What I am watching in Lebanon each day is an outrage
By Robert Fisk in Mdeirej, Central Lebanon
Independent" -- - - The beautiful viaduct that soars
over the mountainside here has become a "terrorist" target. The
Israelis attacked the international highway from Beirut to Damascus
just after dawn yesterday and dropped a bomb clean through the
central span of the Italian-built bridge a symbol of Lebanon's
co-operation with the European Union sending concrete crashing
hundreds of feet down into the valley beneath. It was the pride of
the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, the face of a new,
emergent Lebanon. And now it is a "terrorist" target.
So I drove gingerly along the old mountain road towards the Bekaa
yesterday - the Israeli jets were hissing through the sky above me -
turned the corner once I rejoined the highway, and found a 50ft
crater with an old woman climbing wearily down the side on her hands
and knees, trying to reach her home in the valley that glimmered to
the east. This too had become a "terrorist" target.
It is now the same all over Lebanon. In the southern suburbs - where
the Hizbollah, captors of the two missing Israeli soldiers, have
their headquarters - a massive bomb had blasted off the sides of
apartment blocks next to a church, splintering windows and crashing
balconies down to parked cars. This too had become a "terrorist
One man was brought out shrieking with pain, covered in blood.
Another "terrorist" target. All the way to the airport were broken
bridges, holed roads. All these were "terrorist" targets. At the
airport, tongues of fire blossomed into the sky from aircraft fuel
storage tanks, darkening west Beirut. These too were now "terrorist"
At Jiyeh, the Israelis attacked the power station. This too was a
Yet when I drove to the actual headquarters of Hizbollah, a tall
building in Haret Hreik, it was totally undamaged. Only last night
did the Israelis manage to hit it.
So can the Lebanese be forgiven - can anyone here be forgiven - for
believing that the Israelis have a greater interest in destroying
Lebanon than they do in their two soldiers?
No wonder Middle East Airlines, the national Lebanese airline, put
crews into its four stranded Airbuses at Beirut airport early
yesterday and sneaked them out of the country for Amman before the
Israelis realised they were under power and leaving.
European politicians have talked about Israel's "disproportionate"
response to Wednesday's capture of its soldiers. They are wrong.
What I am now watching in Lebanon is an outrage. How can there be
any excuse for the 73 dead Lebanese blown these past three days?
The same applies, of course, to the four Israeli civilians killed by
Hizbollah rockets. But - please note the exchange rate of Israeli
civilian lives to Lebanese civilian lives now stands at 1 to more
than 15. This does not include the two children who were atomised in
their home in Dweir on Thursday and whose bodies cannot be found.
Their six brothers and sisters were buried yesterday, along with
their mother and father. Another "terrorist" target. So was a
neighbouring family with five children who were also buried
yesterday. Another "terrorist" target.
Terrorist, terrorist, terrorist. There is something perverse about
all this, the slaughter and massive destruction and the
self-righteous, constant, cancerous use of the word "terrorist". No,
let us not forget that the Hizbollah broke international law,
crossed the Israeli border, killed three Israeli soldiers, captured
two others and dragged them back through the border fence. It was an
act of calculated ruthlessness that should never allow Hizbollah
leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to grin so broadly ay his press
conference. It has brought unparalleled tragedy to countless
innocents in Lebanon. And of course, it has led Hizbollah to fire at
least 170 Katyusha rockets into Israel.
But what would happen if the powerless Lebanese government had
actually unleashed air attacks across Israel the last time Israel's
troops crossed into Lebanon? What if the Lebanese air force then
killed 73 Israeli civilians in bombing raids in Ashkelon, Tel Aviv
and Israeli West Jerusalem? What if a Lebanese fighter aircraft
bombed Ben Gurion airport? What if a Lebanese plane destroyed 26
road bridges across Israel? Would it not be called "terrorism"? I
rather think it would. But if Israel was the victim, it would also
probably be Word War Three.
Of course, Lebanon cannot attack Tel Aviv. Its air force comprises
three ancient Hawker Hunters and an equally ancient fleet of
Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. Syria, however, has missiles that can
reach Tel Aviv. So Syria - which Israel rightly believes to be
behind Wednesday's Hizbollah attack is not going to be bombed. It is
Lebanon which must be punished.
The Israeli leadership intends to "break" the Hizbollah and destroy
its "terrorist cancer". Really? Do the Israelis really believe they
can "break" one of the toughest guerrilla armies in the world? And
There are real issues here. Under UN Security Council Resolution
1559 - the same resolution that got the Syrian army out of Lebanon -
the Shia Muslim Hizbollah should have been disarmed. They were not
because, if the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, had tried to
do so, the Lebanese army would have had to fight them and the army
would almost certainly broken apart because most Lebanese soldiers
are Shia Muslims. We could see the restarting of the civil war in
Lebanon - a fact which Nasrallah is cynically aware of - but
attempts by Siniora and his cabinet colleagues to find a new role
for Hizbollah, which has a minister in the government (he is
Minister of Labour) foundered. And the greatest now is that the
Lebanese government will collapse and be replaced by a pro-Syrian
government which could re-invite the Syrians back into the country.
So there's a real conundrum to be solved. But it's not going to
succeed with the mass bombing of the country by Israel. Not the
obsession with terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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