[News] Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 26 12:34:46 EDT 2006


http://www.counterpunch.org/cook07262006.html

July 26, 2006


Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes




Primetime Lies from the American Media


By JONATHAN COOK

NAZARETH - This week I had the pleasure to appear on American radio, 
on the Laura Ingraham show, pitted against David Horowitz, a "Semite 
supremacist" who most recently made his name under the banner of 
Campus Watch, leading McCarthyite witch-hunts against American 
professors who have the impertinence to suggest that maybe, just 
maybe, Arabs have minds and feelings like the rest of us.

It was a revealing experience, at least for a British journalist 
rarely exposed to the depths of ignorance and prejudice in the United 
States on Middle East matters -- well, apart from the regular whackos 
who fill my email in-tray. But five minutes of listening to Horowitz 
speak, and the sympathy with which his arguments were greeted by 
Laura ("The Professors -- your book's a great read, David"), left me 
a lot more frightened about the world's future.

Horowitz's response to every question, every development in the 
Middle East, whether it concerns Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria or 
Iran, is the same: "They want to drive the Jews into the sea". It's 
as simple as that. Not even a superficial attempt at analysis; just 
the message that the Arab world is trying to finish off the genocide 
started by Europe. And if Laura is any yardstick, a lot of Americans 
buy that stuff.

Horowitz is keen to bang the square peg of the Lebanon story into the 
round hole of his claims that the "Jews" are facing an imminent 
genocide in the Middle East. And to help him, he and the massed ranks 
of US apologists for Israel -- regulars, I suspect, of shows like 
Laura's -- are promoting at least four myths regarding Hizbullah's 
current rockets strikes on Israel. Unless they are challenged at 
every turn, the danger is that they will win the ground war against 
common sense in the USThe first myth is that Israel was forced to 
pound Lebanon with its military hardware because Hizbullah began 
"raining down" rockets on the Galilee. Anyone with a short memory can 
probably recall that was not the first justification we were offered: 
that had to do with the two soldiers captured by Hizbullah on a 
border post on July 12.

But presumably Horowitz and his friends realized that 400 Lebanese 
dead and counting in little more than a week was hard to sell as a 
"proportionate" response. In any case Hizbullah kept telling the 
world how keen it was to return the soldiers in a prisoner 
swap.Hundreds of dead in Lebanon, at least 1,000 severely injured and 
more than half a million refugees -- all because Israel is not ready 
to sit down at the negotiating table. Even Horowitz could not 
"advocate for Israel" on that one.

So the chronology of war has been reorganized: now we are being told 
that Israel was forced to attack Lebanon to defend itself from the 
barrage of Hizbullah rockets falling on Israeli civilians. The 
international community is buying the argument hook, line and sinker. 
"Israel has the right to defend itself", says every politician who 
can find a microphone to talk into.But, if we cast our minds back, 
that is not how the "Middle East crisis", as TV channels now describe 
it, started. It is worth recapping on those early events (and I won't 
document the long history of Lebanese suffering at Israel's hands 
that preceded it) before they become entirely shrouded in the 
mythology being peddled by Horowitz and others.

Early on July 12 Hizbullah launched a raid against an army border 
post, in what was in the best interpretation a foolhardy violation of 
Israeli sovereignty. In the fighting the Shiite militia killed three 
soldiers and captured two others, while Hizbullah fired a few mortars 
at border areas in what the Israeli army described at the time as 
"diversionary tactics". As a result of the shelling, five Israelis 
were "lightly injured", with most needing treatment for shock, 
according to the Haaretz newspaper.

Israel's immediate response was to send a tank into Lebanon in 
pursuit of the Hizbullah fighters (its own foolhardy violation of 
Lebanese sovereignty). The tank ran over a landmine, which exploded 
killing four soldiers inside. Another soldier died in further clashes 
inside Lebanon as his unit tried to retrieve the bodies.Rather than 
open diplomatic channels to calm the violence down and start the 
process of getting its soldiers back, Israel launched bombing raids 
deep into Lebanese territory the same day. Given Israel's world view 
that it alone has a right to project power and fear, that might have 
been expected.

But the next day Israel continued its rampage across the south and 
into Beirut, where the airport, roads, bridges, and power stations 
were pummelled. We now know from reports in the US media that the 
Israeli army had been planning such a strike against Lebanon for at 
least a year.

In contrast to the image of Hizbullah frothing at the mouth to 
destroy Israel, its leader Hassan Nasrallah held off from serious 
retaliation. For the first day and a half, he limited his strikes to 
the northern borders areas, which have faced Hizbullah attacks in the 
past and are well protected.

He waited till late on June 13 before turning his guns on Haifa, even 
though we now know he could have targeted Israel's third largest city 
from the outset. A small volley of rockets directed at Haifa caused 
no injuries and looked more like a warning than an escalation.

It was another three days -- days of constant Israeli bombardmeent of 
Lebanon, destroying the country and injuring countless civilians -- 
before Nasrallah hit Haifa again, including a shell that killed eight 
workers in a railway depot.

No one should have been surprised. Nasrallah was doing exactly what 
he had threatened to do if Israel refused to negotiate and chose the 
path of war instead. Although the international media quoted his 
ominous televised message that "Haifa is just the beginning", 
Nasrallah in fact made his threat conditional on Israel's continuing 
strikes against Lebanon. In the same speech he warned: "As long as 
the enemy pursues its aggression without limits and red lines, we 
will pursue the confrontation without limits and red lines." Well, 
Israel did, and so now has Nasrallah.The second myth is that 
Hizbullah's stockpile of 12,000 rockets -- the Israeli army's 
estimate -- poses an existential threat to Israel. According to 
Horowitz and others, Hizbullah collected its armoury with the sole 
intent of destroying the Jewish state.

If this really was Hizbullah's intention in amassing the weapons, it 
has a very deluded view of what is required to wipe Israel off the 
map. More likely, it collected the armory in the hope that it might 
prove a deterrence -- even if a very inadequate one, as Lebanon is 
now discovering -- against a repeat of Israel's invasions of 1978 and 
1982, and the occupation that lasted nearly two decades afterwards.

In fact, according to other figures supplied by the Israeli army, at 
least 2,000 Hizbullah rockets have already been fired into Israel 
while the army's bombardments have so far destroyed a further 2,000 
rockets. In other words, northern Israel has already received a fifth 
of Hizbullah's arsenal. As someone living in the north, and within 
range of the rockets, I have to say Israel does not look close to 
being expunged. The Galilee may be emptier, as up to third of Israeli 
Jews seek temporary refuge in the south, but Israel's existence is in 
no doubt at all.

The third myth is that, while Israel is trying to fight a clean war 
by targeting only terrorists, Hizbullah prefers to bring death and 
destruction on innocents by firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

It is amazing that this myth even needs exploding, but after the 
efforts of Horowitz and co it most certainly does. As the civilian 
death toll in Lebanon has rocketed, international criticism of Israel 
has remained at the mealy-mouthed level of diplomatic requests for 
"restraint" and "proportionate responses".One need only cast a quick 
eye over the casualty figures from this conflict to see that if 
Israel is targeting only Hizbullah fighters it has been making 
disastrous miscalculations. So far some 400 Lebanese civilians are 
reported dead -- unfortunately for Horowitz's story at least a third 
of them children. From the images coming out of Lebanon's hospitals, 
many more children have survived but with terrible burns or disabling injuries.

The best estimates, though no one knows for sure, are that Hizbullah 
deaths are not yet close to the three-figures range.

In the latest emerging news from Lebanon, human rights groups are 
accusing Israel of violating international law and using cluster 
grenades, which kill indiscriminately. There are reports too, so far 
unconfirmed, that Israel has been firing illegal phosphorus incendiary bombs.

Conversely, the breakdown of the smaller number of deaths of Israelis 
at the hands of Hizbullah -- 42 at the time of writing -- show that 
more soldiers have been killed than civilians.

In fact, although no one is making the point, Hizbullah's rockets 
have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern 
economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military 
sites across the Galilee.

Nasrallah seems fully aware that Israel has an impressive civil 
defense program of shelters that keep most civilians out of harm's 
way. Unlike Horowitz I won't presume to read Nasrallah's mind: 
whether he wants to kill large numbers of Israeli civilians or not 
cannot be known, given his inability to do so.

But we can see from the choice of the sites he is striking that his 
primary goal is to give Israelis a small taste of the disruption of 
normal life that is being endured by the Lebanese. He has effectively 
closed Haifa for more than a week, shutting its port and financial 
centres. Israeli TV is speaking increasingly of the damage being 
inflicted on the country's economy.Because of Israel's press 
censorship laws, it is impossible to discuss the locations of 
Israel's military installations. But Hizbullah's rockets are accurate 
enough to show that many are intended for the army's sites in the 
Galilee, even if they are rarely precise enough to hit them.

It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets 
landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are 
searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons 
factory sited near us.

Hizbullah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage 
of civilian deaths as Israel -- each wants the balance of terror in 
its favour -- but it is nonsense to suggest that Hizbullah's goals 
are any more ignoble than Israel's. It is trying to dent the economy 
of northern Israel in retaliation for Israel's total destruction of 
the Lebanese economy. Equally, it is trying to show Israel that it 
knows where its military installations are to be found. Both 
strategies appear to be having an impact, even if a minor one, on 
weakening Israeli resolve.

The fourth myth is a continuation of the third: Hizbullah has been 
endangering the lives of ordinary Lebanese by hiding among non-combatants.

We have seen this kind of dissembling by Israel and Horowitz before, 
though not repeated so enthusiastically by Western officials. The UN 
head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, who is in the region, 
accused Hizbullah of "cowardly blending" among the civilian 
population, and a similar accusation was leveled by the British 
foreign minister Kim Howells when he arrived in Israel.

In 2002 Israel made the same charge: that Palestinians resisting its 
army's rampage through the refugee camps of the West Bank were hiding 
among civilians. The claim grew louder as more Palestinian civilians 
showed the irritating habit of getting in the way of Israeli strikes 
against population centres. The complaints reached a crescendo when 
at least two dozen civilians were killed in Jenin as Israel razed the 
camp with Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers.

The implication of Egeland's cowardly statement seems to be that any 
Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its 
powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to 
the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an Apache 
helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hizbullah's reluctance to conduct the 
war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof that they are 
terrorists.

Egeland and Howells need reminding that Hizbullah's fighters are not 
aliens recently arrived from training camps in Iran, whatever 
Horowitz claims. They belong to and are strongly supported by the 
Shiite community, nearly half the country's population, and many 
other Lebanese. They have families, friends and neighbors living 
alongside them in the country's south and the neighbourhoods of 
Beirut who believe Hizbullah is the best hope of defending their 
country from Israel's regular onslaughts.

Given the indigenous nature of Hizbullah's resistance, we should not 
be surprised at the lengths the Shiite militia is going to ensure 
their loved ones, and the Lebanese people more generally, are not put 
directly in danger by their combat.

If only the same could be said of the Israeli army and airforce. One 
need only look at the images of the victims of its strikes against 
residential neighborhoods, car, ambulances and factories to see why 
most of the dead being extracted from the rubble are civilians.And 
finally, there is a fifth myth I almost forgot to mention. That 
people like David Horowitz only want to tell us the truth.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. 
His book "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and 
Democatic State" is published by Pluto Press. His website is 
<http://www.jkcook.net/>www.jkcook.net


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