Date: Sunday, October 08 @ 07:53:01 UTC
By Stephen Gowans, gowans.blogspot.com
In 1928 a treaty was signed in Paris to renounce war among nations as an instrument of foreign policy. It was known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Sixty-two nations signed onto the pact, including the United States and France, the driving forces behind the treaty.
It's hard to say whether the pact was an exercise in gross naiveté or demagogic disingenuousness, but whatever the case, its destiny as an apparently well-intentioned though doomed attempt at peace-keeping became clear when the signatories added escape clauses that would free them from the inconvenience of actually having to live up to the treaty's terms.
The US exempted any action taken to maintain the Monroe Doctrine, the doctrine by which it justified its domination of Latin America.
France exempted wars of self-defense (a suitably ambiguous proviso offering maximal latitude for manoeuvre.)
And Britain agreed to the pact "upon the distinct understanding that it...not prejudice Britain's freedom of action" in safeguarding “certain regions of the world," i.e., its colonies.
"With these small exceptions," remarked the British communist R. Palme Dutt mordantly, "the imperialist signatories renounced war."
We might also note, equally wryly, that with small exceptions, Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon.
The exceptions are: Israeli troops in the village of Ghajar (Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2006), Israeli warplanes flying over Lebanese territory, and Israeli warships patrolling Lebanon's coast. (New York Times, October 1, 2006.)
In fact, Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon has the character of a person insisting he's following his diet to a tee, with the small exception of those times he's hungry or passes a bakery or delicatessen.
The Los Angeles Times (October 3, 2006) noted that the continued occupation of Ghajar prompted "the government in Beirut and Hezbollah militants to contend the Israeli withdrawal was incomplete," as if this were a matter of interpretation and a legitimate subject for contention.
It would be just as odd (and equally indicative of whose side one's on) to remark, "The Nazi invasion of Belgium led Belgian diplomats to contend the invasion was an act of aggression."
As for the occupation of parts of Lebanon outside of Ghajar, that's being left to the expanding Unifil force.
The New York Times' representation of the role of the UN force in southern Lebanon is emblematic of the line taken by the Western media.
The blue helmets are seen "as the best way to give Israel assurances that Lebanon's southern border would be policed by a robust international force to prevent Hezbollah militants from attacking." (New York Times, September 25, 2006.)
This reinforces the deception that Hezbollah started the war by "kidnapping" Israeli soldiers and lobbing missiles into Israel, as against the more nuanced view that Hezbollah fired rockets in reaction to an invasion by Israel and that the "kidnapping" was part of a series of minor border skirmishes on both sides.
"This far," remarked Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, "I have not heard any country participating in the Unifil say that it sent its sons and soldiers to defend Lebanon and the Lebanese." (New York Times, September 25, 2006.)
Hezbollah's war with Israel was widely understood to have been started by Hezbollah, and rooted in the organization's alleged hatred of Jews.
No more egregious an example of this thinking can be found than in the farrago of lies offered by Canada's Security Minister Stockwell Day to justify his characterization of Hezbollah as a band of Nazis.
"We've got this organization with one of the most vicious murderous groups in the world today, and they're stating clearly that annihilation of an entire nation, being Israel. And then you've got the stated intent also of Hezbollah to annihilate Jewish people, so the historic comparison (to the Nazis) is clear there." (Globe and Mail, August 28, 206.)
There is no stated intention of Hezbollah to carry out a genocide against the Jews. Day made it up, because it served the purpose of legitimizing Israel's breach of international peace and security and the UN Security Council's refusal to do anything about it until Israel had ample time to achieve the goals of its invasion.
The immediate cause of the Israeli-Hezbollah war was not an offensive action by Hezbollah (the capture of Israeli soldiers), and nor was it motivated by an evil psychology (hatred of Jews.) While the capture of Israeli soldiers was cited as the reason Israel launched its offensive into Lebanon, it was only one of a series of minor actions that had become common along the Israel-Lebanon border on both sides.
What's more, The San Francisco Chronicle (July 21, 2006) reported that plans for the invasion were finalized a year ago and shared with US journalists, diplomats and think tank ideologues.
The World Council of Churches came to the same conclusion.
"We came back from Lebanon," Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the Conference of European Churches told reporters in Geneva, "sharing the impression that this destruction was planned. And if the action by Hezbollah was the trigger, this was a planned operation ready to go." (The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2006.)
Once Israel launched its invasion, Hezbollah's firing rockets into Israel was self-defensive. This was duly noted by Nasrallah. "The rocketing of the settlements is a reaction, it is not an action. You attacked our cities and villages, and at any time you decide to stop your aggression, we will not hit any settlements or any Israeli city." (New York Times, August 3, 2006.)
In other words, Hezbollah did what any army (except, in this case, the Lebanese Army) would do in response to an invasion of its country.
Significantly, resistance to Israeli invasion and occupation is a founding rationale of Hezbollah, and, with Israel's continued occupation of the Shebaa Farms, one of the main reasons it continues to exist as a militant organization.
The Shebaa Farms, argues Israel, is part of the Golan Heights, and since it annexed the Golan Heights, it has a legitimate claim to all its parts. This is like saying, "I moved into your house and drove you out, and since your lawnmower was kept in your garage, it now legitimately belongs to me."
Sometimes called a state within a state, Hezbollah is, on the contrary, a state within a non-state.
It is a matter of some significance that the US-backed government of Fouad Siniora could not, or would not, lift a finger to defend Lebanon from a 34-day bombardment by a hostile foreign military, and instead stood on the sidelines, ineffectually bleating out protests. Only Hezbollah acted.
This goes a long way toward explaining why a poll conducted recently by the Beirut Centre for Research Information found that 70 percent of the population wants the Siniora government to step down over its (non-)handling of the war with Israel. (Guardian, October 4, 2006.)
Equally, it explains why hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, out of a population of about four million, attended a Hezbollah victory rally on September 21, where the mammoth crowd packed every corner of a 37-acre square in the southern suburbs of Beirut. (New York Times, September 22, 2006.)
To be clear, Hezbollah was not propelled into battle by an all consuming hatred of Jews, but by the need to defend its home territory against invasion by a hostile force in the absence of any effective defense from the central government.
If there's a parallel to be drawn with the Nazis, as the Canadian Security minister is inclined to do, it might be remembered that the Nazis weren't inflicting pinpricks with rudimentary weapons on attacking nations, but commanded an immense military well-stocked with the latest war machinery, used liberally to attack, invade and occupy surrounding countries. Think Israel.
As for kidnappings, consider Muhammad al-Hussein, a man whose name will never receive as much media-play as that of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the Israeli solider captured by Hamas militants.
A 32-year old farmer from the village of Qantara, Hussein and his brother were stopped by Israeli soldiers last month en route to a neighboring village to buy parts for a truck. They were handcuffed, blindfolded and driven to Israel, where they were interrogated for four days. (New York Times, September 1, 2006.)
Hussein's case isn't an anomaly.
According to Unifil, Israel detained 24 Lebanese civilians at gunpoint in just the first four weeks of the cease-fire (Guardian, September 14, 2006), a cease-fire, by the way, that Israel found difficult to comply with.
Unifil counted more than 100 Israeli cease-fire violations in the first four weeks, against a handful for Hezbollah. (Guardian, September, 14, 2006.)
"Every day across southern Lebanon...Israeli tanks crisscross the dry brown hills, shooting into the fields and smashing up houses and stone walls," noted a New York Times report (September 1, 2006) two weeks into the cease-fire. "Teams of Israeli soldiers have planted their nation's flag atop bluffs here and sometimes detained Lebanese men."
Hezbollah militants, who fought against the nearly two-decade long Israel occupation that ended (with the exception of Israel's continued presence in the Shebaa Farms) in 2000, are still rotting in Israeli jails.
The point of Hezbollah's capturing Israeli soldiers was to acquire a bargaining chip to sue for the release of "kidnapped" Lebanese.
I broach this, not to say, "The Israelis kidnap, too, therefore, Hezbollah's actions are justified." The capture of soldiers or militants on the either side is simply part of an ongoing war. In war, you fight with the weapons at your disposal, and those without an air force, warships and tanks have few options.
True, there is enormous hypocrisy on the Israeli side, expressed in the language it uses to justify its actions while condemning those of its opponents.
Israel doesn't kidnap militants, it "arrests" or "detains" them. This creates the impression of legality, and that Israel is simply carrying out a police action. Legitimate authority arrests "suspects" and "terrorists." Criminals kidnap.
But the war is not an equal one, or a fair one, or one authored by Hezbollah. And it is not a police action. It is, on the contrary, a lopsided war, initiated by Israel, with the backing, both material and diplomatic, of the United States.
Hezbollah has far fewer resources to defend Lebanon than Israel has to attack it. If Hezbollah captures Israeli soldiers, that's to be expected, and is well and good, within the parameters of war.
If this is intolerable to Israel, it need only release the war prisoners it continues to hold, and give back the territory it has taken by force.