In the last two weeks, Israel has sent a chilling message to the Palestinian and
Lebanese people: civilians and infrastructure are legitimate targets in their
war of aggression. The Geneva Conventions have been fragrantly violated and
humanitarian law has been thrown into the garbage can. The Israeli government
would have us believe that the killing of civilians is the �necessary
consequence� of holding one Israeli
prisoner in Gaza and two Israeli
prisoners in Lebanon.
On July 12, Israel killed 22 Palestinians in Gaza, including
nine civilians from one family. An
economic, political and physical siege has been placed on the Palestinian
people. In the past two weeks, the Israeli bombardment has killed 80
Palestinians, knocked out power and water for the majority of Gaza�s 1.3
million inhabitants, and pummeled Gaza�s infrastructure with thousands of
artillery shells. The international community has been silent on the sidelines,
while Israeli forces bombed Gaza back 20 years -- as it promises to do with
Lebanon. While the premeditated assault on Gaza continues, Israel still holds
nearly 10,000 abducted Palestinians, including many members of the Palestinian
This week, Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military target,
killing three soldiers. Four more soldiers died after an Israeli tank ran over
a mine in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah now holds two Israeli prisoners that were
caught in the attack. In response, Israel bombed civilian infrastructure and
Beirut�s Rafik Al-Hariri International Airport. July is Lebanon�s busiest
tourist month. Bombing all three runways of Beirut�s airport and its fuel tanks
is a direct attack on the economic welfare
of Lebanese society. Already, thousands have fled the country, but with the
intense bombing of the airport and the main highway leading out to Damascus,
fleeing for safety has become impossible. Reminiscent of the Lebanese civil war
and the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982, the Lebanese population has rushed to
supermarkets for food and supplies in fear of a further escalation of Israeli
The military onslaught against Lebanon has only intensified
and expanded. The Israeli strikes have devastated Lebanon�s infrastructure,
destroying most of the country�s bridges -- including bridges in the south that
connect villages to their main roads. The entrances and exits of many villages
in the south have been destroyed by Israeli forces -- leaving civilians as
prisoners in their villages. The widespread incursion has left most of the
country without electricity and operating telephone land lines. Many Lebanese
have cell phones and rely on them as a means of communication, but with cell
phone towers knocked down in most parts of the country, cell phones are
useless, further cutting off the population�s means to communicate. The
majority of inhabitants in Lebanon are without communication to the outside
By 3 a.m.
Eastern Time on July 14, my cousin in Beirut indicated that power had been down
for nearly an hour. Typing to me through instant messaging, (her electricity is
supplied through a generator) she explained that she �couldn�t sleep last night
because of the [Israeli] planes.� By the time I contacted her the next morning
she said, �It�s horrible. It�s almost comical now. I feel like I�m in a dream.
A bad dream.� The Israeli Air Force has been bombing the suburbs of Beirut
throughout the morning and afternoon of July 14. According to the Israeli
newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli Air Force has struck �a bridge
in the southern suburb of Beirut, and the fuel stores of the Jiyyeh power plant
south of the city early Friday, witnesses and security sources said.�
In addition, there are many foreign nationals stuck in the
south without a route out, while the expansive bombing is now putting all
foreign nationals throughout the country at risk. The Lebanese in the south
can�t flee north towards Beirut because the roads and bridges leading to Beirut
have been bombed by Israeli forces. During the civil war, many residents of the
south would flee north during intense periods of fighting to stay out of harm's
way -- but because of the intensity of Israel�s collective punishment and
killing, this measure has been impossible to pursue.
Israel continues to pound areas in and around Beirut, and is
further blasting densely populated Shia areas in the South and in the suburbs
of Beirut. The Israeli Air Forces has struck multiple army bases in Lebanon and
has bombed Al Manar, the Hezbollah run television station.
Since the start of the offensive, Israel has killed at least
130 Lebanese civilians, including 10 members of one family. It is yet unknown
what humanitarian implications this offensive will have. Without electricity in
the second hottest month of the year, it may have a serious effect on the
population. The most affected will be young children, the elderly, pregnant
women and those in need of medical care. Israel has warned that the military
blockade debilitating Lebanese society will continue. The operation is likely
to broaden, including more suburbs in Beirut and other heavily populated areas. Nearly 1.2 million people live in
Beirut, while another 2.1 million people live in surrounding areas.
Since the taking of the two Israeli prisoners, Israel and
America have pointed fingers at Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah. Yet,
it�s disingenuous to suggest that Syria and Iran are pulling the strings of
The actions of Syria and Iran are similar to American
financially supporting Israel -- both have interests in common, which justifies
the financial support. It is not surprising that Syria and Iran -- who are out
of favor with Israel and the West -- would be willing to fund movements that
are trying to free their countries from occupation or defend their countries
from Israel, the regional pariah state.
It should be noted that Israel has not attributed blame to
the Lebanese government for logistically helping Hezbollah, although, Israel
still holds the Lebanese government �responsible.� Israel has been quick to
take out its hostility on the Lebanese government -- which forced out a
militarily stationed Syria last year -- and the civilian population of the state.
The Lebanese government is calling for a cease-fire and has petitioned to the
United Nations to intervene.
Israel and America know that the Lebanese government doesn�t
have the power to disarm Hezbollah even if it wanted to, aside from the fact
that it would be unwilling to start a civil war to appease Israel and America.
Israel, mirroring the chilling standard it set in Gaza, is setting the same
precedent in Lebanon.
There is a stark
difference between the initial actions of Israel and the initial actions of
Hezbollah and the groups in Gaza -- Hezbollah and the groups in Gaza attacked
military targets. Ironically, groups that much of the West regards as
terrorists entities, applied more conventional standards of warfare in recent weeks
than Israel has.
Since the start of its incursion in Gaza, Israeli forces
abducted many members of the Palestinian government to put pressure on the
Palestinian government to release Israeli Corporal Shalit. This policy is not
new for Israel. Ali Abuminah, co-founder of ElectronicIntifada.net, pointed out
on Berkley radio that �Israel explicitly introduced the tactic of hostage
taking for the purpose of prisoners exchanges . . . in the early �90s.� Today,
Israel holds many Lebanese prisoners and occupies the Shebaa Farms.
Abuminah illustrates Israel�s hypocrisy in condemning
Hezbollah�s �disregard for the sovereignty of Israel.When did Israel ever
respect the sovereignty of any of its neighbors. Israel occupies southwest
Syria. There are 30,000 Israeli settlers living in southwest Syria cultivating
wine and enjoying the Golan Heights and claiming God gave it to them. Israel is
establishing new settlements everyday throughout the Occupied Territories.
Israel has been violating the airspace and territorial waters of Lebanon
continuously and consistently ever since it was forced to withdraw its forces
and its collaborator army, the South Lebanon army, in May 2000.�
A Christian Palestinian, who lived most of his life in
Beirut before moving to the US, explained, �They [Israel] do whatever they
want. They are so militarily
superior. It�s been like this since 1967. It�s depressing. Once
upon a time, when Russia was a big power, we could get some support, but now
Israel can do whatever it wants and nobody gives a damn.�
What Happens Next?
Those that stayed silent during the atrocities inflicted
upon Gaza have voiced a little more concern in the assault on Lebanon.
The European Union (EU) stated, �The
European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by
Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.�
The EU continued, �The presidency deplores
the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The
imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified.�
It is also not in the interest of the US
government or the international community to see the collapse of the Lebanese
government, as US President George Bush noted on July 13.
The international community can stomach the
slow ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, but they cannot stomach a
regional war in the Middle East. Furthermore, regional instability has led
crude oil to surge to 78 dollars a barrel -- many analysts see $100 a barrel in
the not so distant future if regional instability continues.
The outrage of US consumers may help Bush
rethink the blank check he has given Israel �to defend itself.� While
Condoleezza Rice urged Israel to �exercise restraint,� these hollow suggestions
haven�t hindered Israel�s use of brute force.
The US, pressed by the EU and the UN, must
force Israel to restrain itself and engage in negotiations to deescalate the
situation in Lebanon and Gaza. The destruction of Lebanon and Gaza will not
lead to the release of the Israeli prisoners. Much like the residents of Gaza,
the Shia dominated south of Lebanon, which has seen widespread humanitarian
support from Hezbollah, has become stronger willed over time.
Israel hoped its military incursions in Gaza
would break the back of Hamas, toppling the Hamas-led government in Palestine:
this has yet to be the case. Although the Palestinian population is suffering
immensely, it is not willing to concede to its occupier this time.
Unfortunately for Israeli forces, those in the Israeli north and possibly in
Haifa, the residents of the south are willing to fight off their oppressive
neighbor once again. It is up to the international community to let the
Lebanese population know how long they will have to fight for.
Remi Kanazi, a
Palestinian-American, lives in New York City. He is a freelance writer, and
the founder and primary writer for the political website, Poetic Injustice. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.