Mon, 31 Jul 2006

Qana, Lebanon

I've been watching the Lebanese bloodshed since it started. It really makes me sick.

I have discussed this with many friends. There was little discussion though: we all thought this is a plain war against civilian targets. I tried discussing with people who could maybe be more supportive of the Israeli points of view. I tried talking to some of my right-winger relatives... and I haven't been able to find anyone that can say a word of support of what Israel is doing in Lebanon.

In three weeks, I have seen how Hizbullah killed some Israeli soldiers in some area around the border between Lebanon and Israel. As far as my (as an international online paper reader) judgement can tell, the location where this happened is disputed. Some say it was inside Lebanese territory, the others say it was an Hizbullah incursion into Israeli soldiers. I really don't care.

The immediate result of this action was a campaign of air strikes against Beirut and other Lebanese cities aiming to give a measured response (cache, and beware this is explicit) to Hizbulla's aggression. This, apparently, included destroying any vital infrastructure in heavily populated areas of Beirut, including bridges, power plants, hospitals and apparently random buildings.

While the Israeli army said the military operations were aimed to get rid of the Hizbullah camps and infrastructures around the border where they fire their rockets against Haifa and other Israeli cities, and their headquarters in Beirut and other southern cities, what the world espectated during the first three or four days of air strikes was pure horror. Hizbullah-controlled areas were like ghost quarters, so any bombing of those were very unlikely to take any Hizbullah victims. On the other hand, the rising number of civilian victims was the first bits of news that I could hear in my radio as I woke up every morning.

All of this, with a great amount of cinism and unlimitted cruelty. The Israeli army declared that the civilian population in the South should be leaving their homes (measured response), while they knew they were doing exactly what was needed to prevent this, by locking them up around destroyed bridges, harbours, airport and roads. The first columns of the lucky refugees who could afford fleeing to the North were greeted by Israeli bombs, leaving a good number of scattered bodies.

In Spain, the news shocked the public opinion and Zapatero, along with Chirac (IIRC), declared those actions were untolerable and unproportionate, and should be stopped immediately. This brought some local politics fun, when on one side the Israel ambassador in Spain accussed Zapatero of being antisemitic, and the right-wing leader Rajoy called the thousands of people who spontaneously demonstrated against the war in a few cities "clowns" and "ignorant".

Watching what the UN has done to stop these warcrimes, I really think it's a great moment to shut down that useless organisation and let some big corporation buy their nice building in New York City to build their offices in it. Once again, when some countries tried to come up with some resolution that forced Israel to stop, the United States waived their vetto flag. Once again, the Security Council has done nothing to put an end to another chapter of violence in the Middle East. The vettoing powers of some of the members is so ridiculous that it makes it totally inoperative. So, as the UK and US governments were not going to do anything to stop the air strikes, Israel had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted for a week.

And then, Israel's measured response destroyed one of the UN's buildings in Lebanon, killing four annoying observers, despite their calls warning that the bombs were falling too near their location. Only then, the United States decided to send Condie to have a look around the area, surprise visit to Beirut included.

I wonder, what phone number must the innocent women and children who cannot escape their cities and towns dial in order to warn the Israeli army about the proximity of their bombed targets?

After two visits of Condie to the region, nothing has changed, as the fourth week of operations starts. This is getting on my nerves. I don't, and won't, justify any of the Hizbullah attacks on civilian targets using Katyushas, or the kidnapping of soldiers, or whatever. What I see is that unless Israel takes a radically different approach to their problem, nothing will change either. Violence isn't at least. Apparently, their military operation isn't going well at all, and is not damaging much of Hizbullah's military capacity. What are they going to do? Will they occupy southern Lebanon for 20 more years?

The social movements this kind of actions are generating is also very, very worrying. On one hand, I read that around 85% of the Israeli population approve this war and think this is what their government needs to do to make them safe. This is pretty shocking. On the other hand, everyone still in Lebanon, even the Christian community, are united against the attack, helping each other in their survival quest, while the popular support to Hizbullah is rising, with big concentrations of people cheering them in the streets. This is just two years after similar demonstrations in Beirut forced the Syrian military out of the country.

While the Israeli war against Lebanon (I won't buy the "It's against Hizbullah" bullshit), sadly all the media, cameras and journalists have given their back on Gaza, which is under similar, but probably more brutal and savage military operations by Israel, as another soldier was kidnapped just one week before all of the Lebanon stuff started. The press doesn't have any news of how things are going in Gaza. The last thing I remember is that the UN was warning about the threat of a humanitarian disaster due to the lack of any kind of supplies in Palestine. If Palestinian kids are starving, the media are not letting us know.

Yesterday, 54 civilians were killed in an improvised underground bomb shelter in Qana, most of them being children. The Lebanese civilian death toll must be well over 500 as of this writing, with a ratio of at least 1:10 compared to Israeli military victims. When will Olmert have enough? The only way I see this will end up for good is when the Israeli public realises being at war in three fronts is quite expensive and damages their home economies. Maybe, at that point, people start hearing what the Meretz party minority in the country have been saying for years.

Israel has the right to defend itself. This is the official motto of Israeli and American leaders. When this right is extended and abused to the point the main targets and victims are civilians, Israel walks quickly away from a perdurable solution. Today, hostility against the state of Israel is even greater than last month. Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, will probably be the winners of the conflict when the bombings end. Not the best recipe for a peaceful future.