Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Hasan Abu Nimah: Missing the point again?

The Jordan Times | 30 August 2006

The UN-led post-war arrangements in Lebanon seem to be missing the
point once more. All efforts so far seem to focus on containing the
conflict rather than eradicating it. That is not only complicated
and costly, but also risky. Returning to the status quo ante is in
no way different from reentering the cycle of violence of which the
last war was its latest phase.

For years until July 11, when Hizbollah fighters attacked an Israeli
border post, a working ceasefire was in place. But ceasefires are
never meant to be final settlements; they are normally intended to
stop the fighting to create the suitable climate for negotiations to
resolve conflicts and transform any ceasefire into a permanent

As was the case recently in Lebanon, ceasefires lose their effect
when relied upon as alternatives to peace. Is the current “cessation
of hostilities” — not even a full ceasefire — as ordered by Security
Council Resolution 1701, meant to be the prerequisite for a
solution, or will it be the solution?

Unfortunately, despite the intensive “diplomatic efforts” under way,
there are no signs that any of this is meant to lead to a genuine
solution. Fighting has stopped, but Israeli troops remain on
Lebanese territory, Israeli fighter jets continue to violate
Lebanese airspace, and all Lebanon remains under siege.

Israel, indeed, has the military power to impose the total blockade,
but the voices of the so-called international community which cry in
anguish when Israel is targeted even in the tiniest way, remain
silent at this huge aggression and violation of international law
which constitutes a continuation of Israel’s war on Lebanon’s
people, sovereignty and independence.

All efforts are being directed primarily towards satisfying Israeli
needs, with little, if any, consideration for the long-term peace
and security of the region.

Israel’s main concern is to disarm all resistance to its aggression
and to leave its victims defenceless. Having failed to achieve this
through its US and EU-backed war, it is now counting on those same
allies to achieve the same under the disguise of an international
“peace-keeping operation”. Obviously no one can disarm Hizbollah
outright, but at least by pushing the Lebanese resistance away from
the border, Israel hopes that it can continue with business as usual
undisturbed, while the Israeli-Lebanese conflict is turned into an
internal Lebanese conflict, just as Israel hopes to turn the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a Palestinian civil war.

But this logic, which has characterised Israeli strategy for
decades, is failing visibly. Not only did Israel fail in its stated
objective to destroy Hizbollah, but the war confirmed the group’s
ability as a fighting force and seems to have broadened its popular
appeal within Lebanon and across the region.

Instead of benefiting from the hard lesson and the heavy cost of
this war, and therefore planning to end all the aspects of the
conflict — the prisoners, the Sheeba Farms and the other pending
issues — Israel is determined to maintain all this but contain it.
Instead of extinguishing the dangerous fire, Israel and its allies
are just building a fence around it and leaving it to rage. Any
flying spark is enough to start a new terrible fire again.

The UN secretary general is in the region to assess the steps taken
towards the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701, in order to
report back to the Council on Sept. 11. His main task is first to
ensure a cordon around Lebanon to prevent any possibility of arms
smuggling to Hizbollah from any source, but mainly from Syria or
Iran. That can be achieved by establishing a monitoring regime to
watch sea and land borders.

Second, the Security Council seems to be striving to put in place an
international force south of the Litani River, capable with support
of the Lebanese army to prevent any Hizbollah resistance forces from
regrouping or functioning in that region. Third, the Lebanese
government will be put under pressure to fulfil its obligations
towards Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, which mainly
demand the disarming of all militias, including of course Hizbollah.
Only then would Israel feel secure enough to withdraw its forces
from the south, and probably end its own blockade in favour of a UN
established one.

Unquestionably, all such measures may seem necessary to secure the
ceasefire. But they should not be planned to last. What is needed is
to start immediately afterwards to put all issues, not only those
related to the Lebanese-Israeli track, on the negotiating table,
although starting with them is not a bad idea.

The glaring injustice of all this remains visible to everyone in the
region. If weapons to Hizbollah should be stopped, what about
American cluster bombs to Israel which have devastated and continue
to devastate civilians? Why should Germany be allowed to proceed
with the sale of nuclear-capable submarines to Israel at a time when
regional tension is at an all time high? Why do European and
American governments continue to sell the full range of weapons to
Israel when the evidence is inescapable that Israel uses them first
and foremost to attack civilians in Palestine and Lebanon and to
violate their most fundamental rights?

Better than the UN blockade would be the removal of any motive for
arms smuggling. And better than punishing Iran and Syria for their
alleged roles in promoting the conflict is the ending of the
conflict itself. Syria can be neutralised if its occupied territory
is returned, and any Iranian Influence can be circumvented when the
injustice in the region is adequately addressed. All the tension
that fuels the conflict will only end when Israeli occupation,
colonialism and racism, backed up by the West, is brought to an end.

What is needed, and needed urgently, is an international effort to
resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict radically and finally. The last
thing the region can afford is another band aid treatment of more
symptoms. Why miss the point again?

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"