MASSACRE OF REFUGEES: ISRAELI TERROR ATTACKS ON LEBANON HAVE U.S. BACKING
By Joyce Chediac
Surgical strikes? Military targets? Defensive measures? Don't believe it!
Israel is not bombing half of Lebanon just to defend itself against a few small hand-launched rockets. This major attack by land, sea and air is calculated to damage the civilian infrastructure of a small, oppressed Arab country, sabotage its economy and terrorize its population.
As of April 23, Israeli bombs have killed more than 170 civilians and wounded hundreds, many of them children.
Israel's assault on Lebanon would not be happening without the blessings of the Clinton administration, which keeps the Israeli government afloat and supplies its military hardware. In fact, the bombardment of Lebanon continues Pentagon tactics used against Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991.
SMOKE AND SIRENS
"Lebanon's burgeoning economy--which has rebounded since the nation' devastating civil war--is a key target" of Israel's military offensive, said the April 17 New York Times. The Times does not explain, however, that the deliberate destruction of a sovereign nation's civilian economy is genocide and an international war crime.
Lebanon used to be the banking and financial center for the whole Arab world--a vast region that encompasses the richest oilfields in the world. But Lebanon's economy was ruined when Israel, with a green light from Washington, invaded in 1982.
However, assets in Lebanon's banking system increased 25 percent over the past three years. The economy was just starting to recover.
According to the April 17 Wall Street Journal, capital markets in London "had been set to launch a $100 million Eurobond offering last Wednesday to raise money for reconstruction projects." But Israel's two weeks of bombing forced the Lebanese government to postpone the deal.
What is the state of Lebanon as a result of the bombing? Some 400,000 Lebanese are now refugees. Lebanon's school system is not functioning. It has been turned into refugee shelters. Lebanon's ports are blockaded by Israeli ships. The coastal highway, Lebanon's major road, is regularly bombarded, preventing evacuation from the south and delivery of food and medicine.
As for Beirut, which was recently rebuilt, Israeli bombs struck recently repaired power stations, causing damage in the tens of millions of dollars. Israel has also destroyed a reservoir that provided water to 20 Lebanese villages.
The Wall Street Journal article seems intent on pounding in the point that Lebanon must go along or face financial ruin. It quotes the chief economics editor of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Sever Blocker, who said that every bomb in Lebanon and every refugee who flees to Beirut carries "a price tag, and that price is paid in full by Lebanon's economy ... Either there will be peace in [Israel] and then business in Beirut will blossom ... or Katyushas will keep falling on northern Israel and Beirut will return to what she was 10 years ago, a city of smoke and sirens."
This war is also aimed at the economy of Syria, the one country in the region that has refused to join the U.S.- brokered "peace accord" between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. About 300,000 Syrians work in Lebanon, and trade between Syria and Lebanon is $90 million a
year. "For many Syrians, Lebanon is a commercial lifeline, a source of consumer goods, equipment and technology that aren't readily available in Damascus," says the Journal.
In 1991, the Pentagon destroyed Iraq's power stations, water purification plants, factories and food distribution centers under the guise of "surgical strikes" on "military targets." The message to Iraq was the same one U.S. imperialism is now delivering to Lebanon, with Israeli bombers as its proxy. That message is: "Do what we say or we will never let you live in peace."
UN REFUGEE CAMP AND AL-AMARIYAH
Another similarity between the 1991 U.S. war on Iraq and the current U.S.-Israeli assault on Lebanon is the deliberate targeting of civilians.
The Pentagon bombed the Al-Amariyah bomb shelter in Baghdad during the Gulf War, incinerating 1,500 people, mostly women and children. The U.S. government first called the shelter a "military target," then "a mistake," but never fully apologized. It is widely believed in Iraq that the bombing
was deliberate, and meant to terrorize the population.
Now, a similar horror has been committed in Lebanon. On April 18, Israel shelled a UN base in southern Lebanon where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter. At least 75 were killed, and more than 100 wounded, most of them children.
"I saw my sister burning with her children in her arms," said Laila Atwe, a 22-year-old woman who survived the attack but said she had lost 12 family members, including her parents, grandparents and uncles. Laila Atwe was not alone.
UN spokesperson Mikhal Linvall said that "he could see no excuse for hitting the well-marked UN compound, where officers fired red warning flares in vain before taking shelter. Howitzer shells landed in or near the base over a period of about 90 minutes. Israel claimed it issued a warning, but UN officials said the first artillery rounds landed at 2:13 p.m., and that the warning had come only at 2:16." (New York Times, April 19)
Like the U.S. in Iraq, Israel said the bombing was "an error," but would not apologize for the massacre. Instead, in what Lebanese see as a clear message that more attacks like this may happen, Peres blamed Hezbollah fighters for "hiding behind civilians."
HARD COP, SOFT COP
While making the bombing of Lebanon possible, U.S. strategy is to use the old hard-cop, soft-cop routine. Tel Aviv does the killing, Washington does the talking. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is shuttling around the Middle East attempting to broker a settlement that puts more
pressure on Lebanon and Syria.
The Clinton administration and its imperialist allies scuttled a UN Security Council resolution proposed by Arab governments that "strongly condemns the Israeli aggression against Lebanon." In its place, Washington pushed through a milder resolution taking Israel off the hook by calling for an immediate cease-fire by both sides.
This resolution places an equal sign between Israel and Hezbollah. But there is no equality here.
Who are the Lebanese fighters? The U.S. media calls them "pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerrillas." In truth, they are people whose families have lived in Lebanon for hundreds of years and who, outraged by the incursions of both Israel and U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, are fighting for
their homes. Tel Aviv's troops have controlled 15 percent of Lebanon since 1982.
This conflict is not between two armies or two adversaries of equal character. It is between an oppressed people defending their right to self-determination and sovereignty on the one hand, and an aggressive settler state backed by the world's most powerful imperialists on the other.
Via Workers World News Service, Reprinted from the May 2, 1996, issue of Workers World newspaper