A statement by the International Socialist Organization
Why the U.S. supports Israel’s destruction of Lebanon
July 28, 2006 | Page 3
THE ISRAELI attack on the Lebanese people is a war that the U.S. government wants. It is an escalation of Israel’s ongoing war on the Palestinian people–and is designed to advance the dominance of the U.S. and Israel in the wider Middle East.
The U.S. bears responsibility for the death and destruction caused by the Israeli armed forces: the killing of hundreds of people, the displacement of many hundreds of thousands, and the bombing of bridges, power plants, factories and roads–operations designed to “turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years,” as Israeli army chief of staff Dan Halutz put it. Israel has deliberately created a vast humanitarian crisis by devastating Lebanon’s infrastructure, causing critical shortages of food, medicine, shelter and fuel.
The Israeli attack is not a response to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters, as claimed. Rather, it is a long-planned campaign that was politically approved and militarily equipped by the U.S. In the context of ongoing wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli war on Lebanon is a part of the U.S. effort to militarily dominate the Middle East and Central Asia and control oil and gas resources there.
As activists in the United States, we have a special responsibility to stand with the Lebanese and Palestinian people and all those who resist Israel’s Washington-backed war, and reject the pretext of a “war on terror” claimed by both major U.S. political parties and the corporate media.
The carnage and humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s U.S.-made warplanes, missiles and bombs–in Gaza and the West Bank as well as Lebanon–give the lie to promises of “democratization” that accompanied the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. anticipated that the invasion of Iraq would open the way to further “regime changes” in the Middle East. Instead, resistance to the occupation led to a deepening military and political crisis for U.S. imperialism. As a result, Iran–targeted by the U.S. as part of a supposed “axis of evil”–has become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S.-Israeli war in Lebanon is aimed in large part at curtailing Iran’s and Syria’s influence–and preparing the ground for possible direct military action against them as well.
Collaborating with the U.S. and Israel in this effort are its client states in the Middle East–the Mubarak police state in Egypt, the reactionary Saudi and Jordanian monarchies and NATO member Turkey. All these governments fear popular struggles among the Lebanese and Palestinians that might set an example for workers and oppressed minorities among their own populations.
But the scale of the destruction of Lebanon is also meant to send a message to the world at large–that the U.S. and its enforcer, Israel, are prepared to use the most barbaric means to achieve their aims.
Israel: Washington’s attack dog
The U.S. “green light” for the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon is part of a wider decision to unleash Israel’s American-made arsenal–augmented by the express delivery of “bunker-buster” bombs–to further Washington’s agenda.
The Bush administration had previously approved the Israeli government’s unilateral “separation plan”–“withdrawal” from the Gaza Strip that turned the area into the world’s largest prison. Besieged Gaza recalls nothing so much as the Nazi-imposed Warsaw Ghetto to isolate Polish Jews during the Second World War.
Since the victory in December by the Islamist Hamas party in Palestinian elections–a vote held at Washington’s insistence–the U.S. and Israel have effectively nullified the democratic choice of the Palestinian people. They have imposed devastating economic sanctions on the Palestinian Occupied Territories, dramatically worsening already severe poverty levels and pushing the health care system into collapse.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military conducts assassinations via air strikes, uses heavy artillery in densely populated areas and conducts regular and highly destructive military attacks with tanks and bulldozers–all with terrible loss of Palestinian lives. Israeli forces have also arrested government ministers who belong to Hamas.
These actions are proof–if more was needed–that Israel wants not “partners for peace” among Palestinians, but complete submission.
Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism and imperialism
The total backing for Israel’s barbaric war by U.S. politicians and the media reflects not only Washington’s decades-old alliance with Israel, but also the rise of racism and state repression against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. has used the “war on terror” to drastically curtail civil liberties. Racial profiling, interrogations, detention and deportation have become the reality for Arabs and Muslims.
This racism also pervades the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as evidenced by the massacres and rapes carried out by U.S. armed forces in Falluja, Haditha and other cities in Iraq. Racism, too, is used to justify the dehumanization, torture and murder of Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. military prisons at Guantánamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib.
This racism converges with the assumptions of the Zionist project–that Arabs and Muslims have no rights worth respecting.
Resisting U.S.-Israeli aggression
U.S. politicians and the media excuse Israel’s wars on both the Palestinians and the Lebanese people by claiming that Israel has a “right to defend itself”–code words for the arbitrary redrawing of borders, military assaults on defenseless people, and the murder and imprisonment of anyone who resists.
The corollary is that Hezbollah and Hamas must be cut off from receiving aid and weapons from Syria or Iran, and Israel must continue to receive U.S.-made F-16 jets to rain bombs on Lebanon and Gaza and $3 billion in direct aid from Washington each year.
Despite this hypocrisy, some parts of the U.S. antiwar movement continue to view the much smaller armed operations of Hezbollah and Hamas as part of a “cycle of violence” with Israel’s vastly greater destructive power–or even hold Hezbollah responsible for the destruction of Lebanon because of its capture of the two soldiers.
But as the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe argues, “Retaliating to such a low-key operation with a total war and destruction indicates clearly that what matters is the grand design, not the pretext…the wider Israel’s military might expands, the easier it is to complete the unfinished business of the 1948 [founding of Israel]: the total de-Arabization of Palestine.”
Israel’s drive to consolidate its control led to the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 and the occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 until 2000. The current Israeli war has similar aims as the previous ones: to eliminate any challenge to its dominance.
Nevertheless, the resistance to the imperialist and Zionist project continues among Palestinians, in Lebanon and elsewhere. Although dismissed as bands of terrorists by Israel and the U.S., Hezbollah and Hamas are mass organizations whose influence has grown precisely because of their resistance to Israel.
The need for a principled antiwar movement
The Israeli onslaught in Lebanon poses an urgent challenge to the antiwar movement in the U.S. The crushing of a weak sovereign state by an enormously powerful Washington-backed military demands a response from all those who stand for peace and justice.
Unfortunately, there has been a longstanding unwillingness among leading voices in the U.S. antiwar movement to raise the issue of Palestine–partly because of sympathies with Israel among some, partly out of fear of offending the movement’s supposed friends in the Democratic Party.
Yet the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a pro-imperialist party committed to any effort that protects and expands U.S. power overseas, including those undertaken by Israel. The antiwar movement can’t rise to the challenge if it tailors its activities and arguments to suit a party that supports war and occupation.
Anti-imperialist and antiracist politics are not a diversion for the U.S. antiwar movement. On the contrary, they are key to its revival and growth.
Israel’s war on Lebanon is the harbinger of a new, even deadlier turn in Washington’s “war on terror.” Opposing the U.S. government’s imperial agenda is vital to reviving and strengthening the antiwar movement in the U.S., building international solidarity and opposing the interventions of U.S. imperialism–whether conducted through the U.S. or Israeli military.