Israel fingered for state terrorism

Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes, and indirectly, of engaging in state terrorism.

In a report issued August 23, the rights organization faulted Israel for “directly attacking civilian objects and carrying out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks,” “war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility.” *

“During more than four weeks of ground and aerial bombardment by the Israeli armed forces, the country’s infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale.” *

“Israeli forces pounded buildings into the ground, reducing entire neighborhoods to rubble and turning villages and towns into ghost towns as their inhabitants fled the bombardments.” *

“Main roads, bridges and petrol stations were blown to bits. Entire families were killed in air strikes on their homes or in their vehicles while fleeing the aerial assaults on their villages. Scores lay buried beneath the rubble of their houses for weeks, as the Red Cross and other rescue workers were prevented from accessing the areas by continuing Israeli strikes.” *

“Houses were singled out for precision-guided missile attacks and were destroyed, totally or partially, as a result.” *

“Business premises such as supermarkets or food stores and auto service stations and petrol stations were targeted.” *

“With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave.”* Almost one million people — one-quarter of Lebanon’s population — were displaced in the month-long Israeli assault.

Amnesty International says Israel carried out more than 7,000 air attacks. Over 1,000 Lebanese were killed (one-third of them children); over 4,000 were wounded.

“Statements from the Israeli military officials seem to confirm that the destruction of the infrastructure was indeed a goal of the military campaign.” *

“In village after village the pattern was similar: the streets, especially main streets, were scarred with artillery craters along their length. In some cases, cluster bomb impacts were identified.” *

The pattern of destruction (15,000 homes and 900 small and medium businesses destroyed) and the statements of Israeli officials (Lt. Gen Dan Halutz, the Israeli military chief of staff, called Hezbollah a “cancer” that Lebanon must evict “because if they don’t, their country will pay a very high price” *) “suggested a policy of punishing the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hezbollah.” *

“The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was a deliberate and integral part of the military strategy rather than collateral damage.” *

The day after the Amnesty International report was released, I scoured my local newspaper for mention of the report, knowing it wouldn’t be there. The paper had long ago abandoned any illusion of offering an impartial account of Israeli foreign policy, acting as virtual PR department for the Israeli Embassy.

And, indeed, there was no mention of the report, not even a squib, tidily tucked away in the back pages, where no one would see it.

Instead, the newspaper elected to run a half page appeal that elevates chutzpah to stratospheric heights.

It read, “Help rebuild the communities in the north of Israel. More than 2,000 terrorist attacks have led to death and destruction throughout northern Israel.”

Israel, according to Amnesty International, carried out 7,000 air-strikes, involving the world’s most sophisticated US-provided weapons (some rushed to Israel, through Britain, before the UN cease-fire kicked in), including bunker busters and cluster bombs. That’s not to mention the 2,500 shells launched at Lebanon by the Israeli Navy.

Over 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed by many thousands of Israeli air strikes and naval bombardments. On the other side of the ledger, 37 Israeli civilians died in 2,000 Hezbollah attacks involving unsophisticated, limited range missiles.
The “physical and psychological damage” the appeal says Israelis have suffered (and they have) is but a molehill against the mountain of physical and psychological damage inflicted by Israel on Lebanon.

Rather than giving generously to the Israel Crisis Fund, in a perfect world people would be pressing Israel to pay war reparations to Lebanon.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel engages in still more state terrorism, this time ratcheting up civilian misery to induce Gazans to turn against their elected Hamas government.

Gaza “is virtually sealed. Almost all Gaza residents are barred from entering Israel, and the border crossing with Egypt has been closed for most of the last two months, turning the entire coastal strip into a slow-burning impoverished prison.”+

“It’s blazing hot every day; the electricity comes and goes. And when there’s no electricity, there’s no water.” +

“The Israelis left the Gaza Strip last fall. But now they seem to be everywhere at once — on the ground, in the air and even on the other end of the telephone as a voice warning civilians in accented Arabic of impending missile strikes.” +

The economy “has virtually stopped. Unemployment in Gaza has reached 40%, up from 23% before Hamas’ election” but a World Bank study says “that estimate might be ‘too rosy.’”+

With aid cut-off as a pressure tactic, “civil servants, including the police, haven’t been paid in full for five months. Garbage collectors stopped working early this summer in a salary dispute. Electricity has been rationed since Israeli jets bombed the main power station in late June.”+

Meanwhile, as Gazans simmer in the heat, suffer through power and water shortages, and take shelter from Israeli air strikes, members of the Bush administration are at work laying the PR groundwork for a war on Iran.

But first they must pressure the US intelligence establishment to hand them a plausible trigger – a phony casus belli, of the sort used to go to war against Iraq.

“Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not” ** concluded that Iran, (which, along with Syria, is the Bush administration’s likely next target) has, or is close to acquiring, nuclear weapons, or that Iran is directing Hezbollah.

Which is to say, the US intelligence community, smarting from being set up as patsies to take the blame for the “faulty intelligence” that led to the campaign to conquer Iraq on behalf of Halliburton, Bechtel, US oil and corporate America in general, is playing it straight this time (or at least has so far), refusing to sex up the intelligence to justify an attack on Iran.

“The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism.” **

What’s irritating the administration’s war-mongers is the reality that the US intelligence community’s assessments are unhelpful.

“American spy agencies had made assessments in recent weeks that despite established ties between Iran and Hezbollah and a well-documented history of Iran arming the organization, there was no credible evidence to suggest either that … Iran was directly controlling attacks (through Hezbollah) against Israel.” **

General Wayne Downing Jr., a counterterrorism adviser to the White House during President Bush’s first term, said, “Does Iran profit from all of this? Yes. But is Iran pulling the strings? The guys I’m talking to say, ‘no.’ ” **

As for Iran having nuclear weapons, “the consensus of the intelligence agencies is that Iran is still years away from building a nuclear weapon.” ** That is, assuming Tehran has a plan to do so, and there’s nothing compelling — apart from a need to protect itself from US hostility — to suggest it has.

* “Human rights group accuses Israel of war crimes,” New York Times, August 24, 2006.
+ “Tension, violence running high in Gaza,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2006.
** “Some in G.O.P say Iran threat is played down,” New York Times, August 24, 2006.


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Articles by: Stephen Gowans

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