There’s More to Lebanon Conflict than Hezbollah

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Lebanon faces battering and humiliation thanks in part to the United States government that has been hesitant to take a firm stand on the war that pits Israel, its closest ally in the region, and Hezbollah guerrillas. The US has been dilly-dallying on the issue of cessation of hostilities while at the same time providing sophisticated bunker hitting bombs and other munitions to Israel to annihilate Hezbollah. It sent its Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East this week to try and pacify those calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, while playing for time to allow Israel to “finish off” Hezbollah. What Rice ended up doing was to lecture the Lebanese leadership on what to do and not play the role of broker and referee in the war between Israel and Hezbollah. She expressed concern over the suffering and deaths of civilians arising from the massive bombings of civilian areas in Lebanon. Ironically, it is her country that is supplying much of Israel’s firepower and some of the bombs being used in the latest conflict. Thus, whether her so-called concern for civilian deaths and Lebanon’s destruction is genuine or not is anyone’s guess – more so that it is her country’s bombs that are ending civilian lives and destroying property. The war in Lebanon is not just directed at Hezbollah. It is equally a war that is directed at Lebanon and the rise of Arab nationalism in the Middle East. Israel wants Lebanon to ruthlessly deal with Hezbollah and cut off outside influence especially with countries like Syria and Iran. In the eyes of the United States and Israel, Lebanon represents a growing bastion of Arab nationalism. They believe it is the epitome of Iranian and Syrian influence. And by hitting hard at Hezbollah, the two countries have calculated that they are chopping off the hands of Iran and Syria. Israel has been bombing residential areas, bridges, factories, roads and other economic infrastructure as part of a bigger game to weaken not just Hezbollah but also Lebanon. It cannot be otherwise. The aim is to make Lebanon emerge out of this tragedy a weakened nation that would simply become a pawn in Israel’s backyard. Through its strong-arm tactics of collective punishment and excessive use of force, Israel wants to send a warning to its enemies that it will not hesitate to deal a massive blow against them. There is however a flip side to this sad story. The bombings against Lebanon will harden attitudes in a region that is already polarised. The Lebanese people will never forgive Israel for destroying their country and lives no matter how much they harp on fighting Hezbollah. The reckless bombings will fuel anger and poison relations between Arabs and Jews. Hezbollah, no matter how much it is incapacitated by the massive bombings, will become popular not so much for any victories it scores on the battlefield but the mere fact that it has dared take the bull by the horns. After weeks of a relentless bombing campaign, Israel has failed to stop Katusha rockets from reaching its shores; it has not found its soldiers who were taken by Hezbollah nor has it managed to break the military back of its nemesis. Israel in this uneven war has lost men and equipment to the guerrillas. The Hezbollah leadership is still in charge of its forces, directing operations and exhorting its people to resist the incursion. The Americans have got to wake up to the reality of the occupation of Arab lands by Israel. To try and limit the cause of the latest war in Lebanon and Gaza to the abduction of Israeli soldiers is to circumvent the truth. Let us not fool ourselves. The Israeli soldiers can be released tomorrow but that will not end the conflict. The release of the soldiers may end the war but not the long simmering conflict between Arab nations and the Jewish state. Condoleezza Rice can try to pull every trick in her diplomatic bag but she has to learn that the root cause of the problem in the Middle East is the absence of a Palestinian homeland and the occupation of Arab lands by Israel. The leadership in America believes that what is happening in Lebanon is part of the war on terror. This is utter nonsense and misinformation that is calculated at misleading the American people so that they would not press Israel to leave Arab lands it continues to occupy in contravention of international rules. The conflict in Lebanon is not one of terrorism. The same Americans used to label the struggles for liberation in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries as terrorist wars and our leaders were called terrorists. Today, the same people they called terrorists are statesmen and no terrorism exists in our region. So-called terrorism is a misnomer. It is a deliberate ploy to clear Israel of any wrongdoing while justifying its occupation.