Monday, July 31, 2006
RMT calls on transport workers’ international to condemn Israeli attack on
and to demand immediate ceasefire Lebanon
TRANSPORT UNION RMT will this week call on the International Transport Workers’ Federation to condemn Israel’s continued bloody assault on the Lebanese people and the failure of the US and British governments to demand an immediate ceasefire.
An emergency motion submitted to the ITF Congress, which begins in
Durban, South Africatoday, also condemns the clandestine use of Prestwick airport to transport US weapons of mass destruction to . Israel
The motion pays tribute to those in the Royal Fleet Auxillary and all transport workers who have supported the humanitarian effort in
, and would commit the ITF to work alongside the United Nations to ensure that aid reaches those who need it. Lebanon
“The number-one international priority is to stop the mass slaughter of innocent people,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
“The unrelenting indiscriminate bombardment of civilians is a crime against humanity, which has been given tacit approval by the shameful silence of both the British and US governments.
“Allowing the use of Prestwick or any other
UKairport to airlift weapons of mass destruction to in the midst of the carnage gives the lie to the pretence that the British government is somehow seeking a ‘diplomatic solution’. Israel
“While the rest of the world has condemned the bombing of southern
Lebanon, Bush is sending more weapons of mass destruction and Blair is standing by in criminal complicity. Israel
“The world is demanding an immediate and unconditional ceasfire,” Bob Crow said.
The full motion:
This is in stark contrast to the weasel words of the TUC, which simply attributes the "loss of life" to the "current conflict", without specifying who is flattening what city, and throws its weight (such as it is) behind Kofi Annan (who has promised to give Israel a really hard stare if they don't stop showing him how weak he is). The TUC statement also equally condemns Israel, HAMAS and Hizbullah. As with its total lack of action over the Iraq war, the TUC is paralysed by its need to not rock the boat too much with Labour, and its weakness in not understanding the need to marry the political to the industrial. By exposing this paralysis so often, refusing to take the lead in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements, the TUC only shows how irrelevant it is.
RMT EMERGENCY MOTION TO ITF CONGRESS
Congress condemns the continuing violence in the Middle East and
’s continued assault on the Lebanese people. Congress condemns Israel Israel’s refusals to support a ceasefire and is appalled at the unfolding tragedy of loss of life and human suffering and the destruction of since the start of the conflict on 12th July. Lebanon
Congress also condemns the
and UK Government for failing to support calls for an immediate ceasefire and believes that they are increasingly isolated from world opinion. US
Congress further condemns the
USand UK Governments for using Prestwick Airport, in Scotland, to assist US planes carrying bombs to Israel
Congress pays tribute to the members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and all transport workers supporting the humanitarian effort in
Congress agrees to work with the UN and international community to ensure immediate humanitarian aid reaches
and for the release of all prisoners seized during the conflict. Lebanon
Finally Congress believes lasting peace will only be ensured in the Middle East through the implementation UN resolutions requiring
Israel’s withdrawal from the territories it illegally occupied in 1967 and a two state solution for Israeland . Palestine
The RMT's key strength over the last few years (in fact, during its entire history) has been its willingness to connect wider political issues to the industrial issues at its core. Embedded right inside the anti-war movement, it has been really natural for RMT activists to push anti-war messages alongside militant industrial action, and to organise anti-war meetings and delegations to anti-war conferences.
It's not enough, of course. No socialist should sit there simply applauding Bob Crow, however good his attacks on Blair and Bush are. It's not enough just to elect left-wing leaders - after all, Andy Gilchrist fucked over the firefighters, and he was a key member of the "awkward squad".
The key point is, in a good union, activists have the space to organise, both in the formal union structures and through informal networks. Both were utilised to good effect in building a really strong official RMT presence on the February 15 2003 demo.
But that's all it does: Give us space. The essential task for socialists, trade unionists and anti-capitalists is to organise hard inside unions, whether the leadership is sympathetic or not. Marching is one thing (a brilliant tool for building the confidence of the movement and for scaring weak politicians) - but what we need to do is take advantage of every crack that opens to radicalise every level of our unions.
It's hard, of course. And easy to get disillusioned - the RMT has had a dreadful time trying to come to terms with the idea that an apparently left-wing man is now the overall boss of London's transport network, and has got into a real mess with its industrial strategy.
But inside a union like the RMT, the breathing space means we have a head start; for other trades unionists, it's even harder. It's not perfect, even in a left-wing union like the RMT. The leadership has criticised Respect for being a "Muslim party", despite 2 candidates being RMT members and the key layers of RMT activists also being Respect activists; the RMT has its own swamp of "Decent Left" types, keen to legitimise the occupation of Iraq, keen to dismantle the anti-war movement and keen to demonise Muslims. The important battles are still being fought - moves are being made now to build a united rail unions campaign against fascism.
Even if you're not in a union like RMT you can start somewhere. Go here, download this, print it out and leave one on every desk, every noticeboard, every seat at work. If you're in a union, ask your rep to do the same; if you are a rep, ask your head office to issue statements condemning Israel and organise a contingent on the demo.
There's a current in the movement that says unions are finished, that the revolution is going to be on the streets, not in the workplaces. Well, with unions the way they are now, that's true - so wedded to reformist politics are the union leaders and the union machinery, serious struggles keep being squashed.
But that's why it's crucial for us to involve those inside the movement who are as angry as we are, to bring them and the unions together - we know there were thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of trades union members on the anti-war marches; but they marched with friends, families, schools, mosques - not with unions.
We have to knit together the fight against pension "reform" and the fight against Israel's war crimes; we know the two are connected, workers know they are connected - our job is to fight inside our unions, to pull them to the left, to make the unions reflect the movement, instead of trying to suffocate it.
The demo on Saturday is a start. The movement is growing still, with activity increasing. Respect is organising a conference to discuss how the union movement should move forward when the Labour Party is led by people for whom trades unions are just a cushy source of income and pliant deal-making.
Come to the conference; add your name to the list of supporters; get your union involved.
We are the movement - and we should make sure our shop stewards, convenors and general secretaries know it.
Israel is continuing its invasion, attempting to sieze Lebanon's territory all the way up to the Litani river.
1) The caesura is officially provided so that Israel's military can 'investigate' its own crimes in Qana (and nowhere else).
2) Israel has stipulated that if their 'investigation' concludes before then, the bombing will resume.
3) Israel has stated that will continue to bomb targets where it believes attacks are 'imminent'. Lebanese authorities say bomb attacks occurred early this morning.
4) The temporary cessation of aerial attacks does not mean a truce is in place: the IDF will continue on-the-ground operations. Hezbollah, for its part, promises that Qana "will not go unanswered".
Undoubtedly, this pause is not one that Israel really wanted. The pressure from its UK-US sponsors will have been to give Blair and Rice something to work with - they are confident that they can persuade the 'international community' in its outrage to support a resolution imposing an 'international force' on Lebanon. Condoleeza Rice outlined her ideal peace agreement: the disarmament of Hezbollah, the blockading of all weapons to Lebanon except to the Lebanese government, an international force in the south to oversee the neutering of the only serious defensive force in Lebanon. No arms embargo on Israel. No 'stabilisation force' for them. No disarmament for the IDF, which deserves it more than any other army in the Middle East.
Fouad Siniora, for his part, has stated that Israel's proposal is inadequate and that there must be a total ceasefire, and has praised Nasrallah and Hezbollah's fighters for their stance in defending the country. As well he might - he knows that no international force is going to be accepted in Lebanon, despite the fact that he and his cabinet have publicly supported such a proposal in the last few days. He knows that Hezbollah cannot be disarmed, and that practically the whole country supports what they have been doing. Hezbollah may well be drawn into a reconstituted Lebanese national army, but this is not what is being proposed by those driving the UN process. Siniora knows that his government has hardly an army to speak of (although what there is of it has been fighting), and would have been buried under a mound of rubble with an Israeli flag on top if Hezbollah had not fought. And, moreover, he knows that Lebanese politics have permanently changed. The Hariri gang are politically dead. Walid Jumblatt, who is by way of being a weather vane in Lebanese politics, has destroyed his credibility by initially aligning himself with Israel and especially by taking the opportunity of the Qana massacre to decry 'Syrian intervention'. He does support an 'international force' in the south of Lebanon since he hopes it will destroy his political rivals, whom he is worried about because, he says "they have defeated the Israelis. It's not a question of gaining one more village or losing one more village. They have defeated the Israelis ... But the question now is to whom Nasrallah will offer this victory." Not only does the Lebanese public support the resistance overwhelmingly, it also backs the original kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers, an indication of the substantial shift toward Hezbollah and the resistance.
The Angry Arab has an excellent dissection of this process:
There was a coup d'etat in Lebanon yesterday. Beirut has changed, and not to US/Israeli liking. In two days, a seismic change in Lebanese political attitudes can be noticed. And I am not only talking about public opinion. I am talking about the opinion of members of the Hariri coalition. In the last two days alone, all those Sunni Hariri deputies have clearly distanced themselves from remarks made by Walid Jumblat (although they have not named him): Muhammad Qabbani, Bahiyyah Al-Hariri, `Ammar Huri, Ahmad Fatfat, Samir Al-Jisr, among others). Bahiyya Hariri yesterday criticized the US "green light" on AlJazeera TV. Many of these politicians called AlJazeera live to express their condemnation of Israel and US. Many of them sounded as if they were pleading for their lives. The demonstrators yesterday, who stormed in the UN building in downtown Beirut where my sister works, chanted angry slogans not only against Arab regimes, Israel, and US, but also against Hariri. One chant went like this: "Beirut shall always be free, free; Hariri get the hell out." The demonstrators were planning to head to the US embassy, but Hizbullah and Amal members of parliament present prevented them. They clearly were afraid of things getting out of hand.
The 'international community' may in the short run succeed in putting troops in southern Lebanon, and Israel has announced that it would favour such an option. But who will supply the troops, and under what kind of mandate? The idea that some Lebanese politicians have that Israel will allow UN forces on any substantial area of its side of the border is delusional. And how long before they too are engaging in atrocities themselves, or complaining about Israeli atrocities that they can't control? Further, since when was it actually necessary? If a ceasefire is what is required, every regional actor apart from Israel and its allies is backing that. Israel merely has to stop its crimes. Washington simply has to call off its dogs. How many times have we seen this before? The American government lets one of its client-states off the leash and not only the atrocities themselves, but the very fact of resistance, is used as an excuse to send in the cavalry. When we protest this Saturday, we should protest against the imposition of an 'international force' on Lebanon. The governments that have been cheering Israel on and supplying it with the means of its butchery have no solution to this crisis.
Update: Statement against US-Israeli War on Lebanon.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
At the risk of being accused of a Zizek-like tendency to read any and all current political phenomena through the prism of Stalinism, reading recent apologias for barbarism by Aaronovitch et al and the appalling Standard headline mentioned by IT, one can't help but find a parallel.
Namely, with the way a section of the Left, through the purges, the show trials, the Nazi Soviet pact, the Eastern bloc coups, persisted in seeing the USSR as the workers' state that had bravely resisted foreign intervention in 1919, as the torch bearer of socialism, as the good guys.
Similarly, for many commentators it's permanently 1947 - instead of being by far the most bloated military power in the region, Israel is a plucky little guerilla state fighting for its very existence. Which begs the question - what will be Israel's Budapest 1956, the moment where they can't be publicly excused without it seeming utterly absurd?
I suspect Israel's Budapest moment is now. The increasingly hysterical - and nonsensical - tone of Zionist apologetics is a symptom of their inability to convince anyone outside the diminishing circle of true believers of the veracity of their case.
This is borne out by the size and vigour of anti-war protests both here in Britain and around the world. The Downing Street protest called by Stop the War last Friday was significantly larger and angrier than similar protests held over Iraq and Afghanistan.
All the indications are that a significant layer of people - including many who had misgivings over Iraq but did not actively oppose the occupation there - are gobsmacked by Israel's callous brutality and Tony Blair's barely concealed approval of what Israel is doing to Lebanon.
The political dynamic unfolding in Lebanon also suggests the old rules no longer apply. A week ago many people in Beirut were concerned that the pro-imperialist rightwing forces such as those headed by Jumblat and Hariri could rally and rearm.
But the wave of solidarity in the country has had precisely the opposite effect - attempts by these political leaders to blame the carnage in Lebanon on the resistance have been publicly repudiated even by senior members of their own parties. The pro-imperialist camp has split, not rallied.
All in all, this is the end of the road Zionism's left pretentions.
Israel has, as predicted, begun to flatten towns and villages in the south of Lebanon. Is it significant at all that they killed fifty sleeping residents in the village of Qana, site of the infamous massacre of refugees in 1996? Before that massacre, similar rhetoric was used. The State Department said at the time, "Hezbollah [is] using civilians as cover. That's a despicable thing to do, an evil thing." Shimon Peres feigned innocence, saying "They used them as a shield, they used the UN as a shield — the UN admitted it." The UN actually found that Israel had intentionally targeted the compound, using shells designed to maximise damage to bodies sleeping or moving around where the bombs fell. This time they are saying that Hezbollah has been firing rockets from the area. In fact, Israel has repeatedly attacked Qana recently, not least by shelling red cross ambulances.
Israel's inability to beat Hezbollah directly leads it to retreat to its enduring strengths - long range destruction. I do not say indiscriminate destruction, since it is clear that they are extremely discriminating - when they kill civilians, they do so with precision-guided rockets and missiles. They've also continued to destroy the routes of escape for civilians, and appear to be readying themselves for war with Syria. Oh, and they're continuing the killing in Gaza despite rumours of a peace deal.
Of course, this is all going on because Bush and Blair have authorised it. The stupendous callousness of the Prime Minister in publicly declaring that he does not wish Israel to cease its murder has led even some of his loyalists to question what he's doing. I've seen footage of usually pliant media commentators looking stunned and asking Blair if he really really means it. 'Say isn't so', their eyes plead. 'Say there's some plan afoot to bring peace to these benighted people'. I mentioned before that the government appeared to be in a state of panic over this - a crisis is now brewing and threatens to split the cabinet. The Prime Minister is now even claiming that he does want a ceasefire after all, but only fears that Hezbollah may not stick to it (despite the fact that Hezbollah is the one calling for a ceasefire and Israel is the one refusing to give it). And he is ever so eager to get an "international" force into the south, to relieve military pressure on the UK's formidable ally in the Levant - something that probably unites the cabinet and would win over those liberals shocked by Israeli aggression but eager to be told that the problem of imperialism can be solved through further and better imperialism.
We can intensify the pressure on the government, of course. Further protests are afoot. Today, there is a Voices for Lebanon and Palestine event in Trafalgar Square between 1pm and 3pm, and of course this coming Saturday there will be a national demonstration starting from Hyde Park near Speakers' Corner at 12 noon. There are protests scheduled outside Prestwick against the use of this airport to transport bombs to Israel.
PS: What's with rumours of a coup in Iraq?
Saturday, July 29, 2006
That's obvious, I suppose. Some of you are pounding your heads against the keyboard already. Bear with me. I've got this internal report from a fairly well-known investment bank which talks about the US economy. Everyone knows they're in some trouble and have been keeping their heads above water, barely - yet, the US press has actually started to speak of a Bush Boom. This is some delusional shit. In the news today, reports have come out that the American economy has slowed down sharply over the last three months. The polyannas in the media are babbling about the economy slowing down from some heady growth prompted by interest rate cuts to a more normal mid-cycle growth rate. The phrase "structural imbalances in the US economy" has presumably never occurred to them. Undoubtedly, the slow-down in the last three months is due to intervention from the Federal Reserve, but they have taken the economy 'off the boil' at considerable cost.
While growth is slowing, prices are rising. Wages are falling in real terms. The housing bubble has burst, and US consumers who had been living off the value of their homes may well find themselves sans income and sans home. Wall Street are worried about 'stagflation' and not without reason. High oil prices benefit the oil giants, but it also keeps prices rising while wages fail to keep up. The cure recommended by Wall Street is always the same - take the pressure off prices by raising interest rates. Cut consumer spending, suppress the wage bill and allow corporate profits to recuperate. However, this will reduce returns to the Federal Government while in the long run actually cutting returns on investment for companies. According to this little memo I'm looking at, the probability of a recession in the US economy has been rising since early 2005, currently stands at 40% and is continuing to rise.
They can temporarily ride this threat out by cutting wages in real terms even further than the Bush administration has been able to, reducing taxes on profits (which may be paid for by reducing social security and health benefits to working people - these benefits are themselves deferred wages), and rather crucially through plunder. The current crisis in Lebanon has probably put some strain on European business dealing with the Middle East and North Africa, but investment banks like the sudden leap in oil prices: they're very relieved. The US economy might resile from the further increase in prices, but as long as capital can ensure that the working class bears the brunt of this it will happily go with it. Further, the rise of an informal working class of migrants (which complements the development of an informal working class in the global South) is being handled by Bush in a way that suits business: they want migrant workers, and they know they'll keep coming even with a separation wall on the Mexican border, but they want to make sure they aren't getting organised and driving up wages like the cleaners in Miami did recently. They want them intimidated, unsure of their legal status, scapegoated for every ill. So-called 'progressives' in the States like Thom Hartmann provide an inestimable service to capital by persuading the left that it should be against migration. (Incidentally, isn't it curious that in this post-Cold War world it is the advanced capitalist countries that are increasingly looking to physical blockades - fences around Fortress Europe, a wall across the border with Mexico, the territory grabbing wall in Palestine - to control their relationship with the poor?)
Above all, the US ruling classes (and their syballing rivals in Europe and elsewhere) are united by a fear of the increasingly evident internal weaknesses of their system, and also by the re-emergence of potential systemic challenges which began in the global south, but which broke out onto American streets in Seattle in 1999. Despite any misgivings they might have, they will support Bush as long as he appears to be aggressively targeting those challenges. The business class was the most supportive of Bush's policies in the Middle East. Only when the present spree of heavy military expenditure becomes such a drain on productive investment that it is no longer sustainable, and only when the proposed long-term benefits of geopolitical hegemony and sustained predominance in the world economy against all threats start to wither to nil, will capital start to squirm and resist this agenda. There are splits already emerging in the American ruling class and parts of the small business layer, traditionally a Republican stronghold, are suffering from the high oil prices. One part of the strategy of the left in the short term is to prise open those cracks by showing that Bush's policies could cost them, and cost them big - they could lose Iraq, and even Afghanistan, and all that money would be wasted. Hostile OPEC countries might well trade in Euros rather than dollars. Migrant workers are getting organised - a tendency that can spread rather rapidly to non-migrant workers. Residents of New Orleans are doing the same (without much help). Demands for higher minimum wages are being pushed through local states, most recently in Chicago. I say we want to divide the ruling class, not so that we can get a nicer section of it in power and gratefully accept some reforms, but because its cohesion is a problem, because its weakness is desirable, because the very actions that will exacerbate such splits will be good for us.
To be against imperialism, racism and plunder is logically to be anti-capitalist, and therefore America requires an aggressive, militant far left to make those connections and to carry that analysis into its interaction with much broader movements and struggles.
"The BNP has moved on in recent years, casting off the leg-irons of conspiracy theories and the thinly veiled anti-Semitism which has held this party back for two decades. The real enemies of the British people are home grown Anglo-Saxon Celtic liberal-leftists who seek to ... impose multiculturalism on a reluctant indigenous population, and the Crescent Horde – the endless wave of Islamics who are flocking to our shores to bring our island nations into the embrace of their barbaric desert religion."
"As a Nationalist I can say that I support Israel 100% in their dispute with Hezbollah. In fact, I hope they wipe Hezbollah off the Lebanese map and bomb them until they leave large greasy craters in the cities where their Islamic extremist cantons of terror once stood. The 21st Century is the Islamic Century. Unless we start to resist the threat of Islamic extremism then within 100 years the West will have become Eurabia."
The eighteen strong attendence at the Euston Group public meeting would have shamed even Bob Geldof (who managed to attract over double that number to his gig in Milan last weekend). Of those eighteen, one was an anti-war and anti-Euston Iraqi democrat, and another was yours truly. Of the remaining sixteen, only one was female.
The organisers were clearly hoping for a couple of hundred, as they had booked a large lecture theatre at Kings College in central London. Gary Kent from Labour Friends of Iraq told the audience that everywhere he had been to in Iraq people had come up to him and thanked him for the US and British liberation! A truly remarkable account that appeared to contradict all the available evidence. Kent later admitted that he had never set foot outside of Kurdistan.
Alan Johnson of Democratiya spoke quite movingly about the historic struggles of Iraqi communists and trade unionists against both Saddam Hussein and his then US imperialist sponsors. In answer to a question from the floor about why he was against imperialism then, but not against it today, Johnson said that following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the main emphasis of US foreign policy was now on "democracy promoting", and that they deserved critical support in this endevour.
The questioner responded by pointing out that at exactly the time the United States were planning their war on Iraq, they were actively sponsoring a coup against the hugely popular elected government of Venezuela. Johnson replied that the world was now complicated and that you could no longer meaningfully talk about Imperialism/Resistance.
I have to say that it was the least inspiring meeting I ever attended in my life, and believe me there's been some stiff competition. It wasn't only the pathetically small attendence that dampened the atmosphere, or the almost complete absence of women and ethnic minorities. The principal reason, I think, was the absence of any vision that went beyond supporting George Bush and attacking the left, and the almost pathological denial of the disaster that is Iraq. I left the meeting wondering why these people bother pretending to be on the left at all. They appear to have no base of support in society, nor any interesting or coherent ideas, and are largely a creation of the media.
According to this Guardian poll, 3% of the British public think Britain's foreign policy should be closer to the US. That's the Eustonites' constituency: appropriately, it just scrapes out of the margin of error. Anyone who genuinely thinks that the Left can be rebuilt in Britain separately from the anti-war movement is delusional to the point of absurdity.
Note that Bush is specifically opposed to a truce or ceasefire of any kind. The point of this "international force" would be to go in and assist Israel in controlling Lebanon. There is some doubt about who will be able to supply these troops, and the US military establishment is resisting any commitment since the army is already overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At any rate, there is a new strategy fermenting in Tel Aviv. The present prediction coming from UNIFIL is that Israel will flatten villages, flatten every single house in south Lebanon "to deny Hizbullah any advantage of urban fighting in the streets". That was the sense of Israel's claims that anyone left in south Lebanon was a terrorist of some kind and therefore a target. Deir Yassin may be about to be repeated several times over.
Headline reads: "Hezbollah Rockets Hit UN Observation Post".
But: "A U.N.-run observation post just inside Israel was struck during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants on Friday. The Israeli army blamed Hezbollah rockets but a U.N. officer said it was an artillery shell fired by the Israeli Defense Force."
Note that the WP headline is is not even in quotation marks. The Associated Press, which supplied the item, may well slo have supplied the headline, but other media outlets ran the same story with different headlines.
EDWARD PECK: Well, we were out there as international election observers in Gaza for the election, and then we traveled elsewhere through the area, to Israel, to the West Bank, to Jordan, Syria, and finally to Lebanon, where we met with Nasrallah. We had spoken already with senior officials in Egypt and for Hamas and Fatah and the presidents of Syria and Lebanon in an effort, which the Council for the National Interest was sponsoring, to get a feeling for the area, how it was at that time in January.
It was interesting to meet with him, because we had already met with leaders of Hamas and Fatah before and after the election was over in Palestine, and his point was a fairly simple one, I think. Talking to us, retired diplomats, Americans, his key concerns were essentially how to free his country from the domination, which he perceived, and how to go about building the nation up again, despite all of the things that had happened to it over the years.
So it was a logical, reasonable presentation. No screaming, no shrieking. You know, just an educated intelligent man talking about serious issues that he perceived. It was interesting in the sense that the projection of people like that in this country is of, you know, blood-soaked wackos, and there are some of those out there on all sides, but that certainly was not the case with him. He believes very strongly in what he’s doing, which is something that you want to think about as you deal with him, because he is intent on accomplishing the objectives that he believes are the right ones.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of using Israeli, capturing Israeli soldiers to, in essence, trade for Lebanese prisoners is not unheard of, actually. Didn’t Nasrallah negotiate a major prisoner release back in 2004?
EDWARD PECK: Yes, and the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Lebanese, Hezbollah and Israelis have negotiated prisoner exchanges before. As I think you're aware, the Israelis have been holding a number of Lebanese as prisoners that they kidnapped from Lebanon, which is one of the contentious issues that upsets the folks on the northern side of that border.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, he was very clear, Nasrallah, saying the only possible strategy is to have Israeli prisoners and soldiers as prisoners, and then you negotiate in order to get your prisoners. This is the only choice. You don't have multiple choices in order for you to choose. You have the two options, either to have your detainees remain in Israeli prisons or to capture an Israeli soldier.
EDWARD PECK: Yeah, and it’s called a bargaining chip. It’s kind of a demeaning phrase, but if you've got some, and we've got some, then perhaps we can make an exchange. And that has indeed happened before. One of the things that concerns me, of course, is that I am not convinced that it’s the capture of those two soldiers, which has provoked this horrific Israeli response. I believe they were looking for an excuse, and there it was, and this is what’s happened since.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.
But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.
For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too.
Not that it matters any more anyway, since anyone in South Lebanon is a target. Not that it ever mattered anyway, because one does not bomb civilians in principled protest at their allegedly being used as human shields, particularly not when the bombers themselves have been known to engage in this practise.
Israel is doing very badly on its own military criteria. Last week, the Jerusalem Post uncritically reported IDF claims that between 40 and 50% of Hezbollah's military capacity had been destroyed. So much horseshit. And notice that the Post simply goes from saying 'IDF sources say' to 'we have learned' within a few sentences. As the Angry Arab notes, "Israeli newspapers, especially in their military reports, read like Syrian newspapers at times of war. Notice how they just print uncritically Israeli military propaganda". The Israelis claim to have killed up to 250 Hezbollah fighters, but no one takes that seriously. The IDF have had to fight like hell for a small village and a small town and they still don't appear to have secured them.
Speaking of human shields, Chabert points out:
Anyone with the least sympathy for Israelis, Jewish and Gentile, has to hope for the swiftest possible defeat of the Israeli regime's policy and its immediate fall from power. That support for the Israeli regime's merciless rampages, obliteration of whole societies, cloaks itself in some righteous sympathy for five or ten percent of the victims of this bloodbath (and they too are Israel's and the US's victims, to be laid at the White House door; to hold the resistance fighters of Hezbollah alone accountable for any of this, for any of these deaths is, in truth, an obscenity) depends on the depraved confusion which only our current infinitely protean and agile fascist ideology could contrive to popularise and pass off as rational. This regime came to power and maintains power through terrorising its citizens (human shields for the State) - more delicately, more coyly, indirectly of course - while it pursues its unbridled onslaught against its uncitizened insect race taxpayers. Through its incessant assault on infinitely weaker neighbours facing relentless, genocidal aggression, the regime has consistently ensured just enough random explosions to gather its citizens, like sand bags, as a physical and moral wall of protection around the murderous, lawless entity which uses and disposes of them with a master's sense of entitlement and divine proprietorship.
"The Israelis are radicalising Lebanon, even liberal democrats like me. I took part in last year's demonstrations against Syria. I was a critic of Hizbullah. Now I cannot help but support Hizbullah's fighters who are defending our country." What about Hizbullah's rocket attacks on Haifa? "It's right," she replied. "It's not only Lebanese who should have to suffer. Are human rights available only to Israelis? You can't have winter and summer on the same roof."
Demonising Hizbullah as terrorists or Iranian and Syrian agents confuses the picture. Moreover, the only party that declined to take part in government, the Maronite Christians led by Michel Aoun, made a tactical alliance with Hizbullah. Since the Israeli attacks Aoun has been one of Hizbullah's most vocal defenders.
While accepting Hizbullah's political weight, no Lebanese politician believes that its military wing can be disarmed against its will. Their view has to be the starting point for any discussion of an international force for southern Lebanon, whether it is a beefed-up version of the current UN force, Unifil, or some sort of "coalition of the willing".
European governments should resist the idea. Jacques Chirac has rightly said a Nato force is out of the question since the alliance is seen as "the armed wing of the west". Even without this association, any force would risk being seen as Israel's instrument. Israel's plan seems to be either to use foreigners to do its work or, if that fails, to turn south Lebanon into a giant Rafah - the city in Gaza where it demolished hundreds of homes and created a free-fire zone in which anything that moved was shot.
What Lebanon needs, as Siniora said in Rome, is an immediate ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal so that refugees can go home before any more destruction is wrought. The world should take its cue from that.
Meanwhile, how well are the Israelis doing, exactly? It is hard to stomach the grief-stricken reports of Israel's terrible losses, (you know, Channel Four's reporters sycophantically playing up Israeli 'suffering' and 'determination' outside a military funeral in a West Bank fucking settlement), and one is always suspect of reports of Israel's Worst Day Yet ("just you wait", I think). Nevertheless, once you've got beyond the militaristic bravado and the stuff about Israel's Trials, propagandists working for Israel are certainly keen to downplay their strategic and tactical losses and play up their gains. Angry Arab has been keeping an eye on this. Here, he finds the Israelis, having claimed to have captured Marun ar-Ras (a tiny village in southern Lebanon) admit that they're still snuffing their lids there. Here he notes that the small town of Bint Jbeil, which was supposedly under Israeli control, was still the scene of fighting. Here he finds that the town is actually "controlled from the outside". Unto which: "Control from outside? How does that work? Like, can I control Poland from my California? Explain that to me, o brilliant Israeli propagandist."
If the Israelis aren't as good as ground combat as they might have thought they were (or if Hezbollah are better than they anticipated), one thing the IDF are proving exceptionally good at is killing more civilians. 600 dead now, which is quite an increase on the report of 390 from earlier in the week. Bear in mind that this has to be an undercount - there are bodies buried in rubble and dirt that even the Lebanese Health Minister, for all his efforts, will not have tracked down.
Meanwhile, how many times do we have to hear that this is a war about Israel's survival? Geras, whose disgusting blog I will not link to, has actually been puffing the alleged "existential threat" to Israel which has apparently been hanging over it since it was founded while at the same time denying any such threat to the Palestinians... US neoconservative Charles Krauthammer echoes this, bleating about "Israel withdrew from Gaza, yet Gaza made war, so what does that tell you?". Actually, the Chief Rabbi made similar claims at the pro-Israeli rally last week: "Israel is fighting today in Lebanon because six years ago it withdrew from Lebanon ... Israel is fighting today in Gaza because one year ago it withdrew from Gaza. And Israel discovered the terrible truth spoken by the late Mother Theresa - that no good deed goes unpunished." It's entirely appropriate that this pious bigot and hypocrite should cite a pious bigot and hypocrite like Mother Theresa, of course. Israel being forced out of Lebanon was a "good deed", as was the "formaldehyde" Israel infused into the "peace process" by making a temporary and tactical withdrawal from Gaza. And here is a Seattle "progressive" psychotherapist wringing her hands - she cares terribly about all the dead people, but feels 'we' must zap this "cancer" before "it kills us all". These clamorous, hysterical bigots will never cease to amaze me. The capacity for such outrageous sanctimony and vicarious self-pity in support of a brutally racist, expansionist state defies reason, argument and even satire. The Israeli public presumably holds hard to this line: 71% of them believe the army should use even more force, although the numbers believing they should continue until they've wiped out Hezbollah (ie committed genocide against Lebanese Shi'ites) has dropped ten points to 48%.
Finally, is the British government feeling the heat a little bit? Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's little noises about the US transporting bombs via Prestwick Airport were entirely superficial (they didn't fill in the correct forms or something), but it was indicative of the government's need to at least offer an appearance of some slight distance from the Bush administration. It yielded the sort of headlines in the liberal news programmes and newspapers that were required: "Margaret Beckett attacks US" was, I seem to remember, the improbable headline on Channel Four news. Similarly, Blair's called for a "ceasefire", reported in The Guardian today, is wholly cynical and based in large part about the threat to pro-Western Arab dictatorships and therefore one assumes to British business interests in the Middle East (the Euro-Meditteranean trading zone has undoubtedly been under considerable strain too, explaining some of the opposition to Israel's behaviour from EU governments). But the fact that the government is floating this story in the press is probably indicative of Blair's need to look like he tells Bush anything other than Bush wants to hear. All the more reason to keep the pressure on by protesting today.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The Lebanese Communist Party hails the heroic resistance fighters and calls for opposing the entry of NATO forces
23 July 2006
The Political Bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party reviewed the dangerous repercussions of the Zionist aggression against Lebanon and its people that has continued for 12 days and noted the following:
First: The Political Bureau hails the noble resistance heroes in the ranks of the patriotic and Islamic resistance who are writing with their blood the most splendid pages in the history of our people and our Arab Nation. It sees in their heroism the rays of a new dawn of freedom for all the peoples of the region suffering under the yoke of the United States and Israel at a time when the Arab regimes have abandoned their places to link themselves entirely with America's plans.
Second: The plans for a solution proposed by the George Bush administration, in particular the "New Middle East," and the drive to introduce NATO troops into our south are plans aimed, not only at protecting the borders of Israel and liquidating our people's resistance and ability to reject the surrender settlements that it aims to impose on our region, but opens the way before the Zionists to wipe out the Palestine issue displacing its people once again and pushing he Arabs into a maelstrom of partition and endless conflicts.
Condoleezza Rice's trip to the region is only for the purpose of marketing this plan, which we reject in whole and in part. We demand that the Lebanese government take a resolute stand rejecting the entry into our south of forces from the western alliances – forces with which we had bitter experiences during the Israeli aggression of 1982 and the events that followed it. We also demand that the government call for a comprehensive national meeting to lay out plans for putting an end to the aggression and for dealing with the internal problems in a way that preserves Lebanon and its people, not one based on the interests of the aggressors.
Third: It will not be possible to confront the new stage in the Zionist-American plan in an effective and comprehensive way if we fail to pay adequate attention to those who have been displaced by the aggressive war and thrown once again on the roads of exile. It is the duty of the state, as represented by the Supreme Relief Council and all the service ministries to guarantee appropriate dwellings for those now sleeping on the sidewalks, in addition to insuring that food, medicine, and medical care be provided them and all those who still live in the areas exposed to daily bombardment by the Zionist forces.
Fourth: The Political Bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party calls on all leftist, progressive, and democratic forces in the world to broaden the scope of their solidarity activity with Lebanon, not only by organizing demonstrations and protests in front of the embassies of the United States and Israel in their countries, but by sending delegations and committees to Lebanon to investigate the facts and to see up close the crimes that Israel is committing against the Lebanese people, beginning with its massacres of peaceful residential districts and up to its use of internationally prohibited weapons (including poison gas; phosphorous bombs; cluster, fragmentation, and vacuum bombs; as well as depleted uranium).
The Politbureau also calls on the Arab peoples to press their governments to take real action in support of Lebanon, and calls on the peoples of Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco to close the embassies of Israel in their countries.
Eternal glory to the resistance fighters and the heroic martyrs!
Lebanon will triumph over the aggressors!
Beirut, 23 July 2006.
The Political Bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party.
(Via Lebanon Updates).
See that? Certainly a large concentration of attacks across the south, which they have openly advertised they intend to ethnically cleanse and annexe, but they're basically terrorising the whole country. As you'll note from the Fact Box in the graphic, the infrastructure is especially being targeted. Israel certainly wants a ruined Lebanon to lord it over, and dispelling the civilian population has the purpose for them of depriving Hezbollah fighters of the base of support in which they move. It is Fallujah many times over. They know, of course, that by destroying roads, targeting fleeing vehicles, blowing up ambulances, destroying airports, blockading the seaside ports and basically targeting any means of transport more sophisticated than a bicycle, they are making it extremely difficult for people to escape to anywhere safe. But that's fine too, because they also know that in targeting Hezbollah they are targeting a huge (and growing) part of the Lebanese population. The greasy disavowal from American neoconservatives like William Kristol and Brit Hume - oh, Israel doesn't want to harm civilians, but of these terrorists insist on hiding... - must echo some contemptuous AIPAC press release. The Israeli government knows full well that it is up against the Lebanese people: the Christian forces, the communists, Hezbollah and even their rivals Amal are all fighting.
Some Western commentators are spilling delusional shit here: Clinton Bailey writes for the IHT that once the poor Shi'ites of Lebanon return to their homes with so much lost "as a result of Hezbollah's policies", they will turn to Amal and the latter will offer a more hopeful message and they will learn to live with Israel and be pro-Western etc. This is insane, and also obviously racist: the idea that those traumatised survivors are going to simply accept that Israel has given them a good drubbing and taught them a lesson in who to vote for is a fantasy that only emerge from the epicentre of Washington's intimate circle. What is going to happen is that more and more Lebanese people who were not armed before are going to become armed, and they are going to cause Israeli soldiers to die. Israel can destroy the country, can uproot everything the Lebanese people have built for themselves, but they could not persuade the Lebanese people, even if they wanted to, that it was all for their own good. Have a look for yourself:
An apocalyptic landscape - the kind that Hollywood has prepared us to find a kind of aesthetic pleasure in. The photographer knew what s/he was doing - unlike many of the sickening, gory photographs documenting the effects of Israel's bombs, this one might have made into Time or Newsweek. (I wonder if, when the CIA was running the cultural Cold War, someone spoke up at a meeting: "The average citizen spends most of their day fantasising, especially while at work. If we leave them to it, they'll fantasise about killing the boss or - worse - overthrowing the boss. But what if we could supply the material? What if we could show them that war is beautiful, unionised labour is crooked, neighbours are untrustworthy, women are unstable, Arabs are dangerous, commies are menacing, and people are basically too stupid, selfish, cruel, vindictive, pitiless, narcissistic and vengeful to ever live any other way?" And someone else said: "Well, duh!" Having for decades reinforced a perception of human beings as conditioned by Original Sin, they could then teach people that the end of the world wouldn't be such a bad thing).
Unlike the half-wits posing as strategists in Washington and New York, few in Israel can be under any doubt that to see this through is not to restore the status quo on slightly better terms for Israel. It is to plunge into Iran and Syria, creating enormous destruction, with the intention of brutally refashioning the whole region as a massive desert 'lily-pad' for the United States.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Oh no. You've taken your "right of return", pal, you can't take it back now!
What is at stake: Zionism and Imperialism as terrorist regimes
Even some bourgeois analysts are baffled by what they term the “overreaction” or “exaggerated response” of Israel, with the full backing of American imperialism, to the killing and kidnapping of a few soldiers. However, there’s a clear logic in the sanguinary Zionist madness. Israel, with a colonialist Jewish population of little more than 5 million people, faces 300 million Arabs and many hundred million more Muslims in the region, e.g. Iran. The Zionist Apartheid regime can therefore survive only by imposing what is, in the full sense of the word, a regime of terror over the peoples of the Middle East. That’s why the militarily insignificant guerrilla operations of Hamas and Hizballah in the Southern and Northern borders of Israel have a huge political significance, since they threaten to smash the myth of the invincibility of the Israel Defense Forces, the main prop (short of direct military intervention) of imperialism in the region. Hence the bestiality of the Israeli reaction to Hizballah’s act of solidarity with the Palestinians, which took place against the background of a Zionist killing spree in the Gaza strip and the West Bank that left more than 100 Palestinians dead and goes on unabated while the headlines are being occupied by the events in the North.
The implications go much further even than the perspective of a potential dismantling of the Zionist Apartheid regime in Palestine and the fall of client Arab regimes in the Middle East. The oppression of the peoples of the Third World, amounting to more than 90% of humanity, by a handful of imperialist states is only possible because of their disunity and military intimidation. In other words, the dominance of imperialism—above all, of course, by the United States—is in the last instance also based on imposing a regime of terror over the semi-colonial masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Taken the widest historical view, therefore, what is at stake is the survival of the present system of exploitation, of world capitalism. That’s why the G-8 rushed to the defense of Israel and the US has gone beyond declarations of solidarity to speed up the delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel. That’s also the reason why Israel, with full US backing, rejected several cease-fire offers from Lebanon and Iran. Zionism and Imperialism wanted war, and they are getting it with a vengeance.
The plans of Zionism and Imperialism
Already once, in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, in an operation planned and being carried out in full coordination with the US. The aim of the operation was to reach Beirut¸ wipe out the Palestinian guerrillas operating in the country, and install a Quisling dictator. The first Lebanese war of 1975-1990 left 120,000 dead and 300,000 wounded out of a total population of 3 million—and paved the way for the rising of a non-secular force, Hizballah, as the dominant anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist force in the region.
In this case also, the aim of Zionism and imperialism was to install a puppet regime in Lebanon. The code name for this operation was “the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1559,” which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese Army throughout southern Lebanon. The groundwork for this aggression was laid by Rafiq al-Hariri in 2004, when he worked with the US and France to pass that resolution in the Security Council. The plan had the full support of Israel and client Arab regimes of the US: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
But who will be able to disarm Hizballah and assure that it will remain defenseless? Certainly not the insignificant Lebanese army, which didn’t even try to defend the country from the Israeli attacks and in whose ranks are to be found many Shiites, the denomination which provide the social base for Hizballah. Israel repeatedly stated its opposition to the deployment of even an “international” (i.e. imperialist) force in Lebanon and said that it will not agree to the presence of any troops in south Lebanon save for the Lebanese army. In other words: Israel wanted the resulting agreement to be the installation of a puppet regime under direct Zionist/American control, fearing that even an international force would make it more difficult for the IDF to terrorize the civilian population and implement the Zionist plans for the country.
The Failure of the “Yugoslav model”
At the beginning of the second Lebanese war, the military analysts in Israel wanted to believe that it would be “a second Kosovo war,” i.e. a war that would be won quickly through mass bombings by aerial forces alone. Without going into the moral perversity of people who take as a model the low-intensity nuclear warfare waged by NATO against Yugoslavia, which was littered with corpses and depleted uranium, it is clear that this “successful” precedent is irrelevant for the current war. After killing more than 300 civilians, completely destroying the Lebanese economic infrastructure and turning half a million people into refugees (the ethnic cleansing has already affected 20% of the Lebanese population, and now Israel has distributed leaflets calling for residents of the south to leaves their villages; if this happens en masse, the number may increase by another 100,000 or more), Zionism has achieved literally nothing: the combat ability of the Hizballah fighters remains intact and they are even able to launch coordinated missile attacks against all the Northern cities of Israel, encompassing one million inhabitants. The economic activity of the North is completely paralyzed and 25% of its inhabitants have already fled to Southern cities, creating a potentially serious refugee problem within Israel itself.
The failure of the original Zionist strategy has led the Israeli government to call up thousands of soldiers of the reserve and attempt a full-scale invasion of the country by ground troops. The implications of such a move are clear: Northern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam stated explicitly that Israelis should “stop counting the dead,” adding for good measure that “civilians will be killed too.” But for all the bombast and macho-talk, the unusually high casualties ratio of the ground warfare with Hizballah (almost 1:1, whereas in the territories there are usually dozens of Palestinian fighters for every soldier killed) is a serious worry for the Israeli military and government, which are not at all sure that the Israeli population will be willing to back such bloodletting for long. To repeat what we already said in the previous declaration of the CRCI: “What the Zionists didn’t count upon—used as they were to kill basically defenseless Palestinian guerrillas—is that this time they were facing an organization which was armed during the last decade by Iran, and which therefore was able to retaliate to the Israeli attacks, however disproportionate the military forces.”
Lebanon: The Zionist Vietnam
The three Israeli TV channels are actually a single propaganda outlet of the army, but even in that dunghill one can dig up interesting information. For instance, the Israeli general how boasted that Israel had driven Lebanon back 50 years—much like US Air Force chief of staff Curtis LeMay, who during the Vietnam War said: “We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with Air power or Naval power—not with ground forces.” (General Curtis E. LeMay, Mission with LeMay: My Story, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1965, p. 565.)
In the same vein, the Israeli military correspondents report that the Israeli forces are facing a tough guerrilla resistance hiding in bunkers and caves “like the Americans in Vietnam.” Again, they don’t see any moral problem with the analogy, since, paraphrasing Terence, they all feel that nothing imperialist is alien to them. Let us recall that anything between two and three million Vietnamese and 56,000 to 60,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam during the years 1963-1975 (an additional 500,000 Vietnamese and 75,000 French had been killed in 1945-1954) and that the tonnage of bombs dropped by the US on North Vietnam exceeded that in all the theaters during World War II.
But perhaps the most grotesque character was the military analyst who explained why the fighting was so hard: “We mustn’t forget that we are facing a terrorist organization with a yearly budget of 100 million dollars”—which is quite embarrassing considering that Israel gets 30 times that sum yearly from the US, not counting the huge local military budget, estimated at $9.45 billion by the CIA in 2005.
In sum, several thousand determined guerrilla fighters, with a small military budget and a modest supply of weapons from a Third World country (Iran, and perhaps, Syria as well) are beating a monstrous military apparatus built up by imperialism for decades. It’s Vietnam all over again—terrible suffering for the Lebanese people and also, to a much lesser degree, for the Israeli civilians, but good news for the anti-imperialist fighters all over the world.
The massive deployment of violence by western powers, directly or by proxy, often directed at whole populations, in order to restructure regional politics to suit the interests of those same western powers, is frequently confused with democracy - otherwise known as ‘the new middle east’ that will ‘prevail’. It is democratic presumably because those directing the violence against states, societies and whole populations are democracies, and it is ‘new’ because previously the use of such violence was regarded as the exception rather then the norm. Those who are opposed to the massive deployment of violence by western powers, directly or by proxy, in order to restructure regional politics to suit the interests of those same western powers, and indeed support the right of those inhabiting the region to defend themselves against this violence and indeed the consequences of such violence, are frequently accused of following the logic of ‘my enemies enemy is my friend’ for reasons quite mysterious to me. (A young Lebanese woman from the south who had recently witnessed her husband and one of her children killed demands that the world intervene before wondering aloud whether the world wanted to make Lebanon like Iraq, clearly a terrible fate for any society however desperate its circumstances).
It seems that opposing the massive deployment of violence by western powers cannot be a principled position and neither can the idea that societies and countries confronted with this kind of violence have a right to defend themselves, whatever their politics or the nature of their regimes. The left has always understood that these things are principles and it’s hard to fathom or make sense of the politics of those who have so comprehensively dropped these principles: with no explanation whatever. If anyone thought that the ‘new middle east’ had anything to do with democracy, or indeed ‘newness’ they might be puzzled by the alliances that the US has in mind in the region. There is something terribly familiar about what is beginning to unfold. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt are apparently worried about ‘stability’ and the US believes they are more frightened of radicals then they are of Israel. This is a pretty good bet on past performances. The Saudis have apparently been joking about how they and Israel have always been on the same side whether over Nasser or indeed the Iranian revolution, but then the Saudis are so openly corrupt and vulpine that this statement is hardly surprising. Think of these regimes and what they represent. Now think back to all the brave talk about a paradigm shift in US foreign policy (lets not bother with British talk: lets ‘please be serious’). Apparently making ‘stability’ the cornerstone of policy had always been a mistake. We were assured that insofar as one could talk of ‘root causes’ the absence of democracy was one, and this would be rectified. No more would the US (always the most important state in the region even if not geographically located there) cosy up to dictatorships in order to protect its interests.
This apparent shift caused considerable confusion in what might be called the ‘Western mind’ which tended to believe there was something democratic, moderate even, about states which the US was an ally of. But these confusions were to be cleared away. ‘Let it rip and consequences be damned’ was the cheerful public line, and indeed all those who opposed such talk were accused of being ‘conservative’. How much has changed. It turns out that the only kind of democracy permitted is that associated with massive deployment of violence by western powers, and that which does not interfere with the stability of those great representatives of democracy: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Indeed the whole diplomatic policy of the US (insofar as such a thing can be said to exist anymore as representatives of these unsavoury regimes scurry to Rome lest inviting the unloved American bombers to their country should prove the final straw for their repressed populations) is based on currying favour with these dreadful, decayed regimes and apparently, hoping that a bit of sectarianism about the Shi’a might help keep Iran isolated. This is what the new Middle East spearheaded by the US and Israel looks like. Hmmm. Enemies enemy is my friend? It seems to me it’s supporters of the US who have a bit of explaining to do. Those of us who remained consistent in our politics have to just get on with opposing the politics of a rather traditional kind called Imperialism.
Olmert's denial is obviously contemptuous, not even offered seriously, flung out there because it is the sort of thing a statesman is expected to say. The reason for the attacks is obvious: Israel is warning the UN that any more outbursts such as we have heard from Egeland and Annan will be severely dealt with. It is curious that Israel would be so blatant about this - they can't have expected that the truth would not come out. Presumably they intend for people, particularly in surrounding countries, to understand that they are serious, ruthless, psychopaths. If this is how they behave when they know for certain that people will hear about it, how do you suppose they behave when they operate under cover, when the people they target and kill do not have a direct line to international institutions, when their actions are strictly covered up by the Israeli censor?
Press Release: Military Families Against the War
Today Military Families won their appeal against the government's decision to refuse a full public inquiry into the Iraq war. Rose Gentle and Peter Brierley and others had argued that the war was illegal and based on lies. Their sons had died as a result of these lies. There will now be a judicial review of Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to not allow a public inquiry. This is a Prime Minister who has not visited soldiers wounded in his wars and who has refused to meet with families of servicemen killed in Iraq. Rose Gentle said today, 'Prime Minister you have refused to meet me in Downing Street now you will meet me in court.'
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
One of the more trivial consequences of the current war - the Israeli adaptation of the British and American series still running on all Middle Eastern channels - is that I stopped being angry about Harry's Place. It has ceased to bother me. It makes me laugh.
What joy! Previously, in the normal course of events, I could only stomach logging on to their site once every two or three months or so, and, when I did so, not for very long. Well, you may say, why log on? Because it's there, as was said, by Mallory, of Mount Everest. Though the distinction of Mount Everest is that it's the highest point there is. While Harry's Place is the lowest you can go.
HP's writers are, briefly, McCarthyites. Their practice and purpose is to support the Iraq War, Israel, and general warmongering, by throwing mud at their opponents: by slandering those who oppose them as terrorists and anti-Semites. Their squalid means of achieving this squalid goal, I'd narrow down to two: a game called We Are Fighting Terrorists, Therefore You Are One and a slightly different one called Links.
In Links, or Two Degrees of Separation, you say this: because X is connected with Y who is connected with Z - who is apparently an anti-Semite - therefore X is an anti-Semite too. It is an easy game, because nearly everybody is connected with nearly everybody else, especially in a broad movement (the movement against the war being, as it goes, pretty broad, encompassing as it does most of the population of the world). Curiously, though, it is never played with the war's proponents: we do not say, for instance, "Tony Blair is best mates with George Bush whose best mate was Ken Lay who was a prodigious crook". Nor do we go via Lord Levy, or via Tessa Jowell's husband, or straight to Silvio Berlusconi.
You Are A Terrorist bids us trace a similar connection: because some of the people fighting the US in Iraq are terrorists, you are one with them. (It has a corollary, roughly stated "because the enemy are bad, that means that we are good": it is the same Certificate of Perpetual Immunity that Israel is awarded by its admirers and which is currently being used to justify the slaughter of civilians in Beirut.) It is, quite simply, traitor-hunting. It sniffs out and identifies fifth columnists, complicit with the enemy and acting on the enemy's behalf. And this is, pretty much, what Harry's Place is there to do. It smears the opponents of the war. To read, takes a strong stomach: to agree, takes an absent sense of right and wrong. Its arguments could not be more ad hominem: except that the objects of their attack are imaginary, devils of their own devise.
I hated them on sight, and, having a care for my blood pressure and general health, kept that sight to a minimum, allowing myself only the occasional glance motivated by fascination: how low will they stoop? And then, just a couple of days ago, they stooped so low that I forgot to be disgusted and began to laugh. No slander, no nastiness can survive the ordeal of laughter. ("Why is the goose-step", Orwell asked, "not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh.") I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Brilliant! Why do people march against war? Because they're actually pro-fascist! Ha ha ha! Marvellous. Magnificent. You're right! You're so right, Harry's Place. And that's not all. I voted for the Green Party at the last election because I'm in favour of environmental destruction and I wash because I'm in favour disease. It's a brilliant game. Why doesn't everybody have a go!
Had I not been laughing so hard I might have noted that calling one's supporters "fascists" is a piece of intellectual thuggery not unknown to HP's antecedents, which are in the old Communist Party who, when it suited, called their leftwing opponents Trotsky-fascists and their more moderate rivals social fascists and so on. But that observation derives from the realm of serious commentary. We're not dealing with serious commentary. We're dealing with a B-movie.
McCarthyites? That they are, but the thing about Joe McCarthy is that people listened to him. Harry's Place are McCarthyites all right, but it's Kevin McCarthy that they resemble. Because nobody is listening. Like Kevin, they are convinced that their community is being overrun by secret supporters of the enemy, infiltrators, bent on destroying civilisation. There are clues everywhere, can't we see, look, look, there's another one! That's not a pacifist, it's an Islamofascist! I saw it come out of the pod! Help! Help!
But nobody is listening. Which is, I understand - I finally understand - the whole reason why they have such a hysterical tone. What tone do you adopt when people believe you and your cause appears to be prevailing? Dismissive, perhaps. Triumphant. Perhaps most common, smug. But this sort of hysteria? It's true, it can belong to triumph, or at least to the temporary triumph of the witch-hunt, the search for traitors, Joe McCarthy's America, Stalin's Soviet Union, Torquemada's Spain. But this is not the hysteria of those who persecute the Unbelievers. This is the hysteria of the Unbelieved.
They know the truth, on Harry's Place. Why can't everybody just see? Of course the antiwar people are fascist. They just won't admit it. They're hiding the truth until it's far too late. They're all working together. (Look, look at their Links!) There are so few of us, so few of us left, oh Christ another pundit's changed their mind and come out against the war, they're at the window now, run, run, and there they are, out on the freeway with Kevin McCarthy trying to flag down cars. They're coming! You're next!
A necessary history lesson.
Interview with General Gur of the IDF, hero of Entebbe, and of Israel in 1978:
Q-Is it true [during the March 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon] that you bombarded agglomerations [of people] without distinction.
A-I am not one of those people who have a selective memory. Do you think that I pretend not to know what we have done all these years? What did we do the entire length of the Suez Canal? A million and a half refugees! Really: where do you live? …we bombarded Ismailia, Suez, Port Said, and Port Faud. A million and a half refugees…Since when has the population of South Lebanon become so sacred? They knew perfectly well what the terrorists were doing. After the massacre at Avivim, I had four villages in South Lebanon bombed without authorization.
Q-Without making distinctions between civilians and noncivilians?
A-What distinction? What had the inhabitants of Irbid [a large town in northern Jordan, principally Palestinian in population] done to deserve bombing by us?
Q-But military communiqués always spoke of returning fire and counterstrikes against terrorist objectives.
A-Please be serious. Did you not know that the entire valley of the Jordan had been emptied of its inhabitants as the result of the war of attrition?
Q-Then you claim that the population ought to be punished?
A-Of course, and I have never had any doubt about that. When I authorised Yanouch [diminutive name for the commander of the northern front, responsible for the Lebanese operation] to use aviation, artillery and tanks [in the invasion] I knew exactly what I was doing. It has now been thirty years, from the time of our Independence War, until now, that we have been fighting the civilian [Arab] population which inhabited the villages and towns, and everytime that we do it, the same question gets asked: should we or should we not strike at civilians?[Al-Hamishmar, May 10, 1978]
I have transcribed the interview from “The Question of Palestine” by Edward Said and published in 1979 which contains the fullest version of the interview I have seen (the subject of much contemporary comment). I have placed Edward Said’s interpolations in square brackets as in his book. Al-Hamishmar was a liberal left Israeli newspaper no longer in existence. It seems to me that General Gur provides an honest and straightforward account of his actions and deserved to be applauded for that. He also provides a context for understanding the Israeli way of war which does not seem to have changed very much.
If anyone is aware of a larger or more comprehensive account of this interview anywhere please let me know. There are snippets all over the web but it seems to me that a fuller account would be useful.
Israeli Miscalculations At this stage, it is not clear what will happen next. But at this stage, it is possible to state that Israeli political goals will not be achieved, no matter how long Israeli aggression takes. No matter what happens next, and even if Israel manages to kill Nasrallah or other leaders, Israel's ability to achieve its goals is diminishing not increasing.
I am not being triumphalist: Israeli military superiority, and Israeli willingness, nay eagerness, to use massive and indiscriminate violence, has never been in doubt. I lived and barely survived the 1982 Israeli invasion after all. But the political situation is rather spiraling quickly away from the intentions of Israel and its vocal and silent partners in the world... Here is my list of Israeli miscalculations:
Read the whole thing here.
The doctrine itself is false. Its preaching should be regarded as a crime against humanity. We are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our wilful acts. These include the consequences of restraint, of pity, of not hurting the enemy in any way you can. They also include the consequences of attempting to make war an accepted part of civilised life, which is to institutionalise war and thus to perpetuate it.
War is not civilized, but a regression to the state of nature, and in the state of nature there is no sin. In the state of nature there are, however, necessary and unnecessary evils, and in that respect we still have to make judgements. 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.' If I were to criticise Hizbollah's rocketing of Israel, which in the present circumstances I will not, it would only be on the grounds of its futility, if that could be shown.
The argument that Israel has a right to self-defence but that its present actions are disproportionate leads nowhere. Sometimes disproportionate response is exactly right, and for the state of Israel disproportionate response will always seem right. What is wrong is the existence of a state that can exist in no other way. Its only hope of survival, spelled out clearly enough by Jabotinsky, is to reduce the millions of people it has wronged to utter despair.
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