Big Noise Film ‘The War of 33’ – An intimate, personal and powerful telling of the story of the 2006 war in Lebanon. A series of letters written by Hanady Salman – a mother living through the war in Beirut – carve a narrative arc through the intense and haunting images of conflict. She tells the stories of her family and the people she lives the war with the refugees, the wounded, and the everyday Lebanese, struggling to maintain their sanity and their humanity during a time of war. The War of 33 is more than a document of a particular historical experience. What emerges is a universal story – a complex picture of love, pain, resistance and survival in the face of uncertainty and violence.
War Crimes Airbrushed from History
By JONATHAN COOK
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.
Will anyone remember? Does anyone really care anymore?
Sabra-Shatilla Palestinian Refugee Camp
A Letter to Janet
It’s a very beautiful fall day here in Beirut today. Twenty-five years ago this week since the September 15-18, 1982 Massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra-Shatilla. Bright blue sky and a fall breeze. It actually rained last night. Enough to clean out some of the humidity and dust. Fortunately not enough to make the usual rain-created swamp of sewage and filth on Rue Sabra, or flood the grassless burial ground of the mass grave (the camp residents named it Martyrs Square—one of several so named memorials now in Lebanon) where you once told me you that on Sunday September 19, 1982, you watched, sickened, as families and Red Crescent workers created a subterranean mountain of butchered and bullet-riddled victims from those 48 hours of slaughter. Some of the bodies had limbs and heads chopped off, some boys castrated, Christian crosses carved into some of the bodies.
“I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an ally wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles”.
Today Martyrs Square is not much of a Memorial to the upwards of 1,700 mainly women and children, who were murdered between Sept. 15-18. You would not be pleased. A couple of faded posters and a misspelled banner that reads: “1982: Saba Massacer”, hang near the center of the 20 by 40 yard area which for years following the mass burial was a garbage dump. Today, roaming around the grassless plot of ground is a large old yellow dog that ignores a couple of chicken hens and six peeps scratching and pecking around.
Since you went away, the main facts of the Massacre remain the same as your research uncovered in the months that followed. At that time your findings were the most detailed and accurate as to what occurred and who was responsible.
The old 7 storey Kuwaiti Embassy from where Sharon, Eytan, Yaron, Elie Hobeika, Fradi Frem and others maintained radio contact and monitored the 48 hours of carnage with a clear view into the camps was torn down years ago. A new one has been built and they are still constructing a Mosque on its grounds.
I am sorry to report that today in Lebanon, the families of the victims of the Massacre daily sink deeper into the abyss. No where on earth do the Palestinians live in such filth and squalor. “Worse than Gaza!” a journalist recently in Palestine exclaims.
A 2005 Lebanese law that was to open up access to some of the 77 professions the Palestinians have been barred from in Lebanon had no effect. Their social, economic, political, and legal status continues to worsen.
“It’s a hopeless situation here now,” according to Jamile Ibrahim Shehade, the head of one of 12 social centers in the camp. “There are 15,000 people living in one square kilometer.” Jamile runs a center which provides basic facilities such as a dental clinic and a nursery for children. It receives assistance from Norwegian People’s Aid and the Lebanese NGO, PARD. “This whole area was nothing before the camps were here and there has been very little done in terms of building infrastructure,” Shehade explained.
Continued misery in the camps has taken a heavy psychological toll on the residents of Sabra and Shatilla, aid workers here say. Tempers run high as a result of frustration from the daily grind in the decrepit housing complex. In all 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon tensions and tempers rise with increasing family, neighborhood, and sect conflicts. Salafist and other militant groups are forming in and around Lebanon’s Palestinian camps but not so much here in the Hezbollah controlled areas where security is better.
In Sabra-Shatilla, schools will run double shifts when they open at the end of this month and electricity and water are still a big problem.
According to a 1999 survey by the local NGO Najdeh (Help), 29 percent of 550 women surveyed in seven of the 12 official refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, have admitted being victims of physical violence. Cocaine and Hashish use are becoming a concern to the community.
There is some new information about the Sabra-Shatilla Massacre that has come to light over the years. Few Israelis but many of the Christian Lebanese Forces, following the national amnesty, wanted to make their peace and have confessed to their role. I have spoken with a few of them.
Remember that fellow you once screamed at and called a butcher outside of Phalange HQ in East Beirut, Joseph Haddad. At the time he denied everything as he looked you straight in the eye and made the sign of the cross. Well, he did finally confess 22 years later, around the time of his youngest daughters Confirmation in his local Parish. Your suspicions were indeed correct. His unit, the second to enter the camp, had been supplied with cocaine, hashish and alcohol to increase their courage. He and others gave their stories to Der Spiegel and various documentary film makers.
Many of the killers now freely admit that they conducted a three-day orgy of rape and slaughter that left hundreds, as many as 3,500 they claim, possibly more, of innocent civilians dead in what is considered the bloodiest single incident of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a crime for which Israel will be condemned for eternity.
Your friend, Um Ahmad, still lives in the same house where she lost her husband, four sons and a daughter when Joseph, a thick-set militiaman carrying an assault rifle bundled everyone into one room of their hovel and opened fire. She still explains like it was yesterday, how the condoned slaughter unfolded, recalling each of her four sons by name, Nizar, Shadi, Farid and Nidal. I asked Joseph if he wanted to sit with Um Ahmad and seek forgiveness and possible redemption since he has now become a lay cleric in his Parish. He declined but sent his condolences with flowers.
Do you remember Janet, how we used to walk down Rue Sabra from Gaza Hospital to Akka Hospital during the 75 day Israeli siege in ‘82, as you used to say “to see my people”? Gaza Hospital is gone now. Occupied and stripped by the Syrian-backed Amal militia during the Camp Wars of ‘85-87. Its remaining rooms are now packed with refugees. One old lady who ended up there recited how it’s her fourth home since being forced from Palestine in 1948. She survived the Phalangist attack on and destruction of Tel a Zaatar camp in 1976, fled from the Fatah al Islam Salafists in Nahr al Bared Camp in May of this year and wore out her welcome at the teeming and overwhelmed Bedawi camp near Tripoli last month.
Most of your friends who worked with the Palestine Red Crescent Society are gone from Lebanon. Our cherished friend, Hadla Ayubi has semi-retired in Amman; Um Walid, Director of Akkar Hospital, finally did return to Palestine following Oslo, still with the PRCS. And its President, Dr. Fathi Arafat, your good friend, passed away in December of 2004 in Cairo less than a month after his brother Abu Ammar died in Paris. They both loved you for all you had done for their people.
That trash dump near the Sabra Mosque is now a mountain. Yesterday I did a double take as I walked by because I saw three young girls–as sweet and pretty as ever I have seen –maybe 7 to 9 years old in rags picking through the nasty garbage. Their arms were covered with white chemical paste. Apparently whoever sent them to scavenge sought to protect them from disease. As I climbed through the filth to give them my last 6,000 LL ($4) they managed a smile and giggle when I slipped on a broken thin plastic bag of juicy cactus fruit skins and plunged to my knees.
In some areas of the camps there are mainly Syrians. Selling cheap ‘tax free’ goods. Still some Arafat loyalists. Mainly among the older generation. Palpable stress among just about everyone it seems. One young Palestinian explained to me his worry that with the upcoming Parliamentary election to choose a new President scheduled for September 25, there may be fighting and his October 6th SAT exams may be cancelled and he won’t be able to continue his studies.
When you and I last spoke Janet, it was on April 16th of that year and I was en route to the Athens Airport to catch a flight to Beirut to be with you, you told me you were working on evidence to convict Sharon and others of war crimes.
Twenty years later, lawyers representing two dozen victims and other relatives attempted to have Ariel Sharon tried for the massacre under Belgian legislation, which grants its courts “universal jurisdiction” for war crimes.
There had been great expectations about the case among the Palestinians and their friends, since as you remember, Sharon had already been found to bear “personal responsibility” in the massacres by an Israeli commission of inquiry which concluded he shouldn’t ever again hold public office. But hopes were dashed when the Belgium Court, under US and Israeli pressure, decided the case was inadmissible.
I regret to report that all those who perpetrated the Massacre at Sabra-Shatilla escaped justice. None of the hundreds of Phalange and Haddad militia who carried out the slaughter were ever punished. In fact they got a blanket amnesty from the Lebanese government.
As for the main organizers and facilitators, their massacre at Sabra-Shatilla turned out to be excellent career moves for virtually all of them.
Arial Sharon, found by the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry “to bear personal responsibility” for allowing the Sabra-Shatilla massacre resigned as Minister of Defense but retained his Cabinet position in Begin’s Government and over the next 16 years held four more ministerial posts, including that of Foreign Minister, before becoming Prime Minister in February, 2001. Following the Jenin rampage US President Bush anointed him “a man of peace.”
RAFEL EYTAN, Israeli Chief of Staff, who shared Sharon’s decision to send in the Phalange killers and helped direct the operation was elected to the Knesset as leader of the small ultra rightwing party, Tzomet. In 1984 he was named Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 1996. He currently serves as head of Tzomet and is jockeying for another Cabinet position in the next government.
Major-General YEHOSHUA SAGUY, Army Chief of Intelligence: found by the Kahan Commission to have made “extremely serious omissions” in handling the Sabra-Shatilla affair later became a right-wing Member of the Knesset and is now mayor of the ultra-rightist community of Bat-Yam, a little town near Tel Aviv.
Major-General AMIR DRORI, Chief of Israel’s Northern Command: found not to have done enough to stop the massacre, a “breach of duty”, recently was named as head of the Israeli Antiquities Commission.
Brigadier-General AMOS YARON, the divisional commander whose troops sealed the camps to prevent victims from escaping and helped direct the operation along with Sharon and Eitan was found to have “committed a breach of duty”. He was immediately promoted Major-General and made head of Manpower in the army, served as Director-General of the Israeli Defense Ministry and Military Attaches at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He is currently working for various Israeli lobby groups as a scholar in ‘tink thanks’.
Elie Hobeika, the Chief of Lebanese Forces Intelligence, who along with Sharon master-minded the actual massacre fell out with the Phalange in 1980s under suspicion that he was involved in killing their leader, Bachir Gemayal. He defected to the Syrians, acquired three Ministerial posts in post-civil war Lebanon Governments, including Minister of the Displaced (many thought he know a lot about this subject) of Electricity and Water and in 1996, Social Affairs.
On January 24, 2002, twenty years after his involvement at Sabra-Shatilla he was blown up in a car bomb attack in East Beirut. Two of his associates who were also rumored to be planning to ‘come clean’ regarding Sharon’s role were assassinated in separate incidents.
A few days before Hobeika’s death he stated that he might reveal more about the massacre and those responsible and according to Beirut’s Daily Star staff who interviewed him, Hobeika told them that his lawyers had copies of his files implicating Sharon in much more than had become public. These files are now is the possession of his son who following Sharon’s death may release the files.
They still remember you in Burj al Burajneh camp. A few weeks ago one old man told me: “Janet Stevens? No, I didn’t know her. He paused and then said, “Oh!..you mean Miss Janet! She spoke Arabic…I think she was American. Of course I remember her! We called her the little drummer girl. She had so much energy. She cared about the Palestinians. That was so long ago. She stopped coming to visit us. I don’t know why. How is she?”
And so, Dearest Janet, I will be waiting for you at Sabra-Shatilla, at Martyrs Square, on Saturday, September 15, 2007.
You will find me patting and mumbling to that old yellow dog. He and I have become friends and we will pay our respects to the dead and I will reflect on these past 25 years and we will watch for and wait for you. You will find us behind the straggly rose bushes on the right as you enter.
Come to us, Janet. We need you. The camp residents need you, one of their brightest lights, on this 25th anniversary of one of their darkest hours. You were always their mediator and advocate…and until today you are their majorette for Justice and Return to their sacred Palestine.
Janet Lee Stevens was born in 1951 and died on April 18, 1983, at the age of 32, at the instant of the explosion which destroyed the American Embassy in Beirut. Twenty minutes before the blast, Janet had arrived at the Embassy to met with US A.I.D. official Bill McIntyre because she wanted to advocate for more aid to the Shia of South Lebanon and for the Palestinians at Sabra, Shatilla, and Burj al Burajneh camps, stemming from Israel’s 1982 invasion and the September 15-18 massacre. As they sat at a table in the cafeteria, where she had planned to ask why the US government has never even lodged a protest following the Israeli invasion or the Massacre, a van stolen from the Embassy the previous June arrived and parked just in front of the Embassy. Almost directly in front of the cafeteria. It contained 2,000 pounds of explosives. It was detonated by remote control and tons of concrete pancaked on top of Janet and Bill, killing 63 and wounding 120. Remains of Janet’s body were found two days later, unidentified in the basement morgue of the American University of Beirut Hospital by the author. She was pregnant with our son, Clyde Chester Lamb III. Had he lived he would be 24 years old. Hopefully taking after his mother he would, no doubt, be a prince of a young man.
Franklin Lamb’s book on the Sabra-Shatilla Massacre, now out of print, was published in 1983, following Janet’s death and was dedicated to Janet Lee Stevens. He was a witness before the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry, held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Lamb, Franklin P.: International legal responsibility for the Sabra-Shatila-massacre / Franklin P. Lamb – Montreuil: Imp. Tipe, 1983 – 157 S. Ill., Kt.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
Fatah Al-Islam the worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese? I hardly think so. Why is he making them such a big deal? To justify the senseless killing of at least 42 civilians (probably more), misery of thousands of refugees and destruction of a camp perhaps? You know a crime has taken place when exaggerated claims like this are used to justify the attack.
Lebanese troops killed at least 222 Islamist militants in three months of fighting at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, the defence minister says.
Elias Murr said 202 militants from the Fatah al-Islam group were captured since fighting erupted in May.
A number have been charged with murder and terrorist offences.
The Lebanese army finally took control of Nahr al-Bared camp on Sunday. At least 160 soldiers died in Lebanon’s worst internal violence since 1990.
At least 42 civilians were also killed in the fierce fighting, bringing the death toll to more than 400.
Mr Murr added that “an undetermined number” of Fatah al-Islam members were buried in mass graves in the camp by their comrades.
“This victory allowed us to put an end to the worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese,” he said.
“Fatah al-Islam could have spread throughout the country like cancerous cells.”
On Monday, there was a brief eruption of gunfire and explosions near the eastern edge of Nahr al-Bared as army units patrolled through the camp in search for remnants of Fatah al-Islam.
I can’t recommend this series more highly. When I saw Fisk speak about his new book in Glasgow (2005) he used clips from it very effectively. While viewing horrible crimes committed against Muslims in the 90’s he asks (paraphrasing) “What have the Muslims got in store for us? Watchout!”
Why have so many Muslims come to hate the West? In this controversial three-part series filmed in Lebanon, Gaza, Israel, Egypt, and Bosnia, Robert Fisk—award-winning Middle East and Balkans correspondent for the London Independent—reports on Muslim unrest as ideology, religion, history, and geography come into conflict. Contains strong imagery. A Discovery Channel Production. 3-part series, 52 minutes each.
The Martyr’s Smile
THIS IS A MUST READ. Israeli press confess that ISRAEL started the war, not Hezbollah. Any rational thinker knew this already, but now we have it in print. Also that the UN cartographer has said the Shebaa farms are lebanese, therefore Israel still occupies Lebanon in violation of UN resolution 425 (although the UN seems to have been muzzled, see Franklin Lambs article for more info).
Jonathan Cook, Electronic Lebanon, Aug 16, 2007
|Hizballah supporters hold a rally in south Beirut one year after Israel’s “Second Lebanon War.” Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah addressed the crowd of thousands from a remote location, 14 August 2007. (Matthew Cassel)|
This week marks a year since the end of hostilities now officially called the Second Lebanon War by Israelis. A month of fighting — mostly Israeli aerial bombardment of Lebanon, and rocket attacks from the Shia militia Hizballah on northern Israel in response — ended with more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and a small but unknown number of Hizballah fighters dead, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians.
When Israel and the United States realized that Hizballah could not be bombed into submission, they pushed a resolution, 1701, through the United Nations. It placed an expanded international peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, in south Lebanon to keep Hizballah in check and try to disarm its few thousand fighters.
But many significant developments since the war have gone unnoticed, including several that seriously put in question Israel’s account of what happened last summer. This is old ground worth revisiting for that reason alone.
The war began on 12 July, when Israel launched waves of air strikes on Lebanon after Hizballah killed three soldiers and captured two more on the northern border. (A further five troops were killed by a land mine when their tank crossed into Lebanon in hot pursuit.) Hizballah had long been warning that it would seize soldiers if it had the chance, in an effort to push Israel into a prisoner exchange. Israel has been holding a handful of Lebanese prisoners since it withdrew from its two-decade occupation of south Lebanon in 2000.
The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who has been widely blamed for the army’s failure to subdue Hizballah, appointed the Winograd Committee to investigate what went wrong. So far Winograd has been long on pointing out the country’s military and political failures and short on explaining how the mistakes were made or who made them. Olmert is still in power, even if hugely unpopular.
In the meantime, there is every indication that Israel is planning another round of fighting against Hizballah after it has “learnt the lessons” from the last war. The new defense minister, Ehud Barak, who was responsible for the 2000 withdrawal, has made it a priority to develop anti-missile systems such as “Iron Dome” to neutralize the rocket threat from Hizballah, using some of the recently announced $30 billion of American military aid.
It has been left to the Israeli media to begin rewriting the history of last summer. Last weekend, an editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper went so far as to admit that this was “a war initiated by Israel against a relatively small guerrilla group.” Israel’s supporters, including high-profile defenders like Alan Dershowitz in the US who claimed that Israel had no choice but to bomb Lebanon, must have been squirming in their seats.
There are several reasons why Haaretz may have reached this new assessment.
Recent reports have revealed that one of the main justifications for Hizballah’s continuing resistance — that Israel failed to withdraw fully from Lebanese territory in 2000 — is now supported by the UN. Last month its cartographers quietly admitted that Lebanon is right in claiming sovereignty over a small fertile area known as the Shebaa Farms, still occupied by Israel. Israel argues that the territory is Syrian and will be returned in future peace talks with Damascus, even though Syria backs Lebanon’s position. The UN’s admission has been mostly ignored by the international media.
One of Israel’s main claims during the war was that it made every effort to protect Lebanese civilians from its aerial bombardments. The casualty figures suggested otherwise, and increasingly so too does other evidence.
A shocking aspect of the war was Israel’s firing of at least a million cluster bombs, old munitions supplied by the US with a failure rate as high as 50 percent, in the last days of fighting. The tiny bomblets, effectively small land mines, were left littering south Lebanon after the UN-brokered ceasefire, and are reported so far to have killed 30 civilians and wounded at least another 180. Israeli commanders have admitted firing 1.2 million such bomblets, while the UN puts the figure closer to 3 million.
At the time, it looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war’s end to make south Lebanon — the heartland of both the country’s Shia population and its militia, Hizballah — uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shia who had fled Israel’s earlier bombing campaigns.
Israel’s use of cluster bombs has been described as a war crime by human rights organizations. According to the rules set by Israel’s then chief of staff, Dan Halutz, the bombs should have been used only in open and unpopulated areas — although with such a high failure rate, this would have done little to prevent later civilian casualties.
After the war, the army ordered an investigation, mainly to placate Washington, which was concerned at the widely reported fact that it had supplied the munitions. The findings, which should have been published months ago, have yet to be made public.
The delay is not surprising. An initial report by the army, leaked to the Israeli media, discovered that the cluster bombs had been fired into Lebanese population centers in gross violation of international law. The order was apparently given by the head of the Northern Command at the time, Udi Adam. A US State Department investigation reached a similar conclusion.
Another claim, one that Israel hoped might justify the large number of Lebanese civilians it killed during the war, was that Hizballah fighters had been regularly hiding and firing rockets from among south Lebanon’s civilian population. Human rights groups found scant evidence of this, but a senior UN official, Jan Egeland, offered succor by accusing Hizballah of “cowardly blending.”
There were always strong reasons for suspecting the Israeli claim to be untrue. Hizballah had invested much effort in developing an elaborate system of tunnels and underground bunkers in the countryside, which Israel knew little about, in which it hid its rockets and from which fighters attacked Israeli soldiers as they tried to launch a ground invasion. Also, common sense suggests that Hizballah fighters would have been unwilling to put their families, who live in south Lebanon’s villages, in danger by launching rockets from among them.
Now Israeli front pages are carrying reports from Israeli military sources that put in serious doubt Israel’s claims.
Since the war’s end Hizballah has apparently relocated most of its rockets to conceal them from the UN peacekeepers, who have been carrying out extensive searches of south Lebanon to disarm Hizballah under the terms of Resolution 1701. According to the UNIFIL, some 33 of these underground bunkers — or more than 90 percent — have been located and Hizballah weapons discovered there, including rockets and launchers, destroyed.
The Israeli media has noted that the Israeli army calls these sites “nature reserves;” similarly, the UN has made no mention of finding urban-based Hizballah bunkers. Relying on military sources, Haaretz reported last month: “Most of the rockets fired against Israel during the war last year were launched from the ‘nature reserves.'” In short, even Israel is no longer claiming that Hizballah was firing its rockets from among civilians.
According to the UN report, Hizballah has moved the rockets out of the underground bunkers and abandoned its rural launch pads. Most rockets, it is believed, have gone north of the Litani River, beyond the range of the UN monitors. But some, according to the Israeli army, may have been moved into nearby Shia villages to hide them from the UN.
As a result, Haaretz noted that Israeli commanders had issued a warning to Lebanon that in future hostilities the army “will not hesitate to bomb — and even totally destroy — urban areas after it gives Lebanese civilians the chance to flee.” How this would diverge from Israel’s policy during the war, when Hizballah was based in its “nature reserves” but Lebanese civilians were still bombed in their towns and villages, was not made clear.
If the Israeli army’s new claims are true (unlike the old ones), Hizballah’s movement of some of its rockets into villages should be condemned. But not by Israel, whose army is breaking international law by concealing its weapons in civilian areas on a far grander scale.
As a first-hand observer of the fighting from Israel’s side of the border last year, I noted on several occasions that Israel had built many of its permanent military installations, including weapons factories and army camps, and set up temporary artillery positions next to — and in some cases inside — civilian communities in the north of Israel.
Many of those communities are Arab: Arab citizens constitute about half of the Galilee’s population. Locating military bases next to these communities was a particularly reckless act by the army as Arab towns and villages lack the public shelters and air raid warning systems available in Jewish communities. Eighteen of the 43 Israeli civilians killed were Arab — a proportion that surprised many Israeli Jews, who assumed that Hizballah would not want to target Arab communities.
In many cases it is still not possible to specify where Hizballah rockets landed because Israel’s military censor prevents any discussion that might identify the location of a military site. During the war Israel used this to advantageous effect: for example, it was widely reported that a Hizballah rocket fell close to a hospital but reporters failed to mention that a large army camp was next to it. An actual strike against the camp could have been described in the very same terms.
It seems likely that Hizballah, which had flown pilotless spy drones over Israel earlier in the year, similar to Israel’s own aerial spying missions, knew where many of these military bases were. The question is, was Hizballah trying to hit them or — as most observers claimed, following Israel’s lead — was it actually more interested in killing civilians.
A full answer may never be possible, as we cannot know Hizballah’s intentions — as opposed to the consequences of its actions — any more than we can discern Israel’s during the war.
Human Rights Watch, however, has argued that, because Hizballah’s basic rockets were not precise, every time they were fired into Israel they were effectively targeted at civilians. Hizballah was therefore guilty of war crimes in using its rockets, whatever the intention of the launch teams. In other words, according to this reading of international law, only Israel had the right to fire missiles and drop bombs because its military hardware is more sophisticated — and, of course, more deadly.
Nonetheless, new evidence suggests strongly that, whether or not Hizballah had the right to use its rockets, it may often have been trying to hit military targets, even if it rarely succeeded. The Arab Association for Human Rights, based in Nazareth, has been compiling a report on the Hizballah rocket strikes against Arab communities in the north since last summer. It is not sure whether it will ever be able to publish its findings because of the military censorship laws.
But the information currently available makes for interesting reading. The Association has looked at northern Arab communities hit by Hizballah rockets, often repeatedly, and found that in every case there was at least one military base or artillery battery placed next to, or in a few cases inside, the community. In some communities there were several such sites.
This does not prove that Hizballah wanted only to hit military bases, of course. But it does indicate that in some cases it was clearly trying to, even if it lacked the technical resources to be sure of doing so. It also suggests that, in terms of international law, Hizballah behaved no worse, and probably far better, than Israel during the war.
The evidence so far indicates that Israel:
- established legitimate grounds for Hizballah’s attack on the border post by refusing to withdraw from the Lebanese territory of the Shebaa Farms in 2000;
- initiated a war of aggression by refusing to engage in talks about a prisoner swap offered by Hizballah;
- committed a grave war crime by intentionally using cluster bombs against south Lebanon’s civilians;
- repeatedly hit Lebanese communities, killing many civilians, even though the evidence is that no Hizballah fighters were to be found there;
- and put its own civilians, especially Arab civilians, in great danger by making their communities targets for Hizballah attacks and failing to protect them.
It is clear that during the Second Lebanon War Israel committed the most serious war crimes.
Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, is the author of Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State (Pluto Press, 2006). His website is www.jkcook.net.
Filed under: Hezbollah, Israel, Jonathan Cook, July War, Kidnap, Lebanon, Military Aid, Occupation, Shebaa Farms, UN, UN Resolution 1701, UN Resolution 425, UNIFIL, USA, War crimes, Wars, Winograd Committee | 1 Comment »