An Accidental War


The 2006 Lebanon war was the first battle in Israel’s history that it comprehensively lost. The primary aim, expressed by the Jewish State’s leaders and Zionist spokespeople across the globe, was to destroy the Lebanese political militia Hezbollah.

A ceasefire was established after 34 days of brutal bombardment. Hezbollah was bloodied but ultimately undefeated; even strengthened in the Arab world for standing up to Israel’s aggression. Over 1200 Lebanese civilians were murdered, assisted by Israel’s use of cluster bombs. Israeli civilians were also killed. Throughout the battle, some major Western powers remained silent, others secretly supported Israel’s goals and a few openly encouraged a wider war against Syria.

The release last week of the Israeli Government’s Winograd Report was designed to reveal the failures of the Lebanon adventure and hold military and political leaders to account. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defence Minister Amir Peretz were criticised for their conduct but Olmert appears to have saved his job. "We are all guilty" was how one Israeli commentator interpreted the report. Another labelled the war a victory. Winograd gave Israel a pass on its use of cluster bombs, despite warning that its future use may not conform to international law.

Amnesty International rightly challenged the report. It was, according to Amnesty spokesman Malcolm Smart, "another missed opportunity to address the policies and decisions behind the grave violations of international humanitarian law – including war crimes – committed by Israeli forces" in Lebanon. Smart went on: "The indiscriminate killing of many Lebanese civilians not involved in the hostilities and the deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian properties and infrastructure on a massive scale were given no more than token consideration by the commission."

But not unlike many government-initiated committees in Western nations, Winograd conveniently ignored investigating whether the war was essential, and two other key issues: where did Washington fit into the equation; and what kind of army does Israel have in the early 21st century?

The Bush Administration has never hidden its desire to reshape the Middle East. After the failures of the Iraq mission, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was determined to reassert US strength in the region. Her goal, explained here by former Israeli official Daniel Levy, was clear. Levy wrote: "Senior Israeli ministers are on record testifying to an investigating committee that when they voted … to authorise the initial military strike they did not consider this to be the start of a prolonged war. Their working assumption was that diplomatic pressure would end the military conflict after 48 to 96 hours.

"That did not happen – America prevented it, thereby making Israel a prisoner to accomplishing a mission that was never realistic. The delay in diplomacy did not change the substance of the deal eventually reached, it did, however, cause more death, destruction and loss of American prestige."

None of this is designed to absolve Israel’s leaders of responsibility for the carnage, but it proves that the relationship between the Zionist lobby in America, the White House and Israel is far more complicated than generally acknowledged. The Jewish State undoubtedly wanted to destroy Hezbollah, but was perhaps more cognisant of the difficulties in doing so.

Rice simply saw a stumbling block in her Administration’s plan against Iran, and found a willing accomplice to launch a pointless war that was principally to serve deluded fantasies of a "new Middle East". The 2006 Lebanon war saw an Israeli Prime Minister literally rushing out of cabinet meetings to coordinate strategy with Rice over the phone. Winograd at least acknowledged that officials had no real plan for the conflict. Indeed, some neo-conservatives believed that Olmert should have launched strikes against Syria and created a regional conflagration.

The other key omission from the Winograd report was a discussion of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and why its leadership’s behaviour was so fundamentally flawed. Leading Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery thinks he knows the answer: the occupation.

Decades of brutalising the Palestinians and defining its rule as colonial ruler has resulted in the Jewish State attracting individuals to the military who know little more than novel ways to harass the indigenous population. As Haaretz‘s Tom Segev put it: "To what extent have 40 years of occupation affected the ability of the Israel Defense Forces to protect the country? Or, in other words, does the IDF train its soldiers to fight – or does it mainly teach them to oppress the Palestinian population?"

The daily abuses committed by IDF in the occupied territories were revealed in a groundbreaking study by Hebrew University in 2007. Researchers heard the testimony of soldiers who discussed stealing, murdering, humiliating and breaking the bones of Palestinian children. It’s not surprising that individuals who understood only how to manage an occupation led a misguided war.

The current crisis in Gaza has only further revealed the paucity of imagination within the Israeli military and political elite. The Hamas-led destruction of the wall between Egypt and Gaza was a coup for the democratically elected Government (despite the fact that very little has changed for the average Palestinian, still forced to live under Israeli bombardment).

After its initial shock at the breakout, Israeli authorities have expressed hope that Hamas will economically disengage from Israel and embrace Egypt. Haaretz editorialised that the siege of Gaza had "failed" and yet the Australian Jewish News could only issue a typically clueless, "there are no easy solutions". Challenging Israeli Government policy would obviously upset its Israeli Foreign Ministry minders.

Perhaps it should have endorsed the suggestion of ethnic cleansing by one of Israel’s leading rabbis, who argued recently that Gazans should be moved to the Sinai. Egypt rejected the proposal. Dissenting Jews in Britain, Independent Jewish Voices, were one of the few mainstream Jewish groups to condemn the actions in Gaza.

But Israel now faces an even greater challenge – and one entirely of its own making. The Western-led division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is bound to fail. Washington patsy, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is forced to humiliatingly denounce Hamas when he surely knows that peace will never occur without both parties establishing a united front against Israel’s desires.

The Bush Administration and its Zionist courtiers are starting to realise that the Arab world is no longer willing to accept directions from Washington, London or Tel Aviv. Days after the Gaza breakout, Hamas warned the world that it might lead 500,000 Palestinians into Israel to claim the land and homes stolen by the Jews in 1948. It was a revolutionary idea whose time may soon come.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.