Lebanon – the Significance of the Israeli terror
20 July 2006
The Journalist Robert Fisk tells the story of an earlier Lebanese conflict when, following an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman and her husband, he suddenly saw it disintegrate – blown apart by an Israeli jet. The journalist found part of the missile in the wreckage and, when he next went to the US, he visited the factory that had made the rocket and confronted the manager of the factory. The man went white with fear: “ Please don’t say that I said anything criticising Israel,” he said.
Little has changed. “Plucky little Israel” the regional superpower with nuclear weapons that rains death upon Arabs with impunity, the colonial, settler and racist state that maintains all the forms of total war and collective punishment of civilians perfected by the Nazis, Israel is not to be criticised. Yet again it is the resistance that are labelled terrorist while an entire nation is ripped apart.
The pretext that the massacre was caused by the capture of Israeli soldiers is long gone. There is a history of prisoner exchange in the past that the Israeli government had no difficulty with and the families of the soldiers have called for exchange now. Government spokesmen now explain that it is time to “change the rules.” The rules are to be changed so that there is no resistance. The government that the Palestinians elected was the wrong government and many of its members are now in jail. Hezbollah are to be disarmed. The Lebanese government are to collaborate with the former occupiers in suppressing the resistance. Iran and Syria are to be threatened with the same fate as Lebanon if they do not capitulate and withdraw support.
According to Israel, the need to change the rules is because of the ingratitude of the Palestinians and their supporters. They offered peace and, when the Palestinians failed to walk along the ‘road map’ with them, they initiated a unilateral peace process that began with their withdrawal from Gaza. In return they got nothing but terrorist provocation and attacks that forced them to the bombardment of Gaza and now the rape of Lebanon.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The demand for the recognition of Israel is nothing more than a demand for absolute capitulation. In recognising Israel the Palestinians are being asked to accept the colonial settler state that does not allow even the Arabs or Christians within its borders full rights as citizens. They are being asked to accept the mass ethnic cleansing that created the state and to abandon their fellow nationals who live as dispossessed refugees in camps scattered across the Middle East. In return they are promised a homeland on the West bank, but the Israelis are staging a massive land grab and building a wall that will leave only a tiny reservation on the poorest land, incapable of independent existence.
Arafat and the Fatah movement bought this ‘peace’ deal, but he was unable to deliver and the Israelis then began to construct their own, manoeuvring for the even more corrupt Abbas as PLO leader, withdrawing from Gaza so that the inhabitants would no longer have to be counted in any settlement – prisoners in a giant compound with the PLO guarding them within and the Israeli army exercising control from without, able to attack and invade with impunity.
When the Palestinians reacted by electing the Hamas government the Zionists and their allies decided that they had elected the wrong government and began a process of punishment. They first starved the population by cutting off funds and planned military action, initiated by the pretext of outrage at a soldier’s capture.
The Zionists blasted the government offices in Gaza and imprisoned all the MPs and Ministers they could seize. However their main strategy to destroy Hamas was to destroy their base, so they targeted utilities such as electricity, water, roads and bridges. In effect they have reduced the population to a stone age existence in the hope of fragmenting them and making resistance impossible.
There was one other element in Israeli strategy – the demand for ‘responsibility’ from Abbas and the Fatah movement – that they oppose Hamas and preach the necessity of capitulation. It says much for the uncontrolled savagery of Zionism that, even when Fatah demonstrated against Hamas, staged an armed confrontation with them and persuaded them to sign a joint document that implicitly recognised the Israeli state, their reward was Zionist blitzkrieg.
As in Gaza, so in Lebanon. The Zionists seize upon a pretext to destroy Hizbollah. Their aim is not so poor that it is directed at the fighters, well armed and well dug in. Instead they aim to terrorise the civilian base – to kill men women and children, to leave them scrabbling in the heat of the ruins without food or water, fuel or power, to suffer the unreported deaths that will follow in their hundreds. It seems beyond the reach of even Israel and the US to inflict the terror necessary – after all, the US war in Vietnam was supposed to “return it to the stone age” in the words on one US general. However the Israelis have a larger target in their sights.
In a few days the Zionists inflicted 18 billion pounds worth of damage to the Lebanese economy. As they were doing so they and the US were saying very clearly that Iran and Syria were responsible for the actions of Hizbollah. The threat of armed action could not be clearer. The ruthlessness of the US and the Zionists is underlined by the fact that the Lebanese government majority is one of the most pro-western in the region and only recently led a ‘Cedar revolution’ that expelled Syrian forces from the country to the applause of the US and Israel.
A background to the offensive is Israeli claims that they have the support of ‘moderate’ Arab regimes. That is certainly true. The longer the resistance continues the more sharply the collaboration of Egypt, Jordan, the Emirates and the Saudis is thrown into relief. There are strong hints of collaboration between the Lebanese right and Israel. When we add to this the knowledge that the Iranian and Syrian regimes have a long history of simply manipulating resistance movements to serve their own national interest then the US/Israeli strategy looks more credible.
However it is one thing to support Israel behind closed doors. It is another to do so openly in the face of the anger of the Arab masses. The outcome of the present offensive is likely to be a further radicalisation, one that effects the stability of the Arab regimes and increases consciousness of the class dynamics of the crisis. This consciousness has been absent since the defeat of the left nationalist currents within the Palestinian movement. In addition Iran and Syria are aware of the lessons of the Iraq war – that the best defence against US and Israeli aggression is to have as many weapons as possible to hand. The fate of Lebanon tells them what the ‘reward’ for compliance could be.
In any case, when the current slaughter eases there will be a long term task of rebuilding resistance and of building international solidarity. Hizbollah are not the model. Their fundamentalism looks to unity with the Arab bourgeoisie and prohibits any regional or international appeal to the working class. Their supporters celebrate their ability to strike back in any fashion, given the impunity of Israeli military power, but random attacks on civilians do not in reality constitute any significant military response and help to justify Israeli terrorism. Their real importance is in the price they can inflict on the Israeli army if they decide to invade South Lebanon. A political movement will have to recognise that this is the latest phase in the US ‘war on terror’. The US has opened a new front and the response will have to be a global resistance, built on deeper foundations than the spontaneous revulsion against the invasion of Iraq.
Revolutionary Marxists attempting to build such a resistance will have to put down a few markers about what a Marxist analysis has to offer:
The war not a regional dispute – is a imperialist war of aggression waged by the US. Israel is the most dependent economy on the planet, absolutely reliant on massive US economic subsidies. The US supply the very latest weaponry, enabling the Israelis to strike at will and are currently running interference for them across the world to ensure they have a free hand in maintaining the bloodbath.
Marxists do not support calls for the UN or for the international community to intervene. The UN remained silent throughout the blitzkrieg and showed itself complicit in the massacre. Bush’s toady Blair, having indicated absolute support for the US and Israel, went on to propose a UN force in south Lebanon. It function is quite clear. It is to turn up in the aftermath of the bloodbath and secure the Zionist gains by disarming the survivors and guarding Israel’s flank. The international community – that is, global capital, represented at the G8, supported the Bush line. The same community supported the boycott of the Hamas government, starved the Palestinians of funds when Israel demanded capitulation, and then turned away when the massacre in Gaza began.
Marxists do not support the Middle East ‘peace process,’ a ‘two-state’ solution or recognition of the state of Israel. For that reason any solidarity movement should be independent of the Fatah movement, which does support these things. We argue that Israel’s role is as the armed police of the region, enforcing the will of the US and threatening at every turn to unleash the carnage rained upon Lebanon on any other focus of resistance. In addition, we oppose the concept of a Jewish state, founded on ethnic cleansing and allowing only Jews full human rights within the state. It will be especially difficult to argue this position in Ireland, where the Sinn Fein ‘left’ support the Fatah programme of capitulation, are pursuing a similar policy in Ireland, and are constrained even in that policy by their alliance with the imperialist US government responsible for the carnage.
Finally no-one seems at any pains to point out that the Irish peace process was modelled, at least in part, on the Oslo process that was supposed to lead the Palestinians to peace and independence. It is highly unlikely that the British will bomb Dublin and Monaghan again, because in the Irish scenario the republican movement disarmed. However, the Irish road map is just as unlikely to find its terminus in freedom and independence as the Palestinian peace process. It is glaringly obvious that the destination is now partition, the revival of the sectarian state in the North, and continued British rule.