate that Israel isn't finding things going all their own way. Israel might be the third most powerful military in the world, but unless they are prepared to use nuclear weapons to crush a flea, and deal with the fall-out that leads to (both political and radioactive) they have to fight on the ground, and Israeli troops put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else.

Juan Cole writes:

The Israelis are finding that the Hizbullah guerrillas have excellent intelligence on Israeli weaponry, and that they are capable of fighting orderly tactical battles from buildings with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. In other words, they are not facing the militia of tobacco share croppers. They are facing a highly professional military force, perhaps the most professional in the region aside from Israel's own.

Kidnapping Palestinian dentists and blowing up civilians in their homes is easy. Fighting dedicated soldiers with well-planned defences who are defending their homes and are willing to use asymmetrical tactics is a whole 'nuther ball game.

In further news from Cole, he reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't have much impact in her surprise visit to Beirut:

Rice proffered "support" to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, but not a ceasefire, which is what he really needs to keep his government from collapsing--and he testily told her so. She said she regretted the humanitarian situation (caused by America's ally with billions in American-supplied armaments), but the US is offering only $30 million in aid (billions of dollars of damage have been done to Lebanon by Israel, most of it unrelated to Hizbullah). She delivered her ultimatum to Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament and a leading secular Shiite politician who has an alliance of convenience with Hizbullah. Berri angrily rejected her terms and riposted that no negotiations would happen without there first being a ceasefire. He was relaying to her Hizbullah's position.

Rice's visit showed how low American stock has fallen in the Middle East, since she came virtually empty-handed, merely as a go-fer on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with little positive to offer. Berri thunderously rejected her ultimatums, or rather those of her political bosses. She came with nice words but Israeli bombs hit Beirut before and after her visit, according to my sources. Her professions of sympathy rang hollow, since her government was encouraging the bombing raids and blocking any UN or European move toward a cease-fire. She played no more exalted a role than Mafia enforcer, lifting her suit coat at the corner to display the loaded pistol as she discussed just how much the owner of the Lebanese restaurant would be paying per month for "protection" from certain of her "friends," or else, you know, something bad could happen to this nice restaurant of yours.

And, she was undermined by Washington's warmest ally in the Muslim Middle East, the government of American Iraq, who delivered a message the opposite of her own. He argued for an immediate ceasefire and warned that Israel's destruction of the infrastructure of a whole country will grow extremism. Al-Maliki is referring to the "boiling" Mahdi Army in Iraq and other such phenomena, which have him in their sights, and maybe American targets as well.

Cole also discusses why he accuses both Israel and Hezbollah of war crimes:

Some readers have asked why I characterize Hizbullah's rocket launches as war crimes. It is because the Geneva Convention requires that in war you have to aim at enemy combatants. You can't deliberately target civilians, and you can't endanger civilians unnecessarily. The Hizbullah rockets have poor targeting, and so just firing them endangers civilians. The rockets themselves have apparently killed almost no Israeli troops, and almost all their victims have been innocent civilians, like that poor man who was just driving along in or near Haifa. That is, the Hizbullah rockets have been fired indiscriminately (the only way they can be fired) and mainly hit civilian targets, which a prudent person could foresee. Bingo. War crime.
There is actually an argument to be made that both Hizbullah and Israel have taken the civilian population of their enemy hostage. Since hostage-taking is forbidden, both are war criminals.

While both sides are clearly "bad guys", one look at the numbers of dead and homeless on each side shows who the biggest bad guys are. To those who argue that "Israel are the good guys", you can't act like thugs and monsters and still cloak youself with the mantle of goodness. Evil is what evil does, and the good-will Israel accumulated after the Holocaust and decades of hostility from their Arab neighbours is virtually gone now. As far as the international community, with the exception perhaps of the USA is concerned, Israel is the neighbourhood bully who knowingly uses their childhood abuse to excuse all manner of vicious behaviour.

Yes, Israel was born in bloodshed. Yes, the Jews have suffered. So have many other people. It doesn't excuse Israel's behaviour. It isn't Israeli's ports closed, or airports and factories that have been bombed and destroyed. It isn't Israeli Red Cross ambulances being shot at by guided missiles. There haven't been over four hundred Israeli civilians killed, and 800,000 made homeless. It isn't Hezbollah who is threatening Israel with the old Roman -- and Nazi -- tactic of tenfold retribution.

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