With US support, Israel is hoping to isolate and topple Syria by holding
sway over Lebanon
In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher,
whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived
in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel's wars against the Arabs
is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest."
Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have
summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase 'Man kann sich totseigen!'
'You can triumph yourself to death'."
In Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an
imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority,
the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker
states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives
in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli
soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.
The offensive against Gaza is designed to destroy Hamas for daring to win an
election. The "international community" stood by as Gaza suffered
collective punishment. Dozens of innocents continue to die. This meant nothing
to the G8 leaders. Nothing was done.
Israeli recklessness is always green-lighted by Washington. In this case, their
interests coincide. They want to isolate and topple the Syrian regime by securing
Lebanon as an Israeli-American protectorate on the Jordanian model. They argue
this was the original design of the country. Contemporary Lebanon, it is true,
still remains in large measure the artificial creation of French colonialism
it was at the outset - a coastal band of Greater Syria sliced off from its hinterland
by Paris to form a regional client dominated by a Maronite minority.
The country's confessional checkerboard has never allowed an accurate census,
for fear of revealing that a substantial Muslim - today perhaps even a Shia
- majority is denied due representation in the political system. Sectarian tensions,
over-determined by the plight of refugees from Palestine, exploded into civil
war in the 1970s, providing for the entry of Syrian troops, with tacit US approval,
and their establishment there - ostensibly as a buffer between the warring factions,
and deterrent to an Israeli takeover, on the cards with the invasions of 1978
and 1982 (when Hezbollah did not exist).
The killing of Rafik Hariri provoked vast demonstrations by the middle class,
demanding the expulsion of the Syrians, while western organizations arrived
to assist the progress of a Cedar Revolution. Backed by threats from Washington
and Paris, the momentum was sufficient to force a Syrian withdrawal and produce
a weak government in Beirut.
But Lebanon's factions remained spread-eagled. Hezbollah had not disarmed,
and Syria has not fallen. Washington had taken a pawn, but the castle had still
to be captured. I was in Beirut in May, when the Israeli army entered and killed
two "terrorists" from a Palestinian splinter group. The latter responded
with rockets. Israeli warplanes punished Hezbollah by dropping over 50 bombs
on its villages and headquarters near the border. The latest Israeli offensive
is designed to take the castle. Will it succeed? A protracted colonial war lies
ahead, since Hezbollah, like Hamas, has mass support. It cannot be written off
as a "terrorist" organization. The Arab world sees its forces as freedom
fighters resisting colonial occupation.
There are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gulags. That is
why Israeli soldiers are captured. Prisoner exchanges have occurred as a result.
To blame Syria and Iran for Israel's latest offensive is frivolous. Until the
question of Palestine is resolved and Iraq's occupation ended, there will be
no peace in the region. A UN force to deter Hezbollah, but not Israel, is a
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