Israel’s cruel offensive

Lebanese refugees moving their furniture in the camp of Seida in southern Lebanon, July 28, 2006. (MaanImages/Payam Borazjani)

I have to get this off my chest, as it’s been bugging me for the last couple of weeks.

Israel has virtually destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon. Instead of confronting Hezbollah directly (which I think they are afraid to do), they’ve bombed the civilian areas of Lebanon, hoping the Lebanese and Arabs will turn on Hezbollah. What’s interesting is that the Arab world is becoming more united than ever against what Israel, with American support, is doing to the Lebanese.

Israel has bombed the milk factory in Beirut, the grain silos in Tripoli, hospitals, all the bridges in the country, the highways leading in and out of Lebanon, as well those leading in and out of the villages they are bombing. Israel has dropped leaflets on villages in the south telling them to evacuate, then they bomb the vehicles people are using to flee the villages.

It’s high-tech ethnic cleansing, as Israel has destroyed people’s homes and they have nothing to return to. The American taxpayer is paying for the bombs that are destroying Lebanon, and they likely will have to pay more to rebuild Lebanon after Israel is done with it.

Israel is using phosphorous bombs and cluster bombs against civilians, weapons banned by the Geneva Conventions when used against civilians. My wife, Sanaa and I watch Arabic television, and I’ve seen small babies burned by the phosphorous as well as the wholesale deaths of people in the villages who tried to stay in their homes out of the way of the bombing.

There is now a shortage of water, food and medicines, as there is no way to get them into Lebanon because of the destroyed highways and the destroyed airport as well as the blockade of the seaports.

President George W. Bush states that he is hoping for more killing so Hezbollah can be gotten rid of. Which is why he refuses to pick up the phone to tell the Israelis to stop. And they would stop if he told them to, as they rely on the U.S. for their money - more than $8 billion a year - as well as their weapons that are being used in violation of U.S. law in this cowardly and cruel offensive.

Ronald Reagan finally called Menachem Begin in 1982 and stopped the killing in Lebanon, shortly after the massacres in Sabra and Shatila, so we know it works.

And the U.S. Congress is despicable in its silence. They are all bought off by the Israel lobby and are afraid to criticize. If this were happening in any other country by any other country, there would be speeches on the floor of Congress, legislation introduced to stop aid and other help to whomever would be committing this cruelty. But since their campaign money comes from the Israeli lobby, we hear only silence.

It is hard to imagine, but try to imagine how you would feel if some country continued bombing Sioux Falls or Madison or Watertown or Brookings, and left you no route of escape, or if you did try to escape, that they bombed the car you were trying to escape in.

Try to imagine small children you know being burned by phosphorous bombs, or a small child in your neighborhood picking up one of the small clusters that are contained in a cluster bomb, and having his or her arms blown off by the explosion. Cluster bombs, at least the ones that explode right away, are like highly powerful weed cutters that are timed to explode at chest level, designed to kill anyone in the vicinity where they are dropped. We saw that in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel that led to the slaughter of more than 30,000 innocent Lebanese.

As of today, there are an estimated 750,000 Lebanese made homeless by the Israeli bombing campaign. And it’s essentially just starting.

The Lebanese who are American citizens are lucky as they can be evacuated to Cyprus, but for those who are not Americans, there is no escape. Syria has taken in as many of these refugees as can get across the border and they’ve announced they will continue to take whomever can get there, but from the south of Lebanon, it’s very difficult to get there.

George Bush, perhaps our most famous draft dodger, was a great supporter of the Vietnam War while at the same time he was busy using his father’s influence to escape the draft. He is now in favor of continuing the killing in Lebanon and refuses to call for a cease fire, because, he says, he wants Hezbollah destroyed.

The problem is that Israel cannot destroy Hezbollah either militarily or politically. They are Lebanese who live there, and who are defending their home territory. They have more support now than they ever had because of Israel’s cowardly bombing campaign.

Even those Lebanese who did not support Hezbollah are applauding that group’s standing up to Israel’s military power. Even in Egypt, where the dictator Mubarak has sold his soul to the U.S. and to Israel, the people are out on the streets protesting. And in Jordan the same is happening. Despite the Jordanian government’s tacit support of Israel, the public is out in the streets. Unfortunately, even though the Saudi public is in support of Hezbollah, the government won’t allow street protests, but the Saudi government is now denouncing Israel’s actions.

Both Israel and the U.S. are lucky that the dictators and monarchies are in power. A democracy of the kind that Bush is calling for would result in the Arab public marching on Israel en masse. What is holding them back are the authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. Only Syria is standing firm, and Syria is a militarily weak country, but apparently with enough backbone to resist selling out.

The U.S. wants Hezbollah disarmed because Hezbollah is the only obstacle that prevents Lebanon from being brought into the Israel sphere of influence. It’s that simple so far as strategy is concerned. Hezbollah chased Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, after 22 years of Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon. Hezbollah is considered heroic by most Lebanese, which is why it probably will survive this onslaught.

One wonders why all these commentators on television, the news anchors, etc., who are cheerleading Israel’s slaughter of the innocents, do not remember Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon for all those years, or why they don’t remember the continuing illegal occupation of Palestine, including Gaza, which remained the world’s largest prison even after Israeli troops and settlers came out of Gaza last year.

The Gazans are prevented from conducting their own foreign policy, from using their airport and their seaports by the Israelis. And despite exhibiting their independence by building their own power plant a few years ago, that was the first thing that Israel bombed in Gaza. Because there are no terrorists hiding there, we can only presume that Israel wants to begin selling electricity to the Gazans again. There is always a commercial aspect to war, is there not? We need only to ask Halliburton for the answer to that question.

James Abourezk is a Sioux Falls attorney who represented South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1973 and in the U.S. Senate from 1973-1979. He is of Lebanese descent and founded the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee. This article appeared first in the Rapid City Journal.

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