here we go again, it seems. Blood-thirsty Arabs -- Lebanese fundamentalists
of the Hizbollah, "the Party of God" -- bombed the Israeli
town of Shlomi (10.8), killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring several
others. Terrorist attack on civilians, three years after Israel
has withdrawn its very last soldier from Lebanese soil. Isn't it
the ultimate proof for the inherent terrorism of the Arabs, the
decisive evidence that no peace can be made with Muslims? If you
follow the media, it probably is. If you take a closer look at the
facts -- well, not quite.
Afraid of Hizbollah
its name, the Hizbollah are definitely no saints. Mother Teresa
would not have been able to drive the Israeli army out of Lebanon
after almost 20 years of ruthless occupation. The Hizbollah has
its own agenda and interests, political and otherwise, and a limited
fighting with Israel may well be among them. (But, as analysts usually
forget, Israel and its army have their interests too, and peace
might not be their top priority either.) An independent militia
is indeed something that no sovereign state can tolerate; Israel
is right in pointing that out. This, however, is not Israel's, but
Lebanon's problem -- a small, weak country, torn between conflicting
religious and ethnic groups (including 300.000 Palestinian refugees),
and regularly invaded and terrorised by its stronger neighbours
Israel and Syria. When Israel expresses concern for Lebanon's sovereignty,
one doesn't know whether to weep or laugh. The existence of Hizbollah
is none of Israel's business: It becomes Israel's business only
if it violates the rules of good neighbourliness.
this is the aim of Israeli propaganda: to portray the Hizbollah
as a terrorist group that violates the rules of the game. The facts,
however, are that the Hizbollah pretty much follows the rules of
good neighbourliness; it is Israel that breaches them. Since Israel's
withdrawal from South Lebanon, Hizbollah has been concentrating
on two kinds of actions: anti-aircraft fire, and a limited fighting
against Israel confined to the Shaba Farms. Let's see what it's
the Israeli withdrawal, Hizbollah has fired no missiles at Israeli
towns, though it undoubtedly possesses such weapons. The Israeli
boy killed this week was hit by an anti-aircraft bomb that failed
to detonate in mid-air and exploded on the ground. "Collateral
damage", if you like.
anti-aircraft fire has a clear target: Israeli fighter jets that
regularly enter Lebanon's airspace, flying over the entire country
from south to north as if it were theirs. The intrusion flights
started in October 2000, just five months after the Israeli withdrawal,
following Hizbollah's kidnap of three Israeli soldiers at the Shaba
Farms. Last November, based on Lebanese sources, Israeli journalist
Daniel Sobelman reported how up to seven Israeli jets at a time
were flying in the skies of Beirut, drawing smoke-pictures over
the Lebanese capital and repeatedly breaking the sound barrier in
what Lebanese citizens conceived as humiliating and enraging provocations.
Hizbollah leader Nasrallah said the anti-aircraft fire would cease
as soon as the Israeli flights stopped; Israeli army spokesman refused
to comment on its operations (Ha'aretz, 26.11.2002).
who is the aggressor here, who is the terrorist? Sending fighter
jets across the border is the most obvious violation of sovereignty.
No country on earth would tolerate that. Hizbollah's ineffective
flak is a totally legitimate and justified act of self-defence.
Israel's accusation that Hizbollah aims its anti-aircraft fire so
that the left-overs fall on Israeli towns -- even if true -- is chutzpah
incarnate: if you break into my house, don't complain that the wall
I shove you at is rough.
imagine Israel's reaction if a foreign jet had dared enter its airspace.
Actually, why imagine? When a Libyan airliner -- no fighter jet,
mind you -- entered the country's airspace by mistake in February
1973, the Israeli Air Force shot it down, killing 106 civilian passengers.
Israel claimed that it simply followed international law. Asked
whether it would do it again, PM Golda Meir replied: "without
other Hizbollah front is the Shaba Farms, a 14km-long and 2km-wide
strip along the Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian border. The Hizbollah claims
that it is occupied Lebanese soil. Israel denies this, and is supported
by the United Nations. Knockout victory for Israel, then? Not quite.
Even Israel concedes the area is occupied, but it claims to have
taken it from Syria, not from Lebanon, and that it should therefore
be negotiated with Syria. Great excuse to keep the fighting going,
isn't it. Syria, for its part, says it has given it to Lebanon.
Anyway, all parties agree that the area is indeed occupied by Israel.
Violent resistance to occupation is considered morally and legally
legitimate; it does not matter who carries it out. (Otherwise, the
liberation of the Netherlands in World War II should have been left
exclusively to Dutch forces, etc. -- obviously absurd.)
if we put aside Hizbollah's problematic position within the Lebanese
State, Israel's northern neighbour is in fact clearly playing by
the rules. It is Israel who is breaking the rules over and over
again, both by its occupation of the Shaba Farms and by violating
recent escalation was initiated by an assassination of a Hizbollah
leader in Beirut on August the 1st. Israel was the prime
suspect. As PM Sharon said when asked about assassinations (perfectly
reflecting his "integrity"): "Some of the things
we do we'll admit, other things we'll deny…" In this case,
Israel neither admitted nor denied. Typical terrorist conduct, by
the way, precisely like Al-Qaeda's: terror attacks without taking
fact, the signs were on the wall well before it started: A leading
critical Israeli expert for the labour market, Dr Linda Efroni,
predicted it more than a month ago. In a television interview regarding
the rising protest in Israel against welfare cuts, she warned that
if social unrest did not stop, the government might initiate an
escalation along the Northern border.
aimed at distracting from social unrest, or (more likely) from police
investigation into criminal offences by Sharon's closest allies
including his own son, or simply expressing the desire of the army,
frustrated by a certain restraint imposed on its actions in the
Occupied Territories in the past weeks, to open a new front in the
North -- we have not heard the last of this story. Though the recent
round seems to have been contained by international diplomacy (after
all, given the fiasco in Iraq, the US doesn't need another front
right now), it will be used to prepare the hearts for the next escalation,
till the time is ripe for an overall attack on Lebanon and Syria.
After all, Israel has never made secret of its refusal to tolerate
the so-called "terrorist Hizbollah threat" along its Northern
border, and that it would sooner or later have to "deal with
it". When official Israel says "deal", it means war
-- in this case, as I explained in an earlier column, war
HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel.
He has a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature
and is currently working on his PhD thesis. He teaches in the Tel-Aviv
University's Department of Comparative Literature. He also works
as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as
a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth.
Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter
from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
Case for Hizbollah?
the Hudna Scenes
Militarism At War
City of Terror
Cleansing: Some Common Reactions
Cleansing: Past, Present and Future
Elections. So What.
Behind Ha'aretz's Liberal Image
UN From Qana to Jenin
War For Terrorism
New World Order and the Stone Age
Jews Cam Support Israel
Enslavement Entering A New Phase
and Taking Possession
Times of War Crimes
-- A Suicide Bomber?
Alive and Killing
Now?! Well, Maybe Later
Horowitz Rewrites the Past
Say No to
a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War -- Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace