Published on Sunday, August 6, 2006 by the Toronto Sun (Canada)
The War has Backfired for Israel, and Its Old Lebanese Curse Keeps Getting Worse
Most citizens in Lebanon now back Hezbollah
by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK -- Last week, Doron Rosenblum, a columnist for what I consider Israel's finest newspaper, Ha'aretz, delivered a zinger I doubt anyone would dare print in North America, where most Mideast news is heavily slanted.
The real cause of the latest Lebanon war, wrote Rosenblum, was not the seizure of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, but an earlier, boastful TV speech by Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, that provoked Israel's leaders.
Nasrallah taunted Israel's new triumvirate of PM Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Amir Peretz, and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, sneering they were "small" compared to Ariel Sharon. "Adding fuel to the fire," said Rosenblum, Nasrallah "emphasized the 'small' with his fingers."
According to Rosenblum, "bad-tempered" Olmert, Peretz, and "arrogant Halutz" flew into rages at this grave insult to their manhood, and sought to prove they could out-Sharon Sharon by turning a minor skirmish into an all-out war.
Sounds bizarre, but remember, George Bush Sr. invaded Panama after Manuel Noriega called him as a "wimp." Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after its crown prince suggested Iraq's war widows be sent to Kuwaiti harems. Adolescent behaviour springs eternal.
Israel's old Lebanese curse just keeps getting worse.
A number of press agencies have reported the skirmish that triggered this war didn't actually occur in Israel but just inside Lebanon. If true, this would sink Israel deeper into the hole it has already dug itself after laying waste to much of Lebanon and killing dozens of civilians at Qana (with a U.S.-supplied missile).
Israel first said it was targeting missile launchers firing from Qana. But Israel's military now admits there were no rockets being fired from Qana the day of the attack. A decade ago, Israeli artillery killed 106 civilians there.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says that while it's "unarguable" Israel has every right to defend itself, Israel's savaging of Lebanon is "inhuman and counterproductive." He echoes world opinion.
One of Israel's finest thinkers, Uri Avnery, says Olmert and Peretz don't know what they've unleashed: "They are not running the war, the war is running them." Like U.S. President George Bush in Iraq, their generals promised them a cakewalk and instead produced a human, political and military disaster.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked even more pathetic than usual after proclaiming a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Lebanon -- which Israel promptly ignored. She deserves to be fired.
Like well-trained seals, the entire U.S. Senate and all but eight of 435 congressmen voted full support for Israel's war.
Israel may dominate Washington, but is having a far tougher time with Lebanon. In a little Thermopylae, Hezbollah's 3,000 fighters astoundingly held off Israel's mighty military machine, the world's fourth strongest, for three weeks. Many Israelis are now questioning the invasion's logic and objective.
Israel's latest plan: Occupy and depopulate a 20-mile deep chunk of Lebanon to the Litani River until an international force comes in and subdues what's left of Hezbollah. But few nations will send troops without prior agreement with Hezbollah. Israel battled Hezbollah for 18 years, losing nearly 800 men, and ultimately lost the war it began.
The deeper Israel advances into Lebanon, the more its troops are exposed to Hezbollah attack. Bombing and shelling won't defeat Hezbollah, which represents a third of Lebanon's people and is its de facto army. Some 87% of Lebanese now back Hezbollah. So far, the war has backfired for Israel.
Israeli operations are edging dangerously close to Syria. Damascus may be reluctantly forced into the war in spite of its obsolete armed forces. That's fine with Bush who would no doubt like to use Israel as a proxy against Iran's allies, sparing U.S. casualties before November's elections.
Tiny Lebanon has been shattered, with billions in damage. Continuing the war may turn ruined Lebanon into a chaotic, anarchic failed state and an incubator for more anti-Western, anti-Israeli extremist groups.
Those who destroy Lebanon will have to deal with its ugly consequences.
© 2006 Toronto Sun