US and British support for Israel’s onslaught on Lebanon and Gaza is both diplomatic and military. In the din, the media are scrupulously ignoring ceasefire proposals from the Lebanese Government and Hezbollah.
THE BUSH/BLAIR ‘PEACE PLAN’ OR ‘DELAY PLAN’
29 July: ‘Tony Blair and George Bush last night defied the growing anger across the world by seeking a UN resolution that fell far short of a ceasefire to end the killing of Lebanese civilians.’ (Independent, p. 1) ‘The two leaders refused to denounce Israel’s offensive.’ (Times, p. 1)
‘The draft peace deal involves two phases. In the first, Israel and Lebanon would agree a ceasefire and a small multinational force would be deployed on the border, allowing Israeli troops to withdraw. Then a much larger force of between 10,000 and 20,000 troops would be assigned to implement UN security council resolution 1559… under which militias such as Hizbullah would be disarmed and the authority of the Lebanese government forces extended to the country’s southern border.’ (Guardian,
29 July, p. 1)
This objective would actually be achieved without the need for an international force, under the Lebanese government proposals which are discussed below.
According to the Independent, ‘Mr Blair’s spokesman was dismissive of calls for a ceasefire without an agreement on a new force as “just so much wind”.’. Interestingly, the French suggestion that any new security zone straddles the border with Israel, including Israeli territory as well as Lebanese territory, was soundly rejected. ‘It was clear, however, that many questions about the composition, size, extensive mandate and timing of deployment are unresolved.’ (Independent, 29 July, p. 4)
AIDING ISRAEL’S WAR MACHINE
While these ‘unresolved questions’ are discussed, the onslaught on Lebanon, and on Gaza, is to continue unhindered – and in fact militarily aided by the US and UK. ‘The [British] Government will allow more American aircraft carrying arms to Israel to stop over in Britain… Both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Downing Street suggested that two more requests by America to send planes carrying missiles as well as components over the next fortnight will go through.’ (Times, 28 July, p. 8)
According to the Arms Trade Resource Center in New York, ‘Israel has received more than $9.4 billion worth of military aid and equipment since President George Bush was elected in 2001. But despite its huge arsenal, Israel has urgently requested fresh supplies, in particular powerful bunker-busting bombs, as it strives to kill Hizbollah leaders sheltering underground.’ ‘The Israeli military is also looking for resupply of Hellfire anti-tank missiles that have been used against vehicles moving in south Lebanon, arms industry sources said.’ (Telegraph, 28 July, p. 17)
We know about those ‘vehicles’.
Furthermore, ‘British arms companies are supplying key parts for Israel’s Apache combat helicopters, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets deployed in southern Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank despite government guidelines banning the sale of weapons likely to be used “aggressively against another country”
or fuel regional tensions.’ (Guardian, 29 July)
So Britain is a conduit for US arms, via Prestwick airport in Scotland, something that has become a matter of outrage in the UK. ‘Sources at Prestwick told The Times… that the number of freighter aircraft such as 747s and civil Hercules C130s landing there had become “absolutely unreal”.’ One aviation official said: “We get two or three a day.” ‘
(Times, 28 July, p. 9)
‘The US also has the option of using its leased bases in Britain at Fairford, Gloucs and Lakenheath, Suffolk, and others if the pressure on Prestwick becomes too intense.’ (Telegraph, 28 July, p. 17)
Why are arms coming through the UK? Because, ‘Ireland turned down a United States request for planes carrying 600lb so-called bunker busters to refuel at Shannon airport in Co Clare.’ Prestwick is now negotiating to take planes carrying hundreds of US military personnel on their way to Iraq. Shannon is currently the stopover airport, but this is being reviewed, ‘following protests in Ireland which have resulted in some of the planes being vandalised.’ (Scotland on Sunday, 30 July)
This refers to the ‘Pitstop Ploughshares’ action against US warplanes, which resulted in five peace activists being acquitted of all charges on
25 July 2006 (almost exactly ten years after the ‘Seeds of Hope Ploughshares’ action led to an acquittal on 30 July 1996, after the disarmament of a Hawk fighter jet destined for Indonesia).
So it appears that the 2003 civil disobedience action (and its successful legal defence) has had a material affect on US military operations in 2006, possibly prompting the Irish Government to refuse to take the ‘bunker-buster’ bombs, and forcing airlines to consider re-routing US military personnel to avoid Irish airports.
WORSE THAN APPEASEMENT
Tony Blair says that the war should only stop after the postwar peacekeeping has been agreed. British Labour MP Alan Simpson says: ‘It is like a plan to offer counselling after a hanging – the corpse is not too interested in what they have to offer.’ (Times, 29 July, p. 2) British journalist Robert Fisk, a long-time resident of Lebanon, describes this as ‘allowing Israel to destroy Lebanon and call it peace’. (Independent, 29 July, p. 39)
Bush and Blair block diplomatic efforts to bring about an immediate ceasefire, then they actually directly help supply the weapons that Israel is using to attack Lebanon.
This isn’t just appeasing Israel, it is assisting Israeli terrorism.
THE GREEN LIGHT
‘Mr Bush and Mr Blair have been resisting calls for an immediate ceasefire in every international forum for the past fortnight. This has been seen by their critics in Europe and the Middle East as an implicit green light to Israel to carry on its military offensive against Hizbullah.’ (Guardian,
29 July, p. 4)
Correction 1: the military offensive (and land-sea-air blockade) is against the whole of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah.
Correction 2: it is not just the ‘critics’ who see a ‘green light’. ‘The Israelis interpreted that [US/UK refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire] as a green light to continue their offensive in southern Lebanon’ – and in Gaza. (Telegraph, 29 July, p. 1)
After the international conference on the Lebanon/Gaza crisis held in Rome failed to call for an immediate ceasefire, ‘Haim Ramon, the Israeli justice minister, said the conference gave “permission from the world…
to continue the operation, this war, until Hizbollah won’t be located in Lebanon and is disarmed”.’ (Telegraph, 28 July, p. 16) Actually, ‘Delegates [at the Rome Conference] said that virtually all countries had sought a quick end to hostilities but were forced to agree to a milder statement by the US.’ (FT, 28 July, p. 5)
IS HEZBOLLAH THE PROBLEM?
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, aims ‘to tempt Israel with a pledge to install the Lebanese army, backed by an international force, in southern Lebanon to stop Hizbullah rocket attacks, and to tempt Hizbullah with the return of the disputed Sheba’a Farms area [occupied by Israel]. Hizbullah will not have to disarm immediately.’ (Guardian, 29 July, p. 4)
But the US, Israel and the UK are all determined that Hezbollah should be disarmed and destroyed. In their view, Hezbollah is the ‘root cause’ of the current conflict, and should be the focus of international efforts.
The rest of the world is focused on Israeli violence against Lebanon and Gaza. True, Hezbollah initiated the northern conflict on 12 July, by firing Katyusha rockets and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. But it was Israel that then escalated the conflict by immediately bombing not just Hezbollah rocket positions in southern Lebanon, but civilian infrastructure throughout the country. Israel also imposed a land/sea/air blockade on the whole of Lebanon that has caused a humanitarian crisis. 61 per cent of Britons quite rightly believe Israel ‘has overreacted to the threats it faces’. (Guardian, 25 July)
There have been incidents like the Katyusha rocket firing and the kidnapping before. They have not led to all-out war. It was Israel that decided to respond not with negotiations for a prisoner exchange, but with a blockade and bombardment.
Israel is also responsible for the overwhelming bulk of the violence. 403 Lebanese civilians are confirmed dead as the result of Israeli attacks (more are still buried in collapsed buildings), while in Israel only 19 civilians have been killed by Hezbollah rockets. (AP, 29 July)
WHO IS BLOCKING THE CEASEFIR
Most importantly of all, however, it is Israel that is standing in the way of a ceasefire.
The Israeli position (as of 29 July) is that ‘All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hizbollah’ (Israeli Justice Minister, Haim Ramon). The Telegraph: ‘the area would now become effectively a free-fire zone and that anyone found in it would be regarded as a target.’ (28 July, p. 16)
‘The mass-circulation Yedioth Aharonoth headlined a quote from an unnamed military commander: “Every village from which a Katyusha is fired must be destroyed.” ‘ (FT, 28 July, p. 5) Israel is not stopping. Israel has no intention of accepting a ceasefire without at least the perception of success against Hezbollah, which should include the assassination of the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
In contrast, ‘The [Lebanese] cabinet, in which Hizbollah is represented, voted late on Thursday to back proposals calling for an immediate and compre-hensive ceasefire, followed by an exchange of prisoners and a withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. Israeli troops would then be replaced by UN forces in the Shebaa Farms region… The government plan reasserts its intention to extend its authority to the south of the country, now controlled by Hizbollah, by sending the army to the area and stipulates that no group will be allowed to bear arms.’ (Financial Times,
29 July, p. 6)
This Lebanese plan fulfills the terms of UN Resolution 1559, which is the stated objective of the Bush-Blair ‘peace plan’, rather more speedily than the Bush-Blair initiative. The Lebanese plan was agreed, quite clearly, in order to be placed before Bush and Blair before their meeting on 28 July.
It was totally ignored by Bush and Blair, and almost completely ignored by the media.
Hezbollah has also made at least one other initiative: ‘Hizbullah wants an immediate ceasefire and is ready to swap the two abducted Israeli soldiers “in six hours” after it comes into force, according to officials from Amal, a Shia party… a ceasefire has been part of Hizbullah’s position virtually from the start of Israel’s air attacks and before Israeli ground troops crossed the border in strength.’ (Guardian, 28 July, p. 4) Hezbollah realizes Israel is not going to talk to it directly, so it is making an approach through Amal.
The Lebanese Government plan is being ignored. The Hezbollah offer is being ignored. Peace is being rejected by Israel, |George Bush – and Tony Blair.
[A formatted pdf of this briefing is available from Justice Not Vengeance www.j-n-v.org]