Israel bombs, blockades Lebanon
War widens in the Middle East
By Richard Becker, West Coast Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition
The Israeli military command claims that its planes hit “hundreds of targets” today in Lebanon, killing more than 50 Lebanese civilians, wounding at least 103 and destroying the runways of the BeirutInternationalAirport. The Israeli Navy has imposed a naval blockade on all of Lebanon. All air and sea transportation has been cut off, and Israel has threatened to bomb the Beirut-Damascus highway, the country’s remaining major transit link.
The massive assault comes one day after the Hezbollah military forces captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The new conflict opened a second front in an expanding war. The Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) have been carrying out an offensive in Gaza since the capture of an IOF soldier more than two weeks ago, using fighter-bombers, tanks, helicopters and ground troops to devastate the area. At least 75 Palestinians have been killed, hundreds wounded, and the power, water, food and health care systems destroyed or severely disrupted.
Since the Palestinian election in January 2006, Israel, the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan have worked together to strangle the Palestinian economy. Israel has continued to stage lethal air attacks and raids in the West Bank and Gaza. More than 9,800 Palestinians, kidnapped from the West Bank and Gaza, remain confined under deplorable conditions inside Israeli prisons. Yet, the White House, State Department and their media parrots act like the crisis only began with the capture of an Israeli soldier. The implicit racism of this outlook is so obvious that it requires little explanation. For U.S. leaders—Democrat as well as Republican—and corporate media hacks, Israeli life is important, while Palestinian life means nothing.
The U.S. government, the main military supplier, funder and protector of Israel, has expressed its open and complete support for Israel in its two-front war. Today, the U.S. vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council calling on Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza. This despite the fact that Israel is openly engaging in collective punishment against both the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples, in clear violation of Geneva and Hague international law conventions. The vote at the Security Council is more proof that from Washington’s perspective, international law is something to invoke against enemies, but which never applies to itself or its allies.
Will it become a three- or four-front war?
The Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is nothing new. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Israeli bombing raids were common and devastating. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and bombed Beirut non-stop for three months, resulting in the deaths of at least 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. Israel then occupied two-thirds of the country. An 18-year struggle, led by the Hezbollah organization, ensued. It ended with the Israeli withdrawal from most of southern Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah, labeled as “terrorist” by the U.S. government, is held in very high regard among the Lebanese people and throughout the Arab world for its unprecedented achievement of forcing the Israelis to relinquish Lebanese territory.
In response to the massive Israeli air raids over the past 24 hours, Hezbollah reportedly fired more than 100 missiles into northern Israel. Some reports say that Haifa, about 20 miles from the Lebanese border, was hit for the first time.
There is strong likelihood that Israeli ground forces will invade and re-occupy southern Lebanon. The Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, today stated that if the soldiers are not returned, Israel will target Lebanese infrastructure and “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.” He elaborated, “Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], it’s as simple as that.”
The possibility that Israel will also attack Syria is being openly discussed. The U.S. and Israeli governments are issuing statements blaming Iran and Syria—both targeted by Washington for regime change—for the unfolding crisis. “We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hezbollah, responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence,” said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.
But the fundamental causes of the unfolding war are indisputably clear: imperialist war and colonial occupation. The United States government is seeking hegemonic domination over the entire region. To achieve its goal, Washington is seeking to crush the popular resistance movements in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, and to overthrow the governments of Iran and Syria.
Israel, as a militarized garrison state, has dual objectives. On the one hand, it is an instrument of U.S. imperialist strategy in the region; on the other, it is seeking to expand its own territory by confiscating much of the West Bank, while increasing its own regional influence by military means.
All progressive, anti-war and working class forces should stand with the oppressed peoples of the Middle East and demand an end to the U.S.-Israeli war.