Question: if the IDF is really about defending the right of Israelis to exist, as so many of its supporters falsely claim, shouldn't Hezbollah be encouraged to improve its targeting? Or is the IDF defending something else? Jonathan Cook, an independent British journalist based in Nazareth, wrote recently:
It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.When Hezbollah misses an intended target---a weapons factory or military installation, for example---Israeli and Palestinian civilians pay the price. Does this work both ways? Not really. While Hezbollah's targets are meant to be kept secret, Israel's targets in Lebanon are widely known and have included the UN. I suppose that when one conducts crimes it is better for there to be no witnesses, and the Israeli government has never really been a friend of international law.
Friend or no friend to international law, aggressor nations in the conflicts in Lebanon (and Iraq) (and Palestine) (and Afghanistan) will always claim that military personnel (variously called enemy combatants, insurgents, terrorists, militants as contrasted with US or Israeli "soldiers") use civilians as human shields. Cook writes in the same article about Western expectations of its adversaries:
any Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hezbollah’s reluctance to conduct the war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof that they are terrorists.So there is the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure. The free movement of the people has been prevented in the name of hampering Hezbollah's ability to transport weapons and troops. But do the ends justify the means? Is the terror struck in millions of people in Lebanon---and the destruction of families, cities, livelihoods, and now ecosystems as well---worth the highly questionable damage the Israeli army is inflicting on Hezbollah? Is it worth the international outrage at the Israeli government's crimes? Is it worth the comparatively mild retribution (for lack of a better phrase) inflicted on Israel's civilian population?
This is the part where I make an obligatory reference to the fact that Hezbollah is doing bad stuff too. It is. Supporters of Israel's appalling policy of continual violence often point to its right to defend itself from terror. That would be fine, if the IDF was not a terrorist organization itself. How else can we explain what happened today in Qana? True, leaflets were dstributed to warn the people there that to remain at home was to become a target. But how to leave home when Israeli F-16's have already indescriminately destroyed roads and bridges throughout the country?
Before a single rocket was launched on either side, the apparently bad people in Hezbollah offered to negotiate a prisoner swap.
So what else beside leaflets has the IDF distributed? There is the allegation of white phosphorus use. White phosphorus has been in the news lately---the US has used it on people in Iraq and Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Venable of the Defense Department [sic] had this to say in November 2005:
Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants...[T]he combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives.So: leaflets, chemical weapons. And cluster bombs. Meanwhile, the US is shipping weapons containing depleted uranium to Israel.
When they do it, it is called "terrorism"; when we do it, it is defending one's right to exist. Unconscionable. As I write, the BBC reports that Israel has proclaimed a 48 hour limited halt to air strikes over the south of Lebanon. A ruse, this, and only after Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has apparently succeeded in his goal---stated immediately following Hezbollah's taking prisoner of two Israeli soldiers in Ayta ash Shab (Lebanon)---of "turn[ing] back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years". Indefensible.
So: what is preventing the US government from insisting on an unconditional ceasefire from both sides? Lebanon is asking for it. All of Israel's neighbors are demanding it. We've reached the end of this here fact-filled article of mine, and it is time for the punchline. Here it is.
Thanks to Justin Podur and Leila Mouammar for inspiring this post.