*article i wrote for NOYPI (News Outlet of the Young Pinoy)
Barely two months into the armed conflict between Lebanese Hezbollah and Israeli Zionists finally led to both parties’ acquiescence to a long-overdue ceasefire which could have saved hundreds of lives and millions of dollars’ worth of property and infrastructure. Still, with more than 600 Hezbollahs and 160 Zionists dead; 1,300 Lebanese and 41 Isrealis caught in the crossfire, one-third of which are children; and an estimated 75,000 residents forced out of their homes, all the media, both local and international, have to offer are superficial backgrounders on how the Palestinian organization Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah provoked Israel into waging a war and wreaking unexplainable havoc in Lebanon.
How it all began…or so they say
Last July 12, Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers patrolling Israel’s northern border intending to ‘trade’ them in exchange for the freedom of more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s knee-jerk reaction was to order the bombing of Beirut. Hezbollah immediately declared war against Israel on July 14.
Since then, more than 30,000 Israeli soldiers have infiltrated Lebanon, executing air strikes and conducting major land attacks in the region. Schools, churches, mosques, hospitals, houses, media stations, roads and bridges fell prey to Israel’s bomb-happy troops. The horrors of war were further magnified to international observers by photos of war-torn communities, and little dead bodies of Lebanese children being dug out of their homes or taken to refugee sites.
On August 11, the United Nations drafted Resolution 1701 ordering the implementation of a ceasefire on August 14. The ceasefire would be based on a ‘truce’ agreed upon by both countries out of respect for the Blue Line UN-demarcation in the Israel-Lebanon border. As part of the resolution, a 15-000-strong army consisting of troops from different countries will be sent to Lebanon to act as peace-keeping forces.
A couple of days after the enforced ceasefire and UN announces that the war in Lebanon is nearing an end. Israeli troops are now gradually pulling out and some Lebanese refugees are returning to their homes. In the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs has opened immigration anew for OFWs who want to work in Lebanon.
How it really began
This latest ceasefire may have provided the UN and the whole international community a momentary breather but the war in Lebanon is clearly far from over.
For a deeper understanding of the war between Hezbollah and Zionists, one has to take into account the long history of dissent in the Middle East.
Zionist Israel first attacked Lebanon in 1978, with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as its main target. Zionists invaded South Lebanon allegedly to protect the north borders of Israel and to assist in the civil war in Lebanon between Christian Phalangists and Muslims. Consequently, Israel’s assistance consisted of arming Phalangists against thousands of Shi’ites and Sunni in Lebanon. Thus began years of Israeli occupation in Lebanon causing massive disenfranchisement and attacks to civil liberties of Islamic communities in the region.
Israel declared itself a ‘state of Jews, wherein all Jews have a birth right to live’ while Palestinians who are citizens of Israel do not enjoy the same rights as their Jewish counterparts. Same rule was applied to Israeli-controlled regions such as Lebanon up until the Hezbollah was formed and forced the Israelis out of the region.
At the onset, the civil war in Lebanon appears to be a religious war turned haywire. But the history and present struggles surrounding the Israeli imposition of a ‘Jewish state’ in Lebanon and other parts of the Arab regions are made more complex by the evolution of the Hezbollah political agenda and an imperialist-backed Israel.
Religious war or regional war?
In the early ‘80s, an anti-Israeli occupation/movement took form in Lebanon through the creation of the dominantly Shi’ite Hezbollah (Party of God) in 1982. In 2000, the Hezbollah successfully kicked Israel out of Lebanon and it subsequently became a legitimate political party represented in the Lebanese Parliament. Thus began the evolution of the Hezbollah agenda for ‘nation, Jerusalem, and the right to return’ – into legitimate demands for socio-political-economic reforms in the region.
In 1985, Hezbollah released a manifesto calling for the formation of an Islamic state in Lebanon. Since then, it has enjoyed overwhelming support from Palestinians and Lebanese alike, including non-Zionist Israelis who want peace in the Middle East. Understandably, Arab peoples place much blame on Israeli wars of aggression in the Middle East with their fanatic objective to invade most of the region in an effort to build a ‘greater Israel’ for the Jews.
Interestingly, this ‘crusade’ has consistently been backed by imperialist colonizers since World War II. The United Kingdom (Great Britain) initially supported the Zionists not for any religious undertaking but for its interests in securing the oil pipeline through Iraq.
After World War II, however, the United States became the imperialist superpower of the world and it set its sights on Middle East for oil profits. Since then, the US has consistently backed Israel’s wars of aggression in the Middle East while Israel has been a staunch supporter of US wars of aggression under its ‘war on terror’, particularly those waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. US, incidentally, is also Israel’s principal arms provider and the source of a $4 billion annual military aid plus a sophisticated nuclear and non-nuclear armory.
Through the years, the US has been the primary defender of Israel in the UN, going so far as to push for UN recognition of Israel as an independent country with colonized territories in the Middle East. It has successfully transformed Israel into a strong foothold to secure its political and economic interests in the Middle East.
After the 9/11 bombings, the US launched its ‘global war on terror’ despite popular international censure. In 2001, it launched aggressive wars in countries it has one-sidedly categorized as ‘terrorist threats.’ US President George Bush’s doctrine against terrorism has had him discriminating against Arabs and Muslims, subjecting them to racial profiling, interrogations, illegal detentions and deportation from the US and its ally countries. Bush has virtually declared an all-out-war against peoples fighting for national liberation in the Middle East. His rationale: if they are fighting to defend themselves, they are targeting the US.
Under the guise of ‘war on terror,’ US has launched wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Its motives in these wars are suspect, especially so in the war in Iraq, launched under the guise of confiscating ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which US troops and intelligence have failed to produce to this day.
US interest in the Middle East can be attributed to one aspect alone: an urgent and greedy clamor for oil supply. In 2005, the US oil supplies have reached seven million barrels per day but this amount is consumed on a daily basis. It still needs to acquire double the amount of oil supplies to provide for its 22-million-barrel-a-day consumption.
According to Prof. Jose Ma. Sison of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS), “The war in the Middle East serves the interest of monopoly capitalism, chiefly US. It is aimed at stimulating the recessive US and world capitalist system with huge federal state appropriations for contracts with the military industrial complex and for wars of aggression and military intervention. At the same time, it seeks to tighten the US stranglehold on the economies of the Middle East countries and to expand US political dominance.”
Sison goes on to state that, “(T)he US is further intensifying its interventionist role by rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel. The rushing of delivery of munitions is part of a multibillion-dollar arms sale package that includes 100 GBU-28s which are 5,000-pound (2,268-kilogram) laser-guided bombs and satellite-guided munitions.”
The US government, now profiting from oil access from Afghanistan and Iraq, is now focusing on Iran where the biggest oil reserves are situated. Iran is the second member of the OPEC with the most oil exports in the world. It also has the biggest reserves of natural gas in the world, including 17 billion barrels of oil reserves. Iran also has a direct access to the Persian Gulf which has 715 billion barrels of reserved oil or 57 percent of the world’s oil reserves. It is also geographically situated near the Arabian and Caspian Seas, both strategic ports for oil distribution in Asia and Europe.
Politically, Iran supports Hezbollah and Hamas’ socio-political agenda, making it hard for the US to step into Iran’s good graces, or into its economic sphere for that matter. To achieve access into Iran’s abundant oil reserves, it has now set out to disarm and annihilate the Hezbollah.
Any moment before the UN ceasefire had taken place, US was in most probability preparing for an interventionist attack. Had Lebanon suffered another spate of attacks by Israel, Iran and other Lebanese allies would have stepped in. And another Afghanistan or Iraq would have been in the offing.
No middle ground
While the real reasons behind the Mid-East crisis elude most Filipinos apart from its cause-and-effect implication to OFWs, we as a people ourselves engaged in a long-running fight for national liberation are tasked to dig deeper into the whys and hows surrounding civil wars such as those in the Middle East.
There is no middle ground in the Middle Eastern conflict. Both sides have suffered casualties and collateral damage, but these consist only of one extreme that pose a challenge to our political neutrality. The narrative should not end with who started the war, or which people are justified their retaliation.
It is one thing to cry for peace in the Middle East and another to cry for global justice for crimes against humanity. ###