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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS -
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"Bull’s - eye"

Posted in the database on Friday, July 28th, 2006 @ 15:56:23 MST (1618 views)
by Mike Whitney    Information Clearing House  

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4 U.N. Peacekeepers killed in Israel’s Targeted Assassination

"People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don’t forget; they also strike back." Harold Pinter, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech 2005

On the 17th day of Israel’s military offensive, Prime Minister Olmert is no closer to achieving any of his objectives than he was on Day 1. Olmert originally promised that he would "disarm Hezbollah" and create a buffer-zone from Israel’s northern border to the Litani River. He has accomplished neither. His violent reaction to the capturing of 2 Israeli soldiers was applauded by the Bush administration, Israeli public, and the America media. At the time, we questioned Olmert’s ability to "disarm" Hezbollah ("Its Put up or Shut Time in Lebanon") or his foolish belief that the invasion would be a "cakewalk". Now Israeli forces are bogged down in Southern Lebanon fighting a tough-minded, well-disciplined guerilla organization with no end in sight. This has forced the panicky Olmert to call up 3 more divisions and appeal to Bush for more "precision-guided missiles".

Additionally, Olmert has begun to back-away from his promise to "disarm" Hezbollah and now only talks only about "weakening" them. The Israeli PM has decided to step down from his earlier rhetoric and "move the goalposts" to suit the realities on the ground. Olmert will not disarm Hezbollah and he knows it.

Israeli intelligence seriously misjudged Hezbollah’s military capabilities and the dedication of its fighters to execute complex and daring operations. Yesterday’s attack on an Israeli patrol killed 9 IDF soldiers spreading a palpable sense of unease among the Israeli public. They remember the Vietnam-like quagmire which Sharon drew them into which lasted 18 years, ending only 6 years ago in 2000. The deaths of the soldiers have triggered a fierce debate among politicians, pundits and retired officers about the questionable objectives of the operation and the competence of the leadership. Olmert has shown himself to be a vain and stupid man whose ignorance of military matters has clouded his sense of judgment. He is surrounded by the "untested" Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who excels at killing unarmed women and children in the occupied territories, but cannot seem to adjust to the exigencies of real combat. The final member of the "trinity of bunglers", is Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, an incompetent braggart whose penchant for destruction has flattened the better part of Lebanon’s critical infrastructure, but hasn’t produced any tangible rewards. For the most part, Olmert’s War has been little more than a massive display of gratuitous violence which has failed to achieve any recognizable strategic goal. (BBC has provided a fairy comprehensive account of Israel’s calculated destruction of Lebanese infrastructure. It includes 3 major airports, 3 major ports, 5,000 civilian homes, 62 bridges, 22 fuel stations, 72 overpasses, 3 Dams, 4 TV and communication facilities, 3 main power-stations, 150 private businesses including a tissue paper factory and a bottle factory)

Israel is now planning to step up its bombing campaign in the vain hope that it will root-out and destroy the resistance. This explains why the United Nations outpost was "deliberately" leveled by an Israeli missile yesterday. Clearly, Israel wants to conceal its orgy of carnage from the watchful eyes of international community. We should expect that more banned weaponry; cluster-bombs, napalm, lasers, bunker busters and chemical weapons will be used in the next major assault on Hezbollah strongholds. Like all desperate men, Olmert believes that he can extract himself from his present dilemma by increasing the level of violence. The upcoming week or two should be extremely perilous for Hezbollah.

The Bush administration has blindly supported Olmert without assessing whether his military objectives are attainable and without considering the damage that the conflict is doing to America’s long-term interests. There’s no chance that the United States will ever be seen as an "honest broker" in the region again. Bush has cast his lot with Israel and is betting that the neoconservative strategy to reconfigure the Middle East will move ahead according to plan. From the very onset, Washington has enthusiastically embraced the war by giving Olmert the "go-ahead" to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and by providing Israel with additional ordinance to prosecute the air-war.

The Bush team has repeatedly headed-off efforts at the United Nations for a "cease-fire" and created the sense that Israel’s rampage bears the stamp of international legitimacy. The US State Dept no longer functions as diplomatic agency working out details for political solutions, but as a franchise of the Defense Dept.; skillfully blocking negotiations, subverting treaties, and obstructing any dialogue which may lead to peace. Condoleezza Rice’s performance in Rome only underscores this point.

Neither public opinion, nor the United Nations, nor the Arab League, nor Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, nor even Hezbollah can stop the ongoing conflict if Bush and Olmert want a war; and they clearly want a war. Secretary of State Rice summarized their views when she said to the world press on Wednesday:

"Its time for a 'New Middle East’. Its time to say to those who do not want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will not."

Perhaps; but the growing resistance in Iraq and Lebanon may have a thing-or-two to say about Ms. Rice’s plan.

_____________________________

Israel has a long history of abusing the United Nations

Deadly air strike highlights jewish state's traditional disregard for safety of peacekeepers

By Marc J Sirois
The Daily Star

Recent talk of a new international force to police a proposed buffer zone in South Lebanon prompted a flurry of media reports purporting to explain Israel's reluctance to have the mission overseen by the United Nations. The coverage was accurate in portraying Israeli officialdom as mistrustful of the world body, but it failed completely to objectively describe the history behind the bad blood. As bad luck would have it, the Jewish state helped put things in perspective on Tuesday when its air force destroyed a UN observation post in the South Lebanon village of Khiam, killing four peacekeepers in the process.

Tuesday's attack was just the latest in a long line of incidents that have poisoned relations between Israel and the UN since the very beginning of their relationship. And Western media coverage of the incident has mimicked the misleading versions they provided of previous troubles, consistently insinuating that the UN has largely been to blame. A fitting example was Wednesday night's broadcast of "Insight" on CNN International. Host Jonathan Mann discussed the Khiam attack with Jonathan Paris, an academic from Oxford University who for some inexplicable reason was treated as an "expert" on the subject.

The host and the "expert" demonstrated their ignorance from the start, repeatedly describing the peacekeepers killed more than 24 hours earlier as having been assigned to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was created in 1978 after Israel's invasion of Lebanon in March of that year. In actual fact, the four officers were members of Observer Group-Lebanon, a force set up way back in 1948 to monitor the armistice that ended the first Arab-Israeli war.

The embarrassment got even worse for Paris when Mann noted that this was not the first time there had been problems between Israel and the UN. The "expert" traced the troubled relationship back to 1967, when a UN envoy proposed the first "land for peace" plan. Paris explained that the Israeli government of the day saw this as an attempt to "impose" a solution. In actual fact, the first UN envoy to draw Israel's ire was Count Folke Bernadotte, and that was long before 1967. Despite having been asked to refrain from declaring independence until UN mediators could convince neighboring Arab countries to accept the 1947 partition plan (that really was an imposed solution), Zionist leaders went ahead and did so in May 1948. Ill-prepared Arab armies attacked, and the Israelis took full advantage by using their better-equipped forces to occupy far more land than the partition envisioned. When it looked like Bernadotte might be able to mediate a peace treaty, he was assassinated by the Stern Gang in an attack approved by none other than future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The murder was particularly egregious because during World War II, Bernadotte had been instrumental in saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis. Understandably, successive generations of UN personnel have accordingly been less than trusting of Israeli intentions.

Paris also mentioned the massacre of more than 100 civilians seeking refuge at a UNIFIL position in Qana during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" offensive in 1996, but his description was again fatally flawed by bias and/or ignorance. First he claimed that that the attack was partially due to "an incident in North Lebanon," a theory upon which his failure to expound was fortunate because it has no basis in fact. Then he added that there had been a number of suicide bombings in Israel at the time, and the country was in the midst of an election campaign, putting the government under pressure to prove its mettle. On their own, these assertions are true. But Paris failed conspicuously to mention that the bombings in question had been conducted by Hamas, a Palestinian group. In actual fact, "Grapes of Wrath" happened because Hizbullah responded to the killing of a Lebanese teenager by an Israeli bomb with a salvo of rockets into northern Israel. The Jewish state then launched "Grapes of Wrath," with many observers speculating that it had simply been waiting for a pretext.

CNN's performance in terms of objectivity in reporting the facts of the current conflict has improved markedly over the past few days, but it began in such an ignominiously subterranean manner that it had nowhere to go but up. Wednesday's episode of "Insight" shows how easy it is for even a seemingly well-meaning sort like Mann to enable the spreading of misinformation by relying on an "expert" who either isn't very well informed or knowingly lies (on this occasion, the former seemed more likely).
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

The crux of the problem is that the Jewish state resents the United Nations because it has failed to accept repeated humiliations - and worse - with sufficient obsequiousness. In the Israeli view, international organizations should follow the example of the United States, which has frequently betrayed both the safety and the reputation of its own military and diplomatic personnel by meekly accepting Israeli atrocities and provocations. The US government forced the US Navy to help cover up the nature of Israel's deliberate 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, which killed dozens of American servicemen, and to deny proper decorations to victims and survivors alike. There was no outcry from the US government when Israeli armored units bullied lightly armed US Marines who were part of an international stabilization force sent to Lebanon in 1982. Even when Israeli warplanes repeatedly endangered the safety of State Department envoy Philip Habib by buzzing his helicopter in the same year, even when Israeli commanders invited Palestinian shelling of his quarters by firing their own guns from next-door, there was no real cost to the Jewish state for having bit the hand that fed it.

Members of other international agencies have faced similar acts of intimidation from Israeli forces. A typical example is the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), established in 1994. TIPH came into being as a result of a massacre at a Hebron mosque by settler Baruch Goldstein, an American-born physician. After Goldstein gunned down 29 worshippers before being overpowered and beaten to death, Palestinian negotiators broke off peace talks until international observers were sent to the city. Israeli contempt for the resultant TIPH mission can be gauged by a popular play on the acronym, "Two Idiots Patrolling Hebron." Similarly, officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross have been bitterly criticized for complaining that various Israeli actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip violate international humanitarian law. Such charges typically prompt a mix of smearing Red Cross representatives as "anti-Semites" and arguments that the Jewish state is not bound by the Geneva Conventions' protections for civilians because it never signed them.

It is likely that some UN personnel have been derelict in their duties vis-a-vis the conflict in South Lebanon. Given the context, however, it should not surprise that some peacekeepers are loathe to help the Israeli military: They have seen and experienced firsthand a consistent pattern of wrongdoing by that same force. They have watched it wipe out civilians by the hundreds; they have watched it endanger and even kill their own comrades, starting with the heroic and quintessentially honorable Bernadotte; they have watched it refuse to hand over maps of minefields left behind when it withdrew from most of South Lebanon in 2000; in short, they have watched it make barren the very ground in which seeds of good will might have been planted.

Now that ground has been stained with the blood of four innocent men who repeatedly warned the Israelis that their bombs and shells were landing perilously close to a long-established UN monitoring post. The gutless government currently in power in Canada seems not to care that one of its military officers assigned to Observer Group-Lebanon has been the victim of Israeli fire, but the governments of Austria, China and Finland are taking their losses very seriously - as is the United Nations, an organization that created Israel in the first place and has had good reason to regret it ever since.

Marc J. Sirois is managing editor of The Daily Star.



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