Evidence of Israeli “Cowardly Blending” Comes to Light

War Crimes Airbrushed from History

By JONATHAN COOK

Counterpunch

January 4, 2008

 

It apparently never occurred to anyone in our leading human rights organisations or the Western media that the same moral and legal standards ought be applied to the behaviour of Israel and Hizbullah during the war on Lebanon 18 months ago. Belatedly, an important effort has been made to set that right.

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Appeal for Lebanon refugee rights

Rights group Amnesty International has condemned Lebanon for what it describes as discrimination against generations of Palestinian refugees in the country. Some 300,000 refugees are denied access to work, education, adequate housing and health care, the report says.

It calls on the government to improve conditions in 12 overcrowded camps that have housed refugees since their flight from what is now Israel in 1948-49.

But the “significant cost” that Lebanon has borne is also acknowledged.

The report says more than half registered refugees live in deteriorating camps lacking basic infrastructure on virtually the same land allocated in 1948, despite a fourfold increase in the registered refugee population.

The pain associated with expulsion and decades living in exile is aggravated by the systematic discrimination they suffer in Lebanon

Amnesty International

Obstacles to peace: Refugees

Pictures: Palestinian camp

In some households, as many as 10 people share one room, and homes are often makeshift huts lacking either ventilation or sanitation.

“The pain associated with their expulsion and the decades of living in exile is being aggravated by the systematic discrimination they suffer in Lebanon,” the report says.

Amnesty carried out research in official and unofficial camps across Lebanon, including Nahr al-Bared camp before residents were forced out by fighting between the Lebanese army and a group of mainly-foreign militants.

Banned professions

The 24-page Amnesty report examines restrictions affecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, 60 years after they or their forebears fled the former Palestine.

Entitled Exiled and Suffering: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, it calls curbs imposed by Lebanon to protect itself from the influx of Palestinians “wholly unjustified” and says they should be lifted at once.

Palestinian children showing Lebanese refugee identity cards

Refugees are denied rights and opportunities afforded to Lebanese

Until recently Lebanon banned Palestinian refugees from employment in 70 professions.

The proscribed list now stands at 20 professions, but the report says the refugees still face obstacles in the job market, leading to high drop-out rates in schools.

A higher proportion of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in abject poverty than any other Palestinian refugee community, a situation exacerbated by restrictions on their access to social services, the report says.

“We recognise that the Lebanese authorities and people have accommodated hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees for almost six decades and the significant cost – economically and in other ways – this has imposed on Lebanon,” Amnesty says.

It adds that additional responsibility lies with Israel and the international community to find a durable solution for the plight of Palestinian refugees “that fully protects their human rights including their right of return”.

However, the report says, the Lebanese government has the obligation to immediately end all forms of discrimination against Palestinian refugees and fully respect their human rights.

The Lebanese government has not responded to Amnesty’s recommendations.

BBC News

African maids abused in Lebanon

“Driven by poverty and conflict in their home countries, women from Africa travel to Lebanon only to find themselves hungry, abused, raped and subjected to conditions akin to slavery.”

Hezbollah rejects war criticism

 It would appear that unless you have supposedly modern “smart” bombs your not entitled to retaliate to foreign aggression.  Its true that the rockets Hezbollah use are highly inaccurate and since the Israelis build military bases next to schools, hospitals and civilian areas there is always a risk of hitting civilians.  This of course is unacceptable (killing anyone is in my opinion, not just civilians) but what else can they do?  Watch their houses burn and not fight the military of the aggressor?  Surely the responsibility lies with Israel to keep its military separate from civilians, that way it would be clear who Hezbollah was targeting.   Incidentally the UN has found no evidence of Hezbollah building bases in civilian areas, all there bunkers have been found elsewhere, so the Israelis were firing on civilians only.

For more on this read the following Jonathan Cook article.

Destroyed buildings in Beirut, summer 2006

A woman walks through the rubble in Beirut, summer 2006

The Lebanese government and Hezbollah have condemned a watchdog report which criticises Hezbollah’s conduct in the conflict against Israel last year. The report by Human Rights Watch accuses Hezbollah of “indiscriminately and at times deliberately” targeting Israeli civilians.

The group called off the report’s launch in Beirut on Thursday on hearing that Hezbollah planned to disrupt it.

Human Rights Watch accused Hezbollah of trying to silence criticism.

The report says Hezbollah forces fired long-range rockets that “were highly inaccurate and could not distinguish between civilians and military objectives”, resulting in at least 39 Israeli civilian deaths.

The New York-based group says Hezbollah’s justifications for attacking Israeli towns – as a response to indiscriminate Israeli fire into southern Lebanon – have no legal basis under the laws of war.

We did not target civilians but Israel did

Hezbollah spokesman

A spokesman for Hezbollah, Hussein Rahal, said Human Rights Watch should start by criticising Israel.

“We were the victims during this war and people have a right to defend themselves,” he told AFP.

“We did not target civilians but Israel on the other hand did target the civilian population in Lebanon.”

Criticism also came from the Lebanese prime minister’s office.

“Israel during the attacks of July 2006 violated all international conventions,” it said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch is due to release a big report, into civilian deaths in Lebanon during the conflict, in September.

‘Protecting civilians’

The group said it cancelled its Beirut news conference on Thursday when it heard that Hezbollah was planning to disrupt it, and the hotel therefore refused to host the event.

In a statement, HRW said its focus was on protecting civilians, not on taking sides in a conflict.

“Hezbollah is trying to silence criticism of its conduct during the 2006 war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the group’s Middle East division.

“The fairness and accuracy of our reporting will speak for themselves, whether we hold a press conference or not.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6969051.stm

When the Israelis do this, we scream at the injustice, but when the Lebanese army does it we applaud them.

 “In the first three days of the recent events involving the Lebanese army and Fateh el-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared camp, the Lebanese army committed what would amount to war crimes in a similar fashion to that of the Israeli army in Gaza and in Lebanon last summer, firing on a civilian population indiscriminately. When the Israelis do this, we scream at the injustice, but when the Lebanese army does it we applaud them. These are double standards.” Electronic Lebanon: Cheering to the beat of the Palestinians’ misery

Displaced children from Nahr al-Bared camp staying at an UNRWA school in Badawi camp. (Image courtesy of Marcy Newman)

What can I say? The fighting wasn’t against Fateh al-Islam. The fighting was against our homes. Our homes were destroyed. If you were to go inside the camp, and see the camp for yourself, you would say the same. No homes [are] left.

Electronic Lebanon: “They may accept us for a day or two but for how long?”

The Innocent Speak « The Fanonite

In the case of Lebanon, Robert Fisk’s friendship with the late Rafiq Hariri seems to have taken the best of his judgement lately however in today’s report, he eschews the coloured speculations for his real strength — strong descriptive reporting. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, the suffering of the innocent victims of the Lebanese Army’s confrontation with Fatah al-Islam has been mostly overlooked. Here Fisk gives voice to the victims:

It is a place of Palestinian fury – and almost as much Palestinian blood. The bandage-swaddled children whimpering in pain, frowning at the strange, unfatherly doctors, the middle-aged woman staring at us with one eye, a set of tubes running into her gashed-open stomach, a series of bleak-faced, angry, young men, their bodies and legs torn apart.

There was eight-year Youssef al-Radi who was cut open by shrapnel in the arm and back yesterday morning and brought to the Palestinian Safad hospital at Badawi, another refugee camp in Tripoli, his feet bleeding, a tiny figure on a huge stretcher. He hasn’t been told that his mother died beside him. Nor that his father is still in the Nahr el-Bared camp.

And let us not forget six-year-old Aiman Hussein, who was hit by up to a hundred pieces of metal from a Lebanese army shell – in the neck and the spine, the tibia, the foot, the back, you name it. The doctors had to rush him to Tripoli because they could not operate. Visit the Safad hospital if you dare…

Some of the buildings look like Irish lace and a mosque’s green minaret has a shell hole just below the platform where the muezzin’s call would be heard five times a day, as if a giant had punched at it in anger. There is even a field of ripped-up tents, which must have been what this camp looked like when the grandfathers of those wounded children arrived here from Palestine in 1948…

I looked across the camp. Was it worth all this pain, the grotty, empty streets, the broken apartment block with dirty grey smoke still drifting from its windows? The Lebanese soldiers claim they try never to hurt civilians (I can think of another army which says that!), but did so many Palestinians have to be killed or wounded for the crimes of a few, some – we do not know how many – not even from “Palestine” but from Syria or Yemen or Saudi Arabia?…

Most of the troops around me were from the north of Lebanon – so were the murdered soldiers. Had there been feelings of revenge rather than military discipline when they first opened fire? There were certainly growls of retaliation in the Safad hospital – named, with terrible coincidence, after the very town in pre-Israel Palestine from which many of Nahr el-Bared’s refugee families originally came – and Fatah, the old Arafat PLO Fatah, now had armed men on the streets to protect the medical personnel and the new, wounded refugees from the next burst of fury.

All day, the ambulances ran a ferry service of wounded from the camp, sirens shrieking through the wards, spilling out the wounded and the sick and the ancient men and women who could bear no more. They were given small sacks of bread – like animals newly arrived at market, I couldn’t help thinking – and led away.

Weasel-Words and Poodle-Talk

They had heard all the political statements. Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French President, had been on the phone to the Lebanese Prime Minister, insisting that he should not give in to “intimidation”perhaps he thought the Palestinians were the same kind of “scum” that he called the rioting Arabs of the Paris suburbs last year – and President Bush gave his his support to the Lebanese government and army.

And Walid Jumblatt said of the Syrian President that “the Lebanese Army ought to crush Fatah al-Islam once and for all to prevent Assad from turning Lebanon into a second Iraq”. That’s all the talk now, that another sovereign Arab nation might become a new Iraq. The Algerians were saying the same two days ago, that Islamist suicide bombers were trying to turn Algeria into “a new Iraq”.

What, I kept asking myself yesterday, have we unleashed now? Well, you can ask Suheila Mustafa who stood yesterday at the bedside of her 45-year-old sister, Samia, so terribly wounded by army shellfire in the face that she could neither talk nor focus upon us with her bloated left eye. “We had just woken up when we heard the first barrage of gunfire,” she said. “My sister was beside me and fell down with her head bleeding. She haemorraged from 5.50 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. At last my brother brought us all out in his car. But let me tell you this. The Palestinian people have heard Walid Jumblatt and we say ‘thank you’ to him and let us have more shelling.

“And I would like to thank Prime Minister Siniora, and say thanks – really thanks – very much to George Bush and to Condoleezza Rice. I really want to thank them for these shells and these wounds we are suffering. And if Rice really wants to send more materiel to the Lebanese Army, she had better hurry up. There is a woman still in the camp who is very pregnant and the child in her womb will be born and will grow into a man – and then we’ll see!”

Of course, one wants to remind Suheila – perhaps not her dreadfully wounded sister – that the Palestinians are guests in Lebanon, that by allowing Fatah al-Islam to nest on the edge of their north Lebanon camp, they were inviting their own doom.

[What a silly comment from Fisk! So Suheila and her dreadfully wounded sister were supposed to stop ruthless militants that even the whole Lebanese Army (not to mention the Hariri militia) is finding hard to confront]

But victimhood – and let us not doubt the integrity or the dignity of that victimhood – has become almost a pit for the Palestinians, into which they have fallen. The catastrophe of their eviction and flight from Palestine in 1948, their near-destruction in the Lebanese civil war, their cruel suffering at the hands of Israeli invaders – the massacre of Sabra and Chatila in 1982 where 1,700 were slaughtered – and now this, have sealed these people into a permanent prison of suffering.

I found an old lady in Safad hospital, whimpering and sobbing. She was 75, she said, and her daughter had just brought out her own two-month-old child and this was the fifth time she had been “displaced”. She used that word, “displaced”. She had lost her home in Palestine in 1948 and four more times in Lebanon her home had been destroyed…

No wonder that in all the Palestinian camps of Lebanon yesterday, they were protesting the “massacre” at Nahr el-Bared with gunfire and burning tyres.

And so we continued through the wards. There was Ghassan Ahmed el-Saadi, who had arrived at the camp’s medical centre to distribute bread with his friends Abdul Latif al-Abdullah and Raad Ali Shams. “A shell came down and my friends both fell dead at my feet,” said Mr Saadi, who is a mass of tubes and wounds and a bloody foot.

There was Ahmed Sharshara, just eight years old, with a huge plaster over his chest. A hunk of shell had entered his back and broken into his spine and partly emerged from his chest. The X-ray showed a piece of metal like a leaf in his stomach. His lungs were still being drained.

And there was Nibal Bushra who went to his balcony on Sunday morning to find out why the camp was being shelled when a single bullet hit his brother. Then a sniper’s bullet hit him. For two days he lay bleeding in the camp before being brought out.

“I wish they would take us to a European country because we are not safe here, and the Arab nations are beasts, monsters to us,” he said. “I won’t even talk to Arab journalists. They are not prepared to tell the truth.” And what has become of his desire to return to the old Safad of Palestine, I asked. “We will never go home,” he said. “But I trust the Europeans because they seem good and kind people.”

And then – a little annex to this story – there was a small room where I found Ahmed Maisour Sayed, 24, part-paralysed and unable to speak, who was not a victim of the Lebanese army. He was brought here on 3 May after being shot by two gunmen from Fatah al-Islam because he was a PLO supporter. “His family and one of their families had quarreled about ideology,” his father told me. “So they shot him and killed two other men. They are a terrorist organisation and we don’t know what they want. There’s only about 700 of them. But now my son can never work, We need help from an international organisation.” I dared not tell him that I come from the land of Lord Balfour.

But I did notice, back at Nahr el-Bared, a heap of empty Lebanese army machinegun cartridges, and I picked one up as a souvenir. And when I got home to Beirut, I put it with a much older cartridge case which I picked up back in the late Eighties when the same army was besieging the Palestinians in Sidon. Of course, the two cases were identical in calibre. The tragedy goes on. And its identical nature has made it normal, routine, typical, easy to accept. And woe betide if we believe that.

The Innocent Speak « The Fanonite