Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Progressive Press
 Barnes and Noble
 Join Mailing List

Analysis Last Updated: Sep 5th, 2006 - 01:01:24

This summer's failed peace initiative
By Anthony Newkirk
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 5, 2006, 00:48

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

" . . . an immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense . . ." --U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [1]

"We are fighting the war of the free world against terror and we expect the international community to support this struggle." --Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz [2]

"No one is safe in Lebanon now." --Lebanese expatriate born in Jubail (north of Beirut) [3]

The State of Israel is in the midst of what the Israeli press is calling a "two-front war" that began in Lebanon on July 12 and, less noticeably to Western eyes, in Gaza two weeks earlier. This war is not over in either country, even though the UN Security Council unanimously voted for a kind of cease-fire in Lebanon on August 12 and talks continue among Palestinian factions in Gaza.

A month earlier, en route to the G8 summit in Russia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and president George W. Bush stated the U.S: position. Dr. Rice told reporters that "Israel, of course, has the right to defend itself" in response to the "abduction" of the soldiers. She added that "our Israeli colleagues" were nevertheless showing "restraint." The president made the novel observation that taking enemy soldiers prisoner in combat is an act of terrorism. [4]

The Context: Gaza

Did the president consider Israeli "restraint" in Gaza? The official line about the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) Operation Summer Rains in Gaza is that it has something to do with the "kidnapping" of Corporal Gilad Shalit and the composition of the Palestinian National Authority. Someone might think that sovereign states should deal with such matters on their own. Someone else might question the deep concern for Palestinian democracy expressed in Western capitals, given their excellent relations with regimes that make Hamas look downright utopian.

But in the neoconservative universe these notions are childish. At the G8, Dr. Rice noted that PNA President Mahmoud Abbas ''was engaging with elements of the elected government'' -- i.e. Hamas -- in order to "try and move" it to support the "road map" backed by the Quartet. [5] One might take this to mean that the PNA should not complain about the lopsided features of the Oslo Accords or the economic warfare declared on it after Hamas' electoral victory in January -- but that surely would be the wrong conclusion to draw.

Is it? The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that from January to mid-June, the IDF fired 8,380 artillery shells into the tiny Gaza Strip, while Palestinian factions fired 896 homemade rockets into Israel from Gaza -- and this was before the IDF "entered" Gaza in force on June 28. Over the next two days, IAF warplanes crippled Gaza's only power plant, flew over a residence of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hundreds of kilometers away in Syria, and ground forces resumed shelling. According to the UN, the results by early August were 184 dead (including 42 children), $15.5 million in damage; over 3,000 refugees, over two-thirds of the population dependant on food aid, and 25 Israelis injured. [6]

European and Palestinian doctors speak of treating wounds perhaps caused by illegal cluster bombs. Israeli authorities duly report the arrests of Hamas legislators and attacks on government ministries by the IDF. While the outcome of peacekeeping in Gaza is uncertain at present, President Abbas claims that negotiations are underway between the PNA and Gaza's "armed groups" about avoiding any actions that the IDF might misinterpret. [7]

U.S. policy-makers have few illusions about Gaza. UN Ambassador John R. Bolton explained on July 13 why he vetoed a watered-down draft resolution critical of Israel's "disproportionate use of force" in Gaza. He explained that the "unacceptable" and "unbalanced" draft sponsored by Qatar demanded too much of Israel and "would also have undermined the credibility of the Security Council, which itself must be seen by both sides as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict." Moreover, Bolton hastened to add, events in Lebanon made the draft superfluous. [8]

I will stick to the facts, then. An overview of the facts, as reported in the British, Israeli, and Lebanese press since January shows that Hamas is not Jerusalem's only concern in the Occupied Territories:

  1. January: Within a week, IDF forces killed a 13-year-old boy on a road near Ramallah on the West Bank reserved for Jewish settlers and a 9-year-old girl in Gaza, apparently because she neared a restricted area.

  2. February: Five men died in a gun battle with the IDF in a refugee camp near Nablus on the West Bank. Three belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to the ruling Fatah Party. Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon's Deputy Prime Minister and successor, said: "We will keep the Jordan Valley. It is not possible to relinquish control of Israel's eastern border."

  3. March: Israeli forces seized Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and five others from a jail in Jericho. Saadat's U.S. and British monitors left shortly before the raid. [9]

  4. April: Inquests in London found that IDF soldiers deliberately killed two British citizens in the Gaza Strip in 2003. Meanwhile, the IDF shelled Gaza City and Olmert called the PNA a "terrorist authority."

  5. May: Jerusalem cancelled plans to send Brigadier General Aviv Kohavi, a commander on the Gaza border, to a training course at Sandhurst lest British authorities arrest him on war-crimes charges. A few days later, IDF troops killed seven Palestinians on the West Bank, including an Islamic Jihad leader. Militants affiliated with Fatah then fired rockets into Israel from Gaza, and an Inraeli aircraft attacked a car carrying Islamic Jihad militants (all survived).

  6. June: Israeli gunboats retaliated for rockets fired into Israel by killing at least seven and wounding 40 people on a Gaza beach. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the time for "restraint" was over. On June 22, IDF commandoes captured two Hamas activists in Gaza. Three days later, Palestinian militants captured Corporal Shalit. Except for the last, these incidents received little attention in the United States.

  7. July: An IDF missile killed a mother and two of her children in Gaza City.

  8. August: Saudi daily Arab Times reported the destruction of a house in a Gaza refugee camp and one in Gaza City owned by a member of PNA security forces. Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that an Israeli Air Force strike on a house in Khan Yunis killed two members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and wounded at least four neighbors. [10]

A year has passed since Olmert's predecessor Ariel Sharon withdrew Jewish settlers from Gaza. Meanwhile, the expansion of settlements -- essentially real estate schemes backed by a mix of racist legislation, military-spending programs, state subsidies, and financial irregularities -- moves ahead on the West Bank.

The Context: Lebanon

After meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Beirut on August 5, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Easter Affairs C. David Welch affirmed that president Bush and Dr. Rice "are determined to support Lebanon."

Welch continued: "There are strains to the social fabric of this country. Those who left their homes to escape the violence must be able to return to their towns and villages just as soon as possible. With the beginning of the school year approaching, the children of Lebanon must be able to start school again, with their classmates in their homes. And Lebanon -- which has always been such an important gateway to the Middle East -- must be reconnected to the outside world so that it has access to food, fuel, medicine and supplies and so that there are safe routes for those who need to travel out and those who need to come in." [11]

Do these unbelievable words mean that the Bush administration underestimated Jerusalem's "restraint" in Lebanon? I doubt it; both Israeli and Lebanese sources estimate that, by early August, over a thousand people have been killed in Operation Change of Direction, including conflicting numbers of Hezbollah fighters, two UN civilian workers, 19 other foreign civilians, and four UNIFIL peacekeepers (UNIFIL was established after an Israeli "incursion" four years before the Lebanon War). Over 10,000 tons of oil spilled into the Mediterranean during IAF air strikes on a power plant near Beirut -- three times bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster, according to Ha'aretz. The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated there were nearly one million refugees. Even though over 10,000 Israeli troops crossed the Blue Line, the border monitored by UNIFIL, waves of Katyusha rockets continued to land in northern Israel throughout the campaign. [12]

On July 30, IAF planes bombed an apartment building in Qana. Over 50 refugees, half of whom were children, perished. It is ironic that the IDF killed over 100 people hiding in a UN bunker in Qana during a peacekeeping operation in 1996. Human Rights Watch alleges that people are victims of cluster munitions dropped all over Lebanon in the form of artillery shells or anti-personnel rockets equipped with "bomblets." Jerusalem has formally asked the Bush administration to expedite cluster bomb shipments (U.S. authorities are also speeding the delivery of GBU-28 bunker buster bombs made by the Raytheon Company). Doctors report treating patients with mysterious and loathsome wounds; some patients do not have serious burns but say they feel as if they are on fire. [13]

On August 13, Olmert approved Security Council Resolution 1701 mandating a cease-fire. By then, Israeli sources claimed, Israeli dead totaled 114 soldiers and 43 civilians. To put it mildly, Operation Change of Direction will have many "residual" effects, such as those arising from the Israeli Navy's blockade which is still in force -- by the way, unmentioned in Resolution 1701. [14]

In The Guardian (Aug. 8), British journalist George Monbiot reported that Israel violated the Blue Line hundreds of times after IDF ground troops left Lebanon in May 2000. He also tells us that Hezbollah "kidnapped" Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in July in order to trade them for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel in violation of the Geneva Convention. [15] Here is a random list of incidents reported in Israeli and Lebanese newspapers over the past year:

  1. August: Despite repeated warnings by the UN, several IAF planes violated Lebanese airspace and flew north to Sidon (40 km. south of Beirut).

  2. November: The IDF fired 80 rockets into Lebanon. An IDF-Hezbollah firefight ensued in the disputed Shebaa Farms area near the Golan Heights.

  3. December: Nine IAF planes flew over Lebanon's northern coastline. The Lebanese military reported that PFLP-General Command anti-aircraft gunners opened fire when they flew over Beirut. Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh -- incidentally, aligned with Hizbollah -- filed a complaint with the UN, the second in just over a month. Several days later, rockets fired from Lebanon landed in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel (no casualties).

  4. February: A UNIFIL investigation confirmed that an IDF patrol killed a teenaged shepherd who was some 650 meters inside Lebanese territory. IDF sources claimed that he had crossed into Israel.

  5. April: A Lebanese human rights group asked the UN, the EU, and non-governmental organizations to defend the rights of the some 9,500 Lebanese, Palestinian, and other Arab prisoners held n Israel. Seventeen soldiers in the IDF's elite Golani Brigade temporarily abandoned their post on the Blue Line after receiving disciplinary warnings.

  6. May: UNIFIL protested that six IAF planes flew over South Lebanon and drew anti-aircraft fire. Later in the month, the Palestinian militia Fatah-Intifada clashed with Lebanese troops on the Syrian border. IAF warplanes attacked PFLP and PFLP-GC bases near Beirut in response to rockets fired at Israel, which wounded one IDF soldier. Clashes between Hezbollah and IDF troops followed. Lebanon complained to the UN. [16]

While the most famous example of ''targeted'' violence in Lebanon is the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people in February 2005, the most destructive example was the CIA-planted car bomb that killed 80 people on a busy Beirut street in 1985 (the intended target, Hezbollah's spiritual leader Sayyid Fadlallah, was unharmed). Many Lebanese have accused the Mossad of also having a hand in like deeds.

On June 11, the Lebanese Army made a shocking announcement: In 1990, the Mossad organized a "terror network" to assassinate Shiite and Palestinian leaders in Lebanon. A former police officer who was a colonel in the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army during the civil war had admitted to participating in a string of bombings, including the one that killed two Islamic Jihad leaders in Sidon in May. [17]

In mid-June, Foreign Minister Salloukh submitted a complaint to the UN Security Council about this "act of aggression." A full month later -- nearly a week after Operation Change of Direction started -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that "any follow up would be up to Council members." Has the Security Council held hearings on Salloukh's protest? Have the American news media covered any aspect of the Mossad story? (The allegations are certainly sensational and, thus, newsworthy.) What makes these allegations more newsworthy is that Lebanese authorities claimed they uncovered a plot to kill Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah. They made this claim four months ago. [18]

Congressman David Dreier (R-Calif.) did not seem to be concerned when he visited Beirut as chairman of the House Democracy Assistance Commission nine days before the IDF began its peace initiative. Ignoring reporters' questions about the Mossad case, Dreier stressed that his committee "focuses on democracy in [nations] we are seeking to build relations with." He later said, "We're not in the midst of determining what should happen in Lebanon." [19]

The world is witnessing a merciless atrocity carried out by a U.S. proxy to further U.S. interests. If only through a conspiracy of silence, most corridors of power in the West are complicit in this atrocity. It aims to keep ordinary Israelis in a state of fear and to buy consent from an indifferent U.S. public for a new cold war against the Third World (the latest catch-phrase is "the Muslim Threat"). But the march of empire always leads to instability and, ultimately, failure. We also know that those whom the powerful claim to protect often refuse to pay the terrible costs of empire-building. In the final analysis, it is such popular awareness that will rescue the people of Gaza and Lebanon.


[1] Press Conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Washington, DC, 21 July 2006, U.S. Department of State.

[2] Harvey Morris, "Israeli push risks higher casualties," The Financial Times (London), 9 August 2006.

[3] Conversation with author, Salmiya, Kuwait, 3 August 2006.

[4] See e.g. the English website of Yedioth Ahronoth (Tel Aviv); Press Conference, Rice and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, Heiligendamm, Germany, 13 July 2006, The White House; "Bush Backs Israel's Right to Self Defense," ABC News International, 13 July 2006.

[5] Press Conference, Rice, Strelna, Russia, 16 July 2006.

[6] "Rise in Civilian Killings in the Gaza Strip," United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 21 June, 2006; Press Release "Humanitarian Factsheet on Lebanon, Occupied Palestinian Territory," United Nations Department of Public Information, IHA/1212, 8 Augus, 2006.

[7] Anne Penketh, "The secret war: Gaza suffers its own Israeli offensive," The Independent (London), 29 July 2006, 2; Jennie Matthew, "Mysterious wounds from Israeli shells in Gaza" The Daily Star (Kuwait ed.), 28 July 2006, 3.

[8] "Statement by Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Draft Middle East Resolution, at the Security Council, July 13, 2005 [sic]," USUN Press Release No. 165 (06), 13 July 2006, United States Mission to the United Nations; "United States Vetoes Security Council Draft Resolution on Events in Gaza; Text Called For Israeli Soldier's Release, Halt in Military Operations," Security Council SC/8775, Department of Public Information, 13 July 2006.

[9] Public Statement, "Israel/Occupied Territories: Amnesty International concerned about Jericho Prison events and their aftermath," Amnesty International, MDE 15/022/2006 (Public), News Service No. 066, 16 March 2006.

[10] Hisham Abu Taha, "Warplanes Destroy More Houses of Palestinians in Gaza Strip," Arab News (Jeddah), 12 August 2006, 4; Staff, "IAF strikes militant's house in Gaza, killing 2, wounding 4," Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), 17 August 2006.

[11] Press Conference, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch, 5 August 2006, Beirut, Lebanon.

[12] Rym Ghazal, "Rescuers: Many dead have yet to be counted," Daily Star, 27 July 2006, 10; Warren Hoge, "U.N. Says It Protested to Israel for 6 Hours During Attack That Killed 4 Observers in Lebanon," New York Times, 29 July 2006, A14; Nimrod Halpern, "Lebanese oil slick three times bigger than Exxon Valdez leak," Ha'aretz, 7 August 2006.

[13] Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon, vol. 18, no. 3(E) (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2006); "Israeli Cluster Munitions Hit Civilians in Lebanon," Human Rights Watch, 24 July 2006; David S. Cloud and Helene Cooper, ''U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis,'' ibid., 22 July 2006, A1; Prof. Paola Manduca, "New & unknown deadly weapons used by Israeli forces," Centre for Golbal Research, 7 August 2006.

[14] UN Security Council, 5511th Meeting. "Resolution 1701 (2006)" 11 August, 2006; "Israel-Hizbullah conflict: Victims of rocket attacks and IDF casualties," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 August 2006.

[15] George Monbiot, "Israel responded to an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah, right? Wrong," Guardian, 8 August 2006..

[16] AFP, "UN complains to Israel over Lebanon airspace violation," Khaleej Times (Dubai), 2 May 2006; Staff, ''Lebanese Army clashes with Palestinian militants in Bekaa,'' Daily Star, 18 May 2006, 8, 10; Reuters, ''Two dead in Lebanon border clash, Aljazeera.Net, 28 May 2006.

[17] "Lebanon uncovers Mossad-linked terror cell," Al Jazeera Magazine Online Edition, 16 June 2006.

[18] "Lebanon takes Mossad terror cell to the UN," Al Jazeera Magazine, 17 June, 2006; Highlights of Noon Briefing, Deputy Spokesman fore the Secretary-General Marie Okabe, New York, 14 July, 2006; "Lebanon 'smashes Israel spy ring'," BBC News, 18 May, 2006.

[19] Meis Luty, ''Visiting US official evades queries on Mossad-backed terror network," Daily Star, 5 July 2006.

� 2006 Anthony Newkirk

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
The U.S. housing bust: Excess investment and its discontents
Headwinds for the US economy
A subtle kind of fascism
Removing Hamas: Brinkmanship tactics or coup d'�tat
Accelerating the collapse of Iraq
A political culture of lies and war
The Zarqawi affair, part 9 of 15
Iran: the media, the empires, and the destruction of democracy
Hugo Chavez and the sulfuric odor of �devil� Bush
The surprising end of the New American Century
The Zarqawi affair, part 8 of 15
The wheels may be falling off the imperialists' plan for global hegemony
The Zarqawi affair, part 7 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 6 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 5 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 4 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 3 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 2 of 15
The Zarqawi affair, part 1 of 15
The Anglo-American empire�s 9/11 atrocity: criminality�s zenith