Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Massacres and Invasion:
The Bloody Hands of the U.S. and Israel in Lebanon
As the war in Lebanon enters its fourth week, the horrific crimes of Israel and the U.S. are continuing without letup. Whole villages and towns in Southern Lebanon have been reduced to rubble. According to the Lebanese government over 900 people have been killed. The vast majority, about 90 percent of those killed, are civilians and it is estimated that one third are children. 3,000 have been wounded, and more than a million, a quarter of Lebanon’s population, displaced.
Israel is a TheocracyFor all its pretensions of being an outpost of modern democracy—Israel is a theocracy, an explicitly Jewish state justified on the basis that Jews are “god’s chosen people.” Obscurantist “Ultra-orthodox” forces have a major role in setting and enforcing laws and invoke literalist interpretations of religious texts to justify expanding the present borders of Israel.
Over 10,000 Israeli troops have mounted a ground invasion into Lebanon, and have indicated that they may occupy Lebanon up to the Litani River, 15 miles from the border that separates Israel from Lebanon. Israel’s Prime Minister talks of the war continuing for weeks. Civilians are being killed for remaining in their villages and they are being targeted as they try to flee. United Nations observers, Red Cross ambulances, and the Lebanese military and civilian infrastructure have been bombed and destroyed by Israeli missiles and shelling.
In the face of this, the U.S. is actively blocking efforts to bring about a ceasefire and speeding up arms shipments to Israel.
There is every reason to fear that what we are witnessing is part of a U.S. campaign to prepare for a broader and even more murderous war across the Middle East.
Massacre in Qana
At 1 o’clock a.m. on July 30, Israeli warplanes began an all-night assault on the village of Qana in Southern Lebanon. Israeli missiles and air strikes hit Qana about 80 times that night, destroying much of the village including a three-story house where 63 members of two extended families had sought shelter. The Red Cross reports that so far 28 bodies have been found, 16 of those were children or disabled people. They say the actual total number of possible dead may be higher.
The killings in Qana concentrate the criminal and terrorist nature of Israel’s war.
In a town of 12,000 inhabitants where most had fled previous Israeli assaults, these two families had been unable to leave. They were poor—most worked in tobacco or construction—and the families were big and many of their members weak, with a 95-year-old, two relatives in wheelchairs and dozens of children. A taxi north, costing around $1,000, was unaffordable.
Lebanese television reported the massacre almost immediately after it happened, and yet Israeli attacks continued through the night, preventing rescue workers from arriving for many hours. Many of the victims were not killed immediately by the bombings but died later of shock and suffocation.
The whole world watched as survivors and people from neighboring villages dug through the rubble and pulled out one dead body after another, holding the dead children up to demonstrate to the world the terror being delivered to Lebanon by the U.S.
Breaking Down the Lies
Israel blamed Hezbollah for the Qana massacre, supposedly for using the population as “human shields.” They claim that Hezbollah rockets had been fired from the area. However, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, none of the dozens of international journalists, rescue workers, and international observers who visited Qana on July 30 and 31 reported seeing any evidence of Hezbollah military presence in or around the home around the time it was hit.
Muhammed Mohmoud Shalhoub, a 61-year-old farmer who was in the basement of the house but survived the attack, denied that there were any Hezbollah fighters or military equipment present. “If they [the IDF] really saw the rocket launcher, where did it go? We showed Israel our dead, why don’t the Israelis show us the rocket launcher?” Mr. Shalhoub asked Human Rights Watch.
On August 1, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that “questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident. It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.”
Israel also argues that civilians “shouldn’t have been there,” since warplanes had dropped leaflets warning them to leave. Qana is nowhere near Israel, contradicting Israeli claims that they only seek to clear a border “security zone” for “self-protection.” More importantly, for weeks now Israel has used missiles, artillery, and machine guns to attack private cars, taxis, buses, trucks full of people, and moving vehicles in general, even at least one clearly marked ambulance, forcing those people who have the means to leave to choose between being moving targets or sitting ducks.
Deliberate Targeting of Civilians
A look at statements from Israeli political and military leaders in the days prior to the Qana massacre reveal that the massacre was part of a deliberate targeting of civilians in Southern Lebanon in order to pave the way for an Israeli ground assault.
After two weeks of bombing Southern Lebanon, Israeli forces moved in but met stiff resistance from Hezbollah fighters, and suffered relatively heavy losses.
Haim Ramon, the Israeli “Minister of Justice” said at a security cabinet meeting days before the attack on Qana, “Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah. Our great advantage vis-a-vis Hezbollah is our firepower, not in face-to-face combat.”
On August 3, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled, “Fatal Strikes, Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon.” The report looks at a selection of Israeli air and artillery attacks that killed 153 civilians in Lebanon. The report concluded, “The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes. (The full report is available from Human Rights Watch - hrw.org.)
Made in the U.S.A.
“America is responsible for this!”
— Villagers in Qana after the massacre (Salon.com, 7/31)
This massacre, as well as the entire war on Lebanon, is made in the U.S.A. The Israeli warplanes and bombs have been supplied by the U.S., and are being used to achieve political and military goals in the interest of U.S. imperialism.
Journalist Robert Fisk, writing for the UK Independent (31 July), says he examined the fragments of one of the missiles that wiped out most of two families. It was American-made, and on it was written, “For use on MK-84 Guided Bomb BSU 37 B.” The warplanes involved are also believed to be American.
In the hours after the Qana massacre, as pressure grew around the world for an immediate ceasefire, Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. After their meeting Olmert released a statement declaring, “We will not stop this battle, despite the difficult incidents [that’s what Israel calls the massacre of over 40 civilians, including children – Rev.] this morning. We will continue the activity, and if necessary it will be broadened without hesitation,” adding that Israel intended to continue bombing and strafing for an additional 10 to 14 days.
The New York Times quoted a “senior Israeli official” as saying, “Do you think that, with the close relationship he has with Bush and Condi, he would go and say something like that without their consent?”
Intensifying Conflict and Talk of a Ceasefire
As we go to press Israel is announcing that it will push to occupy a 15-mile deep area of Southern Lebanon south of the Litani River, and will call up thousands of additional reserves to add to the 10,000 already in Lebanon. Israeli forces are in fierce combat with Hezbollah fighters in the South.
Israel has also begun bombing areas near the Syrian border, which could draw Syria into the war as well. On August 4, an Israeli air strike killed at least 33 farmworkers who were loading trucks with fruit in a parking lot in the northeastern tip of the Bekaa Valley. Syria’s official news agency said 17 of the dead were Syrian workers, five of them women.
Israeli bombs continue to pound Southern villages as well as areas around the city of Tyre. And Israel has renewed its bombing of the Shiite area of Southern Beirut.
Israeli bombs also destroyed four bridges along the main north-south highway in the largely Christian region north of Beirut, far from areas of Hezbollah influence. With the road from Beirut to Damascus already cut at several points, this attack severed the only remaining road between Lebanon and Syria, completely isolating Lebanon from the outside world including supplies of fuel, food, and medicine at a time of severe crisis.
“Today’s destruction has given us a severe problem and it cuts off our only lifeline for humanitarian relief,” said World Food Program spokesman Robin Lodge to the New York Times. “This was almost the only open route we have to the outside world.”
Amidst all this destruction, Condoleezza Rice says that when she’s ready, that is, when it will serve the interests of the United States and Israel, she will allow a ceasefire, which the U.S. has blocked up until now. Both military and diplomatic activities work to serve overall political/strategic objectives. Hence U.S. diplomatic maneuvers serve as “cover” for the Israeli war machine, which continues fighting until its objectives are met. Then and only then will they consider ceasefire, which in turn can serve to further U.S./Israeli objectives under different conditions.
It is by no means certain that there will be a ceasefire. In fact there are indications that the war could escalate in dramatic and unpredictable ways.
We need to be clear that if there is a ceasefire with an “international force” of European soldiers it will only be to continue Israel’s work of taking over Lebanon. It amounts to violation of Lebanon’s right of self-determination and a forcible restructuring of Lebanese politics to U.S. imperialist and Israeli specifications.
Furthermore, consider the implications of what it means when the U.S. and Israel say they are going to destroy Hezbollah. Forty percent of Lebanon’s population is Shiite, at least 1.5 million people. This is the largest ethnic/religious group in Lebanon, and one that has been historically suppressed by imperialism and other forces within Lebanon. Hezbollah’s mass base is Shia. So there’s a genocidal implication to the U.S. and Israel saying they’re going to destroy Hezbollah as a political force.
Imperialist Problems and a Different Future
As the war grinds on, increasingly the U.S. and Israel are facing difficulties. The anger of the people is creating problems for pro-U.S. Arab regimes. The resistance of Hezbollah fighters is making it harder for Israel to occupy Lebanon than initially anticipated.
Just because the U.S. and Israel have tremendous wealth and military power does not mean they have everything under their control. On August 1, The Wall Street Journal fretted in an editorial that “Israel is Losing the War” arguing that the war is dragging on too long and that this only serves to strengthen Hezbollah and damage U.S. strategic interests in the region.
A recent article from A World to Win News Service said, “The problem is that all of the main actors on this stage, in terms of those playing speaking roles, are reactionaries and will not be able to represent the people’s interests to the end. Their politics reflect the fact that they are exploiters whose interests are necessarily narrow because they are rooted in clan, semi-feudal and imperialist-dependent capitalist relations. At the same time the potential power of the vast Middle Eastern masses who have not been allowed to speak has never been clearer. That is the contradiction that needs to be addressed if the great storm whose rising wind can be so readily felt is going to change things in the people’s favor.” (The Interests Behind Israel’s Attack on Lebanon, and the Interests of the People, 24 July 2006, posted at revcom.us)
The vicious U.S./Israeli attacks are uniting the country of Lebanon in unprecedented ways. Lebanon is known as a country with severe ethnic and religious divisions. From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon fought a civil war pitting various ethnic groups against each other with different regional powers backing different groups. But on July 31 religious leaders from the Maronite, Sunni, Shia, Greek Orthodox, and Druze community called for an immediate halt to Israel’s “war crimes against the Lebanese people.”
The day following the Qana massacre, thousands of Lebanese, religious and secular, men and women, angrily attacked the UN headquarters in Beirut. Major demonstrations against the U.S., Israel, and the UN also took place in Brussels, Paris, Cairo, Damascus, Tehran, several cities in Pakistan, Delhi and elsewhere, all to demand that Israel’s killing be halted. The previous week, London witnessed a protest march of several tens of thousands, and a protest blocked the avenue in front of the Israeli embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.
Every day the war drags on, the anger of people around the globe at Israel and the U.S. grows stronger, with a potential to puncture through the plans of the imperialists and reactionaries. People in the United States, the country most responsible for the crimes being carried out in Lebanon, have a special responsibility to oppose these crimes.
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