Dahr Jamail: “Open War” in the Middle East


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

    "Open War" in the Middle East
    By Dahr Jamail
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective
    Tuesday 18 July 2006

"In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the 
violence occurred in the first place." That one sentence (a surprisingly rare 
example of a complete sentence spoken by Cheney spokesman George W. Bush), taken
on its own, would fully explain why the Middle East is now on the brink of 
regional war. But of course, Bush always finds a way to engage in Orwellian 
newspeak. At a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 
Saturday, he managed to rewrite history in the very next sentence by blaming 
Hezbollah for instigating the violence by launching rocket attacks into Israel 
and capturing Israeli soldiers. But then, George most likely has no idea where 
Gaza is, let alone what has been occurring there for decades.

As puppet Bush goes on saying things like "Every nation has a right to defend 
itself," referring to his favorite ally, Israel, his use of the word "every" 
would of course exclude Lebanon, since their army is using anti-aircraft guns 
against Israeli warplanes. And let us not forget the Iraqi resistance - as it 
may never cross his feeble mind that they are defending Iraq from the American 

Most Arab leaders are refusing to back Hezbollah, although US-influenced 
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II issued the usual 
statements demanding "an immediate halt on attacking civilians and vital 
infrastructure," saying that such attacks breach the international humanitarian 
conventions. As if Israel will listen. As if the US listens to any calls from 
countries demanding similar actions by the occupation forces and Western 
contracting companies who are busily raping and pillaging Iraq. As if any 
country in war ever abides by the Geneva Conventions nowadays. And without a 
functional UN to actually take a stand for human rights or real justice, why 
should they?

The typical response among the people here in the Middle East is to scoff at 
their leadership - who continue to cower and bow to US interests.

Friday at the Lebanese/Syrian border, I spoke with a 50-year-old Kuwaiti man, 
Emad, as he fled Beirut with his family. "It's very bad there, as the Israelis 
are attacking civilians, bombing police and petrol stations and even the fuel 
storage depots," he told me, "In fact, they have even bombed the airport once 
again. I saw F-16's bombing and there is smoke everywhere. This is a big 
disaster for the Lebanese."

When I asked him what he thought it would take to end the fighting, he promptly 
replied, "It looks like the Arab governments are not moving their asses, so I am

Yet as consistently as the Arab governments fail to get busy "moving their 
asses" toward something resembling a solution to this crisis, just as 
consistently are the people repressed by those same governments raising their 

On Friday, tens of thousands of Arab protestors hit the streets, condemning the 
Israeli invasion of Lebanon and their actions in the Gaza Strip. 5,000 angry 
protesters gathered at a mosque in Cairo carrying banners that read, "Hey Arab 
leaders, you should be united." In Amman, over 2,000 demonstrators gathered at a
mosque after Friday prayers, shouting "Zionists get out, get out!" and "Lebanon,
Palestine and Jordan are one people!"

    Thousands marched in Gaza, waving Palestinian and Lebanese flags.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, thousands of angry Iraqis marched, praising Hezbollah's 
leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, while denouncing Israel and the US for the 
attacks. Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hinted that he may be prepared to put his 
Mehdi Army militia into action against the Americans due to the Israeli actions 
in Lebanon and Gaza.

In an earlier piece titled "An Alliance of Violence," I detailed how violence 
perpetrated on the people of Palestine by the Israeli military has immediate 
ramifications in Iraq. The same is now brewing yet again.

In Kuwait, protesters rallied in front of the parliament building, shouting 
"Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!" Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti lawmaker named 
Musallam al-Barrak lashed out at his and other Arab governments when he stated, 
"Arab countries can do nothing but condemn."

There is a frightening undercurrent of rage among the people in the Middle East 
toward their governments: The Arab world is on fire over the injustice meted out
against the Palestinian people, as well as to the Lebanese. The Israeli people 
are deeply angered at their government for failing to provide security (of 
course our corporate media would never report on the fact that hundreds of 
thousands of Israelis oppose their government's actions in Gaza and beyond) - 
instead, preferring peaceful resolutions rather than brutal, unjust, failed 
occupation and ongoing acts of aggression.

Predictably, the impotent UN Security Council goes about its machinations of 
futility, holding emergency meetings while hoping for resolutions - which 
rarely, if ever, change anything on the ground to stop the needless massacre of 
civilians on both sides of the conflict. Ah, the UN - where the US is 
responsible for eight out of the last nine vetoes, seven of which had to do with
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So why pin any hope on the UN, when the US has
already vetoed a resolution demanding that Israel stop its military offensive in
the Gaza Strip?

Meanwhile, the bloodletting continues as the situation escalates and spins 
further into chaos while threatening to spread deeper into the region.

Israel, the only nuclear power in the region, hopes to completely annihilate 
Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. They have now insured total, unending war by 
demanding Hezbollah to completely disarm, leave southern Lebanon and hand over 
the Israeli soldiers, demands which Hezbollah will surely brush aside.

Let us not forget that both Israel and the US announced in January that the 
Palestinian people would be punished for voting the wrong way by electing Hamas 
to power. That unjust act, which began the chain of events leading to our 
current crisis, may well be marked as the match that lit this hellish bonfire. 
Because it certainly seems, judging from their actions in Gaza and now in 
southern Lebanon, that the aim of the Israeli government is to wipe out the 
Palestinian people, in addition to Hamas and Hezbollah.

So we naturally have open war in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. Israel declared 
it by their act of bombing and invading Lebanon, then bombing Nasrallah's Beirut
offices. Nasrallah, unhurt by the attack, promptly appeared on television 
announcing "open war" against Israel.

On Hezbollah's TV channel in Beirut, he said, "You wanted an open war and we are
ready for an open war." He announced, "Look at the warship that has attacked 
Beirut [referring to an Israeli warship off the coast that was lobbing shells 
into Lebanon] while it burns and sinks before your very eyes."

The ship was heavily damaged and four of its 80 soldiers on board went missing 
after being attacked by an explosive drone launched by Hezbollah, the first time
such a weapon has been seen from their arsenal.

"Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship that has 
attacked the infrastructure, people's homes and civilians - look at it burning,"
Nasrallah mocked, in his address that aired late Friday night.

In footage aired by the same channel, dozens of Lebanese danced in the streets 
of Beirut to celebrate the announcement of the attack on the Israeli ship. This,
of course, contradicts Israel's goal in pressuring Lebanon: Israel hoped that by
punishing the Lebanese they would force the country to pressure Hezbollah. 
Despite the propaganda of the dancing Lebanese aired by Hezbollah TV, reaction 
thus far is mixed in besieged Lebanon.

Deepening the crisis, Nasrallah threatened to attack deeper inside Israel, 
"beyond Haifa."

And Saturday the bloodshed continued as the Israeli Air Force bombed bridges, 
fuel storage tanks, petrol stations in southern and eastern Lebanon. At least 
four people were killed in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and more bridges south of 
Beirut were destroyed.

The same day, at least 15 Lebanese villagers, including women and children, were
killed by an Israeli air strike on their vehicles as they fled their village of 
Marwahin in southern Lebanon after being ordered to evacuate by the Israelis.

Leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft over Beirut warned the Lebanese not to back
Nasrallah. Yet, giving further evidence to the Lebanese army's outwardly 
opposing the Israelis, after the leaflets were dropped they were promptly 
collected and taken away by Lebanese security forces.

Underscoring this, Saadeddine Rafik Hariri, majority leader in the Lebanese 
Parliament and the son of the assassinated former prime minister of Lebanon, 
Rafik Hariri, told reporters in Kuwait on Saturday: "The Lebanese people must 
remain united. We must not allow Israel to divide us. The enemy is Israel."

Here in Damascas we're on pins and needles. The mood is one of both high anxiety
and seething anger at the Israelis' war against both Lebanon and Hezbollah. Like
anywhere else, nobody here supports collective punishment or attacks against 
sovereign countries.

As Israeli jets pound the mountains in Lebanon near the Syrian border, striking 
radio and satellite antennas, the concern that Syria will be drawn into the 
conflict grows daily.

The day before, Reuters reported that the ruling Ba'ath party in Damascas 
announced that they and the "Syrian people"... "are ready to extend full support
to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and 
confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes."

The war is even widening in Lebanon, as Israeli warplanes, also on Saturday, 
bombed an area in Tripoli, their most northern strike thus far. After Israel 
placed an embargo on Lebanon and shut down their main seaport in Beirut, 95% of 
the trade was rerouted through the port at Tripoli. Today, three bombs were 
dropped by Israeli war planes on that port. Other Lebanese ports now shut down 
include Jounieh, Amshit and Hamat, as the Lebanese economy has ground to a 
nearly complete standstill.

At least 79 civilians have been killed and over 250 wounded since Israel began 
its attack against Lebanon on Wednesday.

Civilians dying aren't only in Lebanon. Over a dozen rockets were fired by 
Hezbollah into several towns in northern Israel, in addition to over 90 fired 
into a total of 15 towns in Israel thus far, killing at least four and wounding 

Thus, both Hezbollah and the Israeli government have their "open war." As usual,
while the politicians and the UN wring their hands and twiddle their thumbs, 
those bearing the brunt are the civilians on both sides, whether they live in 
Israel, Lebanon or Palestine.

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