British arms maker BAE Systems boasts lucrative weapons deals as the result of the so-called anti-ISIL fight
British arms manufacturer BAE Systems has boasted hiking demand for its support services of war machines, citing growing engagement of its Arab clients in the so-called anti-ISIL battle.
Speaking to journalists after posting the weapon maker’s 2014 spending, BAE’s Chief Executive Officer Ian King described the rise in demand as a “call to arms” and said, “You cannot let any performance degrade at this time when people are dependent on these assets,” RT reported Friday.
King further said the rise of the ISIL terror group as well as the persisting conflict in Ukraine would mean that governments will keep military spending high on their agenda despite degrading defense budgets due to austerity measures.
“We have a lot of bidding activity going on at the moment and a lot of support activity going on,” he said.
The report comes as some Middle Eastern states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, have joined the so-called anti-ISIL alliance led by the United States.
This is while some of the parties to the same coalition have been among the staunch supporters of the Takfiri groups operating against Syria over the past few years.
“For the first time in the Middle East, the big Middle East countries are deploying their assets against IS[IL],” King said. “Urgent operational requirements are high, support arrangements are high. It is high up on people’s agendas.”
According to the report, BAE’s support service to Saudi Arabia is its third largest market after Britain and the US. However, there is no evidence that the Saudis have engaged in any strikes against the ISIL terrorist group, which is widely believed to be financed by the US-backed kingdom and its other Persian Gulf rulers.
US admits ISIL established by its allies
The development comes after a former US military official admitted earlier this week that Washington’s Middle Eastern allies established the ISIL as part of a strategy to eliminate the Lebanese Islamic resistance group Hezbollah.
“ISIS got started through funding from our friends and allies,” said retired US general Wesley Clark on Tuesday, using another acronym for ISIL, adding the only group that would fight Hezbollah is ISIL because they are “zealots” and resemble a “Frankenstein.”
‘BAE prosperity at expense of human rights’
Critics, however, insist that BAE’s emerging prosperity comes at the expense of human rights and ethical trading. BAE weaponry is also thought to have fallen into the hands of the ISIL terrorists.
Speaking to RT, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) described the remarks by BAE’s chief as “tasteless.”
“This is yet another tasteless reminder that arms companies like BAE depend on war and conflict in order to make a profit. BAE isn’t concerned about human rights or democracy; many of the governments it sells weapons to are among the most oppressive in the world,” he said.
CAAT had also emphasized in the past that the British government is highly in favor of international weapons trading.
Iran has criticized the United Nations Security Council for failing to take action against the Israeli regime over its recent deadly airstrike on the occupied Golan Heights in Syria, Press TV reports.
“The Security Council remains indifferent in making any position on condemning the aggressor while it was a clear violation of international law,” Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Gholam Hossein Dehqani told Press TV.
“Once again the Security Council allowed that regime to get away with the crime it committed and failed to condemn the aggression which was done by Israel,” he added.
The Iranian envoy said the Israeli regime’s impunity does not serve peace and security in the world and would lead to the deaths of more innocent people.
Dehqani’s comments come in the wake of an Israeli airstrike in Syria on January 18 that claimed the lives of six Hezbollah members, including 25-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of slain top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, and a general of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Media reports that Israel carried out the terror attack in the strategic southwestern city of Quneitra in Golan Heights with the help of Takfiri terrorists, particularly the al-Nusra Front.
Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria over the past couple of years. The Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.
However, the UN has so far failed to take any action over the attacks, which have been condemned by Damascus as violation of its sovereignty.
The Golan Heights have been under the Israeli occupation since the 1960s. The Tel Aviv regime captured the Syrian territory during the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed the region in 1981.
“You want to forget Israel, do so. We cannot do it. You want to forget Palestinian People? Go ahead. We Won’t.” – Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah
Predictably, Hamas is back: stronger than ever.
On Jan 14, 2015, Hamas suddenly convened a session of the Gaza parliament, suspended since a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas was agreed upon, this past April. There was no attendance by, or invitation to, Fatah. Thanks to illegitimate president Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership, Gazans were left to rot in the post-war depths of Israeli created misery compounded with a bitter winter living amongst Israeli produced rubble. Deliberate delays in reconstruction, materials and funding; the ongoing, unchanged and crippling Israeli siege; and the Palestinian Authority’s withholding of tens-of-millions of dollars to pay monthly salaries to Gaza’s civil servants, have created a need for the return of an Hamas government, for the Gazan people in Gaza.
In a speech before the re-activated parliament, Deputy Speaker of the Gaza parliament, Ahmad Bahar, warned, “A blowup is at a distance of two-bow lengths or less if the international community does not take action to end the suffering of the people of Gaza.”
An interesting choice of metaphor. At the top of Hamas’ agenda is opening Gaza’s one sea port to travel and commerce, i.e., imports of goods and passengers, whether Israel likes it or not. As reported by Ma’an News Agency, “On Sunday, a ministerial committee in blockaded Gaza announced plans to take necessary measures to prepare the coastal enclave’s sole port.” Young Palestinian children have been taking part in activities aimed at making the seaport into a better looking place for visitors.
The port in Gaza City is currently restricted, by Israel, to fishermen. Israel, however, only allows them to fish up to a maximum of six nautical miles from the shore. Opening the port and allowing fishermen access to all Palestinian waters were two main Palestinian demands during negotiations with Israel which ended the 50-day war in July and August. So, to prove the point, yesterday Israeli gun boats opened fire on fishermen that were inside that six-mile limit: just because they can. A similar incident was reported near Gaza City on January 31.
A border, a truce or a treaty with Gaza means nothing to Israel. This was highlighted this past Sunday morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire at unarmed Palestinian protesters marching near the border fence on their land, in their Gaza. This aggression came within days of Israel lifting quasi-restrictions on arresting, for maximum horror, Palestinian children at night (an average of 197 children are held in military detention every month, 13 per cent of whom are under the age of sixteen) and approving two-hundred-and-fifty more illegal settlement units after killing a Bedouin teenager audacious enough to protest this new Israeli land-grab on his ancestral lands. And, all the while, unchecked Israeli settlers were chopping down hundreds more olive trees: making sure that any future branch, offered in peace, would never survive, much less prosper.
Was this summer’s five week long nightly-news-reel review of the day’s grizzly carnage in Gaza not enough for the world to recognize the heinous mind-set that is fundamental to Israeli foreign policy? Did 2,129 Gazans, including 530 children, die uselessly in vain merely for the morbid titillation of a world momentarily distracted from their equally violent video games? Review of the divisive “progress” for peace in Gaza over the past six months shows that the answer is, oh, so shamefully, “yes.”
A newly bolstered Hamas is required. As the only sincere force for political and social good in Palestine this growing movement follows in the mold of Hezbollah’s effective example of leadership in Lebanon. Hamas leadership also provides badly needed social services and programs, and the only effective deterrent that the Israeli oppressors understand: armed resistance.
Hamas recruiting, reportedly, has increased dramatically in the post-war period. Training of all recruits and renewed preparedness for battle goes on daily. Of course. Likely, each and every Palestinian knows someone who was killed by targeted Israeli atrocity: perhaps a family member, perhaps a whole family. Remember: in Gaza, losing one’s whole family likely means having all your infant nieces and nephews, younger brothers or older sisters, your sons, your daughters, your father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, disappear, forever, in a cloud of collapsing concrete dust and Israeli gun powder smoke. Just six months ago, whole families were destroyed. Many times over.
A world of witnesses may have short memories: a Hamas recruit does not.
When the conditions for the truce with Hamas were agreed to by Israel, upon close examination of the troika selected to sit at the peace table (Egypt, Fatah, and Israel) without Hamas, only the disaffected, apathetic and myopic, would have bet a shekel on an actual peace treaty. Thanks to the skullduggery and complicity of this scheming troika, Gaza suffers worse than ever before. The three are in league in serving Israel’s goal of assimilating Palestinian territory via illegal settlements, walls and genocide, while all-the-time avoiding peace in order to continue their usual inhumane treatment, war crimes, violations of UN resolutions and inhumane immorality.
Israel wants conflict in Gaza and, again, war. As General of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmad Jibril accurately and historically stated, “When someone approaches you through force and drives you out (from your land), you should confront it only with force as that enemy understands. No language, but force.” All observations indicate that Hamas is preparing to take up the sword and, again, defend Gaza.
The first garrison will likely be the Gaza seaport.
Solely due to their quest for international recognition and justice, this past month has been exemplary of Gaza’s plight. To start the New Year, on Jan 2., after repeated and vicious public encouragement from Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas reluctantly joined the International Criminal Court (ICC), despite Netanyahu’s constant warnings. The court is headed by international lawyer and sincere champion of true humanity, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; Mrs. Fatou Bensouda of Gambia. So, Israel is furious at the prospect of a fair trial, which it will lose, sending a pack of Zionists running, finally, from international warrants. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that, “this step will be a spark of hope that Palestinians will be able to see the Israeli leadership prosecuted and held accountable for their crimes.”
The cunning tactics employed by this troika ever since shows why the rise in Hamas’ renewed political strength is now required and that its upcoming use of the al-Qassam brigades will not be surprising.
This week, due to Israeli pressure on the Head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) William Schabas, a Canadian academic who was tasked in August with leading a separate United Nations backed group examining war crimes during the Israeli regime’s military offensive in Gaza, has resigned. He wrote in a letter “My views on Israel and Palestine, as well as on many other issues, were well known and very public,” adding, “This work in defense of human rights appears to have made me a huge target for malicious attacks.” Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said on Tuesday, “This clearly displays the organized Israeli state terrorism that targets anyone who tries to unveil the truth and bring Israeli leaders to account in the international forums.”
Fresh from massacring, last week, at least twenty-three Egyptians in clashes between police and protesters on the fourth anniversary of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, current president-for-life, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is playing host to the supposed Gaza peace talks, had his pet Supreme Court, on Saturday, ban Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam brigades and list it as a “terrorist” organization.
This is the same court that, as previously ordered by el-Sisi, outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood after having already changed the constitution in order to legally legitimize the coup that jailed Mohamed Morsi and, hence, his unopposed election as president, last year. An Hamas political official told Reuters, “We reject the Egyptian court’s decision against Qassam Brigades. It is a political, dangerous decision that serves only the Zionist occupation. After the court’s decision, Egypt is no longer a mediator in Palestinian-Israeli matters.”
As part of the cease-fire, Egypt guaranteed that its Rafah border crossing would open regularly. This has actually meant infrequent, unannounced openings of no more than three days, creating chaos. On the Egyptian side trucks full of goods were halted to a trickle and perishable goods allowed to rot, just like the Gazans, on the other side of the fence. As few as 300 people a day have managed to cross.
Previously, el-Sisi, as peace broker, had shown his sincerity to his task by finding and closing all tunnels across the Egyptian-Gaza border, further starving Gaza from its last lifeline of desperately needed goods. Then he ordered his military to shoot-to-kill any Gazans approaching his imposed 400 meter de-militarized zone on the Gaza side of the border fence. Gazan Health Ministry Spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra told the AFP news agency on Friday that a youth was shot “in the back and the bullet settled in the heart. He died on the spot”. He was identified as Palestinian, Zaki Houbi. He was 17 years old.
Far- a-field, arch-villain, Bibi Netanyahu, was busy influencing a change of heart in his paid-for minions in the EU parliament. Before leaving for Europe in a lather, after the Jan. 2nd ICC disaster, he had already re-arrested all the Palestinian prisoners who had been released, per the cease-fire, from illegal detention in Israeli jails, including the duly-elected Hamas officials from the 2006 election. He next reacted by furiously, yet again, illegally freezing $127 million in tax revenues that by law must be transferred to the Palestinian Authority so that tens of thousands of public sector workers will finally be paid, as promised. For BiBi, that was just a warm-up. Israeli forces on Thursday destroyed a water network which feeds Palestinian villages and Bedouin dwellings in the northern Jordan Valley.
Suddenly, despite the ruling by the General Court of the European Union, on Dec. 17, that said correctly, “the blacklisting of Hamas in 2001 was based not on sound legal judgments but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet,” all twenty-eight EU member states decided to appeal the court’s decision.
Now, the United Nations has stopped rebuilding homes in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip amid freezing temperatures, citing lack of funds from pledged donors.
Said a UNHRW spokesman, “$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo (aid) conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable.”
Now, Israeli politicians are calling on the 122 member states of the International Criminal Court to cut all its funding in response to the beginning of its inquiry into probable war crimes in Gaza last year. Obviously, “[this] provides it (Israel) with the cover for its crimes against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Such is Zionist influence. Just like that.
As for Mr. Abbas, the recent cancelation of the Swedish ambassador’s visit said all that was needed. With his PA storm troopers, dressed in American made, black-on-black, riot gear, in daily battle with West Bank citizens, a meeting was apparently too risky in Ramallah. As the first EU member nation to formally recognize Palestine, this past October, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was set to meet with Abbas and Israeli officials in Israel instead. This week, she indefinitely postponed a planned trip to Israel, reportedly in response to Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman’s refusal to meet with her when she came. Now, Mahmoud Abbas will fly to Stockholm on Feb. 10, fresh from serving up an obviously mushy UN draft resolution for Palestinian statehood that, as designed, failed to overcome the expected veto.
Hamas has been busy shoring up preparations, which also means foreign political support, new funding sources, besides stocks of munitions. A senior Hamas official on Thursday demanded that a seaport be fully opened in Gaza, warning of an “explosion” if Israel’s siege and the Egyptian closure of Rafah continue. He called on the “free people of the world’ to send ships to break the blockade, and urged the Arab League, the OIC, and Arab nations to uphold their responsibilities to Gaza.
Senior Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar said that his Movement gave the consensus government the chance to bear its responsibilities towards Gaza Strip. The results are obvious.
The stage appears to be set for another direct conflict between Israel and Hamas. Gaza cannot continue to suffer, after already suffering one of the most barbaric attacks in modern history. The people will not stand for it. Hamas will not stand for it. With more troops in training, new and replenished weaponry, increased sources of funding, and Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza hungry for real national leadership, Hamas is ready. The only Government ever properly elected in Palestine is back.
With the re-opening of parliament the intention will be to open the Gaza City port, and therefore Gaza, to the world. Israel be damned. A port is a necessary lifeline, but also a statement of sovereignty for Gaza. Like the flag, a port is also a symbol of freedom: for Palestine. It will be defended. The prognostication now becomes: How many people will Israel kill when Hamas and a sympathetic world apply the cease-fire agreement; using Gaza’s territorial waters to bring promised relief via Gaza’s port.
As Mao famously, and accurately observed long ago,” Without An Army For The People: There is nothing for the people.”
Sadly, Israel has given this army for the people of Gaza no other alternative but death. Hamas prepares to fight.
Before it’s too late again, World: what say you?
Je suis Gaza? Je suis Hamas?
Israel’s foreign minister has described as “inevitable” a third war with Lebanon and a fourth aggression in the besieged Gaza Strip in the wake of a recent retaliatory attack by Hezbollah.
“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Israel’s Ynet on Sunday.
“There’s no doubt the rules of the game have been changed, what Hezbollah forced upon us. We don’t respond, but rather decide to contain this incident,” Lieberman said, adding that the Lebanese resistance movement is “more determined.”
The Israeli official also said that another war on the Gaza Strip was on the horizon, adding that Hamas was already rebuilding its military capacities.
“We saw 10 rockets being fired at the sea last week. We see every week how they’re rebuilding [their arsenal],” he said, referring to the Palestinian resistance movement.
Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and destroyed at least nine Israeli military vehicles in a retaliatory attack on a military convoy in northern occupied territories on January 28. Tel Aviv said a 20-year-old sergeant and a 25-year-old captain were killed.
Following the attack, Hezbollah said the move was in retaliation for Israel’s January 18 attack on the Syrian section of Golan Heights, where six Hezbollah members and an Iranian commander lost their lives.
Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of martyred Hezbollah top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, was among those killed in the attack.
A report from the Washington Post on Friday confirmed that the CIA and Israel’s spy agency Mossad were behind an elaborate plot to kill Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in a 2008 car bomb attack in Syria.
Citing former intelligence officials, the newspaper reported that US and Israeli spy agencies worked together to target Mughniyeh on February 12, 2008 as he left a restaurant in the Syrian capital Damascus.
He was killed instantly by a car bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of a parked car, which exploded shrapnel in a tight radius, the Post said.
On January 19, Jihad, Mughniyeh’s 24-year-old son, was also killed by Israeli forces in Syria, along with five Hezbollah members and and an Iranian general in a helicopter airstrike near the city of Quneitra.
The bomb that killed Mughniyeh, built by the United States and tested in the state of North Carolina, was triggered remotely by Mossad agents in Tel Aviv who were in communication with the CIA operatives on the ground in Damascus.
“The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a former US intelligence official told the newspaper.
The CIA declined to comment to the Post about the report.
According the newspaper, the authority to kill required a presidential finding by George W. Bush. Several senior officials, including the attorney general, the director of national intelligence and the national security advisor, would have had to sign off on the order, it added.
The newspaper said that during the Iraq war, the Bush administration had approved a list of operations aimed at Hezbollah, and according to one official, this included approval to target Mughniyeh.
“There was an open license to find, fix and finish Mughniyeh and anybody affiliated with him,” a former US official who served in Baghdad told the Post.
According to the newspaper, American intelligence officials had been discussing possible ways to target the Hezbollah commander for years, and senior US Joint Special Operations Command agents held a secret meeting on the issue with the head of Israel’s military intelligence service in 2002.
“When we said we would be willing to explore opportunities to target him, they practically fell out of their chairs,” a former US official told the Post.
Though it is not clear when the agencies realized Mughniyeh was living in Damascus, a former official told the newspaper that Israel had approached the CIA about a joint operation to kill him in Syria’s capital.
The agencies collected “pattern of life” information about him and used facial recognition technology to establish his identity after he walked out of a restaurant the night he was killed.
In 2013, an Al-Akhbar investigation into the 2008 assassination revealed that Mossad, under the leadership of Meir Dagan at the time, was responsible for the operation, which took around six weeks to implement, from A to Z.
Mossad and CIA have repeatedly planned and carried out assassinations on Hezbollah’s senior commanders and members in Lebanon and Syria.
In 2013, Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqqis was assassinated in the suburbs of Beirut, an attack that the resistance group said was orchestrated by Israeli intelligence.
On Friday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spoke about the latest attack on Hezbollah members in Quneitra, stressing that Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” Hezbollah fighters.
A Hezbollah supporter with the words “time for retribution” written on her hand attends a memorial ceremony to honor six Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria by an Israeli airstrike, during which Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah made a televised speech. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Tahtah
“Don’t try us,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah told Israel in a televised speech Friday broadcast during a memorial ceremony to honor the six Hezbollah fighters and the Iranian general killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria earlier this month.
On January 18, an Israeli helicopter airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander, Mohammed Abu Issa, and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad in Syria against rebels in the nearly four-year Syrian conflict.
According to Nasrallah, who spoke for an hour and a half, Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” the fighters, saying that the motive behind the attack was crystal clear.
Hezbollah’s chief said that while Israel isn’t worried about thousands of armed militants from the al-Nusra Front — al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria — near territories it occupies, the Zionist state “was scared on January 18 of six unarmed Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian in civilian vehicles.”
Observers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) confirmed in a report published in December documenting cooperation and coordination between the Israeli army and militant groups in Syria.
The UNDOF report said that observers witnessed several meetings between rebel leaders and Israeli army forces between December 2013 and March 2014, in addition to witnessing the transportation of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.
Nasrallah said that those killed in the Quneitra attack showed a “fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian soil, and reflects the unity of the cause and the unity of the fate of the countries in the axis of resistance.”
“When the blood of Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and Iranians unites, we will enter an era of triumph,” he added.
The deaths of Allahdadi and Issa revealed that commanders were present on the ground alongside fighters, Nasrallah said, adding that Jihad Mughniyeh’s death showed how entire families and not just individual members were joining the resistance.
Nasrallah extended his condolences to the families of the Hezbollah fighters as well as the families of the eight Lebanese soldiers who were killed last week in clashes with al-Nusra Front militants in the area of Tallet al-Hamra near Ras Baalbek on the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Nasrallah’s remarks came two days after Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack against an Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) convoy in Israeli-occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms that left a number of Israeli soldiers dead.
According to Israeli figures, two soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded, although Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar news channel said the toll was much higher.
“They killed us in broad daylight, we kill them in broad daylight … they struck two of our vehicles, we targeted two of their vehicles,” Nasrallah said, likening the Quneitra strike to the one by Hezbollah in Shebaa.
“The only difference is that we announced that Israel struck our fighters in Quneitra half an hour after the attack, whereas the Israelis didn’t,” Nasrallah continued, adding that the number of casualties on the Israeli side was “debatable.”
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometers (10 square miles). It has been illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, although Lebanon has never ceased to call for its restitution.
Israel occupied most of southern Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.
“The Israelis can’t kill our people and then go to sleep … their farmers can’t stay in their fields and their soldiers can’t stroll up and down the border as if they merely killed mosquitoes,” Nasrallah said, asserting that the Zionist state would pay a price for all of its criminal actions even if that meant going to war with Israel.
“We don’t want war but we are not afraid of going to war,” Nasrallah assured. “I think the Shebaa attack was a clear message … Israel was humiliated on Wednesday.”
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would retaliate against any future Israeli attacks on its members “whenever, however and wherever,” adding that the Hezbollah “no longer cares about the rules of engagement anymore.”
“Don’t try us,” Nasrallah defiantly said to Israel.
Since the January 18 airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border.
“Israelis have been on edge ever since they targeted our fighters in Quneitra,” Nasrallah stated.
Following Wednesday’s attack, Israeli forces hit several Lebanese villages along the border, killing a 36-year-old UN peacekeeper.
Israeli warplanes routinely violate Lebanon’s airspace and have launched several attacks against Syrian targets in recent months, some reportedly carried out from over Lebanon.
On Thursday, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA), said Israeli fighter jets penetrated deep into Lebanese airspace, startling residents as the jets flew over the capital Beirut. Israeli jets were also seen flying over southern Lebanese towns.
Nasrallah said Israel has violated Lebanese’ sovereignty and the 1701 UN resolution “thousands of times” and “on daily basis.”
Moreover, Nasrallah slammed the Arab League as “nonexistent” when it came to fighting Israel and supporting Palestinians, saying the 22-member league has served Israel more than the Palestinians. He gave the 51-day Israeli summer assault on Gaza that left 2,300 Palestinians dead as an example of the Arab League’s failure.
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Wednesday’s attack was the “most severe” Israel had faced since 2006, when its war with Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The mood of our uneasy times is incredibly bellicose, dark, apocalyptic and vengeful. The “war on terror” is like a virus that infects everything it touches. And it does seem to touch everything, from our popular television shows, to getting across borders, travelling overseas somewhere. You can’t read the Sunday paper without feeling queasy, a sense of dread tingling our nerves and spoiling our lovely morning coffee. Everyday brings a new jolt. And if terror doesn’t do the trick, fear of global warming, or running out of oil will spoil your day for sure.
I am particularly interested in probing the role that religious belief and mythological systems play in dividing us from one another, fuelling irrationality and hatred of others, and dampening any spirit of radical self-criticism. To illustrate the incendiary nature of religious belief, I will focus attention on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the context of the Middle East. Perhaps no topic–Israel’s fate and role in the Middle East–is itself so incendiary and symptomatic of the failure of our global civilization to act justly.
The horrific Israeli war against Lebanon in 2006, the continuing assault on Palestinians in the Gaza strip, now virtually a prison, and the building of settlements in the West Bank, has revealed to the world the stark inadequacies of the old axiom, that “might is right”. I am fascinated with why Israel, particularly, believes that might is right, that war is the only message the Arabs understand and why Israel refuses to talk with their enemy. What belief system underpins the aggressions of Israel against the Palestinians and its Arab surroundings? Why is it so hard for us to criticize Israel in the west? Are there mythic underpinnings and reasons operating here, too?
September 11, 2001 set me on a pathway to understand what was behind this ghastly act of flying hijacked airplanes into the very heart of the American military-industrial complex. Why was it so easy for George W. Bush on a Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, 2001, on the south lawn of the White House–to utter these words: “We need to be alert to the fact that these evil doers still exist. We haven’t seen this kind of barbarism in a long period of time. No one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft–fly US aircraft into buildings full of innocent people–and show no remorse. This is a new kind of-a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take awhile.”
Commentators of the day observed that Bush’s remark about crusade had come in an off-the-cuff comment to a journalist. Actually, he had struggled hard to find the right word. This was the word that came from his gut. It signified the struggle between Good and Evil. On January 29, 2002, Bush announced that: “States like these (Iran, Iraq. N. Korea), and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” Unwittingly, Bush was dragged back to the century’s old world of malediction–cursing one’s enemies.
One of the deep reasons why the West is open-hearted to Israel and hard-hearted towards Palestinians (and increasingly all Arabs) is the pre-eminence of “Israel” in the western, Christian imagination. Let me tell a personal story to illustrate my point. The Diary of Anne Frank has taken its place in the western religious imagination from its publication after the war until the present day. I can remember reading an expurgated version of the diary when I was a teenager. The excruciating drama of her hiding from the Gestapo, and her family’s eventual murder, was cut into my youthful memory. I somehow took on her suffering as my own. In my twenties, I read Holocaust narratives by the likes of Elie Wiesel (Night) who captured the horror of trains carrying Jews to the death-camps, Jews who didn’t know what was in store for them as they shuddered down the rails. I read the works of Jewish theologians who taught me that The Holocaust was the most horrific form of human suffering.
When I gradually made the journey from pietistic evangelicalism to liberation theology, like so many others, I read Gustavo Gutierez’s Liberation Theology text with amazement. There, the Exodus narrative was claimed as a paradigm for the liberation struggles of the oppressed everywhere. The spirituals of Black slaves incorporated Old Testament, Jewish imagery as they longed for “Moses” to lead them to the promised land of freedom, away from Pharaoh’s crushing contempt. “Israel” existed as a powerful metaphor–the Jews appeared to be the paradigm of profound suffering. Those suffering from the depredations of South African apartheid, or sugar plantations or the brutality of Latin American dictatorships–could find comfort in the story of the Exodus.
But I didn’t think about the real state of Israel that was forged through violence and terrorism in the 1940s on the historic land of Palestine. Nor did I pay any attention to what actually happened when the ancient Hebrews ventured into the “promised land”, instructed by their tribal sky-god to eliminate the Amalekites. What happened to them? Didn’t Yahweh tell the Israelites to murder, plunder and rape its inhabitants? When I think about Israel now, and the Diary of Anne Frank, I realize the power of Edward Said’s remark that Israel’s “other”, the Palestinians, have never had permission to possess their own narrative. It is not that Anne Frank’s diary ought not to be read. But the fact that we keep telling, and re-telling this story and its variants, leaves little room for other narratives. It contributes to the idea, I think, that Jewish suffering is unique, different from other forms of suffering, mysterious and resistant to rational understanding.
A diary for our time would, perhaps, be entitled The diary of Asthma al-Mugghayr, a 16-year old Palestinian, an account of what happened to his fellow and sister kids and family and community members in and around Rafah. Scribbling among the ruins, would Asthma write of watching his brother, Ahmad, 13 years-old, shot with a single bullet through his head while taking clothes off the drying line and feeding pigeons? Apparently the shot came from a house nearby, which been taken over by Israeli soldiers shortly before. Would he write by candle late at night, amidst the rubble, about the thirteen year old girl who was shot while she was walking to school? What would this teenage boy think about the Israeli commander who emptied his gun into the school girl?
What would Asthma think about the Occupation–a system of military check-points splitting towns and villages into ghettoes, curfews, closures, raids, mass demolition and destruction of houses and land expropriations? How would he characterize daily life, and the grotesque wall, that, when completed will total 400 miles–four times longer than the Berlin wall. Would Asthma write youthful poetry about being caged or displaced? Would this young man be driven mad? Would he confess to a concealed desire to be a suicide bomber?
Maybe Asthma would keep a record of just how many children have been killed. Two-thirds of hundreds of children killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of the cases to the head, neck and chest–the sniper’s wound. Would these young men wonder why the Palestinians are always terrorists? Would he have taken his own life?
Why is it almost unspeakable to speak of the suffering of the non-Jew in the west? Why is the suffering of Palestinian people of so little concern and interest to the western mind and politicians? One answer surely is that both Christians and Jews share a common mythology: that Yahweh created the world, that the Jews are a chosen people, that they have been promised a land. Christians and Jews obviously differ regarding the significance of Jesus. But those who embrace him become part of the universal “people of God” who will inherit the earth when the redeemer returns to Zion. Islam has no place in the great purposes of God.
But there is something else. The United States and Israel have fused into a single entity in global politics and world history. Both are uniquely chosen to be redeemer nations, a light unto the nations. They have special status in the cosmic story. Israel is the US, and the US is Israel. The early Puritans were the “new Israel” and America was the Promised Land. America has never forsaken its historical sense of specialness before God, to be a redeemer nation. And, as we will now see, Israel’s imagined destiny was not only to be a homeland for dispossessed Jews. It was to be beacon of civilization in savage Arab lands, a light unto the nations.
We cannot understand the current crisis in the Middle East without understanding the religious mythology and historical circumstances underpinning the creation of the Jewish state of Israel. I can only highlight these. All of us, if asked, probably immediately link The Holocaust perpetrated in Germany with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 in historic Palestine. Getting their own state was Europe’s payment for their suffering in the 1930s and 1940s. Now, they will be safe and less subject to anti-Semitic attacks or assaults. Many of us might even assume, without thinking too much about it, that God gave the land to the Jews. The Palestinians are Amalek. If they will not submit to Jewish rule they must, or will be, destroyed. The basis for this is the Old Testament, the shared sacred text of Christians and Jews. One cannot argue with sacred texts! Indeed, in 1971, Golda Meir told Le Monde that Israel existed as “the fulfilment of promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for is legitimacy.”
Yet those of secular mind might want to ask some questions and probe into history deeply. At the dawn of the twentieth century, historians tell us, Europe’s ‘subject peoples’ (Poles, Czechs, Armenians, Serbs) dreamed of forming their own ‘nation-states’. Places where they might live free from fear. These states privileged particular ethnic groups–defined by language, or religion or antiquity. The Zionist movement originated in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. The land of Zion, the ancient homeland (Israel actually existed for only 60 years in the thousands of years of life in historic Palestine) was an exultant space of hope for some Jews. Zionists dreamed of the restored ‘lost fatherland’. This was a powerful dream that turned into hard fact at the end of World War II.
Zionism coincided with the period of European imperialist expansion and acquisition of lands in Africa and Asia. Lands, including lands in Canada, were acquired and occupied in the name of a higher power, God, and a higher civilization. There is something very interesting here for our understanding of Israel and the crisis in the Middle East. Zionist ideologues like Moses Hess and Theodor Herzl (as did all Israeli leaders from Ben-Gurion onward) believed that they had a divine right to occupy the land that was plainly occupied by others. If they were soft on ‘divine right’, they simply accepted that they were going to lands that were empty. Not empty of real live people, but empty of civilization and proper cultivation. In other words, those who colonize, or steal, other peoples’ lands (be they in Africa, Asia or in the Nass River Valley in BC) carry ideas in their heads about their right to do so. They, the colonists, will cultivate the untended gardens and settle the savages in orderly, moral communities.
The Zionist project, Edward Said has argued, participated in the “great dispossessing movement of modern European colonialism, and with them all the schemes for redeeming the land, resettling the natives, civilizing them, taming their savage customs…” The natives are, to put it bluntly, irrelevant to begin with! They are inferior and marginal. Herzl admitted in his diary that “both the expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.” He thought that they had to be spirited across the border and denied employment. They existed, but not as full human beings. These inferior beings could be put on reservations, on compounds, on native homelands. They could be taxed, counted and used profitably. Then, the new society could be built in the vacated space. Thus, ‘empty’ actually means ‘uncivilized’. Now we can understand the slogan of Israelis who saw Palestine as a “land without people, for a people without land.”
Those are Ben-Gurion’s words. In 1937 he had argued that “we must expel the Arabs and take their places. He acknowledged the presence of Arabs on the land, but denied the presence of Palestinians. In her famous statement to The Sunday Times in 1969, then Prime Minister Golda Meir said: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people. It is not as if we came and threw them out and took over their country. They didn’t exist.” During that same year, Zionist leader Menachem Begin told Kibbutz members the importance of denying the existence of Palestinians. “My friend, take care. When you recognize the concept of ‘Palestine’, you demolish your right to live in Kibbutz Ein Haboresh. If this is Palestine and not the land of Israel, then you are conquerors and not tillers of the land. You are invaders. If this is Palestine, then it belongs to a people who lived here before you came.”
But the Palestinians were there, weren’t they? At least 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, and villages were destroyed or pillaged. Israeli propagandists used to push the story that the Palestinians just ran away, saying, “Here, Israel, take our homes, here’s the key, and don’t forget to look after our olive trees.” Contemporary Israeli historians like Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe have dispelled this farcical story. The Israeli armies and terror squads expelled the villagers through terror and massacre. This the Palestinians call the Nakba, “the original sin.” The process of ethnic cleansing began in the mid-1940s and has never ceased. Border raids, massacres, settlements, slaughter of 20,000 in Lebanon, expulsions, demolitions, arrests, torture, and assassinations, chicanery and all the tricks of road maps that never materialize. Israel is a big problem in the modern world. Perhaps even an anachronism.
Zionist strategy has always been to seize the moment when they can take-over all of Palestine. In 1947-8, under cover of conflict, 78% of historic Palestine was transformed into “Israel.” In 1967, Israel seized the opportunity to take-over the remaining 22% of Palestine. Israel justified the 1967 war as self-defence; thus they are blameless; just as they are in the recent disproportionate destruction of civilians in Palestine and Lebanon. Israel is the perpetual victim; the little David facing the Arab Goliath. Israel never initiates; it only responds.
There is little historic or contemporary evidence that the Israeli military, which runs the country and shapes its mental outlook, has a shred of commitment to a Palestinian state. Liberal critics who rail against the “occupation” of the West Bank or the Gaza and the settlements and the capture of Jerusalem are correct, but only from the Palestinian point of view. Israel is doing everything in its power, day after day, minute after minute, and one stone at a time, one olive grove, one goat at a time, to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian state. If it did exist, it would be tiny, fragmented, weak–an act of Palestinian surrender and humiliation.
Don’t we see through Israel and US games? Hamas was elected in democratic elections. US-Israel and the EU have done everything possible, short of utter starvation of the people, to destroy Hamas (and Hezbollah). They keep telling Hamas that they have to lay down their arms, and recognize Israel. But what are Israel’s borders to be recognized? Where are they drawn? Hamas might well agree to return to the 1967 borders with all settlements dismantled. This is just a wicked charade being played out on the international scene, and many fall for it, including Canada’s right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
We in the west have a hard time seeing what is before our eyes. Another logical error, which we see committed all the time, is to talk of the “cycle of violence” in the Middle East. From our vantage point in Canada, we imagine both are to blame, tanks and F-16s on one side, suicide bombers on the other. Aren’t human beings violent creatures–we mutter to ourselves: just an endless cycle of violence. But the Israel/Palestine story is not one of moral equivalence. It is a story of brutal dispossession and oppression of one people by another; it is not simply a sort of Greek tragedy. The idea of a cycle of violence leaves Israel once again not guilty. Everyone is not an innocent victim.
At this point, one can see where the idea of enemies talking it out can be premature. You feel my pain, I will feel yours. If only we could listen. I’ve suffered, you’ve suffered. Let’s talk. But it is not true that Palestinians have not heard the Zionist story. They have heard it ad nauseum and have heard enough about Jewish suffering. Both sides do not need to listen. It is Israelis and Jews who need to listen. There is lots of evidence–from Jewish Israeli commentators–that most Israelis scarcely give two hoots about the sight of a white-scarfed women scrubbing through the rubble of a bombed out building for a trace of her child.
Can you imagine both sides in apartheid sitting down to talk and listen to one another? What form would the suffering of the white perpetrator of apartheid take? That’s the point, isn’t it–there is a perpetrator, there is a victim; there is an oppressor; there are the oppressed.
Funerals, observes the great Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghouti, are an “integral part of the lives of Palestinians wherever they were, in the homeland or in exile, in the days of their calm and the days of their Intifada, in the days of their wars and the days of their peace punctuated by massacres.” Thus, when Yitzhak Rabin spoke so eloquently of Israelis as absolute victims, and the eyes of those in the White House and the whole world grew wet, Barghouti said that he “knew that [he] would forget for a long time his words that day: “ We are victims of war and violence. We have not known a year or month when mothers have not mourned their sons.”
Barghouti says that Rabin “knew how to demand that the world should respect Israeli blood, the blood of every Israeli individual without exception. He knew how to demand that the world should respect Israeli tears, and he was able to present Israel as the victim of a crime perpetrated by us. He changed facts, he altered the order of things, he presented us as the initiators of violence in the Middle East and said what he said with eloquence, with clarity and conviction.”
Rabin told his story of soldiers returning from war, covered in blood, and funerals where those in attendance could not look into the eyes of grieving mothers. In a remarkable passage in the brilliant book, I saw Ramallah, Barghouti argues compellingly that it is “easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start your story from “Secondly.” Yes, this is what Rabin did. He simply neglected to speak of what happened first. Start your story with “Secondly,” and the world will be turned upside-down. Start your story with “Secondly”, and the arrows of the Red Indians are the original criminals and the guns of the white men are entirely the victim….You only need to start your story with “Secondly”, and the burned Vietnamese will have wounded the humanity of the napalm, and Victor Jara’s songs will be the shameful thing and not Pinochet’s bullets, which killed so many thousands in the Santiago stadium. It is enough to start the story with “Secondly”, for my grandmother, Umm ‘Ata, to become the criminal and Ariel Sharon her victim” (pp. 177-78).
Zionism has been a beautiful dream for many Jews. But Zionism from the ‘standpoint of the victim’ is not a pretty picture. My conclusions may be troubling and disconcerting. But I think that the cause of global justice and world peace, and particularly peace in the Middle East, demands that we understand that the state of Israel is at the crossroads. Israel, the first modern ‘democracy’ to conduct full-scale ethnic cleansing as a state project, can continue towards an “ethnically cleansed” Greater Israel, or transform into a single, integrated, bi-national, multicultural state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. In my view, the ferocity unleashed in Lebanon and the Gaza—laying sieges, causing electricity blackouts, bombing and shelling, assassinating and imprisoning, killing and wounding children and babies—can only be comprehended in terms of the Zionist project to eradicate any opposition to their goal of total domination in historic Palestine and the surrounding Middle East. Hezbollah was being taught the Zionist’s elementary lesson: we have the right to abduct, you do not.
Israel is an anachronism in our increasingly cosmopolitan world order in that Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privilege from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded. This is a “separatist project” in a world of individual rights, open frontiers and international law. Thus, in the Jewish state, one community, the Jews, is set above others, in an age when that sort of state has no place.
The wall being erected between Israel and Palestinian occupied territories is a symbol of the moral and institutional bankruptcy of the regime it is intended to protect. You cannot build pathways towards others if you believe they are inferior beings, or that you, and not they, are superior, chosen ones, with your suffering privileged above and beyond everyone else’s. Israel’s actions in the world towards and against the Palestinians—curfews, check points, bulldozers, public humiliations, home demolition, land seizures, shootings, targeted assassinations, and the separatist fence—indicate a state that appears to have lost is moral centre, and is possibly facing its own Nakba.
I believe that the United States’ unconditional support for Israel, and the adoption of an Israeli approach to foreign policy, is undermining the hopes and possibilities for peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The US’s catastrophic loss of international political influence and the degradation of its moral image has much to do with their bizarre approval of, and financial support for, Israel’s actions in the Middle East. Israel embraced the “war on terror” when the smoke was still rising from the Towers, immediately identifying the Palestinians as “terrorists” who had to be eliminated. Thus, Israel’s wars, now and in the past, are always presented to the world as wars of necessity, of self-defence.
The compelling question before Israel and the rest of the world is simply this: will Israel reinvent itself and dissolve the exhausted Zionist political project in favour of building a truly bi-national state in historic Palestine for everyone? We have reached a moral crossroads. In the new Middle East defined by the US, only Israel and the US may dominate, only they may be strong, only they may be secure. But in the just world that lies on the other side of the crossroads, this is unacceptable.
Dr. Michael Welton is a professor at the University of Athabasca. He is the author of Designing the Just Learning Society: a Critical Inquiry.
Spain has held the Tel Aviv regime accountable for the death of a Spanish peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) during an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement.
“It was because of this escalation of violence, and it came from the Israeli side,” Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi told reporters in New York on Wednesday.
Marchesi further noted that his country demands full investigation into the killing.
The Spanish defense ministry said in a statement that 36-year-old Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo “died this [Wednesday] morning during incidents between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the area of responsibility of the Spanish contingent.”
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expressed on Twitter his “great sadness at the death of a Spanish soldier in Lebanon.”
The Security Council also condemned the peacekeeper’s death in its strongest terms, and extended its sincere sympathies.
See also :
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has blamed Hezbollah for the death of a Spanish UN peacekeeper killed in retaliatory Israeli mortar fire in southern Lebanon on Wednesday.
After a series of cross-border strikes that left two IDF soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) dead on Wednesday, Lieberman called Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo to express his condolences.
He also claimed that the Lebanese government was responsible for any attacks that come from its territory.
Lieberman called on Israel to respond to the attack in a “forceful and disproportionate manner.”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that Israel could retaliate harshly.
“To those who are challenging us in the north, I suggest you look at what happened in the Gaza Strip,” he said. … Full article
Israel hit Lebanon with a number of rockets after an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) convoy near the Lebanon border on Wednesday.
The Israeli army said on its Twitter feed that an “initial reports indicate a military vehicle was hit, apparently by an anti-tank missile in the area of Har Dov,” using Israel’s term for the Shebaa Farms which is also close to the ceasefire line with Syria.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement claimed the attack.
“At 11:25 (0925 GMT) this morning, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel
Al-Manar said nine Israeli vehicles were targeted in the attack. Al-Mayadeen news channel’s Director Ghassan Ben Jeddo, said at least 15 Israeli soldiers have been killed.
There were conflicting reports on whether an Israeli soldier was abducted during the attack. Al-Akhbar English could not independently confirm the information at this time.
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometers (10 square miles). It has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
An Israeli security source, meanwhile, said a number of people were wounded in the incident after their vehicles came under “very heavy fire at close range,” saying the incident was still ongoing.
He said it was not clear whether the vehicles had been hit by an anti-tank missile, a rocket or a mortar, but said Israeli forces had returned fire, hitting targets across the border.
Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post said the Israeli army fired at the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Shouba.
Two sources told AFP that more than a dozen shells had been fired on Lebanese border villages and that Israeli warplanes were flying over the area.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the Lebanese-Israeli border, reported that one of its soldiers, a Spanish citizen, was killed after sustaining serious wounds by Israeli shelling in the border village of Abbasieh.
“At least 15 shells have been fired against five villages in the south,” one security source said, adding that the village of Majidiyeh was hardest hit.
Another security source said the Israeli army was firing a new shell into the area about every two minutes, and was also firing artillery.
The Lebanese army is deployed in all five villages that were shelled, but it was unclear whether Hezbollah had a presence there.
Al-Mayadeen said the Israeli strikes were ongoing.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that mortar shells had hit the village of Ghajar, which straddles the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Images broadcast from the scene showed large plumes of white smoke billowing across the area and police sealed off several roads close to the border in northern Israel.
Commenting on the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to act “with force” following the border attack.
Referring to the bloody Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip this summer, Netanyahu added: “I suggest that all those who are challenging us on our northern border, look at what happened in Gaza, not far from the city of Sderot.”
“Hamas suffered the most serious blow since it was founded this past summer and the [IOF] is prepared to act on every front.”
Retaliation for Israeli attacks in Syria
The attack came hours after Israeli aircraft struck alleged Syrian army artillery positions early on Wednesday, and one day after rockets were launched at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
On January 18, an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
The Hezbollah brigade which carried out the attack, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance, was named in reference to the deadly strike in Quneitra, indicating that Wednesday’s attack was in retaliation for the killing of its members.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had previously warned Israel against any “stupid” moves in Lebanon and Syria, vowing to retaliate and make sure Israel pays the price for any aggression against the neighboring countries.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis,” Nasrallah said in reference to Syria, Iran and his government, who are sworn enemies of Israel.
“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he said, adding the “axis is capable of responding” anytime.
Since the airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border.
The last Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Nasrallah is expected to deliver a speech on January 30 regarding the Israeli strikes.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)
At least two rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, prompting Israeli forces to return fire, the Israeli army said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Israeli side.
Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner claimed in a text message to AFP that the Syrian fire was “intentional, not spillover from the Syrian civil war,” as has sometimes been the case in the past.
A source from within the Syrian foreign ministry told Al-Akhbar English that the rockets were not fired by the army, claiming that they had been launched from rebel-held areas.
In September, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) fired at a Syrian military position after what it said was stray fire from fighting between soldiers and Islamist rebels close to the armistice line on the Golan.
There has been repeated fire across the ceasefire line since the uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011, not all of it stray.
In August, five rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights and, in July, Israel shelled Syrian army positions when a rocket struck territory it occupies.
Tensions have soared along the ceasefire line since a January 18 an Israeli airstrike killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general near Quneitra on the Syrian-held side of the strategic plateau.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday that Israel was prepared for any retaliation by Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement.
“Israel will hold responsible governments, regimes and organizations on the other side of our northern borders over any violation of Israel’s sovereignty, or an attack on soldiers or civilians,” he said during a tour of the Golan and the nearby border with Lebanon.
Nasrallah said in an interview with Al-Mayadeen last week that Israeli airstrikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis,” in reference to Syria, Iran and Lebanon.
“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he said, adding the “axis is capable of responding” anytime.
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the north, where local media say it is amassing tanks and infantry reinforcements.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Syria and Israel are still officially in a state of war.
Observers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) confirmed in a report published in December documenting cooperation and coordination between the Israeli army and militant groups in Syria.
The report revealed ongoing communication between armed groups’ leaders and Israeli army officers.
Showing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.
Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”
The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.
In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.
Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.
Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.
Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.
Favoring Sunni Extremists
Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.
In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s new-found alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.
Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.
That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.
What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.
But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.
The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”
Working with Putin
Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.
So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]
Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.
He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.
“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”
Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”
At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).
But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.
The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.
“American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”
Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.
Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
So after “headlining” that anti-terrorism joke of a parade last week and basking in the Parisian sun of selective humanitarianism and international solidarity with freedom of speech; the first order of (shoddy) business for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was lambasting the International Criminal Court, for merely entertaining the (anti-Semitic?) notion of investigating “possible” Israeli war crimes in Gaza (how dare they?), going as far as threatening to lobby member-states and allies to cut off funding for the tribunal and practically pull a repeat of the UNESCO farce when the Obama Administration, at the behest and for the benefit of its darling Israel, froze funding for the cultural organization, after granting the Palestinians full membership into the agency, plunging the UN body into the worst financial dire strait in its history.
It is more than likely that Netanyahu will get his way this time too.
The second order of business, however, was sending a military helicopter gunship over to Syrian territory and bombing a convoy belonging to the Lebanese Resistance Movement Hezbollah, killing six operatives including the son of assassinated leader Imad Mughnyyieh and field commander Mohammad Issa in addition to one Iranian General, in the Syrian village of Quneitra close to the border area with Lebanon in the Golan heights.
Business as usual for humanitarian extraordinaire Bibi and Co.
Of course this was no terrorist attack, at least not according to the mainstream media; so you won’t be seeing #jesuishizbollah anywhere on social media and no solidarity marches in real life, just another daily recount of internationally tolerable Israeli shenanigans in the region.
Evidently, unless it involves scraggy young men with weird, unpronounceable Middle Eastern names, wearing Keffiyehs, wielding shabby Kalashnikovs and storming the streets of a western city then it’s not terrorism, and in the case of the latest Israel airstrike in the Syrian Golan heights; it was just a military operation, clean and surgical, according to the BBC at least; not forgetting of course to tail the news with the little tidbit that this is not the first time Israel has conducted air strikes inside Syria, to “prevent the transfer of stockpiles of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah”. So, all should be fine and dandy then.
You see it’s completely acceptable for the BBC to venture justifications on behalf of the Israeli army for its various terrorist operations and transgressions in the region, we’ve seen it before in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon; covering Israeli crimes in the complacent mainstream media usually comes with peppered excuses and rationalizations that supposedly give some sort of subtle credence to any act of aggression committed by the Zionist entity, wrapping it with the usual, tattered caveat of “self-defense”; the AP’s report on the latest attack, for instance, highlighted the fact that Hezbollah had recently boasted of its “ability to hit any part of the Jewish state” with rockets, in reference to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent interview. Imagine the outrage!
Whereas if one so much as dared to attempt a mildly rational and lucid reading of the Charlie Hebdo massacre; he’d be immediately castigated at best and lumped into the same category as the Kouachi brothers as an Al Qaida sympathizer at worst; that’s the freedom of speech they were marching for in Paris I guess.
Speaking of Al Qaida; do you know who were rubbing their hands with ecstatic glee over the Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah? None other than Al Qaida’s very own Al Nusra Front (or the moderate Syrian opposition force worthy of caches of weapons and funding, according to the west) and other rag-tag, ideologically like-minded militant groups whose evident ironclad alliance with Israel has transcended the widely reported medical assistance and treatment of the injured in Israeli hospitals into providing direct military backing and air cover when needed especially in areas where the Syrian opposition’s tenuous grab is slipping in favor of the Syrian Army along with Hezbollah forces. Areas such as Al Quneitra.
In a sense this latest Israeli attack against a Hezbollah target in Syria serves as a perfect cliff note for the uninitiated to disentangle this seemingly complicated cobweb of alliances in the Syrian war. On the one side you have the Syrian Government of Bashar Al Assad backed by Hezbollah and Iran, while on the other you have a who’s who of the region’s nastiest terrorists; from the mismatched posses of Islamic extremists fighting under the Islamic Army moniker, to ISIS and Al Nusra Front, backed by the deep-pocketed Gulf monarchies along with Erdogan’s Turkey and the U.S., with Netanyahu’s Israel added to the mix for good measure. Talk about a true rogues gallery.
A cursory glance over GCC media and social networks is more than enough to note a certain air of unabashed exuberance over the Israeli airstrike; Syrian “revolutionaries” along with their GCC sponsors could not contain their jubilation as soon as news of the bombing broke; gloating over the assassination and mocking Hezbollah’s rhetoric of vowing vengeance for its slain operatives “at the time and place of its choosing”.
The rotten logic of the “lesser of two evils”, in reference to the Zionist regime, has become such a stable in the armory of the anti-Hezbollah/anti-Iran crowd in the Arab World, invoked every time the Israeli terrorist army commits a new atrocity to soften the impact of its crimes and desensitize the public to Israel’s parasitic existence on Arab lands. And this time was no different; with many reveling in the claim that Hezbollah “had it coming” for backing the government of Bashar Al Assad.
In an article confessedly titled “How Did We End up Applauding for Israel”, published in the Saudi-financed, crude Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which by the way, itself exhibited an unmistakable celebratory tone while covering the latest Israel strike especially over the slain Iranian General, Saudi writer Abdel Rahman al-Rashed actually “laments” the fact that there are growing cheerleading voices in the Arab world for Israel and that (some) Arabs have become increasingly more vocal in their support for the Zionist entity just out of sheer “spite” for Hezbollah and Iran, especially on social media websites and even among supporters of Islamic Jihadi groups.
Nonetheless, al-Rashed places the brunt of the blame on… yes you guessed it… Hezbollah, Israel’s arch enemy, for ostensibly transforming poor, gullible Arabs en masse into hordes of hardcore Israel-enthusiasts, through its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri (according to a sham international tribunal anyway), and the Lebanese party’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war. Talk about connecting all the wrong dots.
Never mind that the Lebanese movement has been the subject of an unrelenting smear campaign steeped in vile sectarianism, all manner of character assassination and outright fabrications targeting its leaders, and discrediting its military achievements against Israel ever since 2005, courtesy of Saudi Arabia along with the rest of the GCC club (aka Al Rashed’s sole meal tickets) and their labyrinthine network of media outlets including Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper where anti-Shiite sentiments run amok and distinct pro-Israel bias reigns supreme.
Never mind the fact that the Arab public has been bombarded with a nonstop barrage of demonization and vilification sprees directed not only at Hezbollah, but also at any movement, party or political group which just so happens to adopt an anti-Israel stance and/or rhetoric, including the Palestinian movements of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, only with the sole endgame of reshuffling the public’s priorities to accommodate the West’s political agenda in our region where Israel gets to sit snugly and comfortably in our midst all the while Iran is being touted and over-hyped as the biggest threat to the stability of the Arab world.
It’s true; we do applaud for Israel. Its transgressions and air strikes on Arab soil no longer provoke a sense of outrage or even the merest of condemnations, but we only have the GCC to thank for that.