Zionist Terror in Lebanon
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
The following statement was published by the International Bolshevik Tendency on 30 July 2006.
Three weeks ago the Mediterranean seaport of Beirut bustled with commercial activity. Since then its main export has been North American and European refugees desperately seeking to escape the murderous Zionist aerial bombardments raining down upon the city. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert piously described as “the most moral army in the world” (Jerusalem Post, 11 June), has openly declared its willingness to roll Lebanon back 20 years—a reference to the devastation wreaked on the country in the course of its 15-year civil war.
In June 1982, in the midst of this communalist conflict, Ariel Sharon marched to Beirut at the head of an IDF invasion. “Operation Peace for Galilee” was initially advertised as a limited intervention intended solely to push PLO Katyusha rocket launchers back from the border, but was in fact aimed at crushing the secular nationalist Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and turning Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate.
Israeli forces killed at least 17,000 people, but failed to destroy the PLO. Their brutal occupation provided the impetus for the creation of Hezbollah, “The Islamic Resistance of Lebanon,” an indigenous formation deeply rooted among the country’s sizeable Shiite minority. The IDF retained a strip of Southern Lebanon until 2000 when it was finally driven out after a lengthy war of attrition by Hezbollah guerrillas, who have the distinction of being the only Arab military formation to administer a clear-cut defeat to the Zionists. Israel’s racist ruling class, stinging from this humiliation, has thirsted for revenge ever since.
The current crisis has its immediate origins in the electoral victory last January of Hamas, a largely Islamist organization based among Palestinian Sunnis, which Israeli intelligence agencies had covertly supported in the late 1970s to undercut the influence of Yasir Arafat and his movement. In the recent parliamentary contest Hamas candidates benefited from widespread disaffection with the corrupt and discredited PLO government. Life was already unbearable for the million Palestinian residents of the tiny Bantustan known as the Gaza Strip. But when Hamas sought to form a government, Israel, with the support of its U.S. godfather, imposed severe economic sanctions, and withheld the $50 million a month it collects in customs revenues in the Occupied Territories, with which the Palestinian Authority pays the salaries of half its 140,000 employees.
Hamas declared a truce with Israel in February 2005 that lasted 16 months, but the IDF never abandoned its program of “targeted killings” of Palestinian resistance fighters, as well as many unfortunate bystanders. According to statistics collected by the Red Crescent, the Israeli military killed 73 Palestinians in Gaza in April and May alone. Hamas finally renounced its truce on 10 June after seven members of a Palestinian family holidaying on a Gaza beach were killed by an IDF artillery shell. Israel denied responsibility, but refused to permit an independent investigation.
A few weeks later, on 24 June, IDF forces entered Gaza and kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother. Most of the Western media ignored this story, but the next day, when Palestinian militants responded by capturing Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal, in an audacious raid on an IDF post at Kerem Shalom, it was front-page news all over the world. The Israelis retaliated by cutting the pipeline that supplies Gaza with fuel, closing all crossings, and launching renewed aerial attacks and artillery bombardment. On 28 June Israeli planes destroyed Gaza’s only electrical generating station. Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “We are very worried about the situation in the Gaza Strip and, in particular, the shortages of power and water, the effect on sewage, and humanitarian access” (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 June). Such measures of “collective punishment” aimed at civilian populations are prohibited by the Geneva conventions, but the Zionists have been given a free pass to do as they please by their patron.
Hezbollah vs. IDF: David & Goliath Revisited
On 12 July, the eighteenth day of the siege of Gaza, Hezbollah fighters ambushed a patrol on the northern border of Israel, killing three IDF soldiers and capturing two. They then destroyed one of the IDF tanks sent in pursuit, along with its four-man crew. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s proposal for an exchange of prisoners was rejected by the Israelis, who commenced the savage aerial bombardment of Shiite areas in Beirut and southern Lebanon, while also targeting much of the country’s civilian infrastructure, including the Beirut airport, bridges and major highways, to effectively seal off the southern third of the country.
In Lebanon’s May-June 2005 general election, Hezbollah candidates, along with those of Amal, their Islamist allies, took 29 of the 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament. While derided as little more than “terrorists” by the popular media in the imperialist countries, Hezbollah is deeply rooted within Lebanon’s impoverished Shiite population:
“The outskirts of Beirut are known as the dahiya, Arabic for ‘suburbs.’ It has come to mean the poor, dense and sometimes dangerous maze of slums that is also Hezbollah-land. Its dirty alleys are crammed with concrete-block shanties….
“Hezbollah has become an enterprise in the dahiya, often outperforming the state. It runs a major hospital as well as schools, discount pharmacies, groceries and an orphanage. It runs a garbage service and a reconstruction program for homes damaged during Israel’s invasion. It supports families of the young men it sent off to their deaths. Altogether, it benefits an estimated 250,000 Lebanese and is the country’s second-largest employer.”
—Washington Post, 16 July
The IDF has combined its aerial attacks on Shiite areas in South Lebanon with warnings to civilians to flee their homes or face destruction. The imperialist media cites this as evidence of the humanitarianism of the Zionist butchers, rather than their proclivity for “ethnic cleansing.” The Israeli government seems to have calculated that resentments generated by a massive influx of impoverished Shiite refugees into the Druze, Sunni and Christian areas would produce intensified hostility toward Hezbollah. But so far most of the anger has been directed at the IDF. Tel Aviv’s hope that when the dust settled a compliant semi-puppet regime might emerge in Beirut prepared to absorb the overheads of suppressing the Shiite militias has been dashed. Israel’s rulers have long entertained similar fantasies for their northern neighbor:
“In 1955, David Ben-Gurion proposed taking a ‘Christian officer’ and installing him as dictator. Moshe Sharet showed that this idea was based on complete ignorance of Lebanese affairs and torpedoed it. But 27 years later, Ariel Sharon tried to put it into effect nevertheless. Bashir Gemayel was indeed installed as president, only to be murdered soon afterwards. His brother, Amin, succeeded him and signed a peace agreement with Israel, but was driven out of office. (The same brother is now publicly supporting the Israeli operation.)”
—Uri Avnery “The Real Aim,” Gush Shalom, Znet, 17 July
Tanya Reinhart, a Tel Aviv academic, argues that this latest Israeli aggression in Lebanon has to be understood within the context of the continuing history of Zionist expansionism in the region:
“Lebanon’s people know what every Israeli old enough to remember knows—that in the vision of Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, Israel’s border should be ‘natural’, that is—the Jordan river in the East, and the Litani river of Lebanon in the north. In 1967, Israel gained control over the Jordan river, in the occupied Palestinian land, but all its attempts to establish the Litani border have failed so far.
“As I argued in Israel/Palestine, already when the Israeli army left Southern Lebanon in 2000, the plans to return were ready. But in Israel’s military vision, in the next round, the land should be first ‘cleaned’ of its residents, as Israel did when it occupied the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967, and as it is doing now in south-ern Lebanon.”
—“Israel’s ‘new Middle East’,” Counterpunch, 26 July
In June 1967 Israel administered a humiliating defeat to the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in only six days and seized the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai peninsula from Egypt, while also occupying the Gaza Strip and West Bank. But the IDF’s inability to destroy Hezbollah in eighteen years of occupation and the conditions of the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 created something of a “Vietnam syndrome” in Israel. Getting bogged down once again in a Lebanese quagmire will not play well with either the public or the army. The IDF appears to be prepared to wage a long war of attrition on Gaza’s largely defenseless civilian population, but desperately wanted to score a quick, decisive victory in Lebanon.
So far Hezbollah’s fighters have managed to inflict serious casualties on the invaders, thus demonstrating that despite their enormous advantages in both numbers and armaments, the Zionist supermen are not invincible. Hundreds of Hezbollah’s primitive, short-range rockets have continued to land in Northern Israel with occasionally fatal results. The stubborn resistance mounted by the few thousand Hezbollah guerrilla fighters has electrified the Arab world (including Sunni and secular Arabs, as well as Shiites). While revolutionaries side militarily with Hezbollah and Hamas against the Zionist oppressors, we recognize that the growing prestige of such reactionary theocratic movements is an ominous sign for socialists, women, homosexuals, atheists and anyone else who does not wish to be governed by the strictures of pre-feudal Islamic reaction.
Lebanon 1983: Imperialists Driven Out
The master race ethos of the Israeli ruling class, which makes it averse to taking serious casualties, has complicated the IDF’s offensive. A similar attitude hobbles their American patron and its imperial allies, all of whom agree on the desirability of sending in a force of foreign “peacekeepers” to aid the Israelis, while not being prepared to commit any of their own troops:
“France—which has called the idea of a force premature—and the United States are haunted by their last participation in a multinational force in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion in 1982, when they became belligerents in the Lebanese civil war and tangled fatally with Hezbollah.
“They withdrew in defeat after Hezbollah’s suicide bomb-ing of a Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, which killed 241 American service members and 58 French para-troopers.”
—New York Times, 25 July
The 1983 blows that drove the colonial gendarmes out of Lebanon were welcomed by all genuine anti-imperialists, despite the fact that they were carried out by Islamic reactionaries. The impact of this defeat reverberates to this day within the ruling circles of imperialism. In an article entitled “The Rumsfeld Doctrine,” Jacob Heilbrunn observed:
“the Bush administration’s decision to launch a pre-emptive invasion [of Iraq in 2003] amounted to a wholesale repudiation of the so-called Powell doctrine….This was not academic hairsplitting, but a fundamental rift in the Republican Party. Colin Powell’s credo was a lineal descendant of the Weinberger doctrine, announced by his mentor, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, in 1984 to justify bolting from Lebanon after the suicide bombing of a Marine barracks—a strategic humiliation that many Republican hawks view as the origin of America’s current woes in the war on terror….”
—New York Times Book Review, 30 April
The once imperial presidency of George Bush Jr. has seen an unparalleled series of disasters, both at home and abroad. Today the vaunted American military is stretched thin by the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In both countries initial proclamations of victory proved wildly optimistic, as the military position of the U.S., its auxiliaries and vassals has slowly but steadily deteriorated. The only thing that prevents Bush’s support for the IDF’s brutal assault on Lebanon from becoming yet another major political headache for him as the November mid-term elections loom, is the fact that his Democratic “opponents” are at least as willing to endorse the crimes of Zionism on the grounds that “Israel has a right to defend itself.”
U.S. sponsorship of the murderous Zionist rampage does come with a price, if not at home then abroad, where Israeli aggression is widely seen for exactly what it is. Of particularly acute concern to the Pentagon is the prospect that Iraqi Shiites may react to Zionist attacks on their Lebanese co-religionists with a renewed wave of attacks on the occupation forces of the U.S./UK axis. The tattered imperialist “coalition” already has enough trouble handling the resistance fighters from the minority Sunni population; if the majority Shiites were to insurrect it could make an already difficult situation impossible.
Hands Off Syria and Iran!
White House spinmeisters suggest that Hezbollah is little more than a proxy for Iran, and its current ally of convenience, Syria. But in fact the relationship is very similar to the one between Israel and the U.S., as Afshin Molavi observed:
“They both have common interests, the larger power provides financial and military assistance, and the two consult closely on regional matters. They occasionally bicker behind closed doors, but the political elite of the larger power is reluctant to criticize the smaller power publicly.”
—Salon.com, 20 July
While Hezbollah gets substantial support from Iran—an estimated $100 million annually—most of its funding is obtained from the Lebanese diaspora.
The current conflict in Lebanon could be used as a pretext for Washington to move against Syria and Iran, both of which it has been threatening for several years. In recent months the Bush administration has launched a semi-hysterical propaganda campaign about the supposed “dangers” of Iran acquiring any sort of nuclear capacity. Revolutionaries militarily defend both Syria and Iran against imperialist bullying, while giving no political support to the hereditary Baathist dictatorship in Damascus or the theocratic ruling caste in Tehran. Military defense includes upholding their right to possess effective means of self-defense, up to and including nuclear weapons.
Forward to a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
Under capitalism the more powerful bourgeois states have a predatory relationship with weaker ones—as the history of Zionism attests. But a continuation of the bloody religious, national and ethnic conflicts that have defined so much of the history of the Middle East over the past century can offer nothing but misery. Only through a series of successful proletarian revolutions, led by internationalist Leninist parties on the basis of the program of permanent revolution, can the conflicting claims of the various peoples of the region be resolved in a just and equitable manner.
Only a socialist federation of the Middle East can ensure that the region’s resources, including its vast oil fields, are no longer used to fuel super-profits for imperialist oil corporations and their local henchmen among the Zionist and Arab ruling elites. Establishing the rule of the workers and oppressed in the Middle East requires smashing the Israeli garrison state from within—something that can only be achieved by a revolutionary movement that defends the oppressed Palestinians while recognizing that the Jewish working people, though poisoned with racist Zionism, have common class interests with Arab workers and the other oppressed peoples of the region.
The international workers’ movement has an important role to play in helping to develop the revolutionary class consciousness necessary for a historically progressive resolution of the bitter national, ethnic and religious conflicts of the Middle East. It can do so by actively opposing the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and defending Iran and Syria against imperialist attack. While revolutionaries side militarily with Hamas and Hezbollah in their resistance to the murderous aggression of the IDF in Gaza and Lebanon, we do not glorify them nor offer any political support to their theocratic project.
Class-conscious militants outside the Middle East could set a powerful example by fighting for their unions to refuse to handle Israeli goods while the IDF is raining death and destruction down on Gaza and Lebanon. Such an initiative would provide the oppressed masses of the region, who burn with anger at the brutalities of the imperialists and their allies, with a qualitatively different model for effective resistance to Zionist and imperialist oppression than the dead-end obscurantism pushed by the Islamists.
Amid the grim chaos and bestial Zionist terrorism, there are a few hopeful glimmers that the masses of the region may yet find a road forward and make the Middle East into a place in which Persians, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews and all the other ethnic and religious groups of the region can one day live together peaceably. On 16 July, according the New York Times, 2,000 Arabs and Jews joined together in a demonstration in Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. This is evidence that, even in the midst of Israel’s bloody expansionist drive, there are courageous individuals who are prepared to offer opposition to the brutal Zionist war machine.
At a moment in history like the present, many individuals, even many of those who identify with Marxism, can be gripped by despair at the possibility of revolutionary breakthroughs. But there is simply no other road forward for humanity. In 1916, when the organized mass murder of the First World War had already “become a boring monotonous daily business,” the great German communist Rosa Luxemburg pointed to the necessity for socialists to remember that only through overturning the global capitalist system will it be possible to put an end to exploitation, oppression and war:
“The modern working class must pay dearly for each development of its consciousness of its historic mission. The Golgotha-road of its class liberation is strewn with awful sacrifices. The June combatants [of 1848], the victims of the Commune, the martyrs of the Russian Revolution [of 1905]—an endless line of bloody shadows. But they have fallen on the field of honor, as Marx wrote of the heroes of the Commune, ‘to be enshrined forever in the great heart of the working class.’ Now millions of proletarians of all nations are falling on the field of shame, of fratricide, of self-destruction, the slave-song on their lips. And that, too, could not be spared us. We are truly like the Jews whom Moses led through the desert. But we are not lost, and we will be victorious if we have not forgotten how to learn.”
—The Junius Pamphlet