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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity issue #93 is - The New Middle East by Dec McCarthy

Date Sat, 14 Oct 2006 07:19:48 +0200


Justice and Democracy At Work
Marwa is a ten year old refugee from the village of Marwaheen in
the south of Lebanon. Following an Israeli ultimatum Marwa’s
family decided to flee. While driving away from the village the Israeli
military fired on the pick up truck they were travelling in. Marwa
recalls “The wind carried me far away, I woke up on the nearby
rocks. Next to me, Mama and Mirna were sleeping. I went to them
to wake them up but the plane saw me and came towards me so I
ran away. My brother Wissam was hit in his leg and he could not
reach me, he was hiding behind a rock and when the ambulance
came he was waving to them to stop. Mirna was sleeping the whole
time”. Marwa was sent to hospital for treatment for her burns
and wounds. Her sister Mirna, 12, her brother Hadi, 5, and her
mother Zahra, 51, were all killed (1)

State terror against civilians

This is only one of thousands of stories of loss from the Lebanon,
where the Israeli offensive has resulted in the deaths of over 1,000
civilians, the wholesale destruction of vital infrastructure and the
exodus of nearly a million refugees. Over the same period, although
this was not as widely reported, the Israeli military continued its
attacks on the Occupied Territories.

Thousands of shells were fired into the Gaza strip and there were
numerous military incursions into the West Bank. Half of the 163
victims of these attacks were civilians (2). Just as in Lebanon, the
military targeted the roads as well as the water and power stations.
This has had a disastrous impact on an already desperately
impoverished region. It prompted the chief representative of the UN
aid agencies in Palestine to warn that, as a consequence of
Israel’s attacks, Gaza was on the verge of a humanitarian crisis
(3).

Although shocking, Israel’s actions in Lebanon and the
Occupied Territories are not that surprising. Collective punishment
and overwhelming military force targeting civilian populations, in
direct contravention of international law and the Geneva
conventions, is a well established Israeli military tactic.

The Israeli government has attempted to justify their assaults on
Gaza and the Lebanon by arguing that it was acting in self-defence.
However, it is important to note that the kidnapping and killing of
Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah in July was only one of hundreds of
attacks carried out by both Lebanese and Israelis since 2000 along
the border that separates the two countries (4). Also, while the
kidnapping of an Israeli in Gaza by a faction of Hamas was
undoubtedly a provocative act this needs to be understood in the
context of an ongoing conflict where the assassination, abduction
and imprisonment without trial of Palestinian activists by the Israelis
is a regular occurrence.

Furthermore, the sheer scale of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and
the massive disparity in the numbers of Israeli casualties compared
to Palestinian and Lebanese casualties suggests that Israel has other
strategic aims than self-defence. The Israeli state is intent on
punishing the people of Palestine and Lebanon for voting for and
supporting Hamas and Hizbollah, and is clearly attempting to
weaken the influence of Syria and Iran in Lebanon and the Middle
East as a whole.

The ‘war on terror’

These are of course two of the main objectives of the Bush
administration’s endless ‘war on terror’. Unsurprisingly,
the US government did everything in its power to ensure that Israel
was allowed to pursue these objectives unhindered. Members of the
Bush administration made meaningless noises about providing
humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese and reaffirmed their
commitment in principle to a Palestinian state. However, the worth
of such commitments can be judged by the fact, reported in the
Times (5) that the US sold Israel US$120 million worth of jet fuel to
assist in the bombing campaign against Lebanon, and agreed to a
request by the Israeli government to speed up the shipment of high
tech weaponry (6).

Tony Blair, despite a well rehearsed show of emotion and the odd lip
tremor while discussing the crisis, proved anxious as ever to play his
bit part in these bloody imperial dramas by allowing US military
shipments bound for Israel to pass through the UK (7). While the
US has always backed Israel, this clear fusing of Israeli militarism
with the broader US attempt to ensure control over the region and its
precious oil resources has profound implications both for the Middle
East and the world.

The ‘new Middle East’?

So, clearly the US has not exhausted its zeal for grand plans realised
through the use of massive military power despite the complete
unravelling of civil society in Iraq. On the contrary, US Secretary of
State Condolezza Rice managed to muster enough optimism to
discern something positive from events in the Middle East remarking
“What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the growing -- the
birth pangs of a new Middle East” (8). In truth it is impossible to
tell exactly what type of Middle East will emerge from the US
backed Israeli offensives but there is scant evidence of something
positive or even novel emerging from this mess.

In fact, Rice’s new’ Middle East is depressingly and
wearyingly familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the
history of imperialist interventions in the region. Just like those
British and French colonialists who sat over maps a century ago
redrawing boundaries across the Middle East, the US, the UK and
the Israelis imagine they can shape a subcontinent regardless of the
needs or desires of the majority of the people who live there.

This project for the ‘new’ Middle East means the same old
imperial arrogance and disregard for life. It involves peddling the
same old lies that acts of barbarism will somehow have a
‘civilising’ influence and bolster democracy and freedom.
Ultimately this shimmering vision of a new Middle East relies on
brutal stupidity and the mistaken belief that bombs dropped on the
heads of the innocent through the bright, clean air amounts to a
justifiable political strategy.

The growth of Islamism

The only thing that is certain about this new Middle East is that
Israel’s actions will strengthen and encourage the growth of the
radical Islamist ideology that they claim they are seeking to
eradicate. Historical experience in Ireland and further afield, and
common sense, tells us that bombing civilians will only feed the
anger and determination of those fighting against Israel and - short
of genocide - Israel will not defeat Hamas or Hizbollah through a
strategy that consists solely of military force.

On the contrary, the tenacious and well organised defence of
southern Lebanon has increased the prestige of Hizbollah
immeasurably right across the Middle East. Similarly, punishing
Palestinians for electing Hamas will yield nothing but a greater
determination to stand by that organisation.

Towards a just and democratic Middle East?

Israel and the US have unleashed a whirlwind of violence in pursuit
of their aims. The resistance to this project has come largely from
groups inspired by the ideas of radical Islam and thus ‘the war
on terror’ has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, bolstering
exactly what it claims to be against. This is a tragedy for the Middle
East not solely because of the appalling destruction of human life in
the here and now but also because it makes a genuinely democratic
just and free Middle East in the near future much less likely.

While radical Islam has given strength, unity and focus to the
resistance, such backward political ideologies have no interest in
developing a project of solidarity capable of overcoming the ethnic
and religious divisions in the region. It is only with such a project
focussed on overcoming the enormous disparities of wealth and
power in the region that a force will emerge that is capable of
confronting and beating US imperialism once and for all.

Hamas and Hizbollah, who have shown scant regard for the lives of
civilians, have been openly anti-Semitic and subscribe to a
reactionary social programme are not that force. Hizbollah looks to
the authoritarian religious dictatorship in Iran – with it’s
anti-trade union, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-alcohol laws – as a
model.

On the other hand it is abundantly clear that the Israeli politicians
who are working hand in hand with the hawks of the US government
and who thrive on racism, paranoia and militarism offer no sort of
future to their own citizens or the region as a whole.

For Irish people concerned with events in the Middle East there is a
need to actively support those groups who are inspired by a vision of
freedom and solidarity and are struggling for justice for all. It also
means redoubling our efforts on our own doorstep to stop the US
military’s use of Shannon and to continue highlighting and
confronting those companies that benefit from the militarism and
imperialism like Raytheon in Derry and firms such as Cement
Roadstone who are profiting from building the apartheid-style
‘separation wall’ in Palestine.

1) First appeared in longer form in a blog from Lebanon written by
Hanady Salaman
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5461.shtml

2) Figures taken from Israeli Human rights organisation B'tselem
www.btselem.org/english/firearms/20060808_Civilians_killed_in_Gaza.asp

3) Israeli newspaper Haaretz
www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=732995&contrassID=1&subContrassID=1

4) Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1839280,00.html


5) Times
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13129-2293610,00.html

6) New York Times
www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/world/middleeast/22military.html?ex=1311220800&en=e256f1d8872a835d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=

7) Source the BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5218036.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/5227582.st

8) Washington post
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/21/AR2006072100889.html

9) The Palestine Centre
http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/images/informationbrief.php?ID=163
====================================
From the anarchist journal Workers Solidarity 93, Sept/Oct 2006
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