4 U.N. Peacekeepers killed in Israel’s Targeted Assassination
"People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows,
they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they
do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers.
They not only don’t forget; they also strike back." Harold
Pinter, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech 2005
On the 17th day of Israel’s military offensive, Prime Minister Olmert
is no closer to achieving any of his objectives than he was on Day 1. Olmert
originally promised that he would "disarm Hezbollah" and create a
buffer-zone from Israel’s northern border to the Litani River. He has
accomplished neither. His violent reaction to the capturing of 2 Israeli soldiers
was applauded by the Bush administration, Israeli public, and the America media.
At the time, we questioned Olmert’s ability to "disarm" Hezbollah
Put up or Shut Time in Lebanon") or his foolish belief that the invasion
would be a "cakewalk". Now Israeli forces are bogged down in Southern
Lebanon fighting a tough-minded, well-disciplined guerilla organization with
no end in sight. This has forced the panicky Olmert to call up 3 more divisions
and appeal to Bush for more "precision-guided missiles".
Additionally, Olmert has begun to back-away from his promise to "disarm"
Hezbollah and now only talks only about "weakening" them. The Israeli
PM has decided to step down from his earlier rhetoric and "move the goalposts"
to suit the realities on the ground. Olmert will not disarm Hezbollah and he
Israeli intelligence seriously misjudged Hezbollah’s military capabilities
and the dedication of its fighters to execute complex and daring operations.
Yesterday’s attack on an Israeli patrol killed 9 IDF soldiers spreading
a palpable sense of unease among the Israeli public. They remember the Vietnam-like
quagmire which Sharon drew them into which lasted 18 years, ending only 6 years
ago in 2000. The deaths of the soldiers have triggered a fierce debate among
politicians, pundits and retired officers about the questionable objectives
of the operation and the competence of the leadership. Olmert has shown himself
to be a vain and stupid man whose ignorance of military matters has clouded
his sense of judgment. He is surrounded by the "untested" Defense
Minister Amir Peretz, who excels at killing unarmed women and children in the
occupied territories, but cannot seem to adjust to the exigencies of real combat.
The final member of the "trinity of bunglers", is Chief of Staff,
Dan Halutz, an incompetent braggart whose penchant for destruction has flattened
the better part of Lebanon’s critical infrastructure, but hasn’t
produced any tangible rewards. For the most part, Olmert’s War has been
little more than a massive display of gratuitous violence which has failed to
achieve any recognizable strategic goal. (BBC
has provided a fairy comprehensive account of Israel’s calculated destruction
of Lebanese infrastructure. It includes 3 major airports, 3 major ports,
5,000 civilian homes, 62 bridges, 22 fuel stations, 72 overpasses, 3 Dams, 4
TV and communication facilities, 3 main power-stations, 150 private businesses
including a tissue paper factory and a bottle factory)
Israel is now planning to step up its bombing campaign in the vain hope that
it will root-out and destroy the resistance. This explains why the United Nations
outpost was "deliberately" leveled by an Israeli missile yesterday.
Clearly, Israel wants to conceal its orgy of carnage from the watchful eyes
of international community. We should expect that more banned weaponry; cluster-bombs,
napalm, lasers, bunker busters and chemical weapons will be used in the next
major assault on Hezbollah strongholds. Like all desperate men, Olmert believes
that he can extract himself from his present dilemma by increasing the level
of violence. The upcoming week or two should be extremely perilous for Hezbollah.
The Bush administration has blindly supported Olmert without assessing whether
his military objectives are attainable and without considering the damage that
the conflict is doing to America’s long-term interests. There’s
no chance that the United States will ever be seen as an "honest broker"
in the region again. Bush has cast his lot with Israel and is betting that the
neoconservative strategy to reconfigure the Middle East will move ahead according
to plan. From the very onset, Washington has enthusiastically embraced the war
by giving Olmert the "go-ahead" to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure
and by providing Israel with additional ordinance to prosecute the air-war.
The Bush team has repeatedly headed-off efforts at the United Nations for a
"cease-fire" and created the sense that Israel’s rampage bears
the stamp of international legitimacy. The US State Dept no longer functions
as diplomatic agency working out details for political solutions, but as a franchise
of the Defense Dept.; skillfully blocking negotiations, subverting treaties,
and obstructing any dialogue which may lead to peace. Condoleezza Rice’s
performance in Rome only underscores this point.
Neither public opinion, nor the United Nations, nor the Arab League, nor Lebanese
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, nor even Hezbollah can stop the ongoing conflict
if Bush and Olmert want a war; and they clearly want a war. Secretary of State
Rice summarized their views when she said to the world press on Wednesday:
"Its time for a 'New Middle East’. Its time to say to those who
do not want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will
Perhaps; but the growing resistance in Iraq and Lebanon may have a thing-or-two
to say about Ms. Rice’s plan.
Israel has a long history of abusing the United Nations
Deadly air strike highlights jewish state's traditional disregard
for safety of peacekeepers
By Marc J Sirois
Recent talk of a new international force to police a proposed buffer zone in
South Lebanon prompted a flurry of media reports purporting to explain Israel's
reluctance to have the mission overseen by the United Nations. The coverage
was accurate in portraying Israeli officialdom as mistrustful of the world body,
but it failed completely to objectively describe the history behind the bad
blood. As bad luck would have it, the Jewish state helped put things in perspective
on Tuesday when its air force destroyed a UN observation post in the South Lebanon
village of Khiam, killing four peacekeepers in the process.
Tuesday's attack was just the latest in a long line of incidents that have
poisoned relations between Israel and the UN since the very beginning of their
relationship. And Western media coverage of the incident has mimicked the misleading
versions they provided of previous troubles, consistently insinuating that the
UN has largely been to blame. A fitting example was Wednesday night's broadcast
of "Insight" on CNN International. Host Jonathan Mann discussed the
Khiam attack with Jonathan Paris, an academic from Oxford University who for
some inexplicable reason was treated as an "expert" on the subject.
The host and the "expert" demonstrated their ignorance from the start,
repeatedly describing the peacekeepers killed more than 24 hours earlier as
having been assigned to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL),
which was created in 1978 after Israel's invasion of Lebanon in March of that
year. In actual fact, the four officers were members of Observer Group-Lebanon,
a force set up way back in 1948 to monitor the armistice that ended the first
The embarrassment got even worse for Paris when Mann noted that this was not
the first time there had been problems between Israel and the UN. The "expert"
traced the troubled relationship back to 1967, when a UN envoy proposed the
first "land for peace" plan. Paris explained that the Israeli government
of the day saw this as an attempt to "impose" a solution. In actual
fact, the first UN envoy to draw Israel's ire was Count Folke Bernadotte, and
that was long before 1967. Despite having been asked to refrain from declaring
independence until UN mediators could convince neighboring Arab countries to
accept the 1947 partition plan (that really was an imposed solution), Zionist
leaders went ahead and did so in May 1948. Ill-prepared Arab armies attacked,
and the Israelis took full advantage by using their better-equipped forces to
occupy far more land than the partition envisioned. When it looked like Bernadotte
might be able to mediate a peace treaty, he was assassinated by the Stern Gang
in an attack approved by none other than future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir. The murder was particularly egregious because during World War II, Bernadotte
had been instrumental in saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis. Understandably,
successive generations of UN personnel have accordingly been less than trusting
of Israeli intentions.
Paris also mentioned the massacre of more than 100 civilians seeking refuge
at a UNIFIL position in Qana during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" offensive
in 1996, but his description was again fatally flawed by bias and/or ignorance.
First he claimed that that the attack was partially due to "an incident
in North Lebanon," a theory upon which his failure to expound was fortunate
because it has no basis in fact. Then he added that there had been a number
of suicide bombings in Israel at the time, and the country was in the midst
of an election campaign, putting the government under pressure to prove its
mettle. On their own, these assertions are true. But Paris failed conspicuously
to mention that the bombings in question had been conducted by Hamas, a Palestinian
group. In actual fact, "Grapes of Wrath" happened because Hizbullah
responded to the killing of a Lebanese teenager by an Israeli bomb with a salvo
of rockets into northern Israel. The Jewish state then launched "Grapes
of Wrath," with many observers speculating that it had simply been waiting
for a pretext.
CNN's performance in terms of objectivity in reporting the facts of the current
conflict has improved markedly over the past few days, but it began in such
an ignominiously subterranean manner that it had nowhere to go but up. Wednesday's
episode of "Insight" shows how easy it is for even a seemingly well-meaning
sort like Mann to enable the spreading of misinformation by relying on an "expert"
who either isn't very well informed or knowingly lies (on this occasion, the
former seemed more likely).
The crux of the problem is that the Jewish state resents the United Nations
because it has failed to accept repeated humiliations - and worse - with sufficient
obsequiousness. In the Israeli view, international organizations should follow
the example of the United States, which has frequently betrayed both the safety
and the reputation of its own military and diplomatic personnel by meekly accepting
Israeli atrocities and provocations. The US government forced the US Navy to
help cover up the nature of Israel's deliberate 1967 attack on the USS Liberty,
which killed dozens of American servicemen, and to deny proper decorations to
victims and survivors alike. There was no outcry from the US government when
Israeli armored units bullied lightly armed US Marines who were part of an international
stabilization force sent to Lebanon in 1982. Even when Israeli warplanes repeatedly
endangered the safety of State Department envoy Philip Habib by buzzing his
helicopter in the same year, even when Israeli commanders invited Palestinian
shelling of his quarters by firing their own guns from next-door, there was
no real cost to the Jewish state for having bit the hand that fed it.
Members of other international agencies have faced similar acts of intimidation
from Israeli forces. A typical example is the Temporary International Presence
in Hebron (TIPH), established in 1994. TIPH came into being as a result of a
massacre at a Hebron mosque by settler Baruch Goldstein, an American-born physician.
After Goldstein gunned down 29 worshippers before being overpowered and beaten
to death, Palestinian negotiators broke off peace talks until international
observers were sent to the city. Israeli contempt for the resultant TIPH mission
can be gauged by a popular play on the acronym, "Two Idiots Patrolling
Hebron." Similarly, officials from the International Committee for the
Red Cross have been bitterly criticized for complaining that various Israeli
actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip violate international humanitarian
law. Such charges typically prompt a mix of smearing Red Cross representatives
as "anti-Semites" and arguments that the Jewish state is not bound
by the Geneva Conventions' protections for civilians because it never signed
It is likely that some UN personnel have been derelict in their duties vis-a-vis
the conflict in South Lebanon. Given the context, however, it should not surprise
that some peacekeepers are loathe to help the Israeli military: They have seen
and experienced firsthand a consistent pattern of wrongdoing by that same force.
They have watched it wipe out civilians by the hundreds; they have watched it
endanger and even kill their own comrades, starting with the heroic and quintessentially
honorable Bernadotte; they have watched it refuse to hand over maps of minefields
left behind when it withdrew from most of South Lebanon in 2000; in short, they
have watched it make barren the very ground in which seeds of good will might
have been planted.
Now that ground has been stained with the blood of four innocent men who repeatedly
warned the Israelis that their bombs and shells were landing perilously close
to a long-established UN monitoring post. The gutless government currently in
power in Canada seems not to care that one of its military officers assigned
to Observer Group-Lebanon has been the victim of Israeli fire, but the governments
of Austria, China and Finland are taking their losses very seriously - as is
the United Nations, an organization that created Israel in the first place and
has had good reason to regret it ever since.
Marc J. Sirois is managing editor of The Daily Star.