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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 3rd, 2006 - 01:45:14

Israel has lost the war on every front
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 3, 2006, 01:43

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At this stage in the war with Hezbollah, Israel cannot achieve anything except further international condemnation together with visceral hatred from Arabs and Muslims everywhere.

There are few in the Arab world today who are in the mood for forgiveness and reconciliation after they have gazed in disbelief at tens of tiny corpses being unceremoniously thrown into mass graves, including a one-day-old baby whose parents didn�t even have time to give her a name.

During an emergency summit held in Rome, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was driven to ask delegates �Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?�

Israel�s Defense Minister Amir Peretz wants America�s blessing to continue hostilities for a further ten to fourteen days. He might have got it except for the Israeli bombing of Qana that took the lives of 60 civilians, including 37 children. He may still.

Qana had already entered the Lebanese lexicon as a euphemism for �massacre� following a devastating Israeli strike on that southern Lebanese village in 1996. The resulting carnage was thought to have triggered a close to Israel�s Operation Grapes of Wrath.

It is understandable, therefore, that incensed Lebanese demonstrators sought to trash the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, although such behavior cannot, of course, be condoned.

After all, their government had been begging that body for a cease-fire for weeks to no avail. This is because the US has staunchly refused any condemnation of Israel, leaving the world body open to criticism of being ineffectual, America of extreme pro-Israel bias and Britain of being led by the nose.

As messages of condolences and outrage flooded in from nations around the world on Sunday, Lebanese officials told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a scheduled visit to Beirut unless she came armed with an immediate unconditional cease-fire. The time for toothy smiles, kisses and crocodile tears is over.

The strongly (or perhaps formerly) pro-American Lebanese prime minister told CBS, �The Israelis are committing state-sponsored terrorism.�

In a total departure from the Bush party line, Siniora heaped praise on Hezbollah�s fighters and its leader Hassan Nasrallah �who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of Lebanon.�

It is in the Bush administration�s interests to see Hezbollah pummeled and rendered impotent. Rather than perceive the conflict in the context of feuding neighbors, the US has deliberately subsumed it into its �war on terror.�

To this end, Bush and his British sidekick have branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization that must be stamped out in order to birth �a new Middle East� � one in which feuding states live contentedly under the American/Israeli boot.

Now that Siniora has given Hezbollah legitimacy by publicly patting on the back, Bush will increasingly find this argument a hard sell. Although I should add Fox News viewers and their ilk have already bought into it hook, line and sinker.

A new �terrorist� foe was thought to be just what the doctor ordered for George W. Bush�s dwindling popularity rating. Bin Laden has disappeared into the ether. Saddam Hussein awaits the outcome of his kangaroo trial in an American jail. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was duly assassinated and his so-called successor spotted in an Egyptian prison where he�s been languishing for the past six years.

The new foe had to be destroyed and humiliated so that the policies of the self-acclaimed leader of the free world could be seen to be working.

Unfortunately for Bush, Hassan Nasrallah doesn�t exactly fit the bill. He�s too softly spoken for one, doesn�t engage in outlandish rhetoric or speak longingly of Islamic caliphates from Spain to goodness knows where. Instead, he represents over 40 percent of all Lebanese, so if he�s a terrorist they must be too. Moreover his people haven�t been producing snuff videos when corpses are divorced from their heads.

Those pesky Europeans haven�t been much help either. They�ve refused to add Hezbollah to their list of terrorist groups, and so has Russia.

Israel�s inability to crush what its spokesmen inevitably refer to as �Khizbollah� has further ruined Bush�s plan. The Israelis were meant to pull a quick, decisive victory out of their hat. After all, they have had years of experience fighting militant groups in occupied Palestine.

And, most importantly, they are the ones with the big American bombs, the deadly American F16s and Apache helicopters and the impervious American tanks.

Yet almost three weeks into the conflict, Hezbollah is still firing an average of 100 rockets into northern Israel each day and has driven a succession of elite Israeli units out of its southern strongholds. The resistance has further downed an Israeli drone and several helicopters, not to mention achieving a direct hit on an Israeli warship.

The result has opened a can of worms. Israelis commentators are turning on their military, accusing it of being ill prepared and ill trained. Defense officials fret over Israel�s diminished deterrent capability.

The Bush brigade is said to be disappointed at Israel�s military ineptitude and embarrassed by its attacks on civilians. The international community is up in arms over Israel�s brutality and America�s intransigent stance in the face of calls for an immediate cease-fire.

Syria, once considered an irrelevance or even �a low-hanging fruit� has re-established its importance in the region with all roads once again leading to Damascus.

The Palestinians have been reinvigorated by Hezbollah�s military successes and progress toward their state has adopted a renewed sense of urgency.

As for Hezbollah fighters, they have achieved an almost mythical quality throughout the Muslim world due to their stealth, stoicism, self-discipline and courage under fire.

Most importantly, Israel has unwittingly opened up a discussion that was verging on taboo in mainstream Western media. In yesterday�s Guardian, David Clark writes: �How can �terrorism� be condemned while war crimes go without rebuke?� How indeed! However, the outcome of this conflict isn�t ready to be written in stone. With its back against the wall there is a danger that Israel will embark on a scorched earth policy in southern Lebanon. Alternatively, Syria and Iran could get dragged in when Bush�s evangelical support base will merrily prepare themselves for �end times� rapture.

The most favorable outcome for Lebanon would be an unconditional cease-fire followed by a prisoner exchange, a return of Sheba Farms to Lebanon and a non-NATO international force with a UN mandate swiftly brought in to police a cordon sanitaire.

For Israel, there isn�t one. It arrogantly overplayed its hand and lost the game. Unless, of course, it equates winning with how many children�s coffins it can notch up in the shortest time.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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