Saturday, July 15, 2006

israel re-enters lebanese politics

israel re-enters lebanese politics

our neighbours in the beirut quarter of qasqas call our place 'bayt al-alaman' - the house of the germans. the fact that only one of us is german these days is beside the point. in fact there's no one at the house these days. we've dispersed to points northwest and northeast - much to the amusement of our neighbours.

our flat's on the top floor of an eleven-storey building that has a splendid view of beirut's southern suburbs. for the last couple of days it's had a commanding view of the israel air force's repeated sorties against the suburbs and especially the neighbourhod of harat hrayk -which happens to be where hizbullah is based.

over the last couple of days israel has particularly punished the people of south lebanon and beirut's southern suburbs, including the airport. today it's broadened the focus of its attacks to include beirut port, jounieh port, amshit, tripoli port and various other infrastructure and lebanese military targets.

so far we reckon they've hit harat hrayk more than ten times. the israelis say hassan nasrallah, the hizbullah secretary-general, is hidden in a tunnel beneath the base that they have so incessantly bombed. absurd as this claim is, the invocation of saddam hussein - america's previous public-enemy number one, who was also said to have been found hiding in a tunnel - is all too transparent.

on friday night hizbullah severly damaged an israeli warship - sending four sailors into the abyss. at first it seemed they did this with an unmanned drone usually used for surveillence - in this case packed with high explosives. early saturday, the israeli militay command offered a corrective, claiming that the weapon had been an iranian-made missile - an assetion that was later verified. nevertheless, the rhetorical value in invoking washington's current public enemy number one - ahmadenijad - remains transparent.

such transparency is admirable, since it underlines the fact that what lebanon is suffering at present is not so much an act of war as an effort to enforce american foreign policy by proxy.

for all the destruction that has been rained down on the major infrastructure, the strikes - at least the strikes that haven't targeted hizbullah supporters - are remarkable for ther relative reserve.

a case in point is the sparkling new bridge just east of beirut - rafiq al-hariri's contribution to expediting the drive from beirut to damascus - which has been disabled [a couple of holes got punched in it] but it hasn't been brought down the way that it might have been.

the israelis are reigning themselves in because they don't want to destroy this country, they just want to help washington and lebanon's 14 march government disarm hizbullah. security council resolution 1559 was the apropriate means to send syria's occupying army packing, but it's too blunt an instrument to disarm a homegrown force like hizbullah. the hiwar al-watani - the 14 march government's efforts to tame hizbullah through negotiation - simply verifies how ineffectual the instrument is.

the prevailing discourse amongst approximately half of lebanon's population is that hizbullah is responsible for this attack, so it's pretty clear that the object of this seige is to further alienate lebanese from hizbullah.

the slow strangulation of beirut - as the power plants run out of fuel and houses go dark, as the shops shut for want of goods - is israel's way of arousing domestic hostility against hizbullah, in embedding israeli-american policy intersts within the lebanese public.

'the resistance', as hizbullah terms itself, has done a grave disservice to the well-being of the people of this country by launching this attack at this time. 'the resistance', however, is a legitimate expression of the frustrations of the most marginalised segment of lebanese society - which happens to be shia muslim.

hizbullah may instrumentalise the alienation of their constituency, but it speaks to their frustrated hopes and prevailing fears more utterly than the neo-feudal, neo-liberal vision proposed by rafiq al-hariri.

the plaintive cries from the hoteliers of beirut that hizbullah has destroyed what was shaping up to be a bumper tourism season has utterly no resonance among the poor of beirut's southern suburbs.

washington, that self-proclaimed doyen of democratic change int he middle east, has allowed - perhaps requested - that israel punish hizbullah's supporters for chosing to support the resistance. it precisely replicates the manner in which washington and tel aviv are punishing the palestinians for voting for hamas in the last palestinian elections.

it is punishing the rest of lebanon to expedite efforts to neuter the resistance. this business has nothing to do with two israeli prisoners of war held by hizbullah.

jim quilty
15 july, 2006

1 Comments:

Blogger Rajiv Iyer said...

I absolutely agree - I think Israel's offensive is more of an effort to manipulate Lebanon's politics and get Hezbollah out of business, than freeing the two prisoners. While Hezbollah's actions cannot be justified and Hezbollah should be disarmed, bombing an entire country and causing massive loss of lives and infrasructure (and loss of livelihood and economic growth as well) is completely unjustified. Israel has clearly over-reacted.

2:12 PM  

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