Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 24 July 2006

Tragedy in Lebanon

Is there no one left to help Lebanon?  This question is asked by people around the world as TV images show the effects of the continuous bombing of the country.  Calls for the “international community” to impose a ceasefire have been rejected by the United States, thus giving Israel clearance to continue its attacks, with disastrous results for the Lebanese.


The tragedy of Lebanon continues to be played out, with its capital Beirut and other towns and regions being bombed by Israel, and with the United Nations seemingly powerless to do anything.

As the bombs continued to rain down, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council that a ceasefire should be put in place.

But this was rejected by the United States, whose Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were no "conducive circumstances" for a ceasefire.

The Prime Minister of Lebanon, who months ago was welcomed warmly by US President George Bush at the White House, went on CNN to condemn the Israeli attack on his country, appealing to the “international community” to stop it.  But his pleas fell on deaf ears.

A transcript of a private conversation between US President Bush and British premier Tony Blair at a tea-break at the G8 Summit in St Petersburg last week revealed Blair offered to go to the Middle East to resolve the crisis but that Bush turned it down, saying his Secretary of State would do the job. 

Having prevented the UN and others from taking action, the US opened the way for Israel to give Lebanon many more days of acute punishment. 

Lebanon has rebuilt its infrastructure and buildings in the last few years, costing scores of billions of dollars, in a spurt of reconstruction after its many civil wars. Much of that reconstruction is in ruins.

Israel’s portrayal that its bombs are aimed at Hezbollah, does not reflect the reality, some of which is seen on TV screens.

Bombs have fallen on family homes, roads and dams, the ports and airport, a milk factory, a paper mill, a packaging firm, a pharmaceutical factory, a Greek Orthodox church, over civilian trucks, bridges, water reservoirs, electric plants, gas stations, ambulances.

More than 300 have been killed, mostly civilians.  The UN estimated that 500,000 people (20% of the population) have been displaced, with 150,000 fleeing to Syria.

More tragedy is to come.  Israel has warned southern Lebanon residents to leave their homes, indicating it is about to blanket-bomb or invade the region.

The World Food Program finds it hard to get food to the displaced, as "damage to roads and bridges has almost completely disrupted the food supply chain.”  Food and fuel supplies into the country cannot be replenished due to the Israeli blockade on ports and strikes on roads to Syria.  Prices have shot up.

The hypocrisy of the Western governments is astounding.  They turn a blind eye to Israel’s actions, and some of them give more than a helping hand.  They have helped evacuate tens of thousands of their own citizens from Lebanon, getting them out of harm’s way, while exposing the locals to continued bombardment.

The so-called “international community” (code name for the West) is both shameful and shameless in its inaction and complicity, by refusing to get Israel to stop its destruction of Lebanon, which is out of all proportion to the supposed original cause, the capture of two Israeli soldiers. The rocket-shelling of Israeli towns by Hezbollah came following the Israeli attacks on Lebanon. 

The killing of civilians, on either side, should not have taken place and should stop. But it would appear there is an unequal weighing of lives.  

The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, believes "it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts". Israel's bombing for its part is "self-defense" that has had "the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths".

Remarked Pepe Escobar (in the Asia Times Online):  The translation for this is that “dead Lebanese civilians are collateral damage, expendable and not worth the life of a single Israeli.”

The tragedy is that the "international community" has totally deserted the Lebanese people; they are the new Palestinians, says Escobar.  “Even by its own standards of irrelevance, the European Union has excelled, with the added spectacle of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meekly toeing the US line…”

Escobar also notes the inaction of most of the Arab states, and their implicit approval of the attack on Hezbollah.

He concludes:  “There is simply no solution whatsoever to the ongoing Middle East disaster until "David" Israel (with its nuclear weapons) stops stealing Arab lands and returns all occupied territory to the "Goliaths" - the Sheba Farms to Lebanon, the Golan Heights to Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.”