Israel Invades Lebanon;
Ongoing Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Lebanese Civilians;
Hizbullah Rockets Wound 11 in Haifa
Israel invaded Lebanon on Monday, sending ground troops into the south. Israeli leaders say that they do not intend a long-term occupation. But then war is unpredictable.
[UPdate: The Israeli land force briefly went over into Lebanon but then withdrew.]
Israel’s government killed another 42 Lebanese civilians in aggressive airstrikes on targets mostly unrelated to Hizbullah on Monday.
Thousands of innocent Lebanese have been forced from their homes by the bombings, especially in the South, and have headed up to Beirut (which the Israelis are also indiscriminately bombing). Some 100,000 Lebanese have fled to Syria, though Israeli bombing of roads and bridges has not made it easy for them to get out. Although, because of widespread Western racism, very few over here care about these displaced persons, they face a desperate situation. Roads have been bombed out, and bridges are gone. Lebanese television reported on numerous villages bombed. Rescue teams attempting to take an injured woman to a better hospital with more supplies were blocked when they found the bridge destroyed.
If the reports coming out of Lebanon can be believed, the Israelis are only sometimes striking known Hizbullah safe houses or facilities or missile emplacements. A lot of their bombardment appears aimed at punishing civilian populations and forcing them north to Beirut. Such an approach would help explain the high number of civilian casualties. That is, there may be an element of ethnic cleansing in Israeli tactics.
The Irish Times reports:
‘ The civilian toll continued to mount in Lebanon yesterday as Israeli planes struck dozens of targets. Nine civilians, including two children, were killed when they were hit by a missile that struck a bridge in the southern port city of Sidon . In the southern city of Tyre , rescue workers pulled nine more bodies from the civil defence building that was hit on Sunday in an Israeli strike. Close to 200 civilians have been killed in Lebanon since the Israeli offensive began last week, when Hizbullah attacked an Israeli border patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two. Five more soldiers were killed when they gave chase into Lebanon .’
Hizbullah sent rockets on Israel again Monday, with four hitting Haifa, including a strike that collapsed a building and injured 11 persons. Since the outbreak of the fighting last Wednesday, 24 Israelis have been killed, 12 soldiers and 12 civilians.
The Guardian complains that the world leaders again did nothing on Monday to stop the massive Israeli assault on Lebanon.
I should explain to The Guardian about spheres of influence. Great Powers have them, and other Great Powers respect them if they do not want a war. That is why the US did nothing about the Soviets in Hungary 1956 or in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Soviet sphere of influence.
The Levant is now a joint US-Israeli sphere of Influence. Egypt and Jordan both have peace treaties with Israel and are non-NATO allies of the US. So they won’t do more than politely disagree that Israel’s wholesale destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure is useful. Turkey is part of the joint US-Israeli sphere of influence, with close military ties to both countries. Iraq is now working the American training wheels, in Bush’s parlance, and although it has not formally joined the full US-Israeli sphere of influence, it has no military to speak of and basically its legs are broken. The Gulf monarchies have more or less acquiesced in the situation as well.
Syria and Iran are the only two significant dissenters. Syria is weak and isolated, having been expelled from Lebanon and having lost its Soviet patron a decade and a half ago. Iran is distant from the scene and although it might give some rockets and training to a group like Hizbullah, it does not have a history of direct military intervention in other countries anyway. The Lebanese should not hold their breath expecting succor from either quarter.
The European Powers all ceded the Levant to the US-Israeli sphere of influence a long time ago. They will not get out ahead of the US. They mostly deeply dislike the Apartheid policies of Israel in the Occupied Territories, but they also deeply dislike and fear Hamas and Hizbullah, having their own large Muslim populations that they don’t want radicalized.
They probably realize, as David Clark wrote yesterday that Israel’s policies are antithetical to the interests of Western governments. But they decline to challenge the US-Israeli sphere of influence because they believe it would cause them even more trouble to do so.
So, basically, the Palestinians and the Lebanese are screwed. The Lebanese might not have been in such a vulnerable situation if they had not kicked out the Syrians, though the Syrians were there in 1982 the last time Israel invaded.
That is why there is terrorism in the Middle East. The Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories has been barbaric and intolerable. It produced Hamas. The Israeli occupation of South Lebanon was barbaric and intolerable. It produced Hizbullah. A wise Great Power can walk back such bad situations, as the US did in Europe and Japan after World War II. Unwise Powers get stuck with the Tar Baby.
But terrorism is a weapon of the weak and should not be over-estimated as a deterrent for Great Powers. Mostly they see it as a cost of doing business, and even where the Powers suffer from it, it has the advantage of rallying home populations behind militaristic policies.
At some point the Europeans may find a way to step in. The elements of an eventual resolution of the current Israeli war on Lebanon are becoming clear in international diplomacy. Italian PM Romano Prodi of Italy is already thinking about how to round up 10,000 UN peacekeepers to insert in the Lebanese south as a buffer between the Israeli army and Hizbullah. Russia agrees and is willing to participate.
Chirac and Blair are also on board with this plan, which will go to the UNSC from the G8 summit.
My advice: don’t send the blue helmets unless you authorize them to shoot back when attacked.
On the other hand, the Irish Times report above says that Israeli officials reject a UN deployment and insist instead that the Lebanese army must be stationed along the border.
It is probably the Olmert government’s hope that this posting will set the Lebanese army against Hizbullah, producing intra-Lebanese fighting that serves Israeli interests.
Israel, however, does not always get its way. We’ll see. Peacekeeping is a ways off. The Israelis will fight their war first.
PS: A reader writes:
‘ I hate to be picky and pedantic, but can anyone explain to me why, if one of Israel’s three conditions is for the Lebanese army to occupy southern Lebanon, it is attacking Lebanese military bases? Don’t bother answering–I know there is no rhyme or reason but couldn’t help pointing out the discrepancy. The MSM is too dumb to point out even simple things like this.’