Fleeing civilian vehicles hit by Israeli missiles

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

original article

Fleeing civilian vehicles hit by Israeli missiles

By Nicholas Blanford in Tyre and Ned Parker in Jerusalem
July 24, 2006

WITH an expression of utmost calm on her blood-masked face, the woman allowed herself to be gently lowered from the minibus into the waiting arms of two Lebanese Red Cross volunteers.
The rescue workers had extracted her through a jagged hole in the roof of the crumpled bus, created by a missile fired minutes earlier by an Israeli helicopter that had blasted the vehicle off the road. Left behind in the vehicle, slumped over each other and soaked in blood, were the bodies of three people.

The narrow roads that meander through the valleys and undulating chalky hills east of Tyre were a place of terror and death yesterday as Israeli helicopters attacked civilian vehicles fleeing Israel’s 11-day onslaught in south Lebanon.

Dr Ahmad Mrowe, director of the Jabal Amel hospital in Tyre, said: “Today is the day of the cars. It has been very bad.”

By early evening, the Jabal Amel hospital alone had received 41 wounded, most of them serious, according to hospital sources, all thought to be civilians seeking refuge north of the Litani river after heeding Israeli warnings to leave the area.

The stricken minibus was hit along a road cut into the side of a steep valley beyond Siddiqine village, where Israeli artillery shells exploded in thick, dirty, white plumes of smoke and dust.

One man, his face half torn off by a missile, sat in his seat, his yellowing hand hanging from the window.

Beside him, covered in the dead man’s blood, a woman moved slightly back and forth.

“Can you stand?” asked a Red Cross volunteer. The woman mumbled an incoherent response.

A few yards away, some of the survivors lay on the ground, moaning and crying.

Red Cross medics said that 19 people had been in the vehicle, all of them from Tiri, a small village 7 miles to the south-east.

Abbas Shayter, 12, said: “Someone came for us and we drove with other cars out of the village.

“We were trying to keep up with the others when we were hit.”

He said his grandmother, uncle and another man had been killed.

An officer with the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon said that the Israelis had told them they would not hinder cars travelling north on the main roads.

But the evidence yesterday suggested that cars were being attacked regardless of their occupants and direction of travel.

Hezbollah rockets claimed the lives of two people and wounded 20 others in the Israeli city of Haifa. Another 50 people were injured in rocket attacks in at least 10 other towns across northern Israel.

The attacks came as Israeli troops battled to clear a mile-wide strip along the northern border, encountering resistance from Hezbollah forces in bunkers.

The Israeli Army went to the assistance of an Italian UN observer, Captain Roberto Punzo, who was hit by Hezbollah fire during the clashes. He was taken to hospital in Israel with serious injuries.

A Lebanese photographer, Layal Najib, was killed during another clash in the southern village of Qana

Palestinians calling for Day of Rage against Rice visit

Traprock Peace Center homepage

original article

Jul. 23, 2006 22:35 | Updated Jul. 24, 2006 19:00
Palestinians: ‘Day of rage’ against Rice visit
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

Palestinians are calling for a general strike in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to protest US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the region scheduled for later this week, accusing Washington of backing Israel’s military campaigns against Hamas and Hizbullah.

Leaflets distributed in the West Bank and Gaza by representatives of several Palestinian factions called for a “day of rage” [a euphemism for violent protests] against Rice’s visit. The groups also called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from meeting with Rice.

“We reject Rice’s visit to the Middle East and we will expose its real goals,” read the leaflets, signed by the National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. “This visit comes in the wake of Israel’s US-backed comprehensive aggression against the Palestinians and Lebanese.”

The factions accused Israel of waging a war of “genocide” against the Palestinians and Lebanese after receiving a green light from the US administration. They also strongly condemned the US for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel for its offensive operations in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of armed organizations, including Hamas and Fatah, called on Abbas to boycott Rice, saying she was planning to hold separate talks about the situations in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories.

In a statement issued in the Gaza Strip, the committees claimed that Rice was “plotting” behind the scenes “to isolate Lebanon from Palestine.”

The US, the statement continued, wanted to calm the situation in the PA territories to give Israel time to crush Hizbullah.

“We call on President Mahmoud Abbas to respect the feelings of the Palestinian people and to refrain from meeting with Rice and succumbing to her arrogant dictates that will only bring our people more humiliation and suffering,” the committees said.

Osama al-Mazini, a Hamas political leader, said Rice’s visit was designed to help Israel following its “defeat” in the PA territories and Lebanon.

“The Americans are 120 percent biased in favor of Israel,” he said. “That’s why Rice is coming to save Israel from defeat and humiliation. The US always intervenes when Israel is in trouble.”

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said the main purpose behind Rice’s visit was to ensure the continued support of certain Arab governments for the US. “She’s also coming here to provide Israel with political and moral support after the severe blows it suffered at the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon,” he said.

Palestinian political analysts and commentators also lashed out at the US for supporting Israel.

Columnist Imad Afaneh said the US was hoping to punish Syria and Iran through the IDF offensive in Lebanon.

“The Americans want to teach Iran and Syria a lesson for using Hizbullah to undermine US influence in the Middle East,” he said. “The Americans and the Israelis are also hoping to defeat the Palestinians by waging a war on Hizbullah in Lebanon.

“The Americans want a new Middle East devoid of jihad, resistance, liberation, martyrdom, retaliation and dignity. These are all terms that disturb the Americans.

“They want to see a Middle East full of Arab presidents, monarchs and princes who serve as slaves for their American masters,” Afaneh said.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based Al-Quds daily, said Rice wanted a new Middle East without Hamas and Hizbullah, where the Arabs would normalize their relations with Israel and form a joint front against Iran.

“The Americans’ problem is that they have never learned from their past mistakes,” he said. “They are continuing to rely on the same corrupt and weak horses in the Middle East.”

Israel is holding a whole population hostage

Traprock Peace Center homepage

Courtesy of Socialist Worker

Author Gilbert Achcar on the background to the war:
“Israel is holding a whole population hostage”
SPECIAL SW BULLETIN | July 21, 2006

GILBERT ACHCAR grew up in Lebanon, before moving to France, where he teaches political science at the University of Paris-VIII. Among his most recent works are Eastern Cauldron (2004) and The Clash of Barbarisms (2d ed. 2006); a book of his dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power, is forthcoming from Paradigm Publishers. He talked to Socialist Worker’s ALAN MAASS about the causes and background of the Israeli assault on Lebanon.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE U.S. media place the blame for Israel’s attack on Hezbollah, for “starting” the violence? Is that how you view the situation?
WHATEVER ONE thinks about Hezbollah or the operation mounted by Hezbollah–and I do have my own reservations about its appropriateness with regard to its foreseeable consequences–this cannot by any logic justify what Israel is doing.

The killing of the seven Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two soldiers was an act of war, and Lebanon and Israel are two countries that are still at war.

Israel regularly encroaches on Lebanon’s sovereignty: It has aggressed the country innumerable times, especially after 1967 (the first Israeli devastating attack on Beirut’s airport took place in 1968); it invaded a small piece of Lebanese territory in 1967 (the Shebaa farms), a big chunk of southern Lebanon in 1978, half of Lebanon in 1982; it then occupied a big part of the country until 1985, its southern part until 2000, and it still holds the stretch of Lebanese territory that it seized in 1967.

Since 2000, there has been an ongoing low-intensity war between Hezbollah and Israel: cross-border skirmishes, covert Israeli action in Lebanon, including assassination of Hezbollah leaders, etc.

But what Israel is carrying out now in Lebanon is massive retaliation against a whole population. It is holding a whole population and country hostage and trying to impose its conditions.

This brutality is most cowardly, because whatever military means Hezbollah–or the whole of the Lebanese state, for that matter–possess are dwarfed by the military power of the state of Israel.

This isn’t some kind of an equal fight, despite the fact that Hezbollah is retaliating with some rockets. One of the world’s mightiest military powers is committing a naked aggression against one of the weakest states in the Middle East, and murdering scores of people.

They have already killed over 200 people in less than one week, and the number keeps growing day after day. The overwhelming majority, more than 90 percent, of Israel’s victims are uninvolved civilians. They are neither fighters, nor even militants; just ordinary civilians, families and a considerable number of children appallingly torn to pieces by Israeli bombs.

Israel is destroying the infrastructure of the country. It is also destroying the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people. Lebanon is a country where the summer season is very important to thousands and thousands of people–the large proportion of the population that get seasonal jobs in the tourism sector and depend on these earnings for their living for the whole year. And now these people are being fired by the tens of thousands because everybody understands that there won’t be any “summer season” in Lebanon.

If you take all this into consideration and compare it to whatever border operation Hezbollah executed, it is absolutely clear that this has become just a pretext–seized on by Israel, backed by the United States and other countries, to try to impose what they have been attempting to force since 2004.

That year, they had the UN Security Council adopt a resolution calling not only for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, but also for the disarmament of armed groups in the country–meaning, above all, Hezbollah, and secondarily, the Palestinians in their refugee camps.

THE DOUBLE standard of Western media presentations of the situation and the hypocrisy of Israel’s statements are so glaring that they constitute by themselves a moral aggression–for example, the capture of one soldier by the Palestinians becomes Israel’s justification for a murderous and destructive assault on Gaza, while Israel holds close to 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails, most of whom are civilians abducted by Israel in the territory that it occupies since 1967 in total violation of international law.

WE KNOW this double standard well. Noam Chomsky has made it one of his specialties for so many years to denounce the permanent double standards and hypocrisy in the imperial countries and in their media. We are now witnessing an appalling new case of that same double standard.

And the fact is that if this hypocrisy can go unnoticed for an average audience in Western countries, you can be sure that in the overwhelming majority of Third World countries–and, of course, in Muslim countries, and, even more so, in Arab countries–the double standard is conspicuously and outrageously obvious.

That’s why people don’t give any credit to the utterances of Western leaders–to the Bush administration’s talk about democracy and other lies.

Instead, what we are seeing right now is that the hatred toward not only Israel but the United States, and all the other Western countries backing Israel and allying with the United States, is reaching heights which are far beyond what existed before September 11, 2001.

In other words, the United States and the state of Israel are preparing for the rest of the world, including their own populations, nightmarish events, compared to which 9/11, I’m afraid, will be only a foretaste.

People in the West, especially in the United States, have to become aware of the hypocrisy of their government, and of this total lack of justice and even humanitarian commiseration in dealing with the Arab populations of the Middle East.

They have to become aware of the fact that, for very good reason, the Arab and Muslim peoples are coming to perceive that they are considered as sub-human beings, and that their lives have no value in the eyes of Israel, the United States and their allies.

Therefore, they become receptive to the kind of discourse that comes from the likes of Osama bin Laden–that if our civilian lives have no value to them, then their civilian lives should have no value to us. So we are reaching a completely infernal situation because of the criminal reactionary policies of the U.S. administration and the Israeli government.

WHAT ARE Israel’s goals in carrying out this assault?

STRATEGICALLY SPEAKING, both Israel and the United States consider their main enemy in the Middle East to be not bin Laden or al-Qaeda–these are only minor nuisances in their eyes, if conveniently useful nuisances–but Iran.

There is what they call the Shiite axis or crescent, which has its source in Iran, and goes through the pro-Iranian Shiite forces in Iraq, through the Syrian government, which is allied to Iran, and reaches Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This is why they consider Hezbollah a very important enemy–because with their kind of conception of the world, they see everything through their obsession with what they consider to be their main enemy state. At the time of the Cold War, they used to see everything worldwide in terms of a confrontation with the former Soviet Union. Now, they see everything in the Middle East in terms of a confrontation with Iran.

Besides that, Israel has its own specific reasons for wanting to get rid of Hezbollah, as the organization that played the major role in forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000. This is an organization that is permanently defying Israel by its very existence, its very presence.

Ever since Israel left Lebanon, there’s been a determination to take revenge on Hezbollah, and we’re now witnessing Israel in the midst of carrying this out, using the pretext of the border clashes.

THE U.S. government denounces Hezbollah as a band of terrorists. What is the actual role that it plays in Lebanon?

THROUGHOUT THE years, Lebanese politics have had a communal dynamic, so you have some kind of identification of communities with this or that political organization. Hezbollah managed to become the main force in the Shiite community, which is the largest minority in Lebanon, where no religious community constitutes a majority.

Hezbollah came to play this role for a variety of reasons. The major one is the role that Hezbollah played in liberating southern Lebanon, where the Shiite community is concentrated, from the Israeli invasion.

But there are other factors. Generally speaking, the rise of Hezbollah’s influence fits into a framework that we’ve seen at the regional level for the last 30 years, where the failure of the left and the bankruptcy of nationalist leaderships create a void in the leadership of the mass movement that has been filled by organizations of an Islamic fundamentalist character.

This was very much propelled by the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The shock wave of the revolution was tremendous in the area–especially, of course, among the Shiites, since Iran is a Shiite country.

The birth of Hezbollah was the result of the conjunction of this shock wave with the conditions created by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It was born after the invasion, and its rise was associated with its success in the fight against the occupation.

Another factor is the way that Hezbollah managed to build its social base. Hezbollah was very much backed by Iran from its founding. Tehran trains and funds Hezbollah, and the organization has made clever use of the funds that it gets. It organizes several kinds of social services and a social network, which helps huge numbers of Shiite families.

It also managed to translate the clout built through the resistance in political terms, when it entered the elections. Hezbollah has an important fraction in the Lebanese parliament and there are even Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese government.

So it’s not a “terrorist” organization, as Washington’s and Israel’s terrorist governments call it. It is a mass party fully involved in the legal political life in Lebanon.

No one in Lebanon, except for a tiny minority of ultra reactionaries, considers what Hezbollah does in confronting Israel to be “terrorism.” The Lebanese government itself considers it as national resistance.

CAN YOU talk about how Israel’s assault on Lebanon is connected to the intensified war on Palestinians since Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority?

THERE ARE several connections. To be sure, there are connections of a kind that fit into Washington’s conspiracy theory.

Hamas and Hezbollah are both organizations in the same regional alliance. Part of Hamas’s leadership live in exile in Syria, and it has very good relations with Iran. Tehran backs Hamas: When the new Palestinian government was elected, and there was a boycott organized by the Western powers and Israel, Iran was the first country to pledge support for the Palestinians to compensate for that boycott.

The other connection is the result of how Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has been so traumatizing for the whole region.

Whatever the original motivation for Hezbollah’s operation that captured the Israelis–I’m saying this, because Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah said that it had been months in the planning–when it took place, it was seen across the whole Middle East as a legitimate and necessary gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza who are being crushed by Israel. That’s why there was a lot of sympathy for it.

Like in Lebanon now, Israel used the pretext of the abduction of one of its soldiers in Gaza to hold the whole population hostage and begin a frenzy of destruction and murder that falls into the canons of state mass terrorism of the worst sort known in history.

HOW DOES the war on Lebanon fit with the other wars that the U.S. and Israel are carrying out in the Middle East?

FOR ISRAEL and the U.S., the main enemy, as I said, is the whole alliance, with Iran as the most central part of the alliance. The main target is the Iranian regime, which they want to get rid of, in one way or another.

The Syrian regime is more of a secondary enemy. I don’t believe that there is a real drive toward overthrowing that regime. Israeli officials explain that they don’t wish to see a new Iraq unfolding at their border, because they know that if the Syrian regime were to collapse, that’s what you would get: a chaotic situation that could very much threaten the security of Israel.

Of course, they would like to get the Syrian government to break with Iran. And they want to compel Tehran, too, to abide by their rules. But because they don’t have any confidence in the Iranian regime, they wish that they could overthrow it in one way or another. That’s their basic goal: what they call in Washingtonese “regime change.”

With the prevailing replica of the Cold War imperialist mentality, Hezbollah is presented as a mere agency of Iran. Now, to be sure, it’s no secret to anyone that Hezbollah is closely linked to both Damascus and Tehran. And Hezbollah would have been foolish to undertake its July 12 attack without some degree of coordination with its backers.

So what? Unlike those of the Afghan mujahadeen, when they were fighting against the Soviet occupation of their country, the weapons Hezbollah is using are, of course, not U.S.-made or U.S.-provided!

It is absolutely normal for forces confronted with much more powerful enemies to try to find external sources of support. Hezbollah has to get the means from somewhere to be able to resist.

Or does Washington believe that it is entitled to intervene wherever it wants by the sole right of its “manifest destiny”–for instance, backing today the so-called People’s Mujahadeen of Iran in its cross-border attacks against Iran from U.S.-occupied Iraq, after having backed yesterday the far more significant contras against Nicaragua’s government–while Iran has no right to support its correligionists in Lebanon or Palestine. This chutzpah is only exceeded by U.S. complaints against Iranian interference in Iraq, a country under U.S. occupation!

The fact that Hezbollah has links to Syria and Iran doesn’t mean in the least that it is not waging a legitimate national resistance struggle–in the same way that the fact that the Vietnamese were backed by this or that Communist country didn’t mean in the least that they were not fighting for the liberation of their country.

Outcry Over US Bombs to Israel

More Middle East crisis news links on Traprock Peace Center homepage

original Arab News article

Outcry Over US Bombs to Israel
Siraj Wahab, Arab News

JEDDAH, 23 July 2006 — The report about the Bush administration’s decision to rush precision-guided bombs to Israel was met with an outcry in the Muslim world. Political analysts say it will only add to the raging anti-American sentiment in the region and strengthen the hands of the radicals.

The report, published yesterday on the front-page of The New York Times, feverishly circulated on e-mail circuits and was intensely debated on Arab and Muslim websites and blogs.

“When I was young I used to watch people burn US flags in rallies across the world. Now I know exactly why there is such an anti-American feeling in the Muslim world,” wrote one Saif Al-Adham on an Arabic website.

“It is no wonder that most Muslims consider Israel and the US to be synonymous words for terror. Do you think we will see an end to the war on terror? I don’t think so. This type of behavior encourages radicalism among Muslims the world over,” wrote another visitor on the same website.

The NYT report, titled “US Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis”, said that the news threatens to anger Arab governments and others who could perceive Washington as aiding Israel in the manner that Iran has armed Hezbollah.

The satellite and laser-guided bombs are part of a sales package approved last year, said the officials quoted in the report. But some military officers said the request for expedited delivery was unusual and indicated that Israel has many targets it plans to hit in Lebanon.

Reflecting the Muslim and Arab point of view, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the Bush administration to adopt a policy of disengaging from the dictates of the pro-Israel lobby.

In a statement e-mailed to Arab News, the council called the Bush administration’s decision to rush delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel “unconscionable.”

Israeli attacks on Lebanon have already killed hundreds of civilians. Attacks by air, land and sea have destroyed bridges, roads, electrical networks, airports, port facilities, and other civilian infrastructure in an Israeli attempt to “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years,” the council pointed out.

“It is unconscionable that our (US) government would rush weapons to a state engaged in vicious and indiscriminate attacks on the civilians and civilian infrastructure of a friendly nation. Thousands of our nation’s citizens also remain in Lebanon facing death or injury from these American taxpayer-supplied weapons,” said CAIR Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed.

“The baffling decision to assist in the destruction of a nation that has been held up as a model of democratic reform can only serve to harm our long-term interests in the region. Aiding attacks on civilian targets in Lebanon also calls into question our nation’s commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms.

“America must disengage its Middle East policy from the self-serving dictates of the pro-Israel lobby. Failure to do so will allow Israel to once again drag our nation into its self-perpetuating cycle of hatred and conflict.”

However, in his Saturday radio address to the American people, Bush repeated his call for the disarmament of Hezbollah as a necessary step for a lasting peace in the region and accused Syria and Iran of complicity in the current situation.

The NYT report was being played on almost all the major Arabic news channels with guest analysts blasting the US for adding fuel to the fire.

The general thrust of much of the mainstream Arab broadcast media has been in support of Hezbollah “for staging a legitimate resistance against Israel.”

In the Arab print media too there has been much praising of Hezbollah for reigniting resistance against Israel.

There is much condemnation of Israel and accusations of double standards against the United States for not stopping Israel’s military offensive while denouncing any Hezbollah or Palestinian aggression.

“Look at the kind of weapons they are supplying to Israel in the middle of a war,” said an enraged Syrian expat in a Jeddah restaurant listening to an Al-Arabiya TV anchor reading the NYT report.

The US image in the region is at an all-time low. On Friday, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, took an indirect dig at the US when he asked in his sermon: “Why do people howl at the top of their voice to protest the silliest of matters but remain silent at the extermination of whole nations? Where are the people who sing hymns of freedom and human rights and against violations of sovereignty? What happened to those people who shout slogans of democracy and world peace? Are they all just propaganda and false statements to shed Muslim blood?”

Anti-war Tel Aviv rally draws Jewish, Israeli Arab crowd

Traprock Peace Center homepage

original Haaretz article

Anti-war Tel Aviv rally draws Jewish, Israeli Arab crowd

By Lily Galili, Haaretz Correspondent

More than 2,500 people on Saturday attended a demonstration against the war in Lebanon, marching from Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to a rally at the Cinemateque plaza.

The rally was the first of its kind protesting against the IDF’s offensive in Lebanon. Unlike previous anti-war protests in israel, major Arab organizations in Israel – among them Hadash and Balad -participated in the event in large numbers.

They were joined by the left flank of the Zionist Left -former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni and Prof. Galia Golan, alongside the radical left of Gush Shalom, the refusal to serve movement Yesh Gvul, Anarchists Against the Wall, Coalition of Women for Peace, Taayush and others.

These Jewish and Arab groups ordinarily shy away from joint activity. They couldn’t come up with a unifying slogan this time either, except for the call to stop the war and start talking. However, protest veterans noted that in the Lebanon War of 1982 it took more than 10 days of warfare to bring out this many protesters, marking the first crack in the consensus.

The protest drew some new faces, like Tehiya Regev of Carmiel, whose two neighbors were killed in a Katyusha attack on the city. “This war is not headed in the right direction,” she told Haaretz; “the captured soldiers have long since been forgotten, so I came to call for an immediate stop to this foolish and cruel war.”

The rally, which received wide international press coverage, had a theme unfamiliar from previous demonstrations here. Beside the usual calls for the prime minister and defense minister to resign, this was a distinctly anti-American protest. Alongside chants of “We will not kill, we will not die in the name of Zionism” there were chants of “We will not die and
ill not kill in the service of the United States,” and slogans condemning President George W. Bush.

World protests against Israeli raids

Traprock Peace Center homepage

original article

World protests against Israeli raids

Sunday 23 July 2006, 3:57 Makka Time, 0:57 GMT

Protestors gathered at demonstrations across the world

Thousands of people around the world gathered in street protests on Saturday to demand an end to Israel’s offensive in Lebanon and Gaza.

The biggest rally took place in London where thousands of demonstrators urged Tony Blair, the British prime minister, to stop what they described as his refusal to condemn Israel’s actions and join international calls for an immediate ceasefire.

“Peace for Lebanon!” they chanted as the march weaved its way through central London, past the US embassy and on to Hyde Park, watched all the way by the police.

“Stop the killing, stop the bombs. Israel out of Lebanon,” shouted the peaceful protestors, many draped in Lebanese or Palestinian flags.

Others shouted “Hezbollah is here to stay. Zionism go away”.

Betty Hunter, the general-secretary of the Palestine solidarity campaign, one of the groups that organised the event, said it was vital to reject Israel’s two-pronged campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

‘Ashamed’ of Blair

She said: “The main purpose of this demonstration is to say to Tony Blair and our government that we are ashamed of the position they are taking which is basically to collude with the war crimes of Israel.”

Israel’s 11-day air offensive in Lebanon has left more than 372 Lebanese and 34 Israelis dead, while more than 100 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have died in Gaza.

The operation in Lebanon was sparked when the Shia group Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

Disgust at the toll spurred people to join the rally in London.

Police put the number of participants at 6,000 to 7,000, while organisers said the turnout was between 20,000 and 25,000.

‘Disgust’

A similar show of solidarity with Israel is planned near London on Sunday evening and will be addressed by Britain’s chief rabbi.

Henry Grunwald, who heads the board of deputies of British Jews, said: “Israel has the right to defend itself against unprovoked attacks on sovereign soil.”

Much of the anger at Saturday’s London protest was directed at the British government for its refusal to openly condemn Israel’s actions and call for an immediate ceasefire.

Yasmin Ataullah, the spokeswoman for the British Muslim initiative, said: “We’re disgusted by the way the US and Britain have isolated themselves from the rest of the international community.”

Speaking in Beirut, Kim Howells, a foreign office minister, made the strongest criticism yet of Israel by a British government minister.

He said: “These have not been surgical strikes. It’s very, very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used.

“You know, if they’re chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don’t go for the entire Lebanese nation.”

‘No war’ in Sydney

In Sydney, a 10,000-strong crowd waved Australian and Lebanese flags and carried coffins and placards saying “No War” as they made their way through the city centre, escorted by about 400 police.

“They are murdering children and burying them under rubble,” a Lebanese-Australian woman, who gave her name only as Diana, told Australian associated press.

Jews and Arabs in Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, 1,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs turned out to denounce their country’s actions, gathering in Rabin Square and brandishing placards reading “war is disaster” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”.

Mohammed Barrakeh, an Israeli-Arab MP, said: “This war is a catastrophe. We can prevent this catastrophe through negotiations that would save the lives of Arabs and Israelis.

“The war won’t end soon but we won’t stop protesting either.”

A recent opinion poll showed that 95% of Israelis support the military offensive and the popularity of Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, has shot up since it began.

Geneva’s silent march

In Stockholm, where 2,000 marched to the Israeli embassy, several hundred protestors clashed with police, throwing stones and objects at police officers. Two people were arrested.

Other demonstrations took place in Geneva, Paris, Strasbourg, Warsaw, Chicago, Amsterdam and in a number of cities around Britain.

In Geneva, 500 people marched in silence behind a coffin meant to symbolise the death of the conscience of the United Nations.

Anouar Gharbi, the president of the rights for all association that organised the protest, said: “We have chosen a silent march to show that there is no word to qualify the unqualifiable.”

And several hundred demonstrators gathered in downtown Chicago carrying banners that read: “The Right to Fight Or The Might to Smite”, or “Not with our money, not in our name.”

‘Outraged’ in Chicago

Dale Lehman, a 60-year-old Jewish resident of Chicago, said: “I’m outraged as an American, I’m outraged as a human being at what is happening to the people of Lebanon.”

A small counter-protest demonstrated in support of Israel over the road from the main rally.

The main Chicago rally was organised by the American council on American-Islamic relations.

US and Israeli public’s fortitude to determine length of war

Traprock Peace Center homepage

original article

ANALYSIS: U.S., public’s fortitude to determine length of war

By Ze’ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel has decided to widen the offensive against Hezbollah. Now the IDF chiefs are talking about fighting that would go on for weeks and the need for more time for various ground operations. On the other hand this would provide Hezbollah with time to wage a war of attrition against Israel’s civilian population, unless the IDF destroys the rocket deployment in southern Lebanon.

The PMO’s office and IDF believe Israel has all the operational time it needs for military action. Officials who know the American administration do not agree. They believe Israel has no more than 10 to 14 days to make significant military achievements. This also applies to the Israeli public’s fortitude.

The Pentagon is following the fighting in Lebanon closely. They believe the key is Israel’s ability to strike at the rocket deployment that Hezbollah received from Iran. The Pentagon regards the rocket deployment as strategic for Iran. That is why Israel must destroy it. Washington’s expectations are also reflected in the swift delivery of bombs and munitions from the United States to Israel.

The IDF, whose ground activity remained close to the border until the end of the week, will widen its offensive. Elite commandos acted in the border area, where Hezbollah took over abandoned IDF outposts. They found Hezbollah outposts had deep tunnels with lighting. The IDF sustained losses in these operations. Apparently more effective means must be used to flush out Hezbollah with minimum losses.

Israel has refrained from operating large ground forces, relying mostly on the air force. But despite the air force’s successes, its achievements are limited regarding short-range rockets. Introducing larger ground forces was not meant to do what the IDF did in 1982 when it conquered parts of Beirut. But if ground forces remain in Lebanon soil for long, it could be seen as occupation. Remaining there also requires protection and construction work.

The IDF is expected to raid areas in southern Lebanon to undermine large parts of Hezbollah’s rocket deployment. If it succeeds, it will shorten the attrition war against Israelis in the north. The air force will also continue striking the rocket deployment.

Beirut’s bombing has let up slightly to let civilians leave. However, the bombing to prevent the supply of weapons to Hezbollah continues. Therefore Israel will not allow Beirut’s airport to open, and will bomb bridges and passes on the Damascus-Beirut road.

Bush rushes bombs to Israel

Traprock Peace Center homepage

original Aljazeera article

Bush rushes bombs to Israel

Saturday 22 July 2006, 8:16 Makka Time, 5:16 GMT

The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, according to The New York Times.

Citing American officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Times said on Saturday that the decision to ship the weapons quickly came after relatively little debate within the White House.

The report said that the news threatens to anger Arab governments and others who could perceive Washington as aiding Israel in the manner that Iran has armed Hezbollah.

The munitions are part of a sales package approved last year, the officials said. But some military officers said the request for expedited delivery was unusual and indicated that Israel has many targets it plans to hit in Lebanon.

The arms shipment has not been announced publicly. The officials who described the decision by George Bush’s administration to rush the munitions included employees of two government agencies.

One of them said the shipment was only one example out of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel, the Times said.

Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, the newspaper said.

But one US official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of “emergency resupply” of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, according to the Times report

Israel’s terror in Lebanon

Traprock Peace Center homepage
[Editor’s note: we support Kofi Annan’s call for an immediate cease fire and demand that all sides halt immediately, without preconditions, their targeting of civilian areas and infrastructure.”

original article and interview with Gilbert Achcar – “Israel is holding a whole population hostage.”

“Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins”
Israel’s terror in Lebanon
By Eric Ruder | SPECIAL SW BULLETIN | July 21, 2006

ISRAEL’S MASSIVE military offensive against Lebanon has created a humanitarian crisis and threatens to plunge the entire region into war.

Hundreds and hundreds of Israeli air strikes and volleys of heavy artillery have flattened homes and apartment buildings and destroyed roads, bridges and airports, making it difficult or impossible for people to flee or get essential supplies such as food and fuel in to the people who remain.

Roberto Laurenti, the United Nations Children’s Fund representative in Beirut, described the situation as “both alarming and catastrophic. There are about 500,000 people displaced already. The situation is extreme.”

In Tyre, a city in southern Lebanon and the country’s fourth-largest urban area, the main hospital has run out of room in its morgue. The dead are being buried in mass graves.

“Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins,” reported the New York Times. “Bodies are stacked three or four high in a truck at the local hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble.

“The morbid reality of Israel’s bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city…[W]ild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said. Officials at the Tyre Government Hospital inside a local Palestinian refugee camp said they counted the bodies of 50 children among the 115 in the refrigerated truck in the morgue.”

Tyre resident Therese Khairallah was distraught as she talked to a Washington Post reporter while sitting in an alley near the sea with friends. “They evacuate the foreigners, bring them to safety, and they leave us like dogs in the street,” she said.

On day 10 of Israel’s assault, the official death toll in Lebanon exceeded 350. But it is likely far higher because many bodies still lie buried and uncounted underneath the rubble. More than 1,000 Lebanese have been injured.

Israel also began massing troops just south of Lebanon’s border, in preparation for a likely ground offensive. It called up reserve soldiers in anticipation of a prolonged confrontation.

Israeli officials say they need up to two more weeks to “eliminate” Hezbollah’s positions in southern Lebanon, but the conflict could easily last longer.

Israel is using a strategy similar to the one it has employed in its siege of Gaza, imposing an air, land and sea blockade against Lebanon. Israel also bombed power facilities, densely populated areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs, large trucks carrying foodstuffs and buses in transit, ambulances, gas stations and factories that produce milk, pharmaceuticals and other essential goods.

“Nothing is safe,” Dan Halutz, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), warned on July 13. “As simple as that.” A few days later, he added that Israel plans to “turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

U.S. OFFICIALS actively encouraged the onslaught against Lebanon, asserting that “Israel has a right to defend herself,” in the words of George W. Bush.
Leading Democrats rushed to outdo Republicans in showing support for the war. “Israel has not only a right but also a responsibility to respond to the Hezbollah attack,” said liberal Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress overwhelmingly voted to express U.S. support for Israel and to condemn Hezbollah.

Israel’s “right of self-defense,” according to U.S. officials, flows from a raid mounted by the military wing of the Lebanese Islamist party Hezbollah, which killed seven Israeli soldiers and led to the capture of two others.

Hezbollah, which had been planning the operation for months, according to leader Hassan Nasrallah, took the Israeli soldiers prisoner in the hopes of freeing Hezbollah fighters held in Israeli jails. In a 2004 prisoner swap, Israel released about 400 Palestinians, 23 Lebanese and a dozen others held in its jails in exchange for Hezbollah’s release of an Israeli businessman.

But coming on the heels of Israel’s assault on Gaza, which began after Hamas’ June 25 capture of an Israeli soldier, Hezbollah’s action also became a political show of support for Palestinians suffering for weeks under Israel’s intense attack.

Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets into towns in northern Israel, including a few that reached some 40 miles inside Israel to Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.

U.S. and Israeli officials and their media mouthpieces insist that Israel’s actions are warranted because Hezbollah struck first, and they blame Syria and Iran for orchestrating the Hezbollah attack. But in truth, Israel has had a long-term plan, years in the making, to exact revenge on Hezbollah for forcing Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000–and take aim at the Iranian government.

“For Israel, the goal is to eliminate Hezbollah as a security threat–or altogether,” the Washington Post reported. “A senior Israeli official confirmed that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is a target, on the calculation that the Shiite movement would be far less dynamic without him. For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East, U.S. officials say.”

In essence, the U.S.–bogged down in Iraq and concerned about the growing influence of Iran among Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government–welcomes Israel’s offensive as a way to strike at Iran by weakening its ally Hezbollah.

The assault on Lebanon is also an extension of Israel’s war against Palestinians that over the decades has repeatedly spilled into Lebanon.

After the 1948 war to drive Palestinians from their land and found the state of Israel, about 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon, but were denied citizenship and were forced into squalid refugee campus.

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to destroy the remnants of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been forced out of Jordan in 1970. Israel’s invasion failed to deliver the fatal blow to the PLO, but the assault killed some 20,000 people, mostly civilians.

Israeli forces under the command of then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon also bear direct responsibility for the cold-blooded massacre of more than 2,000 Palestinian men, women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut–IDF soldiers looked on as far-right Lebanese militias carried out the mass murder.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ISRAEL SAYS that it must defend itself from Hezbollah, whose attacks are used to justify all violence that Israel deems necessary for its “self-defense.” But like in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, the question of “who started it” is meant to evade the central issue, wrote Gideon Levy, a columnist for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.
“Israel is causing electricity blackouts, laying sieges, bombing and shelling, assassinating and imprisoning, killing and wounding civilians, including children and babies, in horrifying numbers, but ‘they started,’” wrote Levy.

“They are also ‘breaking the rules’ laid down by Israel: We are allowed to bomb anything we want, and they are not allowed to launch [rockets]. When they fire a Qassam at Ashkelon, that’s an ‘escalation of the conflict,’ and when we bomb a university and a school, it’s perfectly alright. Why? Because they started…

“If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda–here and around the world…Nobody would have given any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they did not behave violently. That is a very bitter truth, but the first 20 years of the occupation passed quietly, and we did not lift a finger to end it…

“We started. We started with the occupation, and we are duty-bound to end it, a real and complete ending. We started with the violence. There is no violence worse than the violence of the occupier, using force on an entire nation, so the question about who fired first is therefore an evasion meant to distort the picture.”

In a statement to reporters, Bush did say he hoped hope Israel’s actions wouldn’t “weaken” Lebanon’s fragile “democracy.” But after the U.S. military intervention in Lebanon throughout the 1980s and U.S. support for Israel’s two-decade occupation before 2000, the idea that the U.S. cares about “democracy” in Lebanon rings hollow. In truth, the U.S. is concerned about nothing more than protecting the pro-U.S. government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

It doesn’t care about the deaths of civilians, the bombing of the civilian infrastructure or the flexing of Israel’s deadly military might–a fact underlined by the U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution charging Israel with “disproportionate use of force” and demanding that it withdraw its troops from Gaza. In fact, eight of the last nine vetoes of UN resolutions have been cast by the U.S.–and seven of those dealt with Israel’s war on Palestine.

Now, with both Israel and the U.S. pointing the finger at Iran and Syria, the prospects for a wider war in the Middle East are frighteningly real. A week before the invasion of Lebanon had begun, Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace and flew over the house of the Syrian president.

This is a critical time to stand up to Israeli and U.S. aggression. Antiwar activists and supporters of Palestinian rights have been organizing emergency protests against the assault on Gaza, and plans are in the works for demonstrations against Israel’s expansion of its war to Lebanon.

These protests are important for exposing the truth about Israel’s murderous assault on Lebanon and Gaza–and demanding that the U.S. end its support for Israel.

Bush effort to buy time for Israeli offensive failing

Wall Street Journal blog

The Bush administration’s effort to buy more time for Israel’s military offensive against Hezbollah is itself running out of time, as calls from other nations for an immediate cease-fire mount.

The Hezbollah attacks that triggered the current surge in violence altered the contours of the standard diplomatic response to Middle East bloodshed, with European countries quickly lining up behind the Bush administration’s insistence that Israel be given adequate time to forcibly disarm the Hezbollah militia and evict it from its quasi state in southern Lebanon. Sunni Muslim Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt also lent tacit support to the Israeli offensive because of their concerns that the Shiite Muslim militia’s attacks on Israel were emboldening Shiite-led Iran, a regional rival, and sparking unrest among their own Shiite minorities.

But that consensus is splintering as European and Arab countries increasingly demand that Israel agree to a cease-fire in Lebanon, where more than 300 civilians have been killed by Israeli strikes. The upshot is that the Bush administration finds itself increasingly isolated in its support for Israel and its refusal to pressure the Jewish state to wind down or terminate its military operations in Lebanon.

That is forcing Washington to scramble to head off action at the U.N. while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gears up to travel to the Middle East as early as next week. The White House is concerned that a continued run-up in civilian casualties in Lebanon could trigger Security Council resolutions condemning Israel that the U.S. would feel obliged to veto, further straining its ties with allies. –Yochi J. Dreazen