The Middle-East is on fire, and it does not look as if the political situation is going to improve anytime soon. Eva Dadrian looks at Africa’s response to the conflict. She argues that those who know how it feels like to be at the receiving end of colonialism have always criticised Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
After 34 days of fighting, more than 1,200 civilian casualties, 15,000 homes destroyed, 80 bridges and 94 roads damaged, the two-week-old cease-fire between Israel and Hezballah is holding. Apart from being a human tragedy, the recent conflict is also an environmental disaster with massive oil spills resulting from the bombing of a power plant close to Beirut.
The question now is how UNIFIL (the United Nations International Forces in Lebanon) will fully implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that asks for the two Israeli prisoners held by Hezballah to be handed over to the International Red Cross, and that Israel lifts its blockade of Lebanon?
Should the cease-fire and the arrival of the peacekeeping force be considered a victory for the international community? The UN knows, like everybody else, that UN peacekeepers will never be in a position to “impose peace”, let alone become peacemakers.
But, it is expected that in the coming weeks, armed with a tougher mandate than any UN peacekeeping force has ever enjoyed before, the multinational force of some 15,000 troops from Bangladesh, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, and many others, will attempt to consolidate this cease-fire. They are also expected to help in the clearing up and to carry out humanitarian operations. But will this really happen?
According to observers, the government and the people of Lebanon are determined to implement Resolution 1701. Also, they are expecting the Israeli government to do so. However, to date Israel has been reluctant to withdraw from Lebanese territories and lift its air, land and sea blockade on Lebanon, thus hampering not only humanitarian aid in reaching the country but also delaying a full environmental damage assessment of the Lebanon coastline. Environmentalists estimate that between 11 and 40 million litres of heavy fuel oil leaked into the sea following the Israeli bombardment of Jieh coastal power station, 28km south of Beirut. The pollution is estimated to extend at least 150km (90 miles) off-shore and has hit the tourism and fishing industries hard. One UN spokesperson has been reported as saying the damage could last "up to a century". Furthermore, the oil has hit a 150km stretch of coastline extending even into Syria.
Has the war achieved anything that would make either Israel, Hezballah, Washington and others involved front line or back stage, proud? Was all this destruction the only means to secure the safe release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezballah? Is it possible to believe that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, considered by many as the world’s “best and most efficient” in the field, would have not been capable of getting back the two kidnapped soldiers by more discreet and efficient means?
Most Israelis and many others in the region, in the Arab nations, say that the war was meant to reduce Hezballah’s growing power in Lebanon and dismantle its arsenal.
Do we need to admit that this war has had the opposite result? Not only has Israel not managed to destroy Hezballah, but Israel’s war on Lebanon has reinforced Hezballah’s aura in Lebanon and in the Arab world, thanks to the resistance and the resilience of Hezballah’s fighters. This war will go down in history as the only war fought and lost by the State of Israel since its creation. Do we need to become cynical and laugh because the two soldiers whose kidnapping is said to have sparked this conflict are still in Hezballah’s custody?
So what was really achieved by all the parties involved: Israel, Lebanon, Hezballah, Washington, Syria and Iran?
Analysts and politicians from Europe, US, Asia and Africa, have implied that the conflict between Hezballah and Israel had the potential to become a wider regional conflict. So was this meant to provoke Syria and Iran and drag them into direct confrontation with Israel? Was it to distract world public opinion from the failures in Iraq, the sectarian killings and the body bags returning home, or the failures in Afghanistan and the renewal of the old tribal conflicts there?
In fact, the entire region is at war. From the East Mediterranean shores to the borders of Pakistan (save Iran at the present time) the so-called “New Middle East” as envisaged by President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, PM Tony Blair and the like, is but conflicts, rubbles, destruction, broken lives and dismantled nations.
For argument sake, let’s transpose Israel’s action against Hezballah elsewhere in the world. For example, in Christian, white Europe imagine that Sweden, the pillar of European democracy, disagrees with the fascistic politics of the French Front National of Jean-Marie Le Pen. So, the Swedish government decides to bomb Paris and destroy all the French “departments” where the Front National has its offices. It does it with an arsenal of weaponry supplied by Germany!
Or at the height of the IRA bombings in mainland Britain, London decides to bomb Dublin once and for all? Would it have been possible?
After touring Beirut’s devastated Dahiyeh district, where he was booed by the residents, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is reported to have declared that “there is a lot of work to be done” and that the UN and international community would work effectively with all parties to “ensure that we do implement the resolution to the fullest and that we have a long-term peace in this region”.
The war in Lebanon was but another chapter in the Middle East conflict. And this conflict cannot and will not be resolved unless the Israeli-Palestinian question is resolved. Is it so difficult to secure a “long-lasting peace” that we have to accept today the small token of a “long-term” peace?
For the Israeli-Arab/Israeli-Palestinian question, one should look into the issue of colonialism, exactly in the same way as one would look into the Irish question and British colonialism in Africa.
Interestingly, those who know how it feels like to be at the receiving end of colonialism have always criticised Israel’s occupation of Palestine. For years, Africans have condemned Israel’s “colonial” policies in Palestine, and the recent conflict was yet another source of debates. Further, people took to the streets. Anti-war demonstrators marched in their hundreds through the streets of Gaborone (Botswana). The African Union strongly condemned what it described as Israel's “indiscriminate bombing”. This was particularly after the bombing of Qena, which the AU said “cannot be justified under any circumstances”.
In South Africa activists often liken Israel to Apartheid South Africa. The African National Congress condemned Israel for its disproportionate military action.
African politicians were not the only protestors. Many artists, writers and media people strongly expressed their views on the issue. At this year’s Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) Israel’s war against Lebanon took centre stage. In its programme ZIFF had included the world acclaimed documentary “Paradise Now” – which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (Oscars) earlier this year and the winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film (USA).
In complete contrast to the strong position against the war and Israel's action taken by Africa south of the Sahara, North Africa and particularly Egypt, adopted a much milder position. Precaution was the name of the game when it came to analysing and discussing the causes of the war. Most mainstream Arab political analysts avoided criticising Egypt's position and President Mubarak's condemnation of Hezbollah's kidnapping of the 2 Israeli soldiers. Pointing a finger at Washington' policies for the region and criticising president Bush's administration for the moral, financial and arms support, to Israel, Egypt remained "unstained". The Arab street had a very different position. In Cairo, protestors called for the dissolution of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt (1978-79) labelling it as the "leach" that is "tying up Egypt's hands and feet" in any decision concerning Israel's and Washington's policy for the Middle East conflict.
In Tunisia, at the international Carthage Festival, the Tunisian artist Lotfi Bouchnaq, cancelled the final programme to replace it with patriotic songs and music in solidarity with Lebanon and the Palestinian people.
One Israeli blogger has gone so far as to write, the Palestinians are victims of “a colonial type of oppression”. Their land is confiscated, their homes bulldozed, their olive groves uprooted, their youth disturbed by 50 years of wars, killings, bombs and displacements and their sons in Israeli jails. Aren’t these the real stigmata of colonialism as practised in the past by the colonial powers?
The 50 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have engendered resistance. Depending on the standpoint from which one views the political situation in the Middle East, Palestinians militants have become “freedom fighters” or “terrorists”. As political dialogue became a futile exercise, Palestinian militants have become “Islamic Terrorists”. However, in reality, the militants of Hamas and Hezballah are only “resisting” the occupation of their lands - Palestine for Hamas and South Lebanon for Hezballah – and refuse to accept Israel’s expansionist policy.
In the very early days of the conflict, As Safir, the Lebanese daily, published the translation of a “secret” report presented by Wayne Madison*, a journalist at the New Yorker, specialising in the political intricacies of Washington D.C. and the CIA. The report preceded an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle (July 21, 2006) under the title: ‘Israel set war plan more than a year ago, Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began gaining military strength in Lebanon’. Matthew Kalman, the author of this article, wrote the following: “Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.
In the six years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly”.
But the report presented by Wayne Madison has far more to reveal about the recent conflict. 1) The aggression against Lebanon was planned by key Israeli decision-makers and members of the Bush Administration during a meeting organised by the American Enterprise Institute, held at Beever-Creek-Colorado, on 17 and 18 June 2006.
2) During that meeting, US Vice-President Dick Cheney, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehoud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehoud Barak, Shimon Pérès and Nathan Charansky were all present.
3) The two parties agreed on the following plan: the American Administration will provide ‘all the necessary assistance’ to Israel so that it (Israel) can put into execution Plan ‘Clear Infiltration’ formulated some 10 years ago. This plan dealt with ‘new strategies’ concerning global ‘matters of security’.
4) Clear Infiltration was in fact the “next” step to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This was to be followed by wars in Palestine, Lebanon, then Syria and Iran.
5) To put the plan into motion, two steps were foreseen: the first was to last for four years and incorporated “secret activities from the Pentagon, the White House and Mossad, inside Lebanon” These secret activities included using booby-trapped vehicles to assassinate high-ranking Lebanese officials. The objective: forcing Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon. The author of the report mentions three names: Elie Hobaïka, former minister who was in charge of the Lebanese Forces and who sided with the Syrians, Georges Haoui, former secretary general of the Lebanese communist party and Rafiq Hariri, former Prime minister.
Whereas the second step included bombardment and then the invasion of Lebanon, observers reckon that somehow ‘Clear Infiltration’ has succeeded: invasion and occupation of Iraq, the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and other prominent Lebanese, bombardment and invasion of Lebanon have happened. ‘Plan Clear Infiltration’ would come into completion if Israel and Washington succeeded in removing Hezballah from South Lebanon and transferring them in the same way they had planned to “transfer” the Palestinians from the West Bank.
* Wayne Madison, first journalist to reveal and write about the horrors of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq
* Eva Dadrian is an independent broadcaster and Political and Country Risk Analyst for print and broadcast media.
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