Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes
By Jonathan Cook
Clearing House' -- -- This week I had the pleasure to appear on
American radio, on the Laura Ingraham show, pitted against David
Horowitz, a "Semite supremacist” who most recently made his name
under the banner of Campus Watch, leading McCarthyite witch-hunts
against American professors who have the impertinence to suggest
that maybe, just maybe, Arabs have minds and feelings like the rest
It was a revealing experience, at least for a British journalist
rarely exposed to the depths of ignorance and prejudice in the
United States on Middle East matters -- well, apart from the regular
wackos who fill my email inbox. But five minutes of listening to
Horowitz speak, and the sympathy with which his arguments were
greeted by Laura (“The Professors -- your book’s a great read,
David”), left me a lot more frightened about the world’s future.
Horowitz’s response to every question, every development in the
Middle East, whether it concerns Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria,
or Iran, is the same: “They want to drive the Jews into the sea."
It’s as simple as that. Not even a superficial attempt at analysis;
just the message that the Arab world is trying to finish off the
genocide started by Europe. And if Laura is any yardstick, a lot of
Americans buy that stuff.
Horowitz is keen to bang the square peg of the Lebanon story into
the round hole of his claims that the “Jews” are facing an imminent
genocide in the Middle East. And to help him, he and the massed
ranks of US apologists for Israel -- regulars, I suspect, of shows
like Laura’s -- are promoting at least four myths regarding
Hezbollah’s current rockets strikes on Israel. Unless they are
challenged at every turn, the danger is that they will win the
ground war against common sense in the US
The first myth is that Israel was forced to pound Lebanon with its
military hardware because Hezbollah began “raining down” rockets on
the Galilee. Anyone with a short memory can probably recall that was
not the first justification we were offered: that had to do with the
two soldiers captured by Hezbollah on a border post on July 12.
But presumably Horowitz and his friends realized that 400 Lebanese
dead and counting in little more than a week was hard to sell as a
“proportionate” response. In any case Hezbollah kept telling the
world how keen it was to return the soldiers in a prisoner swap.
Hundreds of dead in Lebanon, at least 1,000 severely injured and
more than half a million refugees -- all because Israel is not ready
to sit down at the negotiating table. Even Horowitz could not
“advocate for Israel” on that one.
So the chronology of war has been reorganized: now we are being told
that Israel was forced to attack Lebanon to defend itself from the
barrage of Hezbollah rockets falling on Israeli civilians. The
international community is buying the argument hook, line, and
sinker. “Israel has the right to defend itself," says every
politician who can find a microphone to talk into.
But, if we cast our minds back, that is not how the “Middle East
crisis," as TV channels now describe it, started. It is worth
recapping on those early events (and I won’t document the long
history of Lebanese suffering at Israel’s hands that preceded it)
before they become entirely shrouded in the mythology being peddled
by Horowitz and others.
Early on July 12 Hezbollah launched a raid against an army border
post, in what was in the best interpretation a foolhardy violation
of Israeli sovereignty. In the fighting the Shiite militia killed
three soldiers and captured two others, while Hezbollah fired a few
mortars at border areas in what the Israeli army described at the
time as “diversionary tactics." As a result of the shelling, five
Israelis were “lightly injured," with most needing treatment for
shock, according to Haaretz.
Israel’s immediate response was to send a tank into Lebanon in
pursuit of the Hezbollah fighters (its own foolhardy violation of
Lebanese sovereignty). The tank ran over a landmine, which exploded,
killing four soldiers inside. Another soldier died in further
clashes inside Lebanon as his unit tried to retrieve the bodies.
Rather than open diplomatic channels to calm the violence down and
start the process of getting its soldiers back, Israel launched
bombing raids deep into Lebanese territory the same day. Given
Israel’s worldview that it alone has a right to project power and
fear, that might have been expected.
But the next day Israel continued its rampage across the south and
into Beirut, where the airport, roads, bridges, and power stations
were pummelled. We now know from reports in the US media that the
Israeli army had been planning such a strike against Lebanon for at
least a year.
In contrast to the image of Hezbollah frothing at the mouth to
destroy Israel, its leader Hassan Nasrallah held off from serious
retaliation. For the first day and a half, he limited his strikes to
the northern borders areas, which have faced Hezbollah attacks in
the past and are well protected.
He waited till late on June 13 before turning his guns on Haifa,
even though we now know he could have targeted Israel’s third
largest city from the outset. A small volley of rockets directed at
Haifa caused no injuries and looked more like a warning than an
It was another three days -- days of constant Israeli bombardment of
Lebanon, destroying the country and injuring countless civilians --
before Nasrallah hit Haifa again, including a shell that killed
eight workers in a railway depot.
No one should have been surprised. Nasrallah was doing exactly what
he had threatened to do if Israel refused to negotiate and chose the
path of war instead. Although the international media quoted his
ominous televised message that “Haifa is just the beginning,"
Nasrallah in fact made his threat conditional on Israel’s continuing
strikes against Lebanon. In the same speech he warned: “As long as
the enemy pursues its aggression without limits and red lines, we
will pursue the confrontation without limits and red lines.” Well,
Israel did, and so now has Nasrallah.
The second myth is that Hezbollah’s stockpile of 12,000 rockets --
the Israeli army’s estimate -- poses an existential threat to
Israel. According to Horowitz and others, Hezbollah collected its
armory with the sole intent of destroying the Jewish state.
If this really was Hezbollah’s intention in amassing the weapons, it
has a very deluded view of what is required to wipe Israel off the
map. More likely, it collected the armory in the hope that it might
prove a deterrence -- even if a very inadequate one, as Lebanon is
now discovering -- against a repeat of Israel’s invasions of 1978
and 1982, and the occupation that lasted nearly two decades
In fact, according to other figures supplied by the Israeli army, at
least 2,000 Hezbollah rockets have already been fired into Israel
while the army’s bombardments have so far destroyed a further 2,000
rockets. In other words, northern Israel has already received a
fifth of Hezbollah’s arsenal. As someone living in the north, and
within range of the rockets, I have to say Israel does not look
close to being expunged. The Galilee may be emptier, as up to third
of Israeli Jews seek temporary refuge in the south, but Israel’s
existence is in no doubt at all.
The third myth is that, while Israel is trying to fight a clean war
by targeting only terrorists, Hezbollah prefers to bring death and
destruction on innocents by firing rockets at Israeli civilians.
It is amazing that this myth even needs exploding, but after the
efforts of Horowitz and Co. it most certainly does. As the civilian
death toll in Lebanon has skyrocketed, international criticism of
Israel has remained at the mealy-mouthed level of diplomatic
requests for “restraint” and “proportionate responses."
One need only cast a quick eye over the casualty figures from this
conflict to see that if Israel is targeting only Hezbollah fighters
it has been making disastrous miscalculations. So far some 400
Lebanese civilians are reported dead -- unfortunately for Horowitz’s
story at least a third of them children. From the images coming out
of Lebanon’s hospitals, many more children have survived but with
terrible burns or disabling injuries.
The best estimates, though no one knows for sure, are that Hezbollah
deaths are not yet close to the three-figures range.
In the latest emerging news from Lebanon, human rights groups are
accusing Israel of violating international law and using cluster
grenades, which kill indiscriminately. There are reports too, so far
unconfirmed, that Israel has been firing illegal incendiary bombs.
Conversely, the breakdown of the smaller number of deaths of
Israelis at the hands of Hezbollah -- 42 at the time of writing --
show that more soldiers have been killed than civilians.
In fact, although no one is making the point, Hezbollah’s rockets
have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern
economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military
sites across the Galilee.
Nasrallah seems fully aware that Israel has an impressive civil
defense program of shelters that keep most civilians out of harm’s
way. Unlike Horowitz I won’t presume to read Nasrallah’s mind:
whether he wants to kill large numbers of Israeli civilians or not
cannot be known, given his inability to do so.
But we can see from the choice of the sites he is striking that his
primary goal is to give Israelis a small taste of the disruption of
normal life that is being endured by the Lebanese. He has
effectively closed Haifa for more than a week, shutting its port and
financial centers. Israeli TV is speaking increasingly of the damage
being inflicted on the country’s economy.
Because of Israel’s press censorship laws, it is impossible to
discuss the locations of Israel’s military installations. But
Hezbollah’s rockets are accurate enough to show that many are
intended for the army’s sites in the Galilee, even if they are
rarely precise enough to hit them.
It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets
landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are
searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons
factory sited near us.
Hezbollah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage
of civilian deaths as Israel -- each wants the balance of terror in
its favor -- but it is nonsense to suggest that Hezbollah’s goals
are any more ignoble than Israel’s. It is trying to dent the economy
of northern Israel in retaliation for Israel’s total destruction of
the Lebanese economy. Equally, it is trying to show Israel that it
knows where its military installations are to be found. Both
strategies appear to be having an impact, even if a minor one, on
weakening Israeli resolve.
The fourth myth is a continuation of the third: Hezbollah has been
endangering the lives of ordinary Lebanese by hiding among
We have seen this kind of dissembling by Israel and Horowitz before,
though not repeated so enthusiastically by Western officials. The UN
head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, who is in the region,
accused Hezbollah of “cowardly blending” among the civilian
population, and a similar accuation was levelled by the British
foreign minister Kim Howells when he arrived in Israel.
In 2002 Israel made the same charge: that Palestinians resisting its
army’s rampage through the refugee camps of the West Bank were
hiding among civilians. The claim grew louder as more Palestinian
civilians showed the irritating habit of gettting in the way of
Israeli strikes against population centers. The complaints reached a
crescendo when at least two dozen civilians were killed in Jenin as
Israel razed the camp with Apache helicopters and Caterpillar
The implication of Egeland’s cowardly statement seems to be that any
Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its
powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to
the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an
Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hezbollah’s reluctance to
conduct the war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof
that they are terrorists.
Egeland and Howells need reminding that Hezbollah’s fighters are not
aliens recently arrived from training camps in Iran, whatever
Horowitz claims. They belong to and are strongly supported by the
Shiite community, nearly half the country’s population, and many
other Lebanese. They have families, friends, and neighbors living
alongside them in the country’s south and the neighborhoods of
Beirut who believe Hezbollah is the best hope of defending their
country from Israel’s regular onslaughts.
Given the indigenous nature of Hezbollah’s resistance, we should not
be surprised at the lengths the Shiite militia is going to ensure
their loved ones, and the Lebanese people more generally, are not
put directly in danger by their combat.
If only the same could be said of the Israeli army and airforce. One
need only look at the images of the victims of its strikes against
residential neighborhoods, cars, ambulances, and factories to see
why most of the dead being extracted from the rubble are civilians.
And finally, there is a fifth myth I almost forgot to mention. That
people like David Horowitz only want to tell us the truth…
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.
His book “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and
Democatic State” is published by Pluto Press. His website is