Odeh Bisharat, one of Haaretz’s few Israeli-Palestinian columnists (Sayeh Kashua is another), published an incisive article on what he calls “the end of the road” for Zionism. But the first paragraph, which comprised a quotation from David Ben Gurion (the full archival passage in Hebrew is here), really opened my eyes. At the first meeting of the Haganah military command after statehood was declared on May 15, 1948, he told the assembled leadership his strategic goals for the coming war. This grandiose vision dispels a long-standing claim by proponents of the Israel-as-victim view, who argue that Israel’s enemies have commenced all the wars against it and that the “Jewish state” has only acted in self-defense:
“We must immediately destroy Ramle and Lod. … We must organize Eliyahu’s brigade to direct it against Jenin in preparation for [conquering] the Jordan Valley. … Maklef needs to receive reinforcements and his role is the conquest of southern Lebanon, through bombing-support against Tyre, Sidon and Beirut. … Yigal Allon must strike Syria from the east and from the north. … We must establish a Christian state whose southern border will be the Litani [River]. We will forge an alliance with it. When we break the strength of the [Jordanian] Legion and bomb Amman we will eliminate Transjordan too, and then Syria falls. And if Egypt still dares to fight, we will bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo.
… That is how we will end the war – and make a reckoning on our forefathers behalf with Egypt, Assyria and Aramea.”
Pro-Israel advocates will chalk this up to the braggadocio of a national leader preparing the troops for battle. He offers them a vision full of victories and maximalist territorial gain. It cheers them for the difficult battle ahead. Defenders may argue that Ben Gurion had to have been realistic enough to know that the new state had little chance of achieving such objectives.
But in my reading of Ben Gurion, there are two separate personalities: one of the pragmatist who accepts half a loaf instead of the whole; the other the ambitious politico-military strategist harboring imperial visions of Israel’s future (including the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian inhabitants of the new state). But even the pragmatist is only pragmatic in the moment. Ben Gurion makes clear that his pragmatism is only temporary until Israel is in a position to realize its maximalist goals.
The irony here is that it is Israeli advocates who continually claim that conspiring Palestinian militants only accept Israel on an interim basis until they are powerful enough to eradicate it. Therefore, Israel may never trust such enemies and never make peace with them; because a knife in the back is the only future Israel can expect from them. We can see that it is Israel that the Arab states had reason to distrust.
Another bitter irony is the claim by Israel and anti-Iran forces in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Iran has a nefarious plan to spread Shia hegemony throughout the Middle East to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf region. In truth, Ben Gurion shows that Iran is a piker by comparison. He envisioned a Greater Israel not just from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean), but a Davidic imperium spreading its influence from Syria to Egypt. Even those Arab states Israel permitted to remain would be little more than vassals of this new regional Goliath.
Just think how Ben Gurion’s successors implemented most of the strategic vision he proclaimed that day: a Christian state in southern Lebanon; the fall of Syria; Israeli bombardment of Arab capitals in Beirut, Damascus and elsewhere. The only elements of his plan that were unrealized (conquest of Jordan and the pacification of Egypt) weren’t necessary because both states sued for peace.
Today’s radical settlers, with their considerably ‘pared-down’ vision of a pure, racialist Judean state, rid of Palestinians, from the Jordan to the sea are inheritors of Ben Gurion’s legacy.
Bisharat quotes another telling statement from a pre-State Zionist leader who could be describing current Israeli strategy of sabotaging peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This was written in 1937:
“It turns out that we have put out our hand for peace, but took it back right away, when the other side expressed its interest in accepting it. This dangerous game did not help to raise our honor in their eyes as honest people, and the accusation that they blame us for, that we are conducting two-faced politics: On one hand we pretend as if we are asking for an agreement, and on the other hand we only want to gain time – is not baseless.”
This clearly explains Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech of 2009 in which he pretends to embrace a two-state solution (under severe pressure from the Bush administration to do so). The few times since when the Israeli leader has trotted out his affirmation of a two-state solution were times when he was under great duress and had to throw a sop to foreign interlocutors like the Obama administration. Clearly, Bibi’s heart is not in it, nor does he believe it.
Casuistry, which one dictionary defines as “specious, deceptive, or oversubtle reasoning, especially in questions of morality” is, rightly or wrongly, inextricably linked to the history of Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. And the rise of the Jesuit order is deeply enmeshed with the Counter-Reformation, a set of measures designed to roll back the spread of Protestantism in Europe during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The control center of the movement was Spain, the world-striding superpower of that historical moment.
Rightfully fearful that Protestantism’s rejection of long-standing modes of clerical privilege and the Church’s “right” to collect vast sums of money from parishioners would undermine their ability to bully and bribe Italian, French, Dutch and German potentates into compliance with their political demands, the Spanish Monarchy undertook an endless series of military adventures against “heretics” across the Continent in the years between 1530 and 1648. This military thrust was accompanied by a well-organized propaganda campaign in which the highly educated Jesuits priests played a crucial role.
Appearing morally and intellectually reasonable while serving as a convinced advocate for the systematic subjugation of other people and their animating ideals is not a simple task. In the long run it is, in fact, an impossible one. No amount of argument can convince a person or group of persons who see them selves as suffering under the boot of another that their bondage is a good and necessary thing. What such a rhetorical posture can do, for a time at least, is convince the subjects of the hegemonic country of, if not the inherent nobility of their bloody mission, its generally benign nature.
A key, if generally unstated, goal of the 16th and 17th century Jesuits was to insure that the highly problematic matter of Rome’s corruption, and the brutal Imperial designs of the Spanish monarchy that lay behind it, never be allowed to occupy the center zone of what then passed for “public” discourse.
When confronted by the emergent Protestant movements about the clear violations of Christian morality practiced by the Church of Rome, they responded with complex disquisitions on the largely circumstantial nature of all moral reasoning. By constantly parsing the intricacies of how overarching moral rules should, or should not, be applied in each particular circumstance (and teaching others to do the same), they very effectively prevented the emergence within the Church, and by extension in the leadership class of the Spanish Empire, of a frank discussion of the quite real and deeply-felt grievances of their many enemies.
I am reminded of all this when I read or watch the news after every so-called “terrorist” attack against a US or European target. Within minutes of the violence, mainstream journalists, begin intense speculation about what particular ethnic group the assailant came from, how he or she became “radicalized” (as if the desire to kill was akin to some sort of contagious moral flu) and whether the “West’s” latest stand-in for PURE EVIL™ (e.g. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL) was behind the act.
What will almost never be talked about are the many very good reasons a person from the vast region stretching from Morrocco in the west, to Pakistan in the east, have to be very angry at, and to feel highly vengeful toward, the US, its strategic puppeteer Israel, and their slavishly loyal European compadres like France, Germany and Great Britain.
There is never any talk of that group of august “democracies” long-standing penchant for implanting, then staunchly supporting, ruthless and deeply corrupt regimes in that region.
No talk of the very long Algerian experience of French colonialism, nor the US and French- backed coup of that country’s government in 1992 which led to a civil war that left 200,000 people dead.
No talk of the coup against the legally elected president of Egypt in 2013, nor the cold-blooded massacres carried out by his US-backed successor upon hundreds of that same president’s followers.
No talk of the decision of the US to back elements of ISIS in order to cynically extend a Syrian Civil War that was on its way to peace—albeit an imperfect one—by means of a Syrian government victory by late 2013.
No talk of the planned destruction of Libya in 2011 and its enormous effects on the stability of life in that once wealthy country as well as all of northern Africa.
No talk of the US-Israeli nullification of the results of the Palestinian elections of 2006, Israel’s coldly planned siege of Gaza nor the “shoot-fish-in-a barrel” assaults on that benighted enclave by Israel in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014.
No talk of the ongoing Saudi—and therefore US-approved—war on Yemen, nor the ruthless Saudi march on Bahrain in 2011 in which several dozen people died and thousands of democracy activists were tortured and/or carted off to prison.
No talk of the 18-year Israeli—and therefore, US-backed—occupation of Southern Lebanon nor Israel’s 1993, 1996 and 2006 assaults upon that same country.
Oops, I almost forgot. There is no talk of the small matter the calculated US destruction of Iraq, pre-invasion Libya’s rival as the Arab world’s most wealthy and socially progressive state.
But hey, why talk about all that off-putting stuff when you can boil it all down to neat tales of personal ideological contamination, Svengali-like recruiters lurking in mosques, and that old standby, the development of an urgent need to bang virgins in the hereafter.
It seems the media believes that the delicate imperial mind must be left free from understanding the effects of the actions for which it regularly cheers and prays.
The best way to insure this? Casuistry, as the old saying goes, “Pure casuistry”.
Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.
Tel Hara, on the Golan Plain, Syria – The likely next American President, Hilary Clinton is fielding an array of foreign policy advisers, a few being sort of table scraps from the Bush administration and others having resigned from Obama’s. They are today preparing white papers on all manner of “adjustments” to what the presumed 45th American President reportedly believes was a weak and wrongheaded Obama Middle East policy, particularly with respect to the Syrian crisis and Hezbollah.
This according to sources at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Judicial Council on which this observer served representing his State of Oregon many moons ago. One staffer reports that the Neocon-Zionist lobby has a Middle East Policy deal with the Clinton campaign as a linchpin of her pledge to “eternally cover Israel’s back.” The Clinton camp, which appears to be gaining adherents within the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon, believes that the Obama administration’s policy toward Russia and Syria is badly flawed partly because, so they claim, Obama wrongly assumes that Russia wants to limit its involvement in Syria. Clinton advisers claim that, on the contrary, Putin’s key objectives include demonstrating that Russia is winning in Syria, that the US has become a paper tiger in the region, and that the Arab states best follow Russia’s lead as it dramatically returns to the region a la the former USSR.
To set the stage for the her administration, some would-be Clinton advisers such as WINEP’s Dennis Ross, are counseling that she must increase political pressure now, as the clock runs out on the Obama administration, to dramatically beef up what they view as Obama’s weak “truce agreement” between Washington and Moscow. This as former Defense Secretary and Clinton adviser, Leon Panetta, is advocating that the next president increase US Special Forces in Syria and launch air strikes to shore up “moderates” fighting the Syrian government. Others are urging that after Clinton is sworn-in the US must pounce on all “truce violations” with drones and cruise missiles and target Syrian airbases and artillery positions, while simultaneously setting up safe areas for civilians, and if deemed necessary, no-fly zones.
Still others, including a dissenting internal memo last month signed by 51 State Department diplomats advocated attacks on Syrian government forces especially Hezbollah to end aggression against the country’s civilian population, to alter the military balance and bring about a negotiated political settlement. As Clinton’s Syrian policy is being formed, details will likely be kept out of the Presidential campaign, at least from her side, so as not to alienate the crucial Obama camp before November 8th.
There is reportedly one aspect of Clinton’s Middle East policy that has been detailed and is ready for implementation following her inauguration once details are coordinated with Israel, NATO and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is being advocated by AIPAC on Capitol Hill and among Clinton operatives at the DNC and details how the Clinton administration “must destroy Hezbollah and cut off Tehran’s anti-Arab, anti-Sunni and anti- Christian hegemonic lifeline for its rapidly escalating domination of the Middle East.”
Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy shift reportedly will focus on the complete destruction of Hezbollah. Rather than merely containment as Obama insists at meetings of his National Security Council. John Kerry, a rumored Clinton cabinet member refers to Hezbollah solely as “Iran’s Basij in Lebanon/Syria/Iraq/Yemen/Bahrain and you name it.” History may soon record whether the Clinton administration, breaking sharply with the Obama administration, is able to “reshape the region” as Israel’s Netanyahu is squeezing her to do, and destroy Hezbollah, and if necessary, Iran’s IRGC-Al Quds Force. The latter, according to Clinton’s advisers and US allies are active in all the countries on Kerry’s list and far beyond.
Destroying or severely crippling Hezbollah is also being advocated as a cheap throw-away ‘crowd-pleaser’ for the incoming Clinton administration, both in Congress where both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, would very likely applaud attacks on Hezbollah as part of a rejuvenated “manned-up” and expanding US-led War on Terrorism. The Israel lobby is expressing confidence on Capitol Hill that relentlessly targeting Hezbollah militarily and economically will please and embolden Washington’s friends who remain chagrined by Obama’s containment policy in Syria while this needed policy shift will be discomfiting to US adversaries. It is also being argued that the six GCC monarchies will welcome tough Clinton administration action and can be expected to redouble their funding to shore up the Syrian opposition while at the same time the Clinton administration will also demonstrate US resolve to renew Washington’s commitment to holding Hezbollah accountable for its claimed terrorism. All the above it is claimed would hasten an end to the war here in Syria and make a political settlement more likely.
One “emeritus” Clinton adviser is Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief. Recently Yadlin has been arguing that Israel and the US need to intervene in Syria more actively with a policy, that leads to the defeat of the “our most bitter enemies: “Iran and Hezbollah.” Yadlin makes no secret of the fact that Israel will destroy Hezbollah ‘next time’ in Lebanon and that only the approaching date will not be revealed in advance.
Clinton supports the Hizbullah International Financing Prevention Act, signed by Obama this past April. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, (OFAC) issued regulations aimed at implementing act. The latest U.S. regulations target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah and those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions of a person identified on the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN’s) and Blocked persons.” OFAC’s list includes names of officials, businessmen and institutions that the U.S. says are linked to Hezbollah such as the group’s al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio. Clinton advisers argue that even more has to be done targeting Hezbollah.
Several hundred pages of ‘selling points’ circulating Capitol Hill and among EU countries are designed to build “an unshakable global commitment to destroy Hezbollah” according to one staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also being distributed on Capitol Hill are “research papers” from a Iranian opposition group called Naame Shaam. One is titled “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force.” The 200-page report analyzes various aspects of the military, political and economic role played by Hezbollah and Iran since March 2011, following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.
An Israeli Embassy brief targeting Hezbollah includes the following excerpt on the subject of claimed Hezbollah crimes against humanity and urges the US and the EU to intensify sanctions: “Contrary to claims by Hezbollah’s Sec-General Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khameini, Hezbollah entered Syria in large numbers by April 2011 and started sniping at demonstrators and Syrian army soldiers who refused to shoot children. A July 2012 video taken by Hezbollah and published in July 2011 shows heavily armed Hezbollah fighters and a number of tanks in Horan near Deraa, the city where the uprising started. A report in January of 1212 by The Times, documented large numbers of Hezbollah and Iranian snipers were deployed “to shoot anti-regime protesters.” These reports were confirmed by scores of Deraa residents who have confirmed more than 200 eyewitness reports that Iran deployed Hezbollah fighters “to stand behind Syrian troops and kill Syrian soldiers immediately, if they refused to open fire on demonstrators.” Local residents have confirmed these reports as have some of the more three dozen Iranian and Hezbollah snipers who participated. Three months after the start of the March 2011 civilian protests, the first clashes were reported in June 2011 in al-Qusayr, in the countryside of Homs. By May 2012 Hezbollah, overran 10 of the 23 (Syria-Lebanon) border villages and established fortified bases exclusively for its use, at time expelling Syrian army troops in “their” area which led to the Syrian army killing of three Al Manar journalists at Ma’loula.”
The document, which includes satellite photos, continues, “Nasrallah explained to Lebanese media that ‘Hezbollah did not tell them what to do and this has nothing to do with the fighting in Syria. He omitted to mention that historically this area has been the main route for Iranian arms entering Lebanon and is located near Hezbollah arms depots in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.”
Another handout reads: “From the spring of 2011 until today, the Hezbollah’s siege, starving and slaughter of innocent women and children across Syria has continued to intensify despite, until recently, denial after denial. Hezbollah crimes have been extensively documented in an undisclosed European country by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established on 22 August 2011 by the Human Rights Council through resolution S-17/1 adopted at its 17th special session with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic. Also gathering and documenting hundreds of cases of individuals committing crimes against humanity is the Commission for International Justice and Accountability.”
As the intense anti-Hezbollah campaign gets organized in Washington, Israel reportedly considers itself the winner to date in Syria, and expects to have much more influence and a green-light to destroy Hezbollah in a Clinton administration than was the case with Obama’s. Tel Aviv has to date been content to bide its time and simply deter Hezbollah in southern Syria/Lebanon and along the Golan Plain while recently occupying another roughly 20 by 12 miles strip of Syria territory. This latest land confiscation was done with impunity as UNDOF observers watched with binoculars. One reason UNDOF was impotent during the Israeli land grab was that a majority of them had relocated from the Syrian side to the Israeli side of the Golan ceasefire line in September 2014. UNDOF will not return until the Syrian war ends, if then.
Israel has made clear via its new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that Israel will not return one centimeter of its recently occupied Syrian territory “until we sign a peace agreement with the new government of Syria. All Muslims must know that we Israelis are their friends and that we are on the right side of this Syrian war.”
Meanwhile Israel has an understanding with various rebel groups in Southern Syria including the newly re-named Jabhat al Nusra (The Front for the Defense of the Syrian People) now calling itself – Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant), giving food and medical treatment to anyone asking for assistance within its new zone. Israel is also reportedly recruiting ‘operatives’ from southern Syria militia around Quneitra, the largely destroyed and abandoned capital of the Quneitra Governorate. Similar recruitment from the local population to what its army undertook during its 22-year occupation of South Lebanon before it was liberated by Hezbollah. Israel is reportedly paying up to $1000 per month, “salaries”, (compared to the average monthly salary in Syria these days of approximately of $100). Israel offers even more for “special services” targeting Hezbollah. Israel is in the process of occupying, in one way or another, parts of southern Syria. And one can feel it in the air.
Whatever success the Clinton team will have with its goal of destroying Hezbollah and however one evaluates Obama’s policy, this region appears headed for yet more prolonged violence and many more deaths of innocent civilians.
Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).
Elizabeth Richard, 65, seems interested to operate in Lebanon, where she commenced her missions last week. And she, according to the video introducing her at the US embassy, is “interested to get introduced to Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage (in the video’s background, there are scenes showing the cedars, the Bay Rock and women stuffing vine leaves, edited in a bad and unrefined manner.) The new American ambassador, who visited the “land of cedars” in 2007 under an American initiative to train Internal Security Forces and arm them, seems assertive in her first message to the Lebanese people: “As Lebanon works to save its security and build the strong government’s institutions (…) the American people will stay by your side.” It was a nice diplomatic speech that covers unplanned intentions of the new ambassador, especially regarding her concept of “saving security” and “the state’s strong institutions.” Richard was clearer in her attestation at the congress after she was nominated for the post months ago. Thereat, the specialized in law announced her actual agenda, classifying the “main” problems in Lebanon; all what the Lebanese are suffering from currently in economics, security and politics is because of one single thing: the resistance.
In economics, Richard uncovered a magic equation to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, saying: “our target is to dismantle Hezbollah’s international financial network and help the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people, which will contribute directly to activating the economic prosperity in Lebanon.” How would targeting the international funding for resistance lead to refreshing the country’s economy?! Richard didn’t explain this in her testimony; she was not asked to do so in her country, neither the Lebanese government, nor diplomats moved to hold accountable a diplomat who publicly announced that she is going to work from inside Lebanon to fight one of the Lebanese parties that is represented in the parliament and participating in the government! Nobody even dared to demand explanation of the ambassador’s words. Richard, as if she is holding everything in her hands, with the old American unashamed boldness, said she will work hard “not to let Hezbollah break through the Lebanese banking sector” because this is “the interest of Lebanon and the United States.” The new ambassador raised her wand in front of the Lebanese state before she arrived at the host country, yet none of the officials’ sovereignty was touched.
On the security level, Richard had her own philosophy as well. Of course, “Israel” was absent from her speech regarding the security threats Lebanon is subject to, yet ISIL and al-Nusra threats were present. However, the ambassador seems assured in threatening the two organizations that were brought by al-Qaeda. She is convinced that “partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Security Forces, through the generous Congress support, played a decisive role in saving Lebanon’s security facing such threats.” Therefore, there is no fear on the Lebanese people from ISIL and al-Nusra, so what is the first threat Lebanon is subject to according to Richard? The answer is: Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s activities in Syria create serious security threats in Lebanon,” the ambassador said as she vowed to support the Lebanese army since it is “the only legitimate protector of Lebanon.”
The third “main problem” the Lebanese are suffering from, as Richard identified, is the political void and decrying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, which she will also work on solving, this time in cooperation with “the voices calling for moderation and progress.” Against whom? Against “Hezbollah that is still interfering in Syria without the Lebanese consent,” Richard explains. The new ambassador’s swaggering made her talk on behalf of the Lebanese people, without the need to use numeric evidences, even if fabricated, to verify her announcement on the Lebanese people’s accepting or rejecting Hezbollah’s interference in Syria. The conclusion, as Richard informed the congressmen: Hezbollah went to Syria despite the will of most of the Lebanese, which decries Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Usually, western diplomats complain that they couldn’t understand the happenings in Lebanon, and complain about its complicated social structure, economic system and political scene. However, it seems that Elizabeth Richard doesn’t suffer from any of this. Her vision is clear, and so is her single goal: to target the Lebanese resistance through its party, people and money using every possible means.
In her latest post before being appointed to custodianship on the Lebanese people, Richard was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In her testimony at the congress in July 2015, she boasted the State Department’s achievements; counting the projects she supervised, such as: the initiative to qualify and develop industrial cities, creating job opportunities, activating exportation in Egypt, Jordan and “Israel”, the General Motors agreement to provide Egypt with huge amounts of electric energy, qualifying the railways in Algeria, buying tons of Iraqi rice, encouraging investments in the Gulf countries, supporting the youth initiatives and medical cooperation with “Israel” and the Arab Emirates… Most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries were present, yet Lebanon was absent from the achievements of Richard and her department last year, and now she comes to the weakest country in the region, having in her pocket a single (non-developmental) political project, promises of armament… and a raised wand!
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has denounced sanctions on Lebanese banks and other financial institutions as a form of Israeli aggression.
Speaking at the Lebanese Emigrants Economic Conference in Beirut on Thursday, Berri said Israel is constantly trying to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy.
Berri was apparently making reference to the US law, which calls for the closure of bank accounts of individuals and organizations suspected of links to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel – the US’s staunchest ally in the region – in 2000 and 2006.
Berri said Lebanon, through the assistance of its diaspora, will eventually emerge triumphant over a plot seeking to harm the country’s economy.
“We only have hope from the expatriates, and right now we no longer have hope but from you,” he said.
Berri further lashed out at Arab states for failing to commit to promised funds to Lebanon following Israel’s war on the country in the summer of 2006, saying only a third of the aid has been paid.
In February, Riyadh suspended USD 3 billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD 1 billion to the country’s internal security forces.
The kingdom also imposed sanctions on some Lebanese firms and individuals it accused of having links with Hezbollah.
Last month, Governor of Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh stated that 100 bank accounts linked to Hezbollah members and legislators had been closed.
Hezbollah criticized the Central Bank of Lebanon for submitting to US pressures, saying the measures violated Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The US and its allies are working inside Lebanon to open a new front in the Syrian conflict. Lebanon has been sedated into a state of limbo by the lack of a government and the postponing of its parliamentary elections. Complicating matters, many institutional figures and military commanders have gone into retirement and the caretaker government is unable to replace them.
Hezbollah’s intervention into the Syrian conflict has given a boost to the Syrian government against the anti-government forces trying to overrun Syria.
This has turned the attention of the US and its allies onto Lebanon as a new arena of battle. Rockets are also being launched by anti-government forces from Syria, and even from inside Lebanon, against Hezbollah’s political strongholds and against Shia Muslim villages. The goal is to ignite the flames of sedition between Shiites and Sunnis inside Lebanon.
Photo Below: Picture of the Hariris adorned with the Future Party’s flag and Al-Qaeda and anti-government Syrian flags by their followers on the way to Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
Al-Qaeda in Lebanon
Al-Qaeda’s flag has been flying in Lebanon for years. Driving near the airport in Beirut or on the road to Sidon (Saida) you can see the Al-Qaeda flags flying in black. The same goes for Tripoli (Trablos) and some areas inside Beirut. Since the Syrian conflict you can see the Al-Qaeda flag flying next to the Syrian insurgent’s flag. The US and its allies have actually turned a blind eye to the support that the Future Party of Saad Hariri provides to Al-Qaeda. It is worth noting that the current head of the UN Secretariate’s Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who was once the US ambassador to Lebanon before he was promoted in the US Department of State, also turned a blind eye to the support for Al-Qaeda by the Hariri family’s Future Party and its March 14 Alliance.
The Hariri family has had a long alliance with the takfiris and Al-Qaeda supporters. They have been political allies with groups in Lebanon that openly revere Osama bin Laden as a great leader. It was the Hariri family and members of their Future Party that also imported the fighters that would become Fatah Al-Islam into Lebanon. The exploitation of takfiri militias inside Lebanon by the Hariri family was intended to crush Hezbollah after Israel failed to do in 2006. Regionally, the same strategy involved the Hariri family’s Saudi patrons and George W. Bush’s administration, which were preparing and arming these militias as tools/weapons against Syria and Iran. The Hariris were furious when Seymour Hersh exposed them and had him publicly rebuked.
Months later Fatah Al-Islam would get out of control. Seymour Hersh would be vindicated. The Hariri-led March 14 Alliance would dishonestly try to blame Syria and the Palestinians for creating and supporting the group that they themselves had created. The fighting in Lebanon between the Lebanese military and Fatah Al-Islam foreshadowed the armies that were amassed for regime change in Libya and Syria by the US and its allies.
Tripoli and Sidon as Extensions of the Syrian Conflict
Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, has seen intense fighting between the Alawite community of Lebanon, which is represented by the Arab Democratic Party, and the Hariri family’s takfiri allies. Hariri’s allies in Tripoli are open supporters of Al-Qaeda and the anti-government forces in Syria; they have smuggled weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian and sent large numbers of fighters into Syria to topple the government in Damascus. The Future Party has been involved in coordinating this also.
Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, has also been the scene of fighting and tensions between Ahmed Al-Assir, a Hariri ally, and Hezbollah’s supporters and allies. Al-Assir’s men have even tried to kill one of Sidon’s main Sunni Muslim clerics, Maher Hammoud, because he has constantly been working for Muslim and Lebanese unity and saying that there is an attempt to ignite a Shia-Sunni conflict in Lebanon and the broader region. A contingent from the Lebanese military has had stay in Sidon to keep the peace in the city.
Al-Assir’s men attacked and killed members of the Lebanese military in a village on the outskirts of Sidon for no apparent reason on June 23, 2013. This has ignited a battle in Sidon. Thick smoke from the city can be seen from a far distance. It has been reported that members of the anti-government forces from Syria have also joined them. The Lebanese military has deployed heavy weapons to fight Al-Assir’s group and to restore peace to the Lebanese city.
Photo Below: Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoint in Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
The Objective is to Force Hezbollah to Retreat in Syria by Targeting Lebanon
The Lebanese state is now being targeted. There have been an increasing number of attacks against the Lebanese military from the Syrian border since Hezbollah intervened in Syria. There were already attacks on Lebanon even before Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict, but those were mostly intended to provoke Hezbollah.
Those targeting the Lebanese state are now taking advantage of the lack of a functioning government and the leaderless status of several national institutions to create a state of chaos in Lebanon. There have been attacks on both Shiite and Sunni villages in the Bekaa Valley and a cycle of violence has begun. It is clear that the objective is to turn Shiites and Sunnis against one another and the Lebanese military has understood this too. This is why Hezbollah has asked the Shiite clans in Bekaa to stay calm after they have been attacked. Protests have broken out in Lebanon too.
The violence in Sidon is part of a strategy. Al-Assir’s unprovoked attack against the Lebanese military is intended to mount pressure on the Lebanese state and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.
Hezbollah refuses to get embroiled in a sectarian battle inside Lebanon. While the Amal Movement, the Shiite political party that is Hezbollah’s partner, has mobilized its militias and started manning the southern and eastern roads into Sidon, Hezbollah has kept calm. Amal’s media has also been reporting on the incident profusely and even in a sectarian fashion, but Hezbollah’s media have inversely been calm and said little.
Lebanon is being lit up with the aim of forcing Hezbollah to pullout from Syria by turning inwards to fight an internal battle. Essentially, Lebanon is now a second front in the Syrian conflict.
The US and Saudi Arabia have probably asked the Hariri family to prompt their Al-Qaeda affiliated clients to initiate violence in Lebanon and capitalize on the lack of a government and the weakened state of the Lebanese state.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently working out of Lebanon. He was in Sidon during the fighting and the deployment of the Lebanese military.
Copyright © Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow and his negotiations with President Putin, for the fourth time this year, has created the impression of failure. Russia and Israel have been developing active cooperation recently in the field of culture, trade and customs and education.
However, Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow does look like a failure from the point of view of foreign policy. In an official statement for the press, President Putin spoke about the “open” and “constructive” nature of the talks with the Israeli PM. In the diplomatic world, though, when negotiations are held in a friendly and even neutral fashion, they usually say that the talks were held “in a friendly atmosphere.” This is something that we have not heard from the Kremlin this time. In other words, there is no understanding between Russian and Israeli leaders.
The main purpose of Netanyahu’s visit to Russia was clearly focused on foreign policy issues, such as the regulation of the crisis in Syria and a possible solution to the Palestinian conflict. Israel sees clearly that the civil war in Syria is ending. Netanyahu’s visit coincided with a remarkable speech that Bashar al-Assad delivered at the opening session of the newly elected parliament. It is obvious that the question of the end of the war and national reconciliation in Syria is a matter of time. What happens afterwards?
The conflict in Syria has created an alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and units of Lebanese resistance. As for the latter, it is not only Hezbollah fighters, but also a large number of volunteers from Lebanese secular parties that struggle against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Netanyahu seems to be concerned about the prospect for the new, reunited Syria to appear near Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister is also concerned about the strong influence of Iran in the post-war Syria.
What does President Putin say to all this? Putin delivers a long speech, in which he talks about culture, economy, trade and economic relations, tourism and everything else. As for the Syrian problem, Putin said only two phrases: “We have paid great attention to international issues, and of course, we talked about the complicated situation in the Middle East region, including in Syria.” That’s all.
One shall assume that there is no understanding between Russia and Israel. Russia has ignored Netanyahu’s requirements, for example, to restrict supplies of weapons to Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters could get their hands on. Russia views Hezbollah as one of the most important political parties in Lebanon. Hezbollah is a member of the ruling coalition. Russia follows its principle to supply arms only to legitimate governments. Hezbollah is an important element of the legitimate government of Lebanon. Moscow sees Hezbollah as an essential element of structure of the Middle East.
In addition, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s position for a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and stressed that Russia was ready to act as a mediator. This came as another slap in the face of Israel, because it is the Palestinians who demand the Palestinian issue should be solved by the international community, while Israel insists on bilateral negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
As many as 3,000 more bank accounts, allegedly tied to the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, reportedly await freeze in the coming days under pressure from the United States.
Those to be affected include “employees, partners, customers affiliated with the party,” Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday, citing a source within Lebanon’s Central Bank.
On December 18, 2015, US President Barack Obama signed into law the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act.
The legislation says Washington will target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
As per the law, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has been tasked with releasing names of the entities it considers to be associated with the group.
Governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank Riad Salameh has so far ordered 100 accounts frozen in line with the Treasury’s instructions as any failure to abide by the law will result in US sanctions.
“If anyone is suspicious, there can be no leniency, even if the customers have millions of dollars, because the negative repercussions in not abiding by the [US] law will be catastrophic on the bank,” the source said.
Interviewed by the CNBC, Salameh recently said, “Our priority is to keep Lebanon on the international financial map, so we have taken a resolution that we will implement that US law in Lebanon, and we have put in place a structure to do this, to satisfy the objectives of that law.”
On Thursday, Hezbollah reacted to the remarks, saying Salameh’s position “shows that the monetary policy has lost its sovereignty.”
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel, the US’s strongest ally in the region, in 2000 and 2006.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia, another staunch ally of the US, has also been targeting the resistance movement.
Earlier in the year, Riyadh imposed sanctions on four Lebanese firms and three individuals it accused of having links to Hezbollah, among its other measures against the movement.
Analysts say Hezbollah has come under such pressure due to its involvement in anti-terrorism military operations in neighboring Syria.
The resistance movement has been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syria conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
25 May 2016 not only marks the 16th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from 22 years of Israeli occupation and oppression by the Lebanese Resistance, but also the liberation of Lebanese political prisoners from the infamous Khiam prison. On 23 May 2000, 144 Lebanese prisoners were liberated from Khiam, 2 days before the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces.
3,000 Lebanese stormed Khiam, the site of infamous torture of Lebanese resisters, breaking the locks with axes and crowbars. “Set up by the Israelis in 1985 on a hill in the village of Khiam in the South Lebanon Governorate, the Khiam prison was considered to be one of the most ruthless detention and interrogation centers in the Middle East. While the Israelis governed the prison, which included 67 cells and more than 20 solitary confinement cells, they used the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy militia made up of Lebanese nationals, to execute their orders,” wrote Rana Harbi in Al-Akhbar.
Over 5,000 Lebanese, including 500 women, were imprisoned in Khiam prison over the years. Lebanese who participated in all forms of resistance to the occupation and its proxy forces were tortured brutally inside the notorious prison. The prison after its liberation became a museum and symbol of the torture of the occupiers and the victory of the Lebanese people and their resistance, of their freedom obtained through struggle and years of resistance.
In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon, it bombed the Khiam site, leaving a pile of rubble at the site of the prison, as if attempting to destroy the memory of its torture, brutality – and its defeat – preserved by the Lebanese people. However, the memory and commitment to resistance of the former prisoners – many of whom continue to struggle and play leading roles in Lebanese movements and parties, including Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party – and of the people, cannot be erased by the bombing of the prison site, just as they could not be erased by torture, solitary confinement, and years of imprisonment.
The liberation of Khiam prison was not merely symbolic; it was central to the liberation of South Lebanon, just as the liberation of Palestinian prisoners is central to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. The Lebanese people and Resistance continue to struggle against Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms; and the Palestinian people and their Resistance continue to struggle for the liberation of Palestine – its land, its people and its prisoners after over 68 years of occupation. The victory in South Lebanon and the liberation of Khiam remains an anniversary of liberation and a promise for future victories over torture, oppression and occupation.
The following testimonies of former prisoners held in Khiam prison were collected and published in Al-Akhbar by Rana Harbi in 2014:
Degol Abou Tass
In 1976, at the age of 16, I was arrested in a village in occupied Palestine for the first time. I told the Israelis that I trespassed by mistake. They knew I was lying but released me anyway. My parents packed my bags and forced me to leave the country. I found out later that I was the first Lebanese citizen to get arrested by the Israeli forces.
I came back to Rmeish [a village on the borders in South Lebanon] in the 1980s after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The civil war was still raging in Beirut but in the south different resistance movements, such as the Lebanese Communist Party, the Amal Movement, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and many other factions, united against the Israelis. A few months after my arrival, the SLA knocked on my parents door. I had to leave the country, again.
I was miserable. I couldn’t stay away for long. In the early 1990s I came back to Rmeish. All the armed groups were long gone. Hezbollah dominated the resistance scene. I tried to reconnect with old militia leaders but in vain.
One day, an old childhood friend pulled into my driveway. “Are you willing to fight with us?” he asked. I looked uncertain. “Us … Hezbollah,” he added. I climbed into his car and we drove away. In 1998, one of my neighbors ratted me out.
“A Christian with Hezbollah? Now that’s something,” the Israeli officer interrogating me said. “How much are they paying you? We will pay double, no triple. What is your price? We can work something out,” he continued. I remained silent. “Okay then Jesus, welcome to Khiam prison.”
In Khiam prison we died a hundred times every day. Torture included electric shocks, being tied naked to a whipping pole for hours under the burning sun in the summer and snow in the winter, and getting whipped and beaten continuously with metal rods, wires and nightsticks.
We were caged and treated like animals. Believe me, it wasn’t so much about the pain, but the humiliation.
On the morning of May 23, 2000, the guards were talking and walking outside, as usual. Suddenly, complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. We heard the daily UN airplane fly by so we knew it was 9:30 am. “Where did they go?” one prisoner asked. We had no idea.
“They are moving us to occupied Palestine,” yelled a prisoner in a cell right next to ours. I put my feet on the shoulders of two of my cellmates so that I can reach the small window right under the ceiling. “All of us?” I asked. “They will execute half and take half … this is what we heard,” replied another prisoner. Before I could even reply I heard a noise coming from a distance. I couldn’t see anything. The voices grew louder and louder.
“Looks like our parents are clashing with the SLA guards as usual,” one prisoner said. “I bet my mother is still trying to bring me food,” another exclaimed. And then we heard gunshots. People were screaming. More gunshots.
“They are shooting our parents!” said one frightened detainee. “No, the mass execution began. They will execute half of us remember!” replied another. Panic attacks. Anxiety. Fear.
I put my ear against the door. I heard ululations. I heard prayers. I heard women. I heard children. Suddenly, the door opening through which food was usually served broke wide open. “You are liberated, you are liberated!” I fell on my knees. I thought I was hallucinating. I put my fist out. Two men grabbed my fist. “Allah akbar, Allah akbar (God is the greatest) … you are liberated!” My cellmates were all kneeling on the floor in disbelief. The locks were getting smashed from the outside. I cried aloud and the door broke wide open. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I was the first prisoner to get caught on camera. My parents watched the liberation of Khiam on TV because Rmeish was still under occupation at the time. They didn’t recognize me though. My hair and beard were too long and well, I was screaming “Allah akbar!”
Fourteen years later, I’m living with my wife and children in Rmeish, and every morning I drink my coffee while looking over occupied Palestine.
In November 1990 I was picking up photos from a store in Marjeyoun, a city in south Lebanon, when I got arrested. I was 19 at the time.
They put a tight black cover over my head and made me strip naked. Suspended from my bound wrists from a metal pole, hot and cold water was thrown on me consecutively … hot cold hot cold until I was completely soaked. Then they attached electrodes to my chest and other particularly sensitive areas of my body and electrocuted me, repeatedly.
In the 70 day interrogation period, I was tortured three times per day. I used to lose consciousness and wake up to find myself stumbling blindly in a pitch-black, 1m by 80cm by 80cm solitary confinement room.
We were tied to window grills naked for days in painful positions, freezing water thrown at us in the cold winter nights. We were whipped, beaten, kicked in the head and the jaw, burned, electrocuted, had ear-shattering whistling in our ears, and deprived of food and sleep … it was hard, very hard.
I endured the pain. With time, I became numb. I survived it all without saying a word. I was winning, I thought.
One morning, they dragged me into the interrogation room. “You didn’t tell me your sister was this beautiful,” one of the SLA officers said. My whole world came crashing down. “Wait until you see his mother,” said another. Handcuffed, I threw myself on him from across the table. It costed me 14 hours in the “chicken cage,” a 90-cubic-centimeter enclosure used for extra-severe punishment.
The SLA used to bring in the wives, sisters and daughters of the prisoners and treat them in a vulgar manner like taking off their head scarves, groping them and threatening to rape them. For me, the mere thought was intolerable. “Your sister will pay you a visit tomorrow. You miss her don’t you?”
“I’m a Hezbollah fighter,” I confessed.
Up to 12 prisoners were crammed in a tiny room. We were buried alive. The cells were like coffins. Light and air hardly penetrated through the small, barred windows located near the ceiling. We could barely breathe. We used to relieve ourselves in a black bucket placed in the corner. The heavy odor of human sweat and wastes was intolerable. We showered every three or four weeks. Once a month, we were allowed into the “sun or light room” for 20 minutes only.
One night in 1991 I woke up to the deafening screams of a detainee being tortured in the yard. The louder he screamed, the harder he got whipped. His cries were unbearable, beyond anything I had ever heard before. “You are killing him, you animals,” one of my fellow cellmates shouted.
We started banging on the door of the cell, kicking it with our feet, yelling and asking them to stop. Other prisoners in other cells joined us, but the lashes kept falling and the cries continued. And then … silence. Youssef Ali Saad, father of eight, died under torture on that cold January night. One month later, Asaad Nemr Bazzi died because of medical neglect.
Do you know what the worst part was? Fellow Lebanese citizens did this to us. I almost died on the hands of a man named Hussein Faaour, my neighbor in Khiam. Abu Berhan, another torturer I remember was from Aitaroun. The SLA members were all Lebanese, mostly from the south. Family members, neighbors, childhood friends, classmates, teachers … Lebanese who decided to sell their land and people for cash.
Lebanese who are now living among us like nothing happened, as if they did nothing! It breaks my heart that our former tormentors have escaped punishment so easily.
Fourteen years later, I’m still waiting for justice.
In 1988, I was in Beirut purchasing medicine for my pharmacy in al-Taybeh (a village in South Lebanon) when the SLA forces, aware of my role in transferring arms to Hezbollah fighters, first came looking for me. They stormed into our house again a week later but my mother told them I was in Bint Jbeil. It was the truth but they didn’t believe her.
I remember opening the front gate that afternoon and seeing my mother waiting, weeping and trembling on the doorstep. “They took away your sister and your sister-in-law along with Hadi (her five-month-old baby.) My daughter, my grandson!” she cried. I put on my clothes and waited for the SLA on the front porch. My sister was 20-years-old at the time and I was 26. My mother begged me to run away, but I didn’t.
My mother collapsed on the ground next to the SLA vehicle. I sat in the backseat and they took me away.
Blindfolded I was shoved into the interrogation room. Boiling water was thrown on my face, and my fingers and ears were electrocuted. I didn’t say a word. This went on for a month.
“I heard Hadi is sick,” one of the Israeli officers told me one morning. He wasn’t lying. My sister in law got infected and breastfeeding her child was not an option anymore. Psychologically, I suffered greatly. I wished they would just beat me up instead. I struggled, but I remained silent. Two months later Hadi and his mother, along with my sister, got released. They were of no use to the Israelis anymore.
Women detainees, like men, were severely tortured. You see, gender equality is not always a good thing [she laughs]. Let me tell you how the torture stopped.
After spending 15 days in solitary confinement, I found out upon my return to the cell I shared with six other women that one of my fellow prisoners had an extremely disgusting skin rash. I examined her and as a pharmacist I knew that her rash was contagious. As planned, I got infected. Soon, my skin started changing and I looked like an acid attack victim.
Clearly disgusted by my deteriorating skin, the SLA guard dragged me by my hair into yet another torture session. The torturer, a woman, was waiting for me. With my hair still trapped between the guards fingers, he forced me down to my knees. Before the torturer’s fist reached my jaw, I told her that my skin condition was contagious. The guard instantly let go of my hair and they both took a step back. I tried to keep a straight face but I couldn’t hide my smile. Nobody laid a hand on me after that day.
Fourteen years later, I made peace with the past. My three years in Khiam were tough, but now I feel blessed. I really do.
A Lebanese charity network run by a Shiite Muslim cleric said it had been unfairly caught up in new U.S. financial sanctions against Hezbollah, accusing Lebanese banks of applying the restrictions too widely.
The U.S. act passed in December threatens to punish any organization providing significant finance to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.
The Mabarrat foundation told Reuters that some Lebanese banks, scared of risking international isolation, had frozen some of its accounts, even though it had no political affiliation.
The foundation was established by the late Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top authority in Shiite Islam who was an early mentor to Hezbollah but later distanced himself from its ties to Iran. He died in 2010.
Sayyed Ali Fadlallah, his son, declined to say which bank or banks had frozen the accounts.
“The foundation’s name was not mentioned in this law … what is happening now are precautionary measures taken by some institutions that are dealing with this matter far removed from the accuracy required to ensure no one is done an injustice,” Fadlallah told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
The foundation generates funding through individual donations and a network of businesses including hotels, restaurants and petrol stations.
“We felt from our meeting with some of the banks that they are afraid and wanted to take precautions that were greater than necessary,” said Fadlallah, whose charities include schools, hospitals and orphanages.
The U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act has ignited an unprecedented dispute between Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful group, and the central bank.
The Shiite militia is Lebanon’s most powerful political and military group, has provided crucial support to the Syrian army, along with Iranian forces and the Russian air force. The group is estimated to have lost around 1,200 fighters in Syria’s five-year-old conflict. It has dealt serious blows to the Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State group.
The organization has said the law will lead to “a wide rift” between Lebanese citizens and the banks, suggesting many Shiites would stop dealing with banks for fear of being sanctioned.
The central bank has said the U.S. law must be applied to avoid the international isolation of Lebanon’s banking sector.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh said in a May 17 statement that banks that intended to close accounts of individuals or organizations considered to be in breach of the U.S. law must provide justification for that decision, and wait for a response from a central bank committee.