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.
Israel is ‘Dying for a Second Round‘, Allan Nairn writes.
Last Friday I asked a top-level Israeli, a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) elite unit man and prime-ministerial confidante, whether the assassination of Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh could have been done by a Lebanese group.
He snorted at the preposterous notion. This was “way too sophisticated,” he said. “This [the car bombing] was a precisely orchestrated international operation,” and this was the “third or fourth or fifth time in a year that Israel has carried out a military operation in Syria.”
When I asked him to repeat that last part he added the word “allegedly.”
But the message, or at least the boast, was clear. So why is Israel doing this?
The man said of his colleagues: “There are a lot of [Israeli] military and cabinet people just dying for a second round with Lebanon. If given the opportunity they’ll take it,” i.e. attack Lebanon again, not in spite of “but because of” the perception that their ‘06 attack failed.
Though the IDF leveled blocks and villages, dropped 4 million cluster bomblets (some of which are still exploding), and killed some 200 Hezbollah combatants and 1,000 Lebanese civilians (roughly 40 Israeli civilians [and 120 soldiers] were killed by Hezbollah), they apparently departed Lebanon feeling politically inadequate.
The official feeling was that they either did not destroy enough, or destroy enough of the right people and items, to avoid the embarrassing perception that they lost to Hezbollah.
So to have the option of solving this problem they’ve apparently staged a provocative assassination in hopes of goading Hezbollah into retaliating and providing a pretext for new — better — destruction that this time around will “succeed,” i.e. soothe hurt Israeli feelings.
There’ve been attempts to put this in strategic terms, as educated killers (and those who study them) prefer. ‘Israel must prove its strategic value to the United States’ (What? Washington is going to dump Israel? Hezbollah’s “victory” strengthened the Palestinians, or Lebanon, or put Israel’s existence in danger?). Or, alternatively: ‘Hezbollah must be eradicated’ (which everyone knows is impossible).
In fact, the closer you look the more it looks like leaders’ blood psychotherapy.
And the same thing goes for the publics that follow them. Olmert is in political trouble. If he doesn’t kill some Arabs soon (who or where is secondary), his governing coalition may well dissolve. The public has to feel good, too.
The problem — for the to-be-killed, and for the notion of murder law, not to mention (and few do) decency — is that the Israeli body politic is now set this way: demanding — with a few, brave, exceptions — not just daily, routine, killings of Palestinians, but periodic dramatic strikes that thrill and let them strut like hero/ victims.
It’s as if the inhabitants of a US Fox News studio had multiplied and become a nation.
It, of course, doesn’t have to be that way, but it is obviously that way now. All you have to do to see it is pick up the papers or talk to a few Israelis. (For representative quotations see Gideon Levy, “Little Ahmadinejads, Haaretz,” 10/06/2007).
Its one thing for a state to be murdering and/or oppressing others when their local public doesn’t know about it (as was largely the case when Washington was decimating Central America in the 1980s), but it’s another when the public knows about it and supports the injustices and crimes (as was the case with US whites and slavery, and in the first stages of US/Iraq, where public support seemed to turn — as it may still — on the question of whether the US was “winning”).
In the first situation, the killing policy is vulnerable. If word gets out, the public might be angry. But in the second it is more stable, and deadly, since the public knows, and asks for more.
But people and states don’t get to entirely write their own histories.
They usually interact with others.
In the case of Israel, the key interaction is with the US, their military guarantor/ mass subsidizer, and with American Jews, where, among the young, opinion appears to be slowly turning (see postings of December 7, 2007, “Imposed Hunger in Gaza. The Army in Indonesia. Questions of Logic and Activism,” and February 13, 2008, “Big Killer Takes Out Smaller One. ‘Wipe Out a Neighborhood.’ Life by Mafia Rules in the Israeli – US Domain,” particularly the plaint of Malcom Hoenlein.).
Alternatively, Palestinians and groups like Hezbollah and Hamas could join the US as important determinants, but only if they too reset their outlooks (and their willingness to kill or murder) — as some Palestinians and other Arabs at the grassroots level are now urging, cautiously — and switched to active, but non-violent, or minimally violent resistance (like the first intifada, or the Gaza wall-breaking) and stopped letting themselves be used as a “provocation-response” button that Israel can press when it wants a thrill.
Allan Nairn can be reached through his blog.
Norman Finkelstein: I was of course happy to meet the Hizbullah people, because it is a point of view that is rarely heard in the United States. I have no problem saying that I do want to express solidarity with them, and I am not going to be a coward of a hypocrite about it. I don’t care about Hizbullah as a political organization. I don’t know much about their politics, and anyhow, it’s irrelevant. I don’t live in Lebanon. It’s a choice that the Lebanese have to make: Who they want to be their leaders, who they want to represent them. But there is a fundamental principle. People have the right to defend their country from foreign occupiers, and people have the right to defend their country from invaders who are destroying their country. That to me is a very basic, elementary and uncomplicated question.
My parents went through World War II. Now, Stalin’s regime was not exactly a bed of roses. It was a ruthless and brutal regime, and many people perished. But who didn’t support the Soviet Union when they defeated the Nazis? Who didn’t support the Red Army? In all the countries of Europe which were occupied – who gets all the honors? The resistance. The Communist resistance – it was brutal, it was ruthless. The Communists were not… It wasn’t a bed of roses, but you respect them. You respect them because they resisted the foreign occupiers of their country. If I am going to honor the Communists during World War II, even through I probably would not have done very well under their regimes… If I’m going to honor them, I am going to honor the Hizbullah. They show courage, and they show discipline. I respect that.
Interviewer: That is an accurate description of the situation before 2000, but after 2000, the Israelis withdrew from South Lebanon. There was a rift within Lebanon between the Lebanese political players on the issue of the future of the weapons and the issue of the resistance. This rift, which has taken place… You are now taking sides. After all, you are saying that you are only visiting Lebanon, but you don’t see the ramification of the July war for the people.
Norman Finkelstein: Listen, if you want to close your eyes and believe it was all over in May 2000, you can do so. You can play that game. But the reality was – and everyone understood it – that the Israeli attitude was: We are going to knock out Hizbullah. They began planning for a new war right after they were forced to leave in 2000. They found their excuse, their pretext, in July 2006, but there is no question among rational people that Israel was never going to let the Hizbullah victory go by. They were determined to teach their…
Interviewer: The war could have been avoided.
Norman Finkelstein: It could not have been avoided. There is no way that the United States and Israel are going to tolerate any resistance in the Arab world. If you want to pretend it can be avoided, you can play that game. But serious people, clear-headed people, knew there was going to be a war sooner or later.
Do you think there is not going to be another war? Do you think Israel is going to allow that defeat in July 2006? Do you want to pretend it is Hizbullah that is causing the trouble? No, there will be another war, and the destruction will probably be ten times worse – maybe even more – than July 2006, because Israel is determined, with the United States, to put the Arabs in their place and to keep them in their place. Now, how can I not respect those who say no to that? You know, during the Spanish Civil War there was a famous woman – they called her “La Pasionaria” – Dolores Ibárruri, from the Spanish Republic. She famously said: “It’s better to die on your feet than to walk crawling on your knees.”
Interviewer: But that is up to the Lebanese people in its entirety.
Norman Finkelstein: I totally agree. I am not telling you what to do with your lives, and if you’d rather live crawling on your feet, I could respect that. I could respect that. People want to live. How can I deny you that right? But then, how can I not respect those who say they would rather die on their feet? How can I not respect that?
Israel and the United States are attacking, because they will not allow any military resistance to their control of the region. That’s the problem. If Hizbullah laid down its arms, and said: “We will do whatever the Americans say,” you wouldn’t have a war – that’s true, but you would also be the slaves of the Americans. I have to respect those who refuse to be slaves.
Interviewer: Is there no other way than military resistance?
Norman Finkelstein: I don’t believe there is another way. I wish there were another way. Who wants war? Who wants destruction? Even Hitler didn’t want war. He would much prefer to have accomplished his aims peacefully, if he could. So I am not saying that I want it, but I honestly don’t see another way, unless you choose to be their slaves – and many people here have chosen that. I can’t really say… I can understand it – you want to live. I can’t really say I respect it. You know, so many dead, so much destruction… Before the bodies are even buried, before the buildings are even rebuilt, the person who is responsible for it all – you can’t wait to welcome him. You can’t wait to roll out the red carpet. I can’t respect that.
In that respect, I like the Jews much more. I like their attitude. Do you know what the Jewish attitude is? Never to forgive, never to forget. I agree with that. Who roll out the red carpet less than two years after your whole country was destroyed by them? The Secretary of State said it was the birth pangs of a new Middle East. That’s the statement of a freak. A human freak would compare the birth of a child with the destruction of a country, and yet, there are people here who are so anxious to welcome her. They are trying to figure out what the Americans are thinking. They can’t wait for their banquets. How can anyone respect that? I respect the Jews a thousand times more – never to forgive, never to forget. All the death and all the destruction – and you can’t wait to welcome him.
Norman Finkelstein: It’s disgusting!
Who the hell cares if Bush is coming?
Interviewer: But you say there will be another war.
Norman Finkelstein: You should have declared him persona non grata. He’s not welcome here. He destroyed your country. He was responsible for the war. You know full well that resolution could have been passed three weeks earlier. He destroys your country, and you can’t wait to greet him. You have no self-respect. How can you expect other people to respect Arabs, if you show no respect for yourselves?
If the Lebanese people overwhelmingly vote to let the Americans and Israelis have their way, I guess you have to accept that. I could see that. I couldn’t possibly say that they don’t have the right to make that choice. Listen, in Nazi-occupied Europe, you have to remember, most of the populations made the choice to live under the Nazis. All this talk about a French Resistance is just a joke – it never happened. The French Resistance… About 20% of the French population read the Resistance’s newspaper. There were maybe 10% of the French who resisted. The rest said: “Don’t resist,” because the Nazis were ruthless. You resist – four hundred are killed for each soldier who’s killed. That’s how the Nazis operated. So most of the French said, like you: “We want to live.” “Don’t resist.” But now I have to ask you, in retrospect: Who do we honor? Do we honor those who say: “Let us live,” or do we honor those who said: “Let’s resist”?
Leaders come last. There will be a leader who comes to power in Israel, who is willing to make the concessions, after the conditions have been created – namely, Israel has to suffer a defeat.
What follows is a horror story, released on Friday, February 1st, by Stephen Harper’s government.
When the Israeli Armed Forces killed a Canadian U.N. soldier and three others, during Israel’s failed invasion of Lebanon, they explained that the killings were a mistake.
I don’t know why the Israelis killed the Canadian – Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and three of his colleagues in a clearly-marked United Nations Observation Post. But they did.
I don’t know for sure if the post was deliberately targeted – but I think it was.
The results of a Canadian Board Of Inquiry have finally come out. Today the Globe and Mail published a tiny story…not even 200 words long…explaining what we all knew a long time ago. That an unarmed Canadian Major was killed by an Israeli bomb.
The New York Times published a few words too (279). The Times explained that the U.N. wanted Israel to stop attacking its post.
So did the Winnipeg Free Press – also quite short.
This story…just like our reputation for peacekeeping…is off the government radar and hence, off the mainstream media radar as well.
In a rather bizarre addendum to a press release on this subject, the Canadian government said:
“Appropriate portions of the final report have been severed out (read censored), in accordance with Access to Information regulations to protect the operational security of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and the UN. (Read Cover their Asses). However the essence of the report remains and tells a little of the story of what happened that night”.
They begged, they pleaded and they yelled out.
A half hour before the fatal bomb was dropped, a United Nations Commander yelled over a radio hookup at an Israeli official: “You are killing my people”.
After that there was a brief period of silence and the Canadian soldier and his fellow soldiers thought it was all over. They thought, ah, Israel has heard us and listened.
They then prepared to evacuate the Observation Post – just in case.
But before they could pack their bags, that big Israeli bomb…a 1,100 pound GPS-guided bomb…went whistling down right on the spot. Continue reading
Israeli commander: “We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon”
“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,” the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.
Full story at Meron Rappaport in Haaretz
Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.
In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.
The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate.
The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit.
…When his reserve duty came to a close, the commander in question sent a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz outlining the use of cluster munitions, a letter which has remained unanswered.
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.
Audio Lecture given at AUB titled “More fraternity than friction: The role of values and policies in relations between the United Kingdom and the Arab and Islamic world.” I think we can all agree theres lots of friction and no fraternity from the UK Government. Actions speak louder than words and while activists in the UK halted the shipment of bombs through Scotland to Israel, the UK Government was extremely supportive of Israel’s July War. Guy perhaps hits the nail on the head when she says that the UK involvement in Iraq was based on self interest: maintaining a favourable relationship with the United States. With that in mind it seems a little naive to say that the UK has no interest in Palestine other than in promoting peace. The UK has the same interest in Palestine as Iraq of supporting the US position, not to mention UK arms deals with Israel and the importance of supporting Israel to political party funding (both parties have an active “Friends of Israel” group to compete for this).