Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor provides this July 14 round-up of the fast-escalating Israel-Lebanon crisis and international reactions. We especially love Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon’s invocation (yet again) of US atrocities in Afghanistan, and Russia’s in Chechnya—as if one atrocity justifies another. It does point up, however, that Washington’s criticisms of Israel (lukewarm as they are—in fact, Condoleezza Rice’s “sharp” words are an implicit endorsement of Israeli aggression) are thoroughly hypocritical.
As Israel continued its bombardment of Lebanon in response to the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hizbollah, Russia, France, and the European Union criticized Israel’s actions in the escalating conflict, calling them “a disproportionate act of war.” The Christian Science Monitor reports that more than 50 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have already been killed in the attacks.
Reuters reports that France said it would support’s Lebanon’s call to bring the situation before the United Nations Security Council, while Russia “denounced both Israel’s attack on Lebanon and its on-going operations against the Palestinian territories.”
“The continuing destruction by Israel of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and in Palestinian territory (and) the disproportionate use of force from which civilian populations suffer cannot be understood and justified,” [Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mikhail Kamynin] said.
“The attack on Beirut international airport is a dangerous step on the way to military escalation,” he added, calling on all sides to stop a slip towards war.
But Hizbollah did not escape condemnation, some of it coming from Arab states. The Associated Press reports that while King Abdullah II of Jordan condemned Israel’s “targeting innocent civilians and the Lebanese infrastructure,” he also had harsh words for Hizbollah, saying that “Jordan stands against whoever exposes the Palestinian people and their cause, Lebanon and its sovereignty to unexpected dangers.”
And Reuters reports that, in “unusually strong language,” Saudi Arabia blamed Hizbollah, and its Iranian backers, for the crisis.
“A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements inside (Lebanon) and those behind them without recourse to the legal authorities and consulting and coordinating with Arab nations,” a statement published on the official news agency SPA said.
“These elements should bear the responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis they have created.”
Violence between the two sides continued to escalate Friday. AP reports that Israel continued its bombardment of the Beirut International airport and residential suburbs in the southern Beirut area where Hizbollah has its political headquarters. Ha’aretz reports that Hizbollah fired more rockets into northern Israel near its border with Lebanon, hitting a residential building in Safed, and injuring more than a dozen people in many towns and villages. Israel’s US ambassador called the recent attacks a “major escalation.” Human Right Watch called on both sides to “scrupulously respect the absolute prohibition against targeting civilians or carrying out attacks that indiscriminately harm civilians.”
Criticism of Israel Thursday and Friday was not based on its right to respond to the kidnapping of the two soldiers, but to the level of its response. Deutsche Welle reports that the European Union also accused Israel of “disproportionate use of force.” An editorial in the Guardian called Israel’s response “disproportionate, dangerous, destructive,” saying that it went “far beyond the legitimate right of any country to defend itself.”
When asked about his country’s response, Reuters reports that Israel Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Israel was acting “just as Russia did against the Chechens and the United States did against Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.” The Jerusalem Post also reports that Mr. Ramon “suggested” Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was a target for assassination.
Voice of America reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had sharp words for both sides, saying that Syria and Iran had to stop backing terrorists, and that it was “important that Israeli leaders exercise restraint and avoid civilian casualties.” The US feels it is important not to destabilize the new government of Lebanese Prime Minister Faud Siniora, which it describes as “a good government that is trying to bring greater democracy and freedom to Lebanon.”
Israel’s Haartez notes today that one rocket fired from Lebanon has hit central Haifa—practically guaranteeing an escalation of Israeli strikes on Lebanon. For all that, however, only two Israelis had been killed in Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket bombardments by that point—one in Nahariya and one in Safed. Over 100 have been wounded, but most not seriously. Haartez reported later in the day that two more were killed in another attack on Moshav Meron—a woman and her young grandchild.
The Israeli peace group Gush Shalom maintains an archive of clips on the Israeli and joint Israeli-Palestinian peace protests which have been ongoing since this latest escalation. These have received almost no international coverage. A June 10 protest against IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz, in front of his home, turned into a game of cat-and-mouse with the police, who attempted to break it up. Notes the account:
It was about this time that a journalist present discovered the identity of a young black-haired woman, who had made no effort to draw attention to herself: Dana Olmert, the Prime Minister’s daughter and a long-time [military] refuser and peace activist. She would have preferred to demonstrate as herself rather than her father’s daughter. The media had other preferences, Yediot Aharonot placing her photo on its front page with the caption “Demonstrating against Papa”. But… the sign she was carrying got into the front page, too: “Stop Murdering Civilians!”
On May 15, a protest at the West Bank’s A-Ram checkpoint, led by Israeli writer Uri Avnery and Muhhamad Abu-Ter of Hamas, was broken up with tear gas.
Today, July 14, Gush Shalom places the following pithy statement in Haaretz:
Those who refused
To talk with
The Palestinian government
And declared a blockade
On the Palestinian people –
Got a conflagration in
The Gaza Strip.
Those who refused
A prisoner exchange
And sent tanks
Into Gaza –
Got a conflagration
Both In the north
And in he south.
Those who refuse
To talk even now –
May get a conflagration
Throughout the Middle East.
And in the end,
In spite of everything –
They will talk.