People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 32

August 06, 2006

Israel’s Horrific War Crimes In Lebanon 


Prakash Karat


ISRAEL’S aggression on Lebanon began on July 13. It is continuing even now. For three weeks, Lebanon has been pounded mercilessly by bombs and shelling. Residential areas in Beirut and other towns have been subjected to sustained aerial bombing. The airport in Beirut, the only one in the country, has been damaged. Power plants and bridges destroyed. 750 people have been killed so far and more than one-fifth of the population has been displaced from their homes. 


All this has been done because two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by the Hezbollah. This was not a sudden incident. Earlier Israeli planes were bombing Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon for the past few weeks while the latter has been firing rockets into Israel. 


Israel’s ferocious attack has come in the background of the continuing military operations against the Palestinian people and Hamas in the Gaza strip. The narrow strip of Gaza which is home to 1.4 million people has been bombed and shelled for the past two months without any respite. Here too, Israel escalated its aerial bombardment and military operations after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped by a Palestinian militant group in the last week of June. Eight ministers and 32 legislators belonging to the Hamas were detained by the Israeli security forces.


The abduction of Israeli soldiers in both instances was done to demand the release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails. 9000 Palestinians are languishing in these jails. 


In Palestine, Israel wishes to destroy the Hamas which won the elections to the Palestinian Authority and formed the government in February this year. In Lebanon, the Israeli target is the Hezbollah which is a political organisation with an armed militia drawn from the Shia community and which is part of the Lebanese government. 


Both Hamas and the Hezbollah have popular support in their respective countries and their staunch opposition to Zionist expansionism has marked them out as prime targets. Israel and the United States have branded both these organisations as terrorists and have vowed to destroy them. 


The assault on Lebanon has been marked with a particular viciousness. As the attack progressed, it became clear that Israel cannot easily prevail over the Hezbollah. The United States had given the green signal to Israel to go all out to smash the Hezbollah. Two weeks was considered sufficient for this purpose. But in the last three weeks, every day, the Hezbollah has been able to fire rockets into Israel hitting Haifa city and other settlements. The Israelis were shocked when one of its naval ships was hit by a Cruise missile. The Hezbollah fighters are fighting doggedly whenever Israeli armed forces have entered southern Lebanon. It is the feeling of frustration and revenge which has led to the indiscriminate and criminal bombing of civilian targets.


In southern Lebanon, Red Cross ambulances have not been spared; four United Nation’s peace-keepers were killed in their outpost by an Israeli missile despite repeated requests from the UN not to target the area. The worst atrocity has taken place in Qana village where a bomb has destroyed a house killing 54 people, including 34 children. 15 of these children were disabled and had been kept in the basement for safety. 


Such war crimes by the Israelis are not uncommon. Qana had suffered another atrocity a few years ago. In 1996, those who had taken refuge in the UN compound in Qana were struck by a missile and 102 persons died.


The ferocity of the attack in Gaza is also similar. In June, eight members of a family who were on a picnic in the beach were killed by an Israeli shell. A ten-year old child who escaped witnessed the horrific sight of her entire family being wiped out.


The horrific crimes against the Palestinian and the Arab peoples perpetrated by Israel reveals the character of the Israeli state. Based on Zionist ideology it fosters contempt and a racist attitude to the Arab people. The United States is the chief backer of this regime. Without its billions of dollars of aid and weaponry, Israel cannot play the role of a predatory watchdog for imperialist interests.


The United States fully backed the Israeli aggression on Lebanon as it wanted the destruction of the Hezbollah which it sees as an instrument of Iran. A swift Israeli success would have also meant bringing Syria into the focus for attack. The US aim is to destabilise the Syrian regime. After having accomplished the “Cedar revolution” in Lebanon and installing a pro-western government there after the withdrawal of Syrian troops, the United States hoped that the Israeli operation would eliminate the Hezbollah and keep Lebanon firmly under western control.


But the criminal and indiscriminate nature of the Israeli military attack has produced the opposite result. The Hezbollah is being hailed in the Arab world for its determined fight against the Israeli incursion. The Lebanese people have overwhelmingly united against the Israeli assault. The pro-western prime minister of Lebanon has thanked the Hezbollah for their fight to protect national independence. The Qana massacre has put the United States on the defensive. After the shameless defence of Israel’s aggression and refusal to countenance a ceasefire, the United States is now talking about bringing a ceasefire. At a conference called in Rome on July 26 to discuss the West Asia crisis, the United States had scuttled the call for ceasefire which was advocated by most of the European governments. The United States has sent two plane loads of sophisticated weapons, including incendiary bombs, to replenish the Israeli stocks. The pro-American regimes in West Asia which sought to play down the Israeli aggression have now to cope with the popular anger of the people. 


The Israeli aggression in Gaza and Lebanon have brought to the fore the issue of India’s relations with Israel. Since 1998, when the BJP-led government came into office, close ties have been forged. India is increasingly buying a whole range of weapons from Israel. In 2004, 1.5 billion dollars worth of military equipment was bought by India. Israel is now the second largest supplier of weaponry after Russia. Strategic ties in defence and security have been established particularly after L K Advani’s visit to Israel. Israeli intelligence and security agencies are closely collaborating with their Indian counterparts. It has been reported in the Israeli media that Israeli intelligence agencies have their offices in India. 


Israeli arms companies are the most aggressive dealers in India. It is well-known that they pay high commissions. The Barak missile deal worth Rs 1,277 crore was given to the Israelis without inviting competitive bidding. One of the reasons why the United States allowed Israel to supply sophisticated weaponry to India, which the US itself was prohibited from doing since the Pokhran tests, is precisely because the US can get Israel to stop the supply of any equipment at any juncture.


The BJP-led government had forged close ties with Israel because it believed in what was in Brajesh Mishra’s words an “India-US-Israel axis”.


Israel is a lawless regime which has broken all international laws. The basic fact remains that Israel cannot live in peace and security unless it vacates all the territories it has occupied since 1967. The setting up of a full-fledged independent Palestinian State has to be the concomitant of this peace settlement.


Egged on by the United States, Israel behaves like a terrorist State. It seeks to utilise Jewish victimhood to persecute and practice reverse discrimination against the Arab peoples. Today, the ruling classes in India accept Israel as their natural ally and collaborator. One can understand the BJP doing so as they share the common hatred for the Muslim and Arab world. It is a great pity that the Congress and the UPA government are not conscious of the need to differentiate from this pro-Israeli stance. When one looks back, from the days of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the national movement was against the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the setting up of an exclusive Jewish State. The Congress tradition was exemplified in the stand taken by Indira Gandhi as prime minister, in defence of the interests of the Palestinian people and the Arab countries which came under attack from Israel. The present dispensation, however, sees only virtue in cosying up to the United States and its most favoured protégé, Israel. Just as the strategic alliance and subordination of India to the United States is meeting with strong resistance from the Indian people, the pro-Israeli stance of the Indian establishment will also incur popular disapproval.


The official disapproval of the Israeli attacks in Gaza and Lebanon have come grudgingly. Only when it became difficult to turn a blind eye, was more forthright criticism made. It is not enough to deplore Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. Thousands of Indian citizens have been displaced from Lebanon, losing their livelihood and belongings. The Indian government should ask Israel to provide compensation for these people as this is an illegal war. Israel has become the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world. India, as a big customer, is enriching the coffers of a country which attacks with impunity its neighbours and massacres their peoples. The least the Indian government can do is to halt the buying of weaponry from Israel. It should stop forthwith all intelligence and security cooperation.


The central committee of the CPI(M) had called upon all Party units to collect funds in solidarity with the Palestinian people. As this fund collection campaign is on, the Polit Bureau has also called for simultaneously condemning the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and demanding an immediate halt to the war. The campaign should also demand that the Indian government disentangle from the strategic and defence relations with Israel.