The death of former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon enlivened US media’s interest in the legacy of a man considered by many a war criminal, and by some a hero. In fact, the supposed heroism of Sharon was at the heart of CNN coverage of his death on January 11.
Sharon spent his last eight years in a coma, but apparently not long enough for US corporate media to wake up from its own moral coma. CNN online’s coverage presented Sharon as a man of heroic stature, who was forced to make tough choices for the sake of his own people. “Throughout, he was called ‘The Bulldozer’, a fearless leader who got things done,” wrote Alan Duke.
In his article, “Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister, dead at 85″, Duke appeared to be confronting Sharon’s past head on. In reality, he cleverly whitewashed the man’s horrendous crimes, while finding every opportunity to recount his fictional virtue. “Many in the Arab world called Sharon ‘the Butcher of Beirut’ after he oversaw Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon while serving as defense minister,” Duke wrote.
Nevertheless, Sharon was not called the “The Bulldozer” for being “a fearless leader” nor do Arabs call him “the Butcher of Beirut” for simply “overseeing” the invasion of Lebanon. Duke is either ignorant or oblivious to the facts, but the blame is not his alone, since references to Sharon’s heroism was a staple in CNN’s coverage.
Sharon’s demise however, and the flood of robust eulogies will neither change the facts of his blood-soaked history, nor erase the “facts on the ground” – as in the many illegal colonies that Sharon so dedicatedly erected on occupied Palestinian land.
Following the Israeli occupation of Gaza along with the rest of Palestine in 1967, Sharon was entrusted with the bloody task of “pacifying” the headstrong Strip as he was the head of the southern command of the Israel Defense Forces. Sharon was dubbed the “Bulldozer” for he understood that pacifying Gaza would require heavy armored vehicles, and Gaza’s crowded neighborhoods and alleyways weaving through its destitute refugee camps were not suited for heavy machinery.
Therefore, he resolved to bulldoze thousands of homes, preparing the way for tanks and bulldozers to move in and topple even more homes. Modest estimates put the number of homes destroyed in August 1970 alone at 2,000. Over 16,000 Palestinians were made homeless and thousands were forced to relocate from one refugee camp into another.
The Beach Refugee Camp near Gaza City sustained most of the damage. Many fled for their lives, taking refuge in mosques and UN schools and tents. Sharon’s declared objective was targeting the terrorist infrastructure. What he in fact meant was targeting the very population that resisted and aided the resistance, for they indeed were the very infrastructure he harshly pounded for many days and weeks.
Sharon’s bloody sweep also resulted in the execution of 104 resistance fighters and the deportation of hundreds of others. Some were sent to Jordan, others to Lebanon, and the rest were simply left to rot in the Sinai desert.
Sharon’s violence was part of an equally disturbing logic. He believed that any strategic long-term plan to secure Israel must have at its heart a violent campaign aimed at disorienting Palestinians. He was quick to capitalize on the Allon plan, named after Yigal Allon, a former general and minister in the Israeli government, who took on the task of drawing an Israeli vision for the newly conquered Palestinian territories.
Sharon recounted standing on a dune near Gaza with cabinet ministers, explaining that along with military measures to control the Strip he wanted “fingers” of settlements separating its cities, chopping the region in four. Another “finger” would thrust through the edge of Sinai, helping create a “Jewish buffer zone between Gaza and Sinai to cut off the flow of weapons” and divide the two regions in case the rest of Sinai was ever returned to Egypt. That legacy disfigured and isolated Gaza, even years after Sharon implemented his policy of unilateral “disengagement” in 2005. He relocated the settlers to other illegal colonies in the West Bank and imposed a hermetic siege on the Strip, the consequences of which remain suffocating and deadly.
Sharon was keen on espousing or exploiting the division of his enemies. He moved against Lebanon in 1982, when the country was at its weakest point, exhausted by civil war. And when Israeli forces finally occupied Lebanon in 1982, as Palestine Liberation Organization fighters were shipped by sea to many countries around the Middle East, a triumphant Sharon permitted his Christian Phalangist allies to enter the defenseless Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps.
In the days between September 16-18, 1982, as Israeli troops completely besieged the camps, the Phalangists entered the area and carried out a massacre that gruesomely defined both the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion, killing thousands of Palestinian refugees, mostly butchered with knives, but also gunned down.
Although Sharon was partly discredited after his disastrous war in Lebanon, Israeli voters brought him back repeatedly, to lead the rightwing Likud party in May 1999 and as a prime minister of Israel in February 2001. The aim was to subdue rebelling Palestinians during the Second Intifada. In fact, it was Sharon’s provocative “visit” to one of Islam’s holiest shrines a few months earlier that sparked anger among Palestinians and, among other factors, started the uprising.
Sharon attempted to crush the uprising with the support and blessings of the US, but he failed. By the end of August 2001, 495 Palestinians and 154 Israelis were killed. International attempts at sending UN observer forces were thwarted by a US veto on March 27, thus paving the way for the Israeli army to thrash its way into Palestinian refugee camps and other areas formerly controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
In March and April 2002, Sharon ordered Operation “Defensive Wall”, which resulted in major military incursions into most West Bank cities, causing massive destruction and unprecedented bloodletting. The Israeli operation led to the killing of hundreds of Palestinians, the reoccupation of major Palestinian towns, the destruction of Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah, and the subsequent besiegement of the Palestinian leader in his barely standing office.
Sharon was no hero. It is time for US media to wake up from its own coma, and confront reality through commonsense and the most basic human rights values. It should not be looking through the prism of the most rightwing, if not fascist elements of Israeli society.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister, has passed on at the age of 85. After a lingering coma induced by a stroke in 2006, his body has finally shut down – and the curtain has fallen on what can only be described as a colorful, if not chequered career.
Although I never met him personally, Sharon’s presence appeared to haunt me wherever I went in the Middle East. Larger than life, his brazenness has seen him enjoying a career in which a bull in a china shop has seemed like a ballet dancer.
Indeed, no amount of apologetic obituaries will be able to wish away the fact that Ariel Sharon was one of Israel’s most belligerent political figures – the word “political architect” (as used by a US journalist) is certainly inflated language for a man whose solution in 2000 was to suggest the killing of arch foe Yasser Arafat.
Sentimental tributes written about him being an “avuncular figure”, a “warrior statesman” or a “complicated man” wrestling with the inevitability of a Palestinian settlement, are as authentic as Count Dracula being a teddy bear.
The truth is that the arrogantly imperial Sharon was never about peace. “Pragmatic” he may have been, but his chief business was ethnic separation between Israelis and Arabs. As a soldier this meant enforcement by the gun; and as a politician it meant concrete walls, razor wire and illegal settlements.
His response to Ehud Barak’s Camp David talks with PLO leader Yasser ‘Arafat is a typical example of his lack of subtlety. His Al-Aqsa mosque walkabout, accompanied by over 1,000 guards, lit the fires of the second Palestinian Intifada.
As I dig through old notebooks, Sharon’s name crops up time and again. Unit 101, a special “retaliation” force created by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion – of which Sharon was a 25-year old major – features as prominently as the Deir Yasin massacre.
For in August 1953, Unit 101 attacked the Gazan refugee camp of Al-Bureij, killing at least 20 refugees. This was followed by Sharon leading the Qibya massacre in Jordan two months later. This time there were 69 fatalities with the victims, mainly civilians, being dynamited whilst in their homes.
The Qibya attack was condemned by the UN and the US State Department, but no-one was ever held accountable.
Sharon’s trail of destruction did not end there. In Gaza in 1971, as head of the IDF southern command, he’d bulldozed 2,000 homes, rendered 16,000 people homeless and assassinated over 100 resistance fighters.
As a politician his hand was no less heavy. The Negev Bedouin do not have happy memories of him as Agriculture Minister. In 1979 he declared a 1,500 square kilometer area a “national park”, denying the Bedouin access to their ancestral land.
He created a para-military unit called the Green Patrol that uprooted 900 Bedouin encampments and almost saw the extinction of the black goat, whose wool provided material for traditional nomad tents.
But it was in Lebanon that Sharon, as Defense Minister, became a household name. Space does not permit more than a summary background to Israel’s 1982 invasion, essentially aimed at chasing Yasser Arafat’s PLO out of the Levant and neutralizing the Syrian presence.
Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Kata’ib Party, had been voted into power with the help of western intelligence. Unfortunately, one of his neighbors was a Syrian agent, who blew him up whilst addressing party members. Sharon’s response to the assassination was to blame the Palestinians.
The PLO had just withdrawn from Beirut and Kata’ib – or Phalangist – forces were in the vicinity of the Sabra and Shatila, which were now defenseless Palestinian neighborhoods. In violation of a ceasefire accord, the Israeli IDF had reoccupied the area, sealing off Sabra and Shatila.
According to reports, Ariel Sharon and IDF chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, met with Phalangist units, inviting them to enter Sabra and Shatila. Hours later about 1,500 militias under the command of Elie Hobeika moved in. Watched by Israeli forces, and aided by IDF flares, the raping, mutilation and killing began.
All in all, it’s believed that about 2,000 people were massacred by Phalangist forces whilst the IDF looked on. The UN General Assembly condemned the killings as “genocide” and Israel’s own Yitzhak Kahan Commission fingered Sharon. However, Prime Minister Menachim Begin refused to fire him.
I visited Sabra and Shatila some 15 years after the massacre to do research for a book. Although some buildings were still burnt out and pockmarked with bullets, most of the neighborhood had been rebuilt.
But in the dark and cramped alleys there was still a somber mood. Those who’d survived asked why nobody had protected them and – unsurprisingly – had emotional difficulty recounting events. In Shatila I discovered that the mosque floor had been dug up to bury the dead because of lack of space.
I visited the main graveyard of the massacre, an open, cold space devoid of tombstones. “Too many bodies,” said my translator, “too many bodies.”
But that was not the end of the story. People kept on talking about a secondary massacre, when hundreds of people had been detained and questioned at the sports stadium, some disappearing without trace.
“There are hundreds bodies under the Rihab Gas Station,” I was told.
This took me by surprise, for not even The Independent’s Robert Fisk – who had reported on the stadium events – had spoken about this particular graveyard. Were these yet more trampled ghosts of Sharon’s past? I do not have the answer.
But who exactly was Sharon? The acerbic Israeli commentator, Uri Avnery, describes Sharon as an “Israeli Napoleon”, the ultimate integration of personal and national egocentrism. What was good for Sharon was good for national interest – and whoever wanted to stop him had to get out the way for Sharon, and Sharon alone, could save Israel.
He thought he was well on his way to doing this via Kadima when he met his Waterloo, a debilitating stroke that saw his dream of an ethnically cleansed Israel – with Palestinians finally crammed into Jordan and Gaza – condemned to an inter-space of chronic comatose incapacity between life and death.
- Shafiq Morton is an award-winning Cape Town photojournalist and author.
An Iranian rights official says Saudi Arabia is a victim of US policies, urging Middle East countries not to support terrorists.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Monday conference in Tehran, Secretary-General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad-Javad Larijani said terrorist measures do not stem from the Middle East.
“Regional countries must know that by supporting terrorists they are only jeopardizing their own interests,” he added.
Regarding the recent bombings taking place in the region, Larijani said, “My position regarding these bombings is completely clear and I believe that the most part of their planning took place outside the region.”
He said Saudi Arabia is a victim of US policies and urged regional countries to stay away from American policies.
Larijani’s remarks come following a wave of terrorist bombings across the region, especially in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, widely attributed to al-Qaeda-linked groups that are believed to be funded and supplied by Saudi Arabia.
Regional reports suggest al-Qaeda-linked terrorist and leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades Majed al-Majed, who was arrested in connection with the twin bombings near the Iranian embassy in Beirut on November 19, 2013 and later pronounced dead in a Lebanese military hospital- was a high-ranking official of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service.
Media reports said Riyadh had put pressure on Lebanon to extradite al-Majed before his death in detention.
The Saudi terrorist had extensive secret information as he had been active in various countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan and had direct cooperation or contact with mid- and high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders.
The burial of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah next to assassinated ex-premier Rafic al-Hariri in Beirut’s Muhammad al-Amin mosque was as striking and deliberate in symbolism as the towering structure itself.
Last Friday’s assassination of the Hariri family’s senior advisor and one-time U.S. ambassador was by similar method: a massive car bomb detonated under his convoy as it drove through the heart of Beirut’s upscale downtown district. As if to purposefully underscore the parallels and frame the post-assassination narrative, it also occurred just a few hundred yards from the site where the billionaire Hariri was murdered in February 2005.
Just as after Hariri’s killing, the calculated recriminations of the March 14 coalition, led by the Future Movement, came fast and furious. Blame was laid squarely at the feet of Hezbollah. March 14 supporters were quick to point out that the crime took place less than three weeks before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL; the U.N.-established court tasked with investigating the Hariri assassination) was set to open proceedings against four accused Hezbollah members.
The shoddy STL investigation, relying heavily on telecommunications data wholly compromised by Israeli intelligence and their captured agents, has been previously discussed.
Did the masterminds of the Shatah assassination hope the Lebanese population would turn against Hezbollah, already facing strong rebuke for its intervention in Syria by March 14 politicians (despite that the latter have implicitly lent support to radical takfiri elements involved in the Syrian conflict since its earliest days)?
As with all political upheavals in Lebanon, the question that must be asked is, “who benefits?” Does Hezbollah? Although Shatah was a stalwart March 14 operative who decried Hezbollah’s role in Syria, he was nevertheless regarded as a relative moderate. But the increasingly virulent sectarian discourse of those on the fringes of this political alliance (and many at its center) and the cover they have extended to extremists like fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, cannot be ignored. Beirut after all, is still reeling from recent twin suicide car bombings at the Iranian embassy followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of Hezbollah senior commander Hassan al-Lakkis. On Thursday, innocent Lebanese civilians were again victims of a car bomb detonated in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut’s Shia-majority southern suburbs, known as the dahiyeh.
“Moderate” Sunni politicians like Shatah are viewed as expendable, for their killing only serves to polarize the wider Sunni community by inciting sectarian hatred and thereby marginalize more reasoned voices. Even Lebanon’s Grand Mufti was not spared as he was accosted after mourners’ passions were stoked by Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari, the cleric who delivered the sermon at the funeral of a young man also killed in the assassination. As Al-Akhbar reports, “Omari attacked Hezbollah, describing it as the ‘party of the devil.’ He called on the Shia to ‘disown’ Hezbollah ‘if they are true believers,’ and stressed the ‘patience of the persecuted Sunni sect is running out.’”
Again, does Hezbollah achieve any gain, political or otherwise, with Shatah’s demise?
The irony is that the inflammatory rhetoric and policies of March 14 parliamentary bloc members have led to the exponential growth of radical forces in the country. One only has to recall how former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Bahia Hariri and others insinuated the Lebanese Army was responsible for provoking Salafist cleric al-Assir’s armed forces to launch an attack against them this past summer in Sidon, killing 18.
Son of the late prime minister and Future Movement head Saad Hariri also did not waste any time in essentially blaming the victims themselves for Thursday’s attack: “They are at the same time victims of [Hezbollah’s] involvement in foreign wars, particularly in the Syrian war.”
The northern city of Tripoli and the Ain al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon have provided extremist groups with safe refuge. Details have now emerged pointing to a possible link between those in the camp and recent events.
Just as in Iraq, moderate Sunni politicians have been singled out for assassination by takfiris who seek to exploit their spilled blood, provoke co-religionists into committing crimes against civilians and stir a simmering sectarian pot.
Who are the likely perpetrators behind Mohammed Shatah’s assassination and the dahiyeh bombing?
The very same ones the U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition have emboldened.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.
Twelve Editorial Staff Rules for the Great International Media When the News is from the Middle East
January 8, 2009
1) In the Middle East it is always the Arabs who attack first and always Israel that is defending themselves. This defense is called a reprisal.
2) The Arabs, Palestinian or Lebanese have no right to kill civilians. That is called “terrorism.”
3) Israel has the right to kill civilians. That is called “legitimate defense.”
4) When Israel kills civilians en masse, the western powers claim that it is more measured. This is called “reaction of the international community.”
5) The Palestinians and the Lebanese have no right to capture soldiers of Israel inside military installations with sentries and combat posts. This is called, “Kidnapping of defenseless people.”
6) Israel has the right to kidnap anytime and anywhere as many Lebanese and Palestinians as they want. Currently there are more than 10 thousand, 300 of whom are children and a thousand are women. No proof of guilt is needed. Israel has the right to keep kidnapped prisoners indefinitely, even if they are authorities democratically elected by the Palestinians. This is called “terrorist prisoners.”
7) When the word Hezbollah is mentioned, it is compulsory in the same sentence to contain the words “supported and financed by Syria and by Iran.”
8) When you mention “Israel” it is forbidden to make any mention of the words “supported and financed by the U.S.” This may give the impression that the conflict is uneven and that Israel’s existence is not in danger.
9) When referring to Israel, expressions that are prohibited: “Occupied Territories,” “UN resolutions,” “Violations of human rights” or “Geneva Convention.”
10) Both the Palestinians and the Lebanese are always “cowardly,” they are hidden among the civilian population, which does not want them. If they sleep in their homes, with their families, that gives them the name of “cowards.“ Israel has a right to destroy with bombs and missiles the neighborhoods where they are sleeping. This is called a “precision surgical action.”
11) The Israelis speak better English, French, Spanish or Portuguese than the Arabs. Therefore they and those who support them must be interviewed more and have more opportunities than the Arabs to explain the present Rules of the Editorial Staff (from 1 to 10) to the general public. That is called “journalistic neutrality.”
12) All those who are not in accordance with the Rules of Writing above are “highly dangerous anti-Semitic terrorists.”
(Text French, anonymous, from a reader of the Carta Maior blog)
The assassination of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah will open a dangerous chapter in Lebanon, a bit similar to the one that followed the assassination of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Shatah was no ordinary man in the region, and the attack occurred at a crucial moment in Lebanon and its neighborhood’s history. Here, escalated tensions and sedition will never let such a crime pass by without major repercussions. The killer knew it!
Hariri’s assassination in 2005 was a turning point for Hezbollah’s image in the Arab and Islamic world, and contributed to the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. These events weren’t just a result of local demands. Former US President George W. Bush and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac were also involved.
The Sunni-Shia strife that ripped Iraq apart after the American-British invasion was further consolidated when Hezbollah, with its large Shia base, was accused of murdering the new symbol of modern Sunnism in the region: Rafik Hariri. Back then, political accusation preceded all real investigations on the ground.
Now, what to expect after Shatah’s assassination?
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was brief, while Future bloc leader Fouad Siniora elaborated, hinting that the Syrian regime planned the crime, and its Lebanese allies, mainly Hezbollah, carried it out. In the March 14 statement, Siniora echoed the calls that followed Hariri’s murder, urging to take Shatah’s assassination to the international level, something we expect to hear quite often in the coming weeks amid international pressure on Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Head of the National Struggle Bloc MP Walid Jumblatt was alone in his call for reason and moderation. He knows quite well that some are seeking to exploit the assassination to achieve bigger political gains. He also understands that this assassination is apt to take the country from sectarian sedition to the battlefield.
The Shatah assassination occurred while Lebanon was at a crossroads. The future government and the current presidency are now up for grabs amid political bickering between Hezbollah and March 14. But behind both parties is a larger and deeper conflict taking place in Syria.
The assassination ought to increase pressure on the formation of a Lebanese government and a formula for a presidential agreement. Previously hesitant, the international community is now expected to support these solutions as the death of Shatah and the other martyrs raised the alarm about a bloody year awaiting Lebanon.
Shatah’s murder also paves the way for further assassinations, clashes, and blasts. Obviously there is a plan to transform Lebanon into an arena for a regional and international conflict that has not been settled in Syria.
What if a Hezbollah leader or ally is killed in the coming days? Will we hear that it is a retaliation for the Shatah murder? Who will break this vicious cycle?
Israel may also find an opportunity to conduct a military operation. It is reported that Hezbollah’s incursion in Syria and the widening rift with its former Sunni base offers Israel the right opportunity to strike. In Lebanon, Israel may redeem what it couldn’t achieve in Iran. At least that’s what the Israelis believe.
The assassination put the Syrian regime and Hezbollah in a raging storm of accusations at a critical time. The world is heading toward the Geneva II conference and an historic understanding with Iran. The international tribunal investigating Hariri’s murder will soon begin its sessions.
Martyr Mohammed Shatah was no ordinary man. Neither was martyr Wissam al-Hassan. Shatah, a man with hefty economic and political baggage, was, just like security man Hassan, standing on a pivotal local, regional, and international intersection. With such assassinations, it is easy to point figures, but it is hard to support accusations with evidence as political exploitation comes in smoothly.
A dark period of major transformation is awaiting Lebanon, but unfortunately the fierce battle ahead won’t yield any winners. What if a fait accompli government was imposed on Hezbollah and its allies? How will Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah put his words “don’t mess with us” into action? Those messing with him this time will have an international cover far larger than the one they had before the assassination.
The latest deadly attack in Lebanon’s capital Beirut is yet another desperate attempt to destabilize not only that country, but the entire Middle East to precipitate all-out sectarian war.
The murder of senior Lebanese Sunni political figure, Mohamad Shatah, on Friday in a massive bomb blast that hit his motorcade as it drove through downtown Beirut was aimed at implicating the Shia Hezbollah and closely allied Syrian and Iranian governments.
Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, along with Hezbollah and Iran, swiftly condemned the assassination of Shatah, who was formerly Lebanon’s finance minister between 2008 and 2011.
But the condemnations didn’t stop anti-Syria politicians within Lebanon and various Western media outlets from pointing the finger.
“Anti-Assad ex-minister killed in Beirut bomb,” was the headline carried by Reuters and Britain’s Daily Telegraph, among others.
This contrived innuendo betrays who the real perpetrators are.
Mohamad Shatah, a senior political adviser to Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, was indeed a strident critic of Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad, accusing them of fuelling bloodshed in Syria and also sectarian tensions inside Lebanon. His political views were consistent with the narrative of the pro-Zionist Western media, as well as Saudi Arabia.
Shatah could therefore be considered an ally of the West, Saudi Arabia and the Zionist Israeli regime. But that very profile may have been what made him a prime target, not for Hezbollah or Syria, but for his so-called allies.
The day before his killing, Shatah had reiterated criticism of Hezbollah, claiming that the group was using Syria to consolidate its military strength in Lebanon.
Within minutes of Shatah’s murder, the Saudi-backed Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri implicated Hezbollah for the attack. “Shatah’s murderers are the same ones who assassinated former premier Rafik Hariri.” This was a reference to the bomb-blast killing of his father, Rafik, also a former prime minister, in 2005.
A United Nations-backed Lebanese tribunal has indicted five members of Hezbollah for that 2005 murder. The trial is set to open in the coming weeks in a Hague court. For the past eight years Hariri’s group have accused Hezbollah as well as Syrian intelligence over that assassination, without the accusations gaining much credibility.
Both Hezbollah and Syria have strenuously denied any involvement, saying that there is no evidence, and that the tribunal is politically driven. Hence, they have refused to cooperate with the forthcoming trial.
That is why Saad Hariri said of the latest killing: “The accused… are the same ones who are running away from international justice.”
Shatah’s assassination this week comes at a sensitive time, which strongly suggests who the real perpetrators might be.
First, the atrocity serves to re-ignite the accusations against Hezbollah, and its regional allies, in the murder of Rafik Hariri just when the case is being re-opened in an international court.
Secondly, there is the forthcoming Geneva II political talks organized to find a peaceful solution to the nearly three-year Syrian crisis. If Hezbollah, and by extension Syria and Iran, can be linked by sensational media claims of involvement in the murder of high-profile Lebanese politicians, then that would have a damaging impact on the Assad government during the Geneva negotiations.
Thirdly, and this is more to the point of who are the likely perpetrators, the murder of Mohamad Shatah comes at a time of mounting sectarian tensions and violence across the region. Lebanon has witnessed a wave of deadly bomb attacks and assassinations in recent months, which have mainly targeted Shia areas of Beirut.
Earlier this month, a senior Hezbollah commander was shot dead. And at the end of last month, a twin suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed 29, including Iran’s cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari. Back in August, a bomb outside a Sunni mosque in Sidon reportedly butchered 40 people.
This violence replicates the pattern of sectarian bloodshed unleashed in neighboring Syria and Iraq. There is ample evidence to show that that violence is being systematically fuelled by Saudi Arabia, working in collusion with Israeli and Western intelligence.
Israel in particular has a long track record of sabotaging Lebanon from within, having invaded that country in 1978, 2000 and 2006. There is also evidence that its agents were the real authors of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to sectarian strife. The country’s communal wounds are still raw from the 15-year-old civil war between its Sunni, Shia, Christian and Druze communities, which ended in 1990. There have been renewed sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia/Alawite groups in Sidon, Tripoli and several other towns over the past year. Saudi-backed Sunni clerics have been prominent in agitating sharper tensions in Lebanon.
This pattern of sectarian destabilization within Lebanon and across the Middle East by external forces is consistent with the latest murder of Mohamad Shatah in Beirut. The massive blast is believed to have come from a 50-60 kg bomb wired in a booby-trapped car. Wreckage was scattered 100 meters away and some 40 other cars were damaged, some of them upended. This was a professional hit with a devastating message.
In the grand nefarious scheme of geopolitics it matters little that Shatah was a prominent Sunni figure who was an ardent critic of Hezbollah and Syria. Indeed, from the viewpoint of the agents of subversion and destabilization, Shatah’s political and religious affiliation would have made him a prime target for their purpose of trying to explode sectarian war.
The heinous role played by Saudi, Israeli and Western intelligence in inflicting untold suffering on civilians across the Middle East, whether Shia, Sunni or Christian, means that their capability of using the dirtiest tricks knows no limits. The murder of Mohamad Shatah would be viewed by these dark forces as merely an expendable sacrifice if that means achieving the bigger aim of inciting all-out sectarian war in Lebanon; and engulfing the entire region in internecine flames.
The powers that gain from this atrocity are those that sow division and thrive on conflict in order to shore up their illegitimate hegemony over the region and over the mass of its ordinary, decent people.
By Bob Finch | January 26, 2009
Insanely disproportionate use of violence against unarmed civilians
“The stated aim was, as always, to stop the launching of the rockets. The means: killing a maximum of Palestinians, in order to teach them a lesson. The decision was based on the traditional Israeli concept: hit the civilian population again and again, until it overthrows its leaders. This has been tried hundreds of times and has failed hundreds of times.” (Uri Avnery “Kill a Hundred Turks and Rest”: The Five-Day War in Gaza March 2008).
Operation Grapes of Wrath ~ Lebanon, in 1996
“Ehud Barak will be remembered in Israel’s history as the one who introduced the abuse of innocent civilians as political cards. Barak was probably not the first Israeli warrior to abuse civilians on a tactical level, but he was the one who turned it into a central Israeli strategy. Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon, in 1996, with Barak as an influential cabinet member, openly targeted civilians, turning them into refugees to make them put pressure on Beirut’s government. The recent siege on Gaza follows a similar logic: put pressure on civilians to achieve political goals. (A clear war crime, it goes without saying.)” (Ran HaCohen ‘Israel Says ‘No’’ Feb. 2008).
Israelis fire 1,300,000 bullets during first few days of Intifada
“Malka, in an interview with the Israeli paper Ha’aretz on 14 June, revealed that during the first few days of the intifada, Israeli occupation soldiers fired 1,300,000 bullets on Palestinian population centres and other targets. This massive firepower, which had no operational justification given the Palestinians’ inherently inferior firepower (they possessed only light firearms and in limited numbers), showed that the Israeli army was interested more in decimating and harming the Palestinians and less in ending the violence. According to Israeli sources, then-Chief of Staff and now Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz didn’t plan to bring about the end of the conflict. Instead, he thought he had finally seized the opportunity to “beat and vanquish” the Palestinians in order to “burn into their consciousness” and make them “internalise their weakness and inferiority vis-a-vis Israel’s strength”. Mofaz’s ultimate aim, of which he later convinced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was to hector Palestinians into negotiations in a weakened and exhausted state whereby they would have no choice but to accept Israel’s dictates and demands. The new revelations, Palestinian officials argue, prove that the escalation of violence during the first few months of the intifada was, first and foremost, Israel’s responsibility. “This is what we have been saying all along that this is not about Israeli security but rather about Israel’s terrorising the Palestinian people for the purpose of arrogating their land and rights. Israel is now admitting that,” said Michael Tarazi, adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat.” (Khalid Amayreh ‘The second intifada, an Israeli strategy’ July 2004).
“This intentional and coldly calculated Israeli policy of targeting innocent Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure stems from a time-honoured, but hardly ever successful, Israeli doctrine of applying intense “pressure” against a civilian population in order to compel them, in-turn, to pressure the resistance into submitting to Israeli dictates, thereby doing Israel’s bidding by proxy. It has been consistently used against the Palestinians ever since the Nakba of 1948, and is still applied now in the ongoing barbaric offensive and hermetic siege against Gaza. Israel may have plagiarized this doctrine from the legacies of previous oppressors, but it has refined it to a degree that it no longer raises any moral qualms in most of Israeli society, where it is widely accepted by the public as a right, even a duty in the fight for Israel’s “security.” (Omar Barghouti ‘The Massacre at Qana’ August 01 2006); “As Limor and Shelah reveal, in spite of the fact that the conflict on the ground took place on a very narrow strip of land (the Israeli border on the south and Litani River on the north), the Israeli artillery had managed to shoot over 170,000 shells. In comparison, in the 1973 war while fighting against two strong state armies over two very large fronts, the Israelis had launched only 53,000 shells. The figures relating to the Air Force are even more striking. Though less than a few concrete targets were available for the IDF intelligence, the IAF (Israeli Air Force) had launched as many as 17,550 combat missions, this translates into 520 missions a day, almost as many as in the 1973 war (605 a day). Yet, in 1973 the IAF was fighting two well-equipped air forces, it was engaged in a fair amount of air-to-air combat and a relentless struggle against the latest Soviet ground-to-air missiles. None of that happened in the Second Lebanon War. The IAF was engaged solely in hammering the Lebanese soil. It literally threw and launched everything it had in its disposal, presenting a merciless method that in places (southern Beirut for instance), had a similar effect to the infamous 1940s Anglo-American carpet bombardment.” (Gilad Atzmon ‘Saying NO to the Hunters of Goliath’ August 13, 2007); “That was on Aug. 30, by which time U.N. teams had identified 359 separate cluster-bomb sites. Since then, the true dimensions of the problem have become even clearer: 770 cluster-bomb sites have now been identified. And the current U.N. estimate is that Israel dropped between 2 million and 3 million bomblets on Lebanon, of which up to a million have yet to explode.” (Saree Makdisi ‘Israel’s Cluster Bomb War’ Oct. 2006).
Israeli political and military leaders of all levels have been issuing almost daily threats against Hezbollah while claiming that the Israeli army stands fully ready to confront – and even crush – Hezbollah. So, why don’t they destroy Hezbollah now?
Recently, Israel began to step up its verbal threats, “flexing the muscles” of its military. Hardly a day passes without a statement, report, or interview coming from the Jewish state raising alarm about Hezbollah’s military capabilities but affirming at the same time the “might” of the Israeli armed forces and their preparedness for any future conflict involving Hezbollah.
Israeli military commanders have all put their two cents in. The Israeli top brass seem to suffer from a curious case of overconfidence, prompting observers to wonder why Tel Aviv has not already proceeded to wage war and end Hezbollah once and for all, with victory so close at hand given Israel’s allegedly full readiness and unmitigated superiority.
The most recent statement on Hezbollah came from Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister. Steinitz was keen to affirm that Hezbollah does not have chemical weapons, and that it had not obtained any, prior to the deal to dismantle Syria’s arsenal being reached.
Steinitz may have been clarifying remarks made earlier by a senior Israeli officer, who said that it could be neither confirmed nor denied whether Hezbollah had acquired part of Syria’s chemical weapons – an issue that aggravates the concerns Israelis have regarding the losses to be expected in the event of a confrontation with Hezbollah.
In recent days, Tel Aviv resumed its campaign against Hezbollah, raising many questions about its aims with regard to timing. Usually, these Israeli campaigns, often instigated by the Israeli army spokesperson, seek to ramp up the perception of Israel’s deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah to dissuade it from carrying out any operations, or to warn it against responding if Tel Aviv decides to launch an attack.
The question is: Does this weeks-long campaign seek to achieve one of these goals, or both?
Colonel Asher Ben-Lulu, commander of the Israeli army’s Kfir infantry brigade, stressed the army was ready to face the worst and most complex scenarios involving Hezbollah, though he acknowledged, “The smartest and most formidable enemy we face is Hezbollah, whether at the level of intelligence, combat techniques, or military doctrine.” In an interview with Maariv, Ben-Lulu said, “Hezbollah is a smart enemy. It possesses a network of underground tunnels and has professional fighters and state-of-the-art combat techniques.”
Regarding scenarios for a future conflict with Hezbollah, Ben-Lulu warned, “The conflict will not involve convoys of armored vehicles or legions of soldiers, but [will involve] guerilla warfare and hostilities originating from civilian areas.” The Israeli colonel then stressed the need for additional troops on the ground, and said that the Kfir brigade would be suitable for the job.
Ben-Lulu continued, “The next war will see forces brought in to control the areas where rockets are launched. We at the Kfir brigade train on combat behind enemy lines to inflict heavy losses on the enemy.”
The commander then remarked that Israel’s enemies, especially Hezbollah, are fully aware of Israel’s air superiority, intelligence capabilities, and precise firepower, and said, “Hezbollah will operate underground, will not rely on communications, and will try to invalidate our superiority as a conventional army.”
In the same vein, Raafat Halabi, commander of the Israeli army’s Herev (Sword) battalion, said that his unit was prepared to move from “zero to one hundred” in a matter of seconds. In an interview with the website Israel Defense, the officer in charge of the Druze battalion specialized in combat in Lebanon revealed that preparations had been stepped up recently, with the build-up focusing on training and increased readiness for contingencies along the northern front. He said, “We must be ready in a matter of seconds.”
“Hezbollah members patrol the border in four-wheel drives or disguised as shepherds, who are sometimes seen carrying scopes,” he added.
Concerning whether Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria serves the interests of the Israeli army, Halabi said, “On the one hand, this hurts Hezbollah. But nevertheless, it allows its fighters to accumulate operational experience on how to carry out attacks.” Halabi reckoned that “offensive combat is new to Hezbollah, which has so far played on the defensive.”
Herev’s commander then pointed out that the members of his unit are frequently posted along different border positions with Lebanon to maintain their readiness, saying that in the next war, they will spend a long time inside Lebanese territory and reach the areas where Hezbollah’s rocket-launching platforms are deployed.
According to Israel Defense, a specialized military affairs website, the Herev battalion has developed new techniques to fight Hezbollah. Israel Defense indicated that the Northern Command in the Israeli army is currently considering transferring Herev’s techniques to other units that must also be ready for war.
The website also stated that the soldiers in the battalion were training to fight inside Lebanon in a third Lebanon war and to defend settlements in the Galilee, as Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had promised “surprises” in any future conflict, for example, in the form of a Hezbollah incursion into northern Israel.
It is widely known that Israel and its allies spend millions of dollars to promote Zionism on college and university campuses across the US. Zionist organisations fund student groups like Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organisation in the world, as well as sponsor American Jewish students to travel or study abroad in Israel through programmes like Bithright Israel and MASA Israel Journey.
Israel and its allies also spend vast resources organising pro-Zionist speaking tours, both on and off college and university campuses. The Jewish National Fund works with an extensive list of Zionist scholars and professionals to, as it proudly states, “Bring the Israel experience to your next meeting, community event or conference.” Furthermore, while a doctoral student at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in Central New York, I was told that the Israeli embassy regularly contacted the administration, as well as the directors of selected programmes, to pressure them to schedule an event featuring the Israeli Ambassador to the US.
However, perhaps less is known about how Israeli universities are actively involved in institutionalising Zionism in the American academy, mainly in the form of collaborative research programmes that legitimise the right of powerful states to illegally invade and occupy Muslim and Arab lands by equating the resulting struggle for liberation with terrorism.
My own university is complicit in this project to normalise invasion and occupation through collaborative programmes with Israeli universities. In Fall 2007, our graduate magazine featured an article entitled “Trying to Change the Rules” that focused on several collaborative projects related to a partnership between the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) at Syracuse University’s respected College of Law and the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) located at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel.
The IDC is one of Israel’s most influential security institutes and is thought to have extremely close connections to the Israeli government and military. Indeed the chairman of the ICT Board of Directors, Shabtai Shavit, is the former head of the Mossad.
The collaboration between the IDC and Syracuse University started in 2005 and expanded after Israel’s 2006 War against Lebanon. The heads of INSCT and the ITC, along with the former dean of the Maxwell School, who had previously worked for the US Department of Defence, all agreed that the existing rules of war no longer applied to the dominant forms of warfare in the 21st century, which they described as “asymmetric” because most conflicts today are conducted between state and nonstate actors that have vastly different military capabilities. The three decided that “someone should attempt to update” the rules of war and that INSCT, in partnership with the Israelis, was “well-positioned to take that on”. This resulted in a five-year collaborative research project called “New Battlefields/Old Laws” that included a two-way student exchange programme.
While most wars today are indeed “asymmetric”, it is because many of them are also illegal and should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. According to international human rights law, the case can be made that the recent wars waged by the US and Israel are all illegal, not only for being disproportionate responses to real or perceived threats, especially those that were manufactured, but also for intentionally blurring the distinction between combatants and civilians.
Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon was waged after Hizbullah launched an ambush against Israeli soldiers, capturing two of them in the hopes of negotiating a prisoner exchange, and killing three. During the subsequent aggression, Agence France Presse reports that 1,287 Lebanese died, nearly all civilians, and 4,054 were wounded. Israeli forces intentionally inflicted severe damage to civilian infrastructure including: the Rafik Hariri International Airport; various ports; a lighthouse in Ras Beirut; bridges, roads and factories throughout the country; ambulances and relief trucks; schools, orphanages and hospitals; mosques and community centres; mobile telephone and television stations; as well as fuel containers and service stations. During the final three days of fighting, and despite the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calling for an immediate cessation of the hostilities, Israel dropped up to four million cluster bomblets in southern Lebanon, and over one million remained unexploded, prompting charges from the UN’s humanitarian chief that Israel employed a “completely immoral” use of cluster bombs during the conflict. According to Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour, more than 400 Lebanese have been victims of these unexploded cluster munitions since the cease-fire, 115 of them under the age of 18.
On the other side, 116 Israeli soldiers were killed as well as 43 civilians, and Israel suffered severe damage to civilian infrastructure including a post office and two hospitals.
The disproportionality here is nothing less than shocking, and all the more so since it was intentional. During the war, the Israeli military employed what it called “the Dahiyah Doctrine”, named after the residential areas in southern Beirut that Israeli forces indiscriminately destroyed on the basis that “they were also used as Hizbullah command-and-control centres, and were built over Hizbullah bunkers.” In October 2008, Israeli Major General Gadi Eizenkot threatened that: “What happened in the Dahiyah quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”
One Israeli journalist writing for Yedioth Ahronoth summed up this strategy as follows: “In practical terms, the Palestinians in Gaza are all Khaled Mashaal [the exiled leader of Hamas]; the Lebanese are all Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah [the secretary general of Hizbullah]; and the Iranians are all Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran].”
This strategy, which resulted in mass death and destruction, clearly violates the principles of war in regards to proportionality and distinction, and thus is illegal.
Nevertheless, Israeli occupation forces used the same strategy during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of 1,389 Palestinians, more than half of whom were civilians and 318 of whom were minors under the age of 18. In addition, more than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded. According to the Israeli rights group B’tselem, “Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was already on the verge of collapse prior to the operation” due to the Israeli siege. The aggression targeted 18 schools, including eight kindergartens, with at least 262 others damaged. Israel also destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings, leaving more than 20,000 Palestinians homeless.
Inside Israel, Hamas rockets killed three Israeli civilians during the offensive and one member of the security forces. According to the UN, 518 Israelis were injured. Newspapers reported that 28 Israelis were made homeless, and over 1,000 claims were filed relating to damaged property.
Again, the disproportionate results of the aggression clearly indicate that Israel violated the principles of war in regards to proportionality and distinction. And when wars are illegal, they constitute crimes.
Nevertheless, Syracuse University still decided that Israel, an occupying power, was legally and ethically qualified to help devise new rules of war. Of course, this should not be surprising in the context of US empire. When accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama described the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan as a just war, even though none of the hijackers on 11 September 2001 were of Afghan origin. Thus despite not being responsible for perpetrating the 11/9 attacks, around 15,000 Afghans have died as a result. That is some twisted conception of justice.
All of this is actually connected. According to the IDC web site, Syracuse University has developed “a joint study and research programme in counterterrorism policy, homeland security and American domestic and foreign policy,” drawing parallels between the experiences of confronting Palestinian resistance to occupation and Al-Qaeda acts of terrorism.
It is not incidental that professors from Syracuse University also regularly participate in the annual counterterrorism conference at Herzliya. According to the New York writer Ira Glunts, “One of the conference days always falls on 11 September. This, of course, is timed perfectly to make the case that Israel’s battle against terrorism became America’s battle as a result of the World Trade Centre attack.”
However it is important to note that Syracuse University is not alone in partnering with Israeli universities to normalise the occupation. Earlier this month, the Electronic Intifada reported that Palestine solidarity activists in the US “are campaigning against plans by Texas A&M University to take over a college in Nazareth, the city in present-day Israel with the highest number of Palestinian citizens.” According to journalist Patrick Strickland, “Texas A&M, the sixth largest university in the US, intends to raise $70 million to assume control of the Nazareth Academic Institute.”
In October, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and is likely to campaign again, announced the new programme alongside the chancellor of Texas A&M while the two were meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. As Strickland points out, “John Hagee, a right-wing Christian Zionist pastor leading the lobby group Christians United for Israel, is also involved in the project.”
Haaretz notes that while the college in Nazareth was established in 2010 specifically to serve the Arab population, it has suffered from a lack of state funds, thus college officials “welcomed the prestigious American university’s entry into the picture.” After all, although Arabs comprise 20 per cent of the Israeli population, they are only 11 per cent of its student body. However the Jerusalem Post indicates that, “The new institution, to be called the Peace Campus, will promote coexistence for the sake of education with a student population combining Arab, Jewish and foreign students.”
Indeed, as the Daily Beast reports, Manuel Trajtenberg, the chair of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee for the Council for Higher Education, explained that he anticipates significant student interest: “Of course, we would appeal to potential students in the area, but also Jewish Israelis of all sorts.” If the goal here is not yet clear, Emily L. Hauser also draws attention to the involvement of Hagee, who once described Adolf Hitler as a hunter sent by God to “chase the Jewish people back to the land”. Additionally, Hagee has raised tens of millions of dollars “for projects in Israel and for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Peace Campus suddenly looks a lot like Oslo.
As Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, remarked, this is “another colonial project by Israel-to further colonize our space, whatever space is left of the Palestinian space within the state of Israel.”
Of course it is not always necessary to send American students, professors and investment to Israel in order to benefit Zionism. In September, the Electronic Intifada reported that the New York City Council has “approved a lease for Cornell University to build a major applied science engineering campus in partnership with the Haifa-based Israel Institute of Technology (better known as Technion). The 2.1 million square foot, taxpayer-funded project is to be located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, a strip of largely residential land between Manhattan and Queens.”
As scholar Terri Ginsberg points out: “A closer look at the corporations affiliated with Technion, some of which have expressed interest in this entrepreneurial venture, indicates that the project’s aims may be more sinister. These corporations have developed weapons and surveillance technology used by Israel to deny Palestinians their fundamental human rights.” She adds that Technion “has a history of cooperating with Israel’s arms industry and of helping to develop a bulldozer designed specifically for use in demolishing Palestinian homes.”
It is important to note that UK universities are not immune to this trend either. For example, the Electronic Intifada reported in September that the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London “was established as a partnership between the IDC in Herzliya” and other Israeli universities. Unsurprisingly, the majority of ICSR’s projects focus on the various expressions of “Islamic radicalism” without any mention of Zionist extremism. Even its project on North America and Europe only focuses on radicalism in Muslim communities.
All of these examples illustrate how the Zionist occupation uses the Western academy in a variety of ways to reproduce itself not only in Palestine, but also beyond.
Speaking at the 2013 Annual Arab Banking Conference, Daniel Glaser, the US assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, warned local banks against any kind of dealing with Hezbollah and its allies.
In a talk titled “Protecting the Lebanese Financial Sector from Illicit Finance,” Glaser first noted the importance of Lebanon’s financial sector to the region’s economic well-being, remarking, “Lebanon’s ability to retain its position as an important regional and international financial center requires constant vigilance, leaving no stone unturned in our collective efforts to uproot money laundering, terrorist financing, and other forms of illicit finance from the Lebanese financial system.”
“Failing to do so,” he continued in a threatening tone, “would not only represent a missed opportunity to contribute to global efforts to uphold the rule of law and disrupt criminal and illicit groups, but might also allow regulators and financial institutions around the world to draw the conclusion that business with Lebanon comes at too high a risk.”
In particular, Glaser designated finances related to “organized criminal groups, narcotraffickers, terrorist organizations, WMD proliferators, and regimes such as Iran and Syria” as illegal activity that must be closely watched by regulators of the banking system.
The American official explained that the Lebanese banking sector’s “studied neutrality and the guarantee of bank secrecy for all” in the past “is no longer tenable. Moving forward, that professionalism and stability, which have been the hallmark of the Lebanese financial system, can be maintained only through the efforts of both the public and private sectors to ensure a hostile environment for terrorists, criminals, narcotraffickers, and sanctioned regimes such as Iran and Syria. Working together, we can stop the illicit financial activities of groups that seek to destabilize the region such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.”
The target here became abundantly clear as Iran, Syria, and the Lebanese Resistance were placed alongside drug traffickers in order to prevent them from accessing Lebanon’s banks…or else!
In an attempt to link Washington’s political opponents to criminal activities, Glaser noted, “It is important at the outset to identify the illicit finance threats that Lebanese financial institutions face. Some of the threats, such as narcotics-related money laundering, are universal challenges confronting financial centers around the world. Others, such as terrorist financing and sanctions evasion, while certainly not unique to Lebanon, are amplified by Lebanon’s geographic, historic, and political circumstances.”
In a more direct wink in the direction of Hezbollah, he referred to the case of the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), maintaining that the “scheme involved the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds through the Lebanese financial system using bulk cash shipments and trade-based money laundering involving used car sales and consumer goods.”
Glaser, however, forgot to mention that his administration neglected to pursue the LCB in the courts and instead struck a back-room deal, in which the bank paid $102 million in exchange for the case against them being dropped, after it was accused of laundering money on behalf of Hezbollah.
So after closing the LCB file in Washington, the US Treasury official nevertheless insisted that “this should not be surprising given Hezbollah’s involvement in a wide range of illicit activities. These illicit activities, combined with its ties to sanctioned regimes such as Iran and Syria, should call into question all financial relationships with Hezbollah or its agents.”
Glazer took his threats against any financial dealings with the Resistance one step further, saying, “The risks of engaging in such relationships will only increase as more countries apply sanctions on Hezbollah, which continues to engage in destabilizing military activity in Syria and attacks in Europe.”
He also did not fail to warn Lebanon’s banks against the danger of conducting business with Syria and Iran: “Lebanese financial institutions must also be alert to the threat of sanctions evasion. As a nearby regional banking hub, regimes such as Syria and Iran will continue to look to Lebanon as a potential financial access point into the global system. Lebanese financial institutions are therefore an important component of international efforts to isolate these regimes, and Lebanon’s resistance to any attempts to use Lebanese banks as a gateway to the international financial system is essential.”
In his concluding statement, Glaser got to the heart of his message by warning the bank officials present that “the United States is prepared and will continue to take action to protect our financial system from threats when we deem it necessary.”
Israel’s online economic magazine Globes is reporting that Israel has refused an American offer to solve the dispute with Lebanon over the maritime borders in the Mediterranean.
According to the magazine, the continuing dispute over the borders could undermine the development of Lebanese area Block Nine, where excavation work for oil and gas is currently being carried out.
Block Nine is located to the north of the Israeli oil field Alon, which is thought to contain large amounts of natural gas.
In 2010, Lebanon filed a complaint with the UN against Israel’s incursion in the Lebanese area of the sea, which is called EEZ.
The area is about 850km2 and is disputed between Lebanon and Israel.
While the US offered to mediate to solve the dispute, Israel refused and responded directly to the UN in regards to the Lebanese complaint.
According to Globes, Lebanon’s recent bids for oil excavation in the area include its claim of ownership, calling the area the “southern Lebanese borders”.
- 11 Israeli jets breach Lebanese airspace: Army (dailystar.com.lb)
- Mansour accuses Israel of stealing Lebanon gas, oil (yalibnan.com)