Hypocrisy and the Clamor Against Hizbullah - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 03:51 PM Thread Starter
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Hypocrisy and the Clamor Against Hizbullah



A reader recently emailed to ask if anyone else was suggesting, as I have done, that Hizbullah’s rocket fire may not be quite as indiscriminate or maliciously targeted at Israeli civilians as is commonly assumed. I had to admit that I have been ploughing a lonely furrow on this one. Still, that is no reason in itself to join everyone else, even if the consensus includes every mainstream commentator as well as groups such as Human Rights Watch.

First, let us get my argument straight. I have not claimed that Hizbullah targets only military sites or that it never aims at civilians. According to the Israeli army, more than 3,300 rockets have hit Israel over the past four weeks. How can I know, or even claim to know, where all those rockets have landed, or know what the Hizbullah operatives who fired each rocket intended to hit? I have never made such claims.

What I have argued instead is twofold. First, we cannot easily know what Hizbullah is trying to hit because Israel has located most of its army camps, weapons factories and military installations near or inside civilian communities. If a Hizbullah rocket slams into an Israeli town with a weapons factory, should we count that as an attack on civilians or on a military site?

The claim being made against Hizbullah in Lebanon -- that it is “cowardly blending” with civilians, according to the UN’s Jan Egeland -- can, in truth, be made far more convincingly of the Israeli army. While there has been little convincing evidence that Hizbullah is firing its rocket from towns and villages in south Lebanon, or that its fighters are hiding there among civilians, it can be known beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israeli army camps and military installations are based in northern Israeli communities.

An obvious point that no one seems to be making -- and given a news blackout that lasted several hours, Israel clearly hoped no one would make -- is that the 12 soldiers who were killed on Sunday in Kfar Giladi by a Hizbullah rocket were, under Egeland’s definition, “cowardly blending” with the civilian population of that community. We know there are still civilians in Giladi because their response to the rocket barrage was quoted in the Israeli media.

My second claim was that Israel’s military censor is preventing foreign journalists based in Israel, myself included, from discussing where Hizbullah rockets are landing, and what they may be aimed at. Under the censorship rules, It is impossible to mention any issue that touches on Israeli security or defense matters: the location of military installations, for example, cannot be divulged. It is arguable whether it would actually be possible to report a Hizbullah strike that hit a military site inside Israel.

I therefore have to tread carefully in what I say next, relying on information that is already publicly available, but which at least challenges the simplistic view that Hizbullah is firing rockets either indiscriminately or willfully to kill civilians. I draw on two pieces of coverage provided by BBC World.

On Tuesday, the BBC’s Katya Adler reported from the northern community of Kiryat Shmona, which has taken the heaviest pounding from Hizbullah rockets and from which many of the local residents have fled over the past month. As she stood on a central street describing the difficult conditions under which the remaining families were living, she had to shout over the rythmic bark of what sounded like an Israeli tank close by firing into Lebanon. She made no mention of what was doing the firing -- and given the censorship laws, my assumption is she cannot. But it does raise the question of how much of a civilian target Kiryat Shmona really is.

Consider also this. Throughout the four weeks of fighting, the BBC have had a presenter and film crew at the top of an area of Haifa known as the Panorama, above the beautiful Bahia Gardens. As the name suggests, from there the film crew have had an unrestricted view of the port and docks below and the wide arc of heavily developed shoreline that stretches up to Acre.

The spot where the BBC presenters have been standing, telling us regularly that they can hear the wail of sirens warning Haifa’s residents to head for the shelters, is in the centre of this sprawling ridge-top city, in one of the most heavily built up and inhabited areas of Haifa. So why have the BBC’s presenters been standing there calmly every day for weeks under the barrage of rockets?

Because all the evidence suggests that Hizbullah has not been trying to hit the centre of Haifa, where it would be certain of inflicting high casualties, whether its rockets were on target or slightly adrift. Instead, as BBC presenters have repeatedly shown us, the overwhelming majority of rockets land either in the mostly-abandoned port area or fall short into the bay -- and on the odd occasion travel a little too far, as one did on Sunday landing on an Arab neighbourhood near the port and killing two inhabitants.

If Hizbullah’s primary goal is to kill as many civilians as possible in Haifa, it seems to be going about it in a very strange manner indeed -- unless we are to believe that none of its rockets could be fired the extra 1km needed to hit central Haifa. Instead, as is clear from the view shown by BBC cameras, the port includes many sites far more “strategic” than the roads, bridges, milk factories and power stations Israel is destroying in Lebanon: it has the oil refinery, the naval docks and other installations that, yes, I cannot mention because of the censorship laws.

At the very least, we should concede to Hizbullah that it is not always targeting civilians, and very possibly is not mainly targeting civilians, which might in part explain the comparatively low Israeli civilian casualty figures.

That said, there are two valid criticisms, both made by Human Rights Watch, of Hizbullah’s rocket fire -- though exactly the same or worse criticisms can be made of the Israeli army. Those, unlike HRW, who single out Hizbullah are being either disingenuous or hypocritical. One is that Hizbullah has filled many of its rockets with ballbearings. Most critics of Hizbullah take this as conclusive proof that the group’s only intent is to kill and injure civilians. Anyone who has seen the damage done by a katyusha rocket will realise that it is not a very powerful weapon: it essentially punches a hole in whatever it hits. The biggest danger is from the shrapnel and from anything added -- like ballbearings -- that spray out on impact. The shrapnel can kill civilians nearby, of course, but it can also kill soldiers -- as we saw at Kfar Giladi -- and can puncture tanks containing flammable liquids like petrol, causing explosions.

The damage inflicted by the ballbearings is not in itself proof that Hizbullah is trying to kill Israeli civilians, any more than Israel’s use of far more lethal cluster bombs is proof that it wants to kill Lebanese civilians. Both are acting according to the gruesome realities of war: they want to inflict as much damage as possible with each rocket strike. That is deplorable, but so is war.

The second criticism made by HRW is that because Hizbullah’s rockets are rudimentary and lack sophisticated guidance systems they are as good as indiscriminate. That conclusion is wrong both logically and semantically. As I have tried to show, the rockets are mostly not indiscriminate (though presumably some misfire, as do Israeli missiles); rather, they are not precise.

This, according to Human Rights Watch, still makes Hizbullah’s rocket attacks war cimes. That may be true, but it of course also means Israel’s missile strikes and bombardment of Lebanon are war crimes on the same or a greater scale. Hizbullah’s strikes against civilians may be intentional or they may be the result of inaccurate guidance systems trying to hit military targets. Israel’s strikes against civilians are either intentional or the result of accurate guidance systems and very faulty, to the point of reckless, military intelligence.

Finally, what about the defense offered by Israel’s supporters that its air force tries to avoid harming Lebanese civilians by leafletting them before an attack to warn them that they must leave? The argument’s thrust is that only those who belong to Hizbullah or give it succor remain behind in south Lebanon and they are therefore legitimate targets. (It ignores, of course, hundreds of civilians killed in areas that have not been leafletted or who were trying to flee, as ordered, when hit by an Israeli missile. )

Hizbullah, of course, has done precisely the same. In speeches, its leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly warned Israeli residents of areas like Haifa, Afula, Hadera and Tel Aviv that Hizbullah will hit these cities with rockets days before it has actually done so. Hizbullah can claim just as fairly that it has given Israelis fair warning of its attacks on civilian communities, and that any who remain have only themselves to blame.

This debate is important because it will determine in the coming months and years who will be blamed by the international community -- and future historians -- for committing war crimes. Hizbullah deserves as fair a hearing as Israel, though at the moment it most certainly is not getting it.

Like every army in a war, Hizbullah may not acting in a humane manner. But it is demonstrably acting according to the same standards as the Israeli army -- and possibly, given Israel’s siting of military targets in civilian areas, higher ones. The fact that the contrary view is almost universally held betrays our prejudices rather than anything about Hizbullah’s acts.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His book, Blood and Religion: the Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State, is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net

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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 04:11 PM
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What military targets are Hizbollah trying to take out with their buckshot loaded rockets?
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 04:28 PM
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Hizbollah is not a legitimate pollitical orgainization to be debated and bargained with.

Also from the Aug. 7th Time magazine:

"Hizballah, factions of which the U.S. believes were responsible for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service members...

...Formed in 1982 to resist Israel's occupation of Lebanon, Hizballah established its terrorist bona fides in the 1980s by kidnapping some 50 foreigners in Lebanon, including 18 U.S. citizens, and killing two of them, notably CIA station chief William Buckley. The group's global reach was achieved perhaps in 1985 with a suspected connection to the saga of TWA Flight 847, in which hijackers shot dead a U.S. Navy diver and dumped him onto a Beirut tarmac. In 1992 Hizballah bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29, and, in 1994, a Jewish cultural center there, killing 95.

It is a nasty crew. Consider what prompted Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah to arrange for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12, which is what led to the current crisis. Nasrallah says he wants Israel to release from prison Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese citizen who was part of a Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) cell that in 1979 arrived by boat in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya and invaded the apartment of the Haran family. Smadar Haran hid in the attic with her daughter Yael, 2, and was so intent on stifling the girl's crying that she accidentally suffocated the child. Meanwhile, members of the cell took Danny Haran and daughter Einat, 4, back to the shore where, realizing escape was impossible, Kuntar shot Danny in the back and drowned him, then battered Einat's head on beach rocks and smashed her skull with his rifle butt."

And you think these guys are trying the best they can to hit only millitary targets? It sounds as if you have an agenda other than a truthfull evaluation of the situation at hand.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 08:50 PM
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Israel is not a legitimate political organization

If Merka were to be attacked, and a town containing a military base were to be targeted, would it necessarily be an attack on civilians if a peripheral payday loan joint, pawnshop or titty bar were to fall victim to the onslaught? Where there are under-educated, horny and under-paid teenagers, there are titty bars, pawnshops and payday loan joints tightly ringing the facility.

Buckshot loaded rockets are a highly effective military tool in asymmetrical warfare, against the Israeli aggressors.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 09:57 PM
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It is impossible to figure out who is to "blame" in the endless loop of Middle East tit-for-tat. Hezbollh, yeah sure they are nasty, they do nasty things, but they are not an "international terrorist" organization, they are indigenous guerillas in a country that has hardly any standing army. They are a legitimate resistance force, with legitimate greivances. That being said, so are the Israelis. The two have been encroaching on each other's territories for 30 years. Neither is able to totally wipe out the other. What we have is endless violence, where only a political solution will fix things, and where the best we can do is try to stop the killing. Until the two sides sit down and figure out how to end their war, it is an utterly hopeless situation. I usually side with the Israelis, because over the years they have been the ones who showed a willingness to give some to get some and they have had it thrown back in their faces. But things have changed - they have fallen in with the bloodthirsty fascists who run America, who think they can change things through endless killing. I see no end to this in sight. I see noone to be sympathetic too, with the exception of the poor saps in Lebanon caught in the middle. Our government, for the first time, has no interest in stopping the bloodshed, and this is a sad thing for this world.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-10-2006, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Zeitgeist

Buckshot loaded rockets are a highly effective military tool in asymmetrical warfare, against the Israeli aggressors.
This kind of mindless, inflammatory rhetoric does not advance the discussion one iota...

But then again I did not expect much more from you.

So you have fully lived up to my expectations....
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-11-2006, 08:42 AM
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Talking to a mirror?
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-12-2006, 02:53 AM
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Get the fuck out of here! Hypocrisy is my word BITCH!!

Yeah so what... I love bait as much as a fresh account.

post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-12-2006, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by FeelTheLove
Talking to a mirror?
No he was referring to Zeit and his ilk, which now seems to include you and the person who posted that hezbo-apologist crap.

Next time you get in a flight with a hezbo-thug-murderer you MAY "feel the burn."

But not to worry, Zeit and others like him will be there to apologize for your murderers.

RIP apologist...
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-13-2006, 11:38 AM
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The warriors of Hezbollah, Party of God, are serious men fighting a serious war, but what inspires them? Among guerrilla gangs, they are top of the class: obedient, clever, efficient, secretive -- and of course, willing to sacrifice themselves and their families. They are not afraid of death, nor do they show pity for neighbours killed when they hide military operations among women and children. Clearly, the Hezbollah warriors are driven by much more than salaries received from Iran.

They hate Jews and, because they fear Sunni Muslims, they badly want to keep power in Shiite hands. But is that enough? Does that explain why they have been preparing for this war for so long? A cleric who interrupted his theological studies to rejoin Hezbollah in June, and who claims to be descended from the prophet Muhammad, says, "We had six years to prepare for this day."

Above all, they are patient. One of them recently told a reporter from Britain's Guardian how their leaders drilled them in serenity: "During our training we spend days in empty buildings without talking to anyone or doing anything. They tell me go and sit in that building, and I go and sit there and wait." In every mission, they follow detailed orders without question. When they send off a rocket, they expect an Israeli response within 15 minutes, so immediately their team breaks up, everyone running to an assigned hiding place. Later they re-form elsewhere, for their next launch.

Behind all this is a religious passion that's so powerful few of us can begin to grasp it. More than two decades ago, the Ayatollah Khomeini, by licensing Hezbollah as a franchise of Iran, focused the minds of a few thousand young men on the ideal of Islamic world hegemony. Like Christianity, Islam imagines itself a universal religion, which all humans will eventually embrace. Much of Christianity has abandoned that dream, but in Islam it remains vividly alive, notably among terrorist factions like Hezbollah.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said several times that he knows Israel's weak point: its belief in preserving human life. Israel has a nuclear weapon and the region's strongest air force, he says, but "in truth, it is weaker than a spider web." He believes reverence for life, combined with a hedonistic society, make it incapable of sustained war. He has large ambitions. Muhammad Al-Huni, an eminent Libyan intellectual who lives in Italy, recently wrote that Nasrallah now assumes that he "enjoys the stature of the holy men and prophets."

U.S.-based Islam expert Daniel Pipes says that radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam the solution. But possibly the radicals are the only Muslims with a passion to shape the future. By definition, moderates take a relaxed view of religion. However fervent their beliefs, they also value families, friends, human love, and worldly satisfactions. They want peace and won't eagerly kill for Allah. If they are like most people of moderate views, they can be frightened into silence.

But Hezbollah wants an Islamic world and believes such a world to be worth killing and dying for. Recently, that way of organizing society has crept into another corner of the globe. After a 29-year separatist struggle, the Indonesian province of Aceh won the right to adopt Shariah criminal law, becoming the first region of that country (a theoretically secular state) with that privilege. The radicals have beaten the moderates, and now the moderates face a dreadful future.

In Aceh, roaming Taliban-like squads of vice police in brown uniforms now tour the streets, looking for men drinking alcohol or women consorting with men other than their husbands. These people are then caned outside mosques, watched by crowds and TV cameras. Women claim they are more often the objects of vice-squad raids than men. Ordinary citizens sometimes grab couples sitting in parked cars and hand them over to the vice police. The same rules govern foreigners. An Italian aid worker, accused of having a little marijuana and being seen alone with a woman (his translator) is imprisoned, faced with caning. The vice police are turning into a steadily expanding bureaucracy -- and other provinces are now talking about following Aceh's example. So now a great religion, which once inspired enviable poetry, philosophy and architecture, has reduced itself to promoting institutionalized thuggery.

That's the world Hezbollah desires. It seems clear that the crisis in the Middle East is a struggle for a decent civilization. Given that truth, anyone arguing that the West should remain neutral looks like either a fool or a scoundrel.

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