Anders Strindberg / Christian Science Monitor & Thalif Deen / InterPress Service – 2006-08-12 23:21:35
Hizbullah’s Attacks Stem From Israeli Incursions Into Lebanon
Anders Strindberg / Christian Science Monitor
(August 1, 2006) — As pundits and policymakers scramble to explain events in Lebanon, their conclusions are virtually unanimous: Hizbullah created this crisis. Israel is defending itself. The underlying problem is Arab extremism.
Sadly, this is pure analytical nonsense. Hizbullah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 was a direct result of Israel’s silent but unrelenting aggression against Lebanon, which in turn is part of a six-decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since its withdrawal of occupation forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has violated the United Nations-monitored “blue line” on an almost daily basis, according to UN reports. Hizbullah’s military doctrine, articulated in the early 1990s, states that it will fire Katyusha rockets into Israel only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians or Hizbullah’s leadership; this indeed has been the pattern.
In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon.
Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?
Hizbullah’s capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict, which in turn is fundamentally shaped by realities in the Palestinian territories. To the vexation of Israel and its allies, Hizbullah – easily the most popular political movement in the Middle East – unflinchingly stands with the Palestinians.
Since June 25, when Palestinian fighters captured one Israeli soldier and demanded a prisoner exchange, Israel has killed more than 140 Palestinians. Like the Lebanese situation, that flare-up was detached from its wider context and was said to be “manufactured” by the enemies of Israel; more nonsense proffered in order to distract from the apparently unthinkable reality that it is the manner in which Israel was created, and the ideological premises that have sustained it for almost 60 years, that are the core of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
Once the Arabs had rejected the UN’s right to give away their land and to force them to pay the price for European pogroms and the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 was made possible only by ethnic cleansing and annexation. This is historical fact and has been documented by Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris. Yet Israel continues to contend that it had nothing to do with the Palestinian exodus, and consequently has no moral duty to offer redress.
For six decades the Palestinian refugees have been refused their right to return home because they are of the wrong race. “Israel must remain a Jewish state,” is an almost sacral mantra across the Western political spectrum. It means, in practice, that Israel is accorded the right to be an ethnocracy at the expense of the refugees and their descendants, now close to 5 million.
Is it not understandable that Israel’s ethnic preoccupation profoundly offends not only Palestinians, but many of their Arab brethren? Yet rather than demanding that Israel acknowledge its foundational wrongs as a first step toward equality and coexistence, the Western world blithely insists that each and all must recognize Israel’s right to exist at the Palestinians’ expense.
Western discourse seems unable to accommodate a serious, as opposed to cosmetic concern for Palestinians’ rights and liberties: The Palestinians are the Indians who refuse to live on the reservation; the Negroes who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.
By what moral right does anyone tell them to be realistic and get over themselves? That it is too much of a hassle to right the wrongs committed against them? That the front of the bus must remain ethnically pure? \When they refuse to recognize their occupier and embrace their racial inferiority, when desperation and frustration causes them to turn to violence, and when neighbors and allies come to their aid — some for reasons of power politics, others out of idealism — we are astonished that they are all such fanatics and extremists.
The fundamental obstacle to understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that we have given up on asking what is right and wrong, instead asking what is “practical” and “realistic.” Yet reality is that Israel is a profoundly racist state, the existence of which is buttressed by a seemingly endless succession of punitive measures, assassinations, and wars against its victims and their allies.
A realistic understanding of the conflict, therefore, is one that recognizes that the crux is not in this or that incident or policy, but in Israel’s foundational and per- sistent refusal to recognize the humanity of its Palestinian victims. Neither Hizbullah nor Hamas are driven by a desire to “wipe out Jews,” as is so often claimed, but by a fundamental sense of injustice that they will not allow to be forgotten.
These groups will continue to enjoy popular legitimacy because they fulfill the need for someone — anyone — to stand up for Arab rights. Israel cannot destroy this need by bombing power grids or rocket ramps. If Israel, like its former political ally South Africa, has the capacity to come to terms with principles of democracy and human rights and accept egalitarian multiracial coexistence within a single state for Jews and Arabs, then the foundation for resentment and resistance will have been removed.
If Israel cannot bring itself to do so, then it will continue to be the vortex of regional violence.
Anders Strindberg, formerly a visiting professor at Damascus University, Syria, is a consultant on Middle East politics working with European government and law-enforcement agencies. He has also covered Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories as a journalist since the late 1990s, primarily for European publications.
Israel’s Military Invincibility Dented by Hezbollah
Thalif Deen / InterPress Service News
United Nations (August 8, 2006) — Israel’s phenomenal victories against collective Arab armies in 1967 and later against Egypt in 1973 firmly established the Jewish state’s legendary military superiority in the Middle East.
The 1967 war — called the Six Day War — was so swift it ended in less than a week, with Egypt losing 264 aircraft and 700 battle tanks; Jordan 22 aircraft and 125 tanks, and Syria 58 aircraft and 105 tanks.
The only equipment losses suffered by Israel in the 1967 war were 40 aircraft and 100 battle tanks, according to Dilip Hiro, a Middle East analyst based in London.
The war ended with Israel capturing East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, the Golan Heights and Sharm al-Shaikh — some of which are still under occupation despite U.N. Security Council resolutions seeking Israeli withdrawal.
But as the relentless military attacks against Hezbollah and Lebanon continue into the second month, the duration of the current conflict and the resistance by the Islamic militia have dented Israel’s reputation of military invincibility in the Middle East.
“Hezbollah has succeeded in preventing Israel from achieving any of its strategic objectives, and most of its tactical objectives as well,” says Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report.
“Arguably, Israel is fighting the war Hezbollah prepared for, rather than the war Israel intended to conduct,” Rabbani told IPS.
He believes that Israel’s strategy was to deliver a rapid and devastating military blow against Hezbollah.
“And it wanted to reinforce this by generating official and popular Lebanese pressure against the movement by devastating Lebanon’s infrastructure, creating a mass exodus from southern Lebanon, and making the civilian population pay, in life and limb, for Hezbollah’s actions and its support for the movement.”
One month later, Rabbani said, “the shock and awe in this campaign appears to have mainly been inflicted upon, rather than by, Israel.”
It is often said that in confrontations between conventional military forces and guerilla movements, “the latter win by not losing and the former lose by not winning”, Rabbani noted. This certainly appears to be the case here. Nadia Hijab, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, says in one sense, Hezbollah has already won, if anyone can be considered a winner when there has been such enormous death and destruction. “They have stood their ground against Israel longer than any combination of Arab armies in 1967 or 1973, and inflicted heavy casualties,” Hijab told IPS.
Their fighters are very well trained, disciplined, battle-hardened through fighting against Israel during its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, and well-armed.
A crop of newspaper headlines in the U.S. mainstream media spell out of the dramatic new development in the Middle East: “Israel Facing a Well-Trained and Supplied Army”; “A Disciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel with its Training, Tactics and Weapons”; “Hezbollah Unleashes Fiery Barrage”; “Among Militia’s Patient Loyalists, Confidence and Belief in Victory.”
A piece in Saturday’s New York Times not only singled out Hezbollah’s military prowess but also its charitable and social services which have helped the movement to win strong support from the average Lebanese.
“Hezbollah fighters move like shadows across the mountains of southern Lebanon; its workers in towns and villages, equally as ghostly, have settled deeply into people’s lives. They cover medical bills, offer health insurance, pay school fees and make seed money available for small businesses,” said the Times.
Still, even though Hezbollah is a recognised political party with two of its members in the Lebanese cabinet, the United States continues to treat it as “a terrorist organisation.”
Last week, the 25-member European Union (EU) rejected a request by Washington, and refused to include Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organisations. “Given the sensitive situation where we are, I don’t think this is something we will be acting on now,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country is the current president of the EU.
Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, says that Israel has finally conceded that air power alone will not defeat Hezbollah.
“Over the coming weeks, it will learn that ground power won’t work either. The problem is not that the Israelis have insufficient military might, but that they misunderstand the nature of the enemy,” he said in an op-ed piece last week.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Hezbollah is principally neither a political party nor an Islamist militia. It is a broad movement that evolved in reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, said Pape, author of “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”.
Hijab of the Institute for Palestine Studies said that Israel and the United States have made much of the fact that Hezbollah is supplied by Iran — but it is in fact Israel that had to receive rushed deliveries of additional bombs and fuel to supplement the three billion dollars plus it already gets each year from the United States, the bulk of it in outright military grants financed by U.S. taxpayers.
Most importantly, Hezbollah believes its cause is just, and a majority of people in Lebanon and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds agree, she said. Hezbollah’s immediate objectives were the release of Lebanese and other Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails, return of the occupied Shebaa Farms, and the release by Israel, as previously agreed, of maps showing the location of some 300,000 landmines (now doubtless many more) Israel had left behind in Lebanon, Hijab said.
“But the extent of Hezbollah’s preparedness underscores the extent to which they see Israel as an implacable enemy that is determined to extinguish the last flames of Arab nationalist resistance,” she said.
Though they may not have expected Israel’s massive response on this occasion, Hezbollah knew the fight would come one day, and they were ready, she added.
Rabbani of the Middle East Report pointed out that the Israeli government has in fact continually adjusted its objectives downwards — from the eradication of Hezbollah, to its disarmament, to the elimination of its missile capabilities, to the removal of its long-range missile capabilities, to pushing the movement north of the Litani river, to creating a free-fire zone south of the Litani pending the arrival of foreign forces.
If things continue as they are it is quite likely the latter will need to be revised as well, Rabbani predicted.
He also said that Hezbollah appears to have had good intelligence about Israel while Israel had weak intelligence about Hezbollah. For example, Hezbollah understood that the core of Israel’s military doctrine is to ensure that any military confrontation be transferred as rapidly as possible to enemy territory. “It therefore undertook measures to undermine this fundamental principle, both by heavily defending territory immediately inside Lebanon, and conducting persistent rocket attacks on Israeli territory.”
“It is often said that one of the Israeli military’s strongest features is its capacity to learn from its mistakes and to do so quickly enough to make a difference. This quality has not been much in evidence in the current war,” he added. (END/2006)
Anti-tank missiles called main threat. Guerrillas well-prepared: Army officials. Two Israeli tanks are seen ablaze in a field in south Lebanon early yesterday after they were attacked by Hezbollah as they advanced to a new position in the town of Marjayoun. Israeli army officials say they have been surprised at the might of Hezbollah guerrilla fighters.
Hezbollah’s Weaponry Surprises Israelis
Conal Urquhart / The Star
MEDULLA, Israel (August11, 2006) — Israeli forces have been astonished at the discovery of networks of bunkers and computerized weapons in Hezbollah positions, officials say.
Soldiers have discovered air-conditioned bunkers 40 metres below ground and anti-tank weapons that originate in France, the United States and Russia. Many of the tactics and weapons employed by Hezbollah have neutralized Israel’s military superiority and made a complete victory difficult to achieve.
Its use of rockets to attack Israel was not unexpected, but Israeli armed forces have been repeatedly surprised since they went on the offensive a month ago. The first major shock was when Hezbollah narrowly missed sinking an Israeli destroyer with a Chinese shore-to-sea missile. Four crew were killed in the attack.
“There were some weapons which we did not know about,” said Gen. Ido Nehushtan. “There were others, such as the unmanned aerial vehicles which we had detected before.”
The revelations have increased since Israeli ground forces invaded southern Lebanon.
“The main threat is the use of sophisticated anti-tank weapons against our armoured vehicles. One of the most effective is the Kornet, which was supplied by Russia to Iran and then to Hezbollah,” said Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz.
“We have been very surprised by the quantity of weapons and the incredible building that has been carried out in the last six years. We have found trench systems and 40-metre deep bunkers. We knew they were preparing for war, but we did not realize to what extent.”
Soldiers have discovered bunkers with air-conditioning, electricity generators and sophisticated listening and observation devices working in tandem with computers.
The bunkers meant that Hezbollah fighters could shelter from Israeli air and artillery bombardment and then surprise advancing Israeli forces. Often the bunkers were so well hidden that the fighters could wait until the soldiers had passed and then attack them from behind.
Israel has lost more than 80 soldiers in combat.
The Israeli army has historically relied on highly mobile armour and air support to dispatch its enemies. However, air power is less effective against guerrilla fighters who operate in small, dispersed groups.
Israeli armour has been neutralized by Hezbollah’s acquisition of state-of-the-art anti-tank weapons.
Hezbollah’s older anti-tank weapons have been effective against armoured personnel carriers and against buildings used by soldiers for shelters. Its newer weapons such as the Russian Kornet and the American TOW missiles have succeeded in piercing the armour of Israel’s main battle tank, the Merkava, reputed to be one of the best-defended tanks in the world.
As a result, some of Israel’s major advantages have been neutralized.
One member of a tank crew who had just left Lebanon said: “It’s terrible. You do not fight anti-tank teams with tanks. You use infantry supported by artillery and helicopters. Wide valleys without shelter are the wrong place to use tanks.”
In addition, Israel has restricted its use of helicopters, particularly the Apache gun ships. The helicopters have been used to hit coastal targets, but not in the inland valleys and hills for fear of Hezbollah anti-aircraft weapons.
“It’s clear that Iran has provided major financial and practical support to Hezbollah. Two-thirds of their weapons are made in Iran or supplied by Iran. Many come initially from Russia,” said Rafowicz.
However, he admitted that Hezbollah’s prowess also stems from its morale and organization.
“They are very keen to engage our forces. They are not wearing suicide bomb belts but they are not afraid to die, which makes deterrence very difficult,” he said.
Nehushtan said Israel believes it may have killed 500 Hezbollah fighters.
“We have to recognize that we will be dealing with new definitions of victory. There will be no white flags being raised on this battlefield,” he said.
Conal Urquhart is a freelance journalist based in the Middle East
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