Beirut 16 July 2006
As most of you know, Hizbullah carried out a bold operation a few days ago and managed to capture two Israeli soldiers. The resistance has been saying for quite some time now that it intends to free the remaining Lebanese prisoners in Israel, most prominently Samir Qantar. Dubbed the “dean of the prisoners,” Qantar is the longest serving Arab prisoner in Israel. He was to be released along with other Lebanese prisoners in a swap between Hizbullah and Israel. The Israeli government voted not to release him and two others and stupidly kept the prisoner file open.
The Hizbullah operation was an attempt to put an end to the matter. There were several previous unsuccessful attempts that were costly to the resistance. This operation, according to Nasrallah, the general-secretary of Hizbullah, was months in planning and its timing, which has been endlessly criticized, may have been logistical more than anything else.
In light of Israel’s ferocious response, it is worth noting that the capture of the two Israeli soldiers was a pure military operation and did not as much scratch an Israeli civilian. Israel’s counter is exactly the opposite - collective punishment of the civilian population by destroying the country’s infrastructure and committing ugly massacres against families and fleeing refugees as they did yesterday in the south. Who’s the terrorist in this case, even by the self-serving definitions peddled in Washington?
Why did Hizbullah do this; did they not know that Israel would respond this way? I’m certain that they considered this scenario as one of several. But Hizbullah’s two decades of experience in dealing with Israel have taught it one thing and that is Tel Aviv will never budge on any matter without threat of force. Israel was compelled to leave southern Lebanon in May 2000 - after over 20 years of occupation - only after the resistance gained the upper hand militarily.
The consequent prisoner swap in which nearly all Lebanese prisoners in Israel were released was only possible once Hizbullah managed to capture Israeli soldiers and offer them in exchange. As Nasrallah put it, the recent operation was the only logical conclusion given Hizbullah long experience with Israel. To get the remaining prisoners out, Israeli soldiers must be captured-Israel simply offered no other option.
The current situation only confirms Hizbullah’s experience. The whole world - and most painfully the Arab governments - have refused to lift a finger to restrain Israel. The UN met and decided to do nothing; yesterday the Arab League met and was even more insulting. The Lebanese government has yet to act, besides denouncing Hizbullah and distancing themselves from the resistance - not even providing the most basic services to the displaced and injured.
The Arab League meeting and statements by the Lebanese prime minister suggest that there is a convergence of interests between them and Israel over putting a halt to the Lebanese resistance by disarming Hizbullah and burying once and for all those forces in the region, including Hamas for example, that believe in a line of confrontation with Israel as the only road to get some semblance of justice. The Saudi royals and their slavish counterparts in Jordan and Egypt, want Arabs to submit and swallow the humiliation we are subjected to daily in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, all in the name of stability and rational thinking.
Since 1993 and the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Arab leaders, the US and the UN have been saying that negotiations and normalization with Israel are the only way to peace. But we have yet to see Israel make the smallest concession, taking the opportunity to swallow up yet more land, butcher the Palestinian people and continue to imprison thousands. Hamas’ election was but one indicator that ordinary Arabs have understood that successive peace accords have brought them nothing but further misery - only resistance, with all the suffering that comes with it, bears fruit.
Like the Palestinians, the Lebanese are all alone, abandoned to be taught a lesson by the regional and global powers. Hizbullah’s incredible response (striking a war ship and bombing as far as Haifa) shows that they perhaps considered and prepared for Israel’s ferocious response. Only their ability to strike back effectively can save Lebanon from complete destruction at the hands of Israel - the lunatics in Tel Aviv know no other language.
Bilal El-Amine is founder and former editor of Left Turn magazine. Originally from the south of Lebanon, he currently resides in Beirut. Previous articles he has written about Lebanese politics can be found at Left Turn magazine, Beirut Indymedia, Muslim Wakeup and ZMag. He can be reached at email@example.com.