August 11, 2006

Understanding the war in Lebanon

The impact on the Philippines of fresh fighting in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon where a full-scale war has erupted between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Hezbollah has mainly been felt through the ordeals of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in Lebanon and another round of steep increases in fuel prices. Of course, the horrors of war are brought home to us by photos of lifeless bodies of children and entire families being dug out of the rubble of their homes or places of refuge.

But the reasons for the new outbreak in fighting elude most. In fact, a cursory reading of the news gives one the impression that the Palestinian organization Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah started it all – they who are said to have sneakily gone across the border into neighboring Israel to kill and capture Israeli soldiers.

The history and the current issues surrounding the creation of a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab Muslim world, most especially the continuing displacement and inhumane work and living conditions imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, are hugely complex and complicated further by the overweening presence of the US, Israel’s principal backer, and the source of $4 B in yearly aid and the most sophisticated nuclear and non-nuclear weaponry.

These issues are inadequately ventilated, if not grossly oversimplified or distorted in mainstream Western media, the filter through which most of us get our piddling dose of the international news that is eventually picked up in the local mass media. Yet certain things stand out despite the inevitable fog of war, including the accompanying lop-sided propaganda war being waged, that a fair-minded and serious person can make out.

And that is, it is overwhelmingly the Lebanese people – civilians – who are getting killed by the hundreds and wounded by the thousands, with one third of the casualties being children. A million more or one fourth of the population, have been displaced and in real danger of being pulverized by the precision-guided bombs that the Israeli military has been indiscriminately raining down on them.

In contrast, Israeli casualties have been limited to a few scores and still mostly soldiers, as the Hezbollah have proven to be no pushovers despite their being largely outgunned, without an air or naval force, their military arm a mere guerilla force face to face with one of the most well-trained and deadly armed forces in the world.

Civilian infrastructure in Southern Lebanon has been massively destroyed like homes and whole villages, hospitals and schools, water and electrical facilities, public buildings and offices, industrial complexes, airports, roads and bridges. A humanitarian crisis of major proportions is already on hand with stricken areas isolated by the Israeli military’s deliberate destruction of roads and bridges, closing off escape routes for refugees (the Hezbollah have not turned tail and continue to fight) as well as passageways for humanitarian aid and relief workers.

And yet Israel refuses any ceasefire. It wants to destroy as much of Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah’s stronghold, as it can. It wants to reduce this area into a depopulated wasteland, euphemistically termed a “buffer zone”. Only after having done so will the Israeli government consider Israel safe from any future attacks by the Hezbollah. Only then will it agree to an UN-brokered ceasefire that will even mobilize an international force to help safeguard this “buffer zone” for them and keep the Lebanese out.

It is backed up in this strategy by the United States even as US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appears busy doing shuttle diplomacy to allegedly broker a ceasefire and gives press conferences with an appropriate somber face ruing the civilian casualties in the raging conflict.

The US has in fact vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel and has opposed calls for an immediate ceasefire. According to reports, the US is further intensifying its interventionist role by rushing the delivery to Israel of precision-guided bombs capable of massive destruction. The US strategic geopolitical interests in this oil-rich part of the world are once again revealed as it cynically utilizes Israel’s latest war of aggression in its drive to eliminate all opposition to US dominance in the region.

Both Israel and the US, with the help of Western media owned and controlled by pro-Israel US and Jewish interests, have persisted in obscuring the fact that the all-out military response of Israel over the earlier capture of a few of its soldiers is grossly disproportionate, unwarranted and unjustified. It is instead a mere pretext for massive air, naval and ground attacks against the civilian populations of Lebanon and Palestine, considered as “necessary collateral damage” in the overall scheme of driving out, if not annihilating, both Hezbollah and Hamas.

According to the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS),

“In accordance with international law, the three captured Israeli soldiers are prisoners of war (POWs). They are not victims of kidnapping or hostaging. The Israeli government is using them as pawns in its attempt to crush all popular resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. The Olmert government in Israel refuses to conduct any negotiations for the release of the captured soldiers or for the exchanges of POWs. (Israel is holding more than 9,000 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners.) Instead, the Zionists are engaging in collective punishment by ordering attacks on Lebanese and Palestinian civilian populations. At the beginning of the war, Israeli’s Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said, “Nothing is safe in [Lebanon], it’s as simple as that.”

Thus the ILPS minced no words in condemning “(t)hese unbridled acts of international terrorism emboldened and supported by US imperialism.”

Filipinos must strive to understand the real reasons behind the crises engulfing the Middle East region, a favorite destination of OFWs desperately trying to escape the poverty and economic dead-end back home, if we are to break free from always being victimized by forces seemingly beyond our control.

Business World
11-12 August 2006


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