月曜日, 7月 31, 2006

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Blame, Blame, Blame

'Chutzpah' is one of the good and guttural words that the Yiddish language has bequeathed to English. A history teacher at my high school once explained the meaning of chutzpah, in contrast to the more pedestrian 'cheek', thus; cheek is when a little boy stands on your flower pot to piss through your letter box. Chutzpah is when he knocks on the door and asks how far it went. In justifying their attempt to set Lebanon back twenty years, Israeli spokespeople have displayed a level of chutzpah that would be admirable if it were not in the service of such savagery.

Those of you who have been following this dreadful business are probably still reeling from the news of around 60 civilian deaths in an Israeli attack on the village of Qana. More than half of the victims were children. Aware that we had watched the bodies incontrovertibly being pulled from the rubble, Israeli spokespeople were on hand with the same boilerplate response. The words of the Israeli Ambassador to the UN encapsulate the lachrymose brutality characteristic of Israeli "hasbara";

'Those people, including women and children, who were killed in this horrible tragic incident may have been killed by Israeli fire but they are the victims of the Hizbullah. They are the victims of terror. If there were no Hizbullah this would never have happened.'

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not record whether any of the audience objected that if Israel had not invaded and occupied Southern Lebanon for twenty years there would indeed be no Hizbullah. But no matter, when historical fact becomes part of the terrorist infrastructure, it must also be dispensed with. What is on display here is chutzpah of the most startling kind - not only must we condemn Hizbullah for killing Israeli civilians, we now must condemn Hizbullah when Israel kills Lebanese civilians. The argument is faulty in fact, logic and ethics.

First, IDF assurances are not worth the journalists they are leaked to. According to Mitch Prothero's article in Slate, Hizbullah figthers stay well away from civilian areas to avoid potential informants. That might be Prothero's impression alone - but one certainly cannot fire a rocket from inside a house. Yet YNet, (Yediot Aharanot's online news) reports a General Eshel as saying the targets were 'meticulously sifted' - including, then, the houses of the 30 odd children killed by Israel's precision bomb. Israel, then did not bomb the house by mistake and no Israeli spokesperson has said so.

A further reason to doubt the IDF reports is the cracking form that organization has in killing people and then covering it up. Ten years ago the unfortunate civilians of Qana, this time huddled in a UN Compound saw more than 100 of their number killed by Israeli artillery. At the time the IDF insisted they had accidentally hit the compound while aiming for Hizbullah rocketeers nearby - a version of events that the UN report into the incident gave extremely short shrift. Others amongst you will remember the more recent example of Huda Ghalia, whose family were blown to pieces by Israeli fire on a beach in Gaza in June. The IDF said that they had stopped shelling at the point when the family was killed and that the explosion was probably due to a buried Hamas mine. The Guardian and Human Rights Watch, based on the direction of the injuries and the timing of the hospital records, have demonstrated that this is the purest tosh. Now it seems the IDF are trying the same grotesque trick with Qana, suggesting that the dead families had been hiding Hizbullah explosives in their cellar. I leave to the reader the judgement of how base one must be to bomb civilians and then make unverifiable accusations that one's dead child victims cannot refute. Those who find the exercise too distasteful may recall instead the bombing of the UN observation post at Khiam that killed 4 UN personnel. Israeli spokespeople sputtered with outrage - not that they had killed 4 UN observers but at the suggestion this was no accident. Yet the attack lasted six hours during which time the UN post told the Israelis ten times to stop the bombing.

In a new front, best described as The War on Logic, Israeli spokespeople have justified their attacks by dropping leaflets telling the civilian population to flee. Where will they go? Israel is bombing the roads and the cities too. Since Hizbullah is composed of the residents of South Lebanon, Israel may well be right that the guerillas operate from areas in and around villages - although Mitch Prothero disagrees. We know that Hizbullah is bombing the civilians of Haifa - no Israeli, British or American would accept the argument that because Haifa is a major naval base and all Israeli Jews are conscripted into the IDF, the citizens of that town are fair game. Yet this is precisely what we are expected to take when the IDF tells us it has attacked 'logistical sites' full of Lebanese children. This is not just chutzpah. This is dreck.

Lebanon's Tragedy, Scotland's Shame

In more innocent times, the most famous American cargo to pass through Prestwick airport was Elvis Presley. The 'war on terror' has seen some more unwelcome stopovers in Ayrshire. I have already written in this weblog on the 'extraordinary renditions' whose gruesome itineray has included Prestwick. The latest front in the War on Terror, Israel's destruction of Lebanon, has given 'Scotland's fastest growing airport' a new role - conduit for Israel's weapons of mass destruction.

And how destructive these weapons are - described in the Glasgow Herald as 'the most horrendously powerful non-nuclear weapons on Earth.' Last week at least two cargo planes stopped at Prestwick carrying laser guided GBU-28 'bunker buster' bombs. A further two flights at least landed on Saturday the 30th of July. The bombs are part of the yearly largesse of weapons with which the US arms Israel - and with which Israel is now busting not just bunkers but houses, roads and UN observation posts.

As we have come to expect, the transfer of heavy weaponry to the project of 'setting Lebanon back twenty years' has provoked popular outrage and official inaction. The airport responded with obtuse minutiae, redolent of a driving instructor or PE teacher ;

'We are fully compliant with the rules and regulations laid down by government authorities, including the Department of Transport, and follow any directives we receive.

“The operation of flights which have been the subject of intense media attention recently is a matter between governments and discussions with regard to their operation takes place at a much higher level than us.'

Heaven forfend that the Dept. of Transport Rules and Regulations might be excluded. One expects this sort of thing from Ayrshire middle managers thrust into the mejia, but the 'higher levels' concerned have had resort to the same jargon laden pettiness in a matter of life and death. Margaret Beckett, in direct contradiction to the airport bosses, mustered;
' it appears that in so far as there are procedures for handling of that kind of cargo it does appear that they were not followed.'

There is only one defensible procedure for cargoes of weaponry to a state that has killed 700 civilians in the past fortnight - don't handle it at all. The planes that refuelled at Prestwick had been refused landing rights at Shannon airport in Ireland. The decision to aid the transfer of US weaponry to Israel is another act of British complicity in the slaughter in the Middle East, which Condoleeza Rice and George Bush have made clear is of a piece with US policy in the region. Bush and Blair may be prepared to fight to the last Israeli to weaken Iran but ordinary Scots are having none of it. Two vocal and well attended demonstrations have already been organised by Glasgow's Stop the War Coalition and they may have forced the diversion of the flights on Saturday night. More please - and more from the Scottish Executive. Transport is one of the Executive's powers. Is it not about bloody time they used it?

月曜日, 7月 17, 2006

Malevolent Neutrality

As Lebanon's apartments and airports collapsed in flames under Israeli missiles on Sunday, the G8 issued a ringing condemnation - of the Lebanese. According to the summitteers '[t]he immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilise the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy.' This is hypocritical tosh. The Palestinians have democratically expressed their aspirations by voting Hamas into government, and the Lebanese by giving Hizbullah 28 MPs, one of whom holds the cabinet post of minister of Labour. Israel seems intent on protecting its self image as 'the only democracy in the Middle East' by destroying the other democracies on its borders. The G8 summit is one more stain on the blotted scutcheon of the EU and US as they join Israel's blockade of the Palestinians for electing the wrong government. The Palestinian raid which captured Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit on the 25th June was followed by an intensified bloackade. On Wednesday the 12th of July Hizbullah,presumably seeking to show solidarity with the otherwise abandoned Palestinians, also attacked an Israeli patrol and captured two Israeli soldiers. If this is a war, as Ehud Olmert says and the presence of indiscriminate bombing and lying suggest, then Israel could have accepted Hamas and Hizbullah's offer of a prisoner exchange. Israel did not, responding instead with the destruction of Lebanon from ground,sea and air - an assault that has left 200 Lebanese and 24 Israelis dead. At the head of the phalanx is Amir Peretz, Israeli minister of defence. Peretz was Olmert's opponent from the left in the election this past spring and inspired the hopes of many for a new rationality in Israeli politics. The attacks on Gaza, and now Lebanon, place him as simply the latest Israeli Labour leader who flattens to deceive. The Great Powers responded to the pounding of Lebanon with the traditional display of even bloodyhandedness, calling upon Israel 'to exercise the utmost restraint.' Suitably chastened, Israeli forces proceeded to kill 34 Lebanese the following day. But the G8 are worse than irrelevant - they are complicit. President Bush - caught off record demanding that Syria 'stop this shit' - and Tony Blair have made a great fuss about Syria and Iran's support for Hizbullah. Yet every Israeli warplane that bombed a Lebanese bridge or destroyed a block of flats comes from the West.

On Wednesday the 12th of July Hizbullah launched their daring raid and in a subsequent skirmish killed eight Israeli soldiers. That night Israeli warplanes bombed much of Southern Lebanon and Beirut, including an attack on the airport. Around 35 Lebanese people were killed. The warplanes were F 16 fighter bombers. Since the United States is the only country that makes the F 16 the planes were certainly American, and probably part of the 52 aircraft sold to Israel in 2002. 'Sold' is to be taken in its broadest meaning here, since the planes were paid for with the $2.8 billion the US gave to Israel that year.

Taxpayers money was put to good use again on Friday the 14th, when Israel bombed further the infrastructure of the terrorist threat such as roads, bridges and petrol depots. 50 Lebanese were killed that day. On Saturday Israeli expanded its assault to Tripoli in the north of Lebanon where are there are few Shia and even fewer Hizbollah supporters. 18 Lebanese refugees were killed by Israeli missiles on the road to Tyre. In response to the attacks and the bombing of its headquarters Hizbullah fired rockets into Tiberias and against an Israeli warship blockading Beirut. The warship was almost certainly one of 7 vessels sold to Israel by the Federal Republic of Germany, again bought with American money.

Sunday saw 30 Lebanese killed by Israeli missiles, including a Canadian family. A subsequent Hizbullah rocket attack on Haifa killed 8 Israelis. Monday brought the Lebanese death toll, paid for by the even handed West, to over 200 people. Hundreds of people are now dead for the sake of two Israeli soldiers - so ghastly an imbalance that even Israel has changed its public aim of the operation to forcing the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah and control the Southern border. It is no surprise that Israel wants to disarm the only Arab force that has beaten it on the battlefield but the demand is both hypocritical and illogical. Hypocritical because Israel, unrecalcitrant subject of 30 UN Security Council Resolutions, is insisting upon the implementation of UNSC 1599 which calls for the disarmament of Lebanese militias. Illogical because Israel couldn't disarm Hizbullah, a force established only to resist the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon. As the past week had made clear, Israel controls Lebanon's southern border. Hizbullah and Hamas have launched rocket attacks against the military that continues to occupy their land (the Shebaa Farms between Syria and Lebanon and the siege imposed on all of Gaza). That military is the one that the Western powers should think about disarming - or at least stop arming.