Lebanon between Truth and Justice

July 24, 2006

By Khatchig Mouradian

 On July 12 2006, fighters from the armed wing of the Lebanese political party Hizbollah launched a cross-border attack on Israel killing and injuring a number of Israeli soldiers and capturing two. The operation was dubbed “True Promise”; months ago, Hizbollah had promised in public to capture Israeli soldiers to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, some for more than 25 years.


The very day the soldiers were captured, Sayyed Hassan Nasralla, the secretary-general of Hizbollah, declared that there was no intention on his part to start a full-scale confrontation, and that the only way to free the Israeli soldiers was through indirect negotiations leading to an exchange.

Israel, however, immediately launched a wide-scale military campaign, dubbed “Just Reward,” to free the two soldiers. Hizbollah first retaliated by shelling military positions in Israel’s north and, eventually, as the Israeli Army started bombing Lebanese infrastructure and targeting civilians, Hizbollah started shelling civilian targets as well.

Israel has thus far “justly rewarded” the three runways and fuel depots of Beirut International Airport, all its seaports, most highways and roads connecting various parts of the country as well as those leading to Syria, tens of bridges in Lebanon’s south and east, factories, trucks, ambulances, TV transmission installations, thousands of buildings and houses. More than 360 civilians have been, again, justly rewarded by getting slaughtered, and more than a thousand received lesser “rewards” by being sent to hospitals and some 700 thousand (an estimated 15 percent of the country’s population) have been “rewarded” with refugee status. President Bush said that Israel had the right to defend itself and, to date, the US has blocked all attempts by the international community to put a ceasefire in place. Hizbollah, in turn, has tried to impose what the Arab media and experts are calling a “balance of terror” by bombing northern Israel –most notably the port city of Haifa– and causing a number of deaths and injuries among Israeli soldiers and civilians.

While United Nations relief coordinator Jan Egeland was saying that Lebanon was suffering a “major” humanitarian crisis and that Israel was violating “international humanitarian law,” the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, heading to the region on July 23, did not seem to be in a rush. “We have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one,” she said.

What started as an operation to liberate the 2 Israeli soldiers (if one is naive enough to believe that) is now a US supported war to forge a “new Middle East.” If this renovation is anything in the same breath as the “Greater Middle-East” plans that are being implemented from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Palestinian territories, then Lebanon has just started to walk down the long road that the Bush administration sees as that of freedom, democracy, and security, and, if the country is lucky enough, three years from now, it will be as free, democratic and safe as, say, Iraq and Afghanistan are today.

What needs to be done? Attempts to wipe out, or even defeat Hizbollah, are in all probability doomed to fail. With the degree of “pinpoint accuracy”  the Israeli army is displaying, the entire Lebanese people will be cleansed much before the rooting out of Hizbollah.

Implementing UN Security Council resolution 1559 and disarming Hizbollah by force are doomed to fail as well. Whether the US administration, the West in general, some “moderate” Arab states, and even many in Lebanon like it or not, Hizbollah has a broad grassroots support in not among the Shiites, the largest minority in Lebanon, but also among some Christian, Druze, and Sunni Muslim political circles, who are extremely angry at Washington’s overall pro-Israeli bias, and at the fact that the Bush administration is ignoring the UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which were declared to be at the core of the international initiative launched in Madrid in 1991.

Any initiative to solve the immediate crisis in Lebanon must involve an exchange of prisoners between Lebanon and Israel (and probably in the Palestinian territories as well), Israel’s handing down of the maps of landmines that the Israeli army had planted in southern Lebanon before its withdrawal in 2000, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Shebaa farms– which, according to the Lebanese government and Hizbollah, is Lebanese soil. Even after all that, it is an illusion to believe that a comprehensive and lasting solution can be achieved without finding a true and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.



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