By Joseph KleinFrontPageMagazine.com July 24, 2006
As expected, spokespersons from the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Conference and an assortment of human rights organizations have condemned Israel for its ‘disproportionate’ response to Hezbollah’s unprovoked attacks. They have called for an immediate ceasefire, which is exactly what Hezbollah wants in order to stay in place and build up for more devastating future attacks.
Contrary to the distorted prism through which Israel’s usual critics judge Israel’s motives, Israel clearly understands that it faces a mortal threat to its survival from a well-armed, fanatical terrorist militia that the international community allowed to metastasize after years of malignant neglect. Israel was not simply overreacting to a kidnapping of a couple of soldiers and to some isolated rocket attacks, as bad as such aggressive acts were in themselves. Rather, it has finally acted to remove a dagger aimed at its heart by a terrorist state-within-a-state lying on its northern border. Israel should not stop until it creates the conditions to ensure real security for its people. That can only be accomplished by a decisive military victory over Hezbollah that leaves its military infrastructure in tatters.
Israel’s hypocritical critics conveniently forget some recent history that places Israel’s actions in proper context. Israel left Lebanon in 2000, after being assured that there would be an effective buffer in the southern region of Lebanon to protect Israel from any further terrorist attacks. Kofi Annan at the time also sought to allay any Israeli concerns about Hezbollah’s intentions. In a meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on June 21, 2000, Kofi Annan expressed faith in Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrollah.
Annan praised Hezbollah’s exercise of “restraint, responsibility and discipline after the withdrawal” and assured Barak that Nasrollah intended to continue exercising such restraint. (Source: The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2006) UN forces on the ground in Lebanon were to be reinforced to help keep the peace. The Lebanese government was supposed to establish its authority in southern Lebanon and put an end to Hezbollah’s de facto military control in the area.
Perhaps Israel had some genuine reason for hope, since Hezbollah’s reason for existence as a military force – to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory – was no longer relevant after Israel’s complete withdrawal. Even the United States came to believe that the fledging democracy in Lebanon would bring Hezbollah into the political fold and induce Hezbollah’s militia to lay down its arms.
Of course, as we now know, things did not turn out as expected. The so-called United Nations Interim Force should be more accurately described as the UN Impotent Force, since it was entirely ineffectual in dealing with the growing Hezbollah threat. Hezbollah did join the Lebanese government but never disarmed. In fact, it used the cover of seeming normalcy to build up its armaments at an alarming rate, totally out of proportion to any possible defensive needs. The Lebanese government was too weak to control its own borders or to force Hezbollah to disarm. Everyone looked the other way while Hezbollah built up its offensive military capability right along Lebanon’s border with Israel.
The truth of the matter is that Hezbollah is Iran’s front-line brigade in Iran’s publicly proclaimed quest to destroy Israel altogether. Iran, in turn, is Hezbollah’s chief financier and arms supplier, while Syria provides some assistance and weaponry as well. According to an Iranian military source close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard leadership, quoted in the London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has established permanent missile bases along the Israeli border and has equipped Hezbollah with mobile bases for carrying and launching missiles. Between 1992 and 2005, Hezbollah received approximately 11,500 missiles and rockets. Last year, according to the Iranian military source, Hezbollah started receiving shipments of even larger missiles with 333-millimeter warheads and SAM7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. More ominously, it also received C802 missiles, copied from Chinese missiles, which were used to hit an Israeli ship. There are Iranian Revolutionary Guard trainers, experts, technicians, intelligence agents, and elite officers who are assisting Hezbollah’s missile unit, and helping to select targets to hit in Israel. (Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 16, 2006)
Kofi Annan’s poster boy for restraint, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrollah, foreshadowed what was coming. Back in February 2006, he was quoted by one of Iran’s state-owned news agencies, IRNA, as declaring Hezbollah’s devotion to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamnei and pledging themselves “to the martyrs".
Nearly two months before the present crisis erupted, Nasrollah threatened Israel directly at a conference on ‘The Culture of Resistance’. He declared that “(W)e can hit Israel's entire northern region with thousands of rockets... Our presence in South Lebanon, in proximity to the north of occupied Palestine, is our greatest advantage..." (Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), July 12, 2006 )
Nasrollah was waiting for a pretext to precipitate a battle with Israel and a signal from Iran to go ahead. Israel’s battles with Hamas in Gaza provided the excuse. Iran’s desire to divert the G-8 summit and the UN Security Council from dealing with Iran’s nuclear enrichment program provided it reason enough to encourage Hezbollah to proceed against Israel at this time. Both Iran and Hezbollah agreed that Hezbollah’s attack marked the beginning of the military campaign to “liberate Palestine”, as Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel put it. A news editor, who is affiliated with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, stated that "The Hizbullah attack... is the beginning of a new chapter in the struggle against Israel, which will change the regional balance of power in favor of the Islamic world... Further attacks will very soon [lead to] the annihilation of this small regime." (Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Kayhan (Iran), July 16, 2006)
Some of Israel’s critics dismiss all of this and condemn Israel for causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Lebanon. Civilians are being killed and maimed, they say, because of the massive Israeli bombardments against targets where innocent Lebanese civilians are likely to be found. At best, the human rights activists place Israel and Hezbollah on the same moral plane, condemning both for targeting civilians and demanding that they stop their respective actions immediately. For example, the United Nations’ top human rights official, Louise Arbour, essentially proclaimed pox on both sides and accused both of committing possible war crimes.
The International Red Cross and Amnesty International also weighed in with equal criticism of both sides. "Israel must put an immediate end to attacks against civilians and against civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, which constitute collective punishment. Israel must also respect the principle of proportionality when targeting any military objectives or civilian objectives that may be used for military purposes," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East Programme. "Hizbullah must stop launching attacks against Israeli civilians and it must treat humanely the two Israeli soldiers it captured on 12 July and grant them immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross," Mr. Smart continued.
What these moral relativists fail to understand is that Hezbollah intentionally targets innocent civilians for death. Indeed, they were the ones who first introduced the idea of suicide bombings as a means to inflict terror against military and civilian targets alike and encouraged the Palestinian terrorists to adopt this barbaric tactic, which they have done with devastating effect. Hezbollah also aimed rocket attacks directly at large civilian populations in Israeli cities and have bragged about it, threatening even more indiscriminate attacks. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has put Lebanese civilians at risk by hiding rockets in their homes and blending into the civilian population. In contrast, Israel has given Lebanese civilians advance warning to get out of harm’s way, and Israel has used as much precision bombing as possible to minimize civilian casualties.
In sum, Hezbollah bears total responsibility for any violations of international humanitarian law that have ensued from the present conflict. Hezbollah was the aggressor. It turned Lebanese civilians into willing or unwilling accomplices in its misdeeds and put them in the frontlines of its guerilla war against Israel at a time when Israel had no presence in Lebanon to justify any sort of military resistance. After years of malignant neglect of Hezbollah’s destructive growth -courtesy of its patron Iran (with the help of Syria) - the world community should simply get out of the way and let Israel remove this cancer completely from its northern border.
Once Hezbollah’s military capability is effectively destroyed, a multinational force can be deployed in southern Lebanon to stabilize the area and help the Lebanese national government to restore its authority. In order to work, this multinational force must be akin to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan or Bosnia, not a mere expansion of the UN Impotent Force