Friday, July 28, 2006

Blog links to Lebanon - Israel - Hezbollah - Others

Allison Kaplan Sommer points to a NY Times "must read"

She's right. [Registration costs nothing. If you don't have it yet, you should.]

One woman, who would not give her name because she had a government job and feared retribution, said Hezbollah fighters had killed a man who was trying to leave Bint Jbail.
“This is what’s happening, but no one wants to say it” for fear of Hezbollah, she said.
American citizens remain in some southern villages. Mohamed Elreda, a father of three from New Jersey, was visiting relatives in Yaroun with his family when two missiles narrowly missed his car, while he was parking it in front of his family’s house. His 16-year-old son Ali was sprayed with shrapnel and is now in a hospital in Tyre.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Mr. Elreda, who arrived here on Thursday morning. “They see civilians, they bomb them,” he said, referring to the Israelis.
“We had to move underground like raccoons.”

Public opinion in Netherlands may be shifting from its anti-Israel bias to a more sympathetic position. Let's hope this indicates some kind of trend for the continent. I have the impression that European public opinion is harshly unsympathetic to anything Israeli. I cannot shake the feling that the anti-Semitism of WWII remains alive and well in plenty of places outside of Germany. I have been tracking this little blog for several weeks. The writer has just returned home (in Holland) from Israel.

Before we came to Holland it almost seemed that all Dutchmen and -women blame Israel for the war and only support Lebanon, and in some cases Hezbollah. The news coverage in most media has been pretty one-sided, and on internet fora and other websites much feedback has been very anti-Israel ( and in many cases - e.g. de Telegraaf - simply anti-Jewish ). In the week since we arrived here I have heard quite different views, I must say. In stores, restaurants etc. people often asked us which language we speak or where we come from, and every time that we said that we are from Israel, and that we basically fled the rockets on Haifa, we received encouragement and only positive feedback, without even one exception. It seems that the average, working, native Dutch(wo)man understands Israel's plight and the problems that we face much better than those whose loud voices appear to dominate the various media.

Dr. Hadar has a link-filled post that will keep a reader busy for several minutes. He refers to Billmon, Haaretz and his own writing, all of which are not to be skipped, quoting at length from the Haaretz piece. This jumped out at me.

Israel is also paying dearly in world public opinion and among most world leaders. The news media, even in the United States, show the vast devastation caused by the bombings, the destroyed houses and buildings, bridges and infrastructures, the hundreds of thousands of refugees and the numerous civilians who were killed.

Olmert and Peretz boast that they had no qualms about exposing the Israeli home front to rocket volleys, which they described as "a strategic change." But did they take into account the economic disaster which the home front is now undergoing? The million people in Israel's north? Did they take into account the bankruptcies, the losses, the unpaid wages and the expected economic slowdown due to halting economic activity in the north, and the growing fears in the center?

Has anyone calculated how many billions would be lost, how many billions the army would demand to requip itself? Did they take into account that because of that Israel would not be able to carry out the plans to bridge gaps, to fight poverty and to assist the weak and elderly?

Most ludicrous of all is to hear Olmert boast of American and British support. If it were up to George Bush and Tony Blair, they would already send the Israel Defense Forces today into Syria as well, to do their work - to the last drop of Israeli soldiers' blood.

So very right. Yesterday as I was thinking about Israel's role in what is in fact a litmus test of whether or not a new kind of non-diplomacy will actually work in the post-WTC, post-Cold War, post-Republican controlled Congress and White House world (with the estimable John Bolton speaking to the world on our behalf)...I was left with one idea: Israel is carrying the water for the whole damn free world and no one is doing anything to give her a hand. This poker-face diplomacy on everyone's part is getting to me.

Billmon's piece is not to be skipped. It's hard to tell if he is more pissed at Israel or her critics. I wish I could write like this...

The Israeli national persona has always had a macho swagger to it (it's part of the rationale for the state -- that Jews should be able to act like "normal" masculine hyperpatriots everywhere) but what we're seeing now is something different. It has a nasty edge of hysteria to it, a compulsive need to prove to the Arabs, and the world, that Israel still can and will stomp on anyone who gets in its way. The fact that Hizbullah is now demonstrating the limits of Israeli power -- or rather, the limits on how much Jewish blood the Israeli government is willing to spend to exercise that power -- is only making matters worse. The Israeli leadership elite is starting to sound like the semen-crusted violence addicts at Little Green Footballs. Given how much real violence the generals and politicians can inflict, that's a sobering thought, to say the least.

Leila Abu-Saba links to a disturbing piece connecting current events to (guess what?) oil. Surprise, surprise!

The bombing of Lebanon is part of a carefully planned and coordinated military road map. The extension of the war into Syria and Iran has already been contemplated by US and Israeli military planners. This broader military agenda is intimately related to strategic oil and oil pipelines. It is supported by the Western oil giants which control the pipeline corridors. In the context of the war on Lebanon, it seeks Israeli territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline.

In this context, the BTC pipeline dominated by British Petroleum, has dramatically changed the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean, which is now linked , through an energy corridor, to the Caspian sea basin:

"[The BTC pipeline] considerably changes the status of the region's countries and cements a new pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean, Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel, " (Komerzant, Moscow, 14 July 2006)

Israel is now part of the Anglo-American military axis, which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia.

What's that they say?
I report. You decide.

With customary timely precision Michael J. Totten points to a very important piece by Michael Young in the Lebanon Daily Star. Aptly headlined Desperately waiting for Nabih Berri, he underscores the importance of this older, more seasoned Shiite leader in finding some kind of denouement to this tangle. the conflict drags on, the weight of the refugees, the fact that their long dislocation will negatively affect Shiite power as a whole, that most Lebanese oppose an open-ended conflict, and the rising economic cost of the hostilities, will push the secretary general's adversaries, but perhaps also, and more importantly, his own Shiite comrades - notably Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri - to question the wisdom of further obstinacy. Nasrallah cannot declare war on all of Lebanese society. It seems far more rewarding for him to take a step back now and see what he can yet salvage.

Berri will play a pivotal role in the coming weeks. As the senior Shiite official in the country, he finds himself awkwardly caught between his community and the state. For the moment Nasrallah has only authorized the speaker to negotiate on his behalf in the matter of a prisoner exchange and a cease-fire. However, Berri is unlikely to relish the idea of permitting a Shiite Gotterdammerung, and Nasrallah's dilemma offers him a way back into the political game after years of erosion in his power. The parliamentary majority is hesitant to demand anything of Nasrallah without a Shiite partner, and their eye is firmly on Berri.

That's one reason why Berri's unfriendly meeting with Rice on Monday was a good thing. It enhanced the speaker's credibility with his coreligionists, showing he was no American patsy, even as the secretary of state acknowledged by meeting Berri that any international peace plan for Lebanon required his approval. However, it is still premature for Berri to risk his standing with Nasrallah, and with his own electorate, by asking him to be more malleable. If the speaker does jump ship, it won't be before many more weeks of fighting and a likely intensification of the violence. More cynically, Berri might be waiting to see if Hizbullah loses ground militarily before making any such move.

I looked at the twin leadership of the Lebanese Shiite community earlier this week. It remains to be seen which of these two faces of Shiite leadership will benefit most from the current violence.

Berri, whose silence is only exceeded by that of the whole US diplomatic engine, may be losing credibility with his constituents by the minute in an effort to curry favor with other Powers that Be. If he is really committed to representative democracy he ought to be showing some kind of leadership during this crisis. Even a tepid statement or two would win more points than silence.

On the other hand, Nasrallah is looking better and better as the days and teevee appearances go by. From all reports he looks more and more like a pan-Arab future leader emerging from a cocoon. He may be keeping a stiff upper lip in public, but my guess is that as his non-combatant cover gets less willing to cooperate, he may be forced to come to a discussion table.

Or not. Arafat and his group never came to terms with the more boring parts of leadership. Things like providing decent water, taking out the garbage, and putting a corruption-free police force in place to deal with ordinary criminal activity. To the day he died (and apparently to this day as well if the situation in Gaza is any indicator) Arafat lived in a comic-book world of petty politics that played fast and loose with economics and other everyday practical matters. It is quite possible that Nasrallah, who seems to believe all the stuff he says, may be cut from the same fabric.

That complaint from the Christian in the Times who said the Hezbollah people had made it a point to come into their neighborhood to launch rockets from between Christian houses sound credible to me. Such a tactic would be consistent with their other guerilla moves. Not the kind of thing calculated to win friends and influence people. Any people.

Before I forget, I want to link again to Totten's piece from Wednesday. The pictures and lines keep playing in my head.

Syria’s Bashar Assad threatened to make Lebanon burn if his occupation troops were forced out of the country. Most Lebanese think that’s what last year’s car bombs were about. After former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was assassinated downtown, all the car bomb victims were Christian. All the random car bombs exploded in Christian neighborhoods. The idea - or so the Lebanese thought - was to whip up sectarian hatred, to get Christian militias to rearm and retaliate, and to re-ignite the Lebanese war. Assad yearned to burn Lebanon, and he was not shy about saying so. Syria, or so he hoped, might be invited back in to stop the chaos with the soldier’s peace of the Baath.

That plan didn’t work. Hardly anyone wanted a return to civil war. No Christian vigilantes retaliated against Muslims (Sunni or Shia) because they knew it was a trap set by the Baath. That, most likely, is why the siege of the car bombs came to an end.
Lebanese are temporarily more united than ever. No one is running off to join Hezbollah, but tensions are being smoothed over for now while everyone feels they are under attack by the same enemy. Most Lebanese who had warm feelings for Israel -- and there were more of these than you can possibly imagine -- no longer do.

This will not last.

My sources and friends in Beirut tell me most Lebanese are going easy on Hezbollah as much as they can while the bombs are still falling. But a terrible reckoning awaits them once this is over.
...Israel and Lebanon (especially Lebanon) will continue to burn as long as Hezbollah exists as a terror miltia freed from the leash of the state. The punishment for taking on Hezbollah is war. The punishment for not taking on Hezbollah is war. Lebanese were doomed to suffer war no matter what....
Insha Allah, Lebanon might be okay. Perhaps the status quo ante will return, only with a weaker and even more marginalized Hezbollah seething in its corner and thrown off the border. There may be scattered acts of sectarian violence that threaten to ignite into war and never quite do. Kidnappings could come back in style. Al Qaeda may finally have its turn at the Israeli border if their Hezbollah enemy is no longer there to keep them away. I do not know. The Lebanese themselves do not know. But one thing I do know is that after the first war ends there really could be another.

Don’t take your kids. Stay out until further notice.

And down in Gaza, the IDF is getting in the business of closing tunnels. Meryl Yourish links and comments.

A senior officier told Ynet that the area will stretch a kilometer in Palestinian territory, which will be "clean" of building under which tunnels can be dug.

After the northern command's decision to keep Hizbullah away from the border and the new policy under which every gunmen situated a kilometer away from the border is shot at, the southern command decided to implement a similar policy.

I recall a visit to Andersonville, the famous Confederate prison. Seems like tunnels and deadlines go way back in the history of conflict.

And finally, before it gets lost in their avalanche of links and stories, there is a looong email from Beirut to Abbas Raza at 3 Quarks. This is sequel to an earlier letter (shorter) that got some attention. Printed out it runs to about eight pages on Word. Again, this is primary source historical research material. Not organized but also not incoherent, loaded with important content for anyone who wants to understand what is going on.

Snips here. Powerful stuff...

Is there a point to relaying on to you the events of the past few days? I am still stuck to the television. I am still living from breaking news to breaking news. I now get things from the second-tier horse's mouth, so to speak, journalists whom I have taken to hovering around. Khiyam shall soon be rubble. As is Bint Jbeil. After Khiyam will be Tyre. The Beqaa has received pounding. Israelis targeted factories, some operational, others under construction. None were Hezbollah fortresses of course. They also hit a UNIFIL outpost last night killing UN international observers.This will be a long note because it is a cluster from the past few days. It will most likely be a tedious read. It reflects my encounters these past few days, conversations and discussions with friends journalists and analysts as well as vignettes from Beirut under siege...
...The so-called Arab street...has been won in heart and mind by Hezbollah's retaliation to the Israeli assault. The Arab world is mesmerized by this movement that has developped the ability to fight back, inflict pain and for the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict pose a real threat to Israel. Hezbollah does not have the ability to defeat the Israeli army. No one in the region can and none of the Arab states is willing, in gest or merely using the power of suggestion, to challenge Israel's absolute hegemony....
Since the war broke out, Hassan Nasrallah has displayed a persona and public behavior also to the exact opposite of Arab heads of states, he may be in the "underground" for security reasons, but he is not disheveled, he speaks in a cautious, calculated calm, a quiet dignity. His adresses have been punctuated with key notions that have long lapsed from the everyday political vocabulary in the Arab world: responsibility (for defeat, victory and the toll on Lebanon), dignity, justice, compassion (for the suffering inflicted on people and for the Palestinian Israeli victims of Hezbollah shelling in Nazareth and Haifa)...In an interview with al-Jazira, Ahmad Fouad Najm, the famous Egyptian popular poet quoted a Cairene street sweeper who said to him that Hassan Nasrallah brought back to life the dead man buried inside him. This is the "pulse" of the much-dreaded Arab street.
The Jordanians sent us a plane load of emergency relief supplies. It just landed in our destroyed airport. The Israelis gave the Jordanian plane the security cover. Jordan and Kuwait are sending environmental experts to help us clean the sea from the oil and fuel spills that Israelis dumped. Did I mention this? Did I mention that after their warships retreated to a distance safe from Hezbollah's firepower, they spilled enough oil to cause an environmental disaster on our coastline? Did I mention that no one has been able to fish a fish and that the shores are now pitch black?
In the present conflict, a secular egalitarian democrat such as I, has no real place for representation or maneuver. Neither have I and my ilk succeeded in carving a space for ourselves, nor have the prevailing forces (the two poles) agreed to making allocations for us. That is our defeat and our failure. In Lebanon, we are caught in the stampede and the cross-fire. As I noted in one of these siege notes, I am not a supporter of Hezbollah, but this has become a war with Israel. In the war with Israel, there is no force in the world that will have me stand side by side with the IDF or the Israeli state.

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