The death toll has risen to more than 200 people.
As leaders gathered for the virtual pledging conference organized by France, one powerful Israel lobby group made clear its agenda.
“International donors are assembling an aid package for Lebanon. Assistance must be conditioned on the long-promised, long-avoided disarmament of Hizballah,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted.
“Unless the malignant role of Iran’s terror proxy is addressed, there will never be meaningful change for the people of Lebanon.”
I made a point of commenting on the tweet on Sunday.
But by Monday morning, the AJC had deleted its tweet:
Just as Israel hopes that depriving Palestinians in Gaza of their basic needs and rights will induce them to surrender, the same calculus undoubtedly applies in Israel’s approach to Lebanon.
Hizballah, it should be recalled, was founded in the early 1980s as a response to Israel’s invasion and occupation of Lebanon and the siege of its capital.
A formidable resistance force, Hizballah expelled Israeli occupation forces and their collaborator militia from Lebanon in 2000 and humiliated Israel again when it invaded Lebanon in 2006.
That strategy hasn’t changed. On 6 August, The Jerusalem Post’s editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz outlined what Israel would do if another full-scale war broke out: “This would mean bombing the airport, the soccer fields, the port, private homes, office buildings, schools and more.”
In an even more chilling sentence, Katz added that “the constraints we usually see in Gaza operations would have to be lifted.” Given Israel’s repeated mass destruction in Gaza, it’s difficult to know what “constraints” he is referring to.
Israel knows that while it can inflict untold suffering, it would pay a very heavy price for such an attack – precisely because of Hizballah’s deterrent capability.
So Israel, through its lobby, has been trying to achieve politically what it cannot do on the battlefield: defeat Hizballah.
Given the large number of attacks Israel has launched against Lebanon since the 1950s – including repeated attacks on Beirut airport and the many car bombs for which it was responsible since the 1970s – it is not surprising that many in the region and in Lebanon suspect Israel had a hand in last week’s catastrophe.
But even if Israel did not have any role in detonating the huge stock of ammonium nitrate warehoused at Beirut port, the explosion presents an opportunity that Israel and its allies are eager not to waste.
“The question for Israel now is can this unfortunate disaster be used to change the balance of power in Lebanon, and encourage/inspire the Lebanese people to turn against Hizballah and remove it from power,” The Jerusalem Post’s Katz observed.
The first stage, apparently, is a campaign of baseless rumors and outright lies that Hizballah was responsible for the port explosion.
This tweet, for instance, came from a propaganda organization linked to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry:
There is absolutely no evidence for its claim that “the explosion stemmed from a storehouse of Hizballah munitions.”
Israeli and pro-Israeli social media accounts have continued to spread similar propaganda:
Outlawing support for resistance
And European states – under Israeli and American pressure – are edging towards making it illegal to even support the notion that Lebanese people have a right to resist invasion and occupation by Israel.
When Germany recently outlawed what it claims is Hizballah activity on its territory, its interior ministry justified this by asserting that the group opposes “the concept of international understanding.”
Hizballah “openly calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist,” the ministry said.
In other words, disagreeing that Israel has a “right” to invade and occupy your country is now a thought crime in Germany.
Israel’s campaign to push for more political persecution of those who question its “right” to invade, occupy, colonize and kill as it pleases will continue.
And there is no doubt that European countries, especially France, will be partners in the effort to re-colonize Lebanon.
So why then did the American Jewish Committee delete its tweet?
According to a tweet it put out Monday, AJC claimed that the deleted tweet had not met the Israel lobby group’s “standard of nuance.”
It is more likely however that the tweet was simply too harshly honest about Israel’s agenda.
It was not in tune with the current propaganda message that Israel – which has killed and injured tens of thousands of people during its repeated efforts to destroy Lebanon – now only wants to help.