Anjalisa — Fisk — Robert Fisk in Beirut: 'If our Prime Minister is crying, what are we

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Robert Fisk in Beirut: ‘If our Prime Minister is crying, what are we
to do?’
Published: 17 July 2006
You could see the Israeli missiles coming through the clouds of smoke,
hurtling like thunderbolts into the apartment blocks of Ghobeiri, the
crack of the explosions so loud that my ears are still singing hours
later as I write this report.
Yes, I suppose you could call this a “terrorist” target, for here in
these mean, fearful streets is – or rather was – the Hizbollah
headquarters. Even the movement’s propaganda television station,
Al-Manar, lay a pancaked ruin in the street, its broadcasts still
being transmitted from the station’s bunker beneath the rubble. But
what of the tens of thousands of people who live here?
The few who were not lying in their basements ran shrieking through
the streets – not gunmen, but women with screaming children, families
holding suitcases, desperate to leave the heaps of broken buildings,
entire apartment blocks smashed to bits, the roadways covered in
smashed balconies and torn electrical wires. “You don’t have to help
the resistance,” Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, told
the Lebanese on television last night. “The resistance is on the front
line and the Lebanese are behind them.”
Untrue, of course. It is the Lebanese – and their 140 dead, almost all
civilians – who are also on the front line. In Israel, 24 have been
killed, 15 of them civilians. So the exchange rate for death in this
filthy war is now approximately one Israeli to five Lebanese. So many
Lebanese have now fled Beirut for Tripoli in the north of Lebanon, or
for the Bekaa Valley in the east – or to Syria – that Beirut, where
one and a half million people live, is a ghost city, its remaining
residents sitting in their homes amid the hopelessness of all those
who believed that this country was at last emerging from the shadows
of its 15-year civil war. It was Nasrallah who said that there are
“more surprises to come”, and the Lebanese fear that the Israelis,
too, have some more surprises for them.
I watched one of these from my sea-front balcony at dusk on Saturday,
an American-made Apache helicopter turning three times over the
Mediterranean before firing a single missile – perfectly visible, with
smoke pouring from the tail – that smacked into Beirut’s brand new
lighthouse on the Corniche in a cloud of brown muck. So what was this
for? Another “terrorist” target, I suppose. Like the gas stations
bombed in the Bekaa Valley. Like the convoy of 20 civilians
incinerated in an Israeli air-raid on Saturday after being ordered –
by the Israelis themselves – to leave their home village on the border.
Last night, Hizbollah’s missiles – after killing 10 Israelis in Haifa
– were falling on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, setting the
forests alight, and on the Israeli city of Acre. The Syrians warned of
an “unlimited” response if Israel attacked them – the Israelis have
been saying, untruthfully, that Syrian troops and Iranians are present
in Lebanon, helping Hizbollah in their battle – and the preposterous
response of the G8 summit was greeted with despair. Tony Blair, who is
now also, it seems, the Minister of Root Causes, believes Syria and
Iran are behind the original Hizbollah attack. He is right. But it is
to Damascus that the West will have to go to switch this dirty war off.
Certainly, the powerless Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora,
cannot do so. With his government accused by Israel of responsibility
for Wednesday’s capture of two Israeli soldiers – a claim as
preposterous as it is wrong – he went on television in tears to appeal
to the United Nations to arrange a ceasefire for his
“disaster-stricken nation”. The Lebanese appreciated the tears, but
those tears are unlikely to have had President Bush shaking in his
boots. Churchill in 1940, Siniora – a sincere and good man,
uncorrupted by Lebanese politics – is not. “If our Prime Minister is
crying,” one Lebanese woman astutely pointed out to me yesterday, ”
what is the civilian population of our country supposed to do?”
But where are the other supposed political titans of Lebanon? What is
Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri –
who rebuilt the Lebanon which Israel is now destroying – doing in
Kuwait, chatting to the Kuwaitis about his country’s predicament? The
Kuwaiti army is scarcely going to come to defend Lebanon. Why isn’t
Hariri the son on his private jet to the G8 summit in St Petersburg to
demand of President Bush that he protect the democratically-elected
government and the nation he praised for its “cedar revolution” last
year? Or doesn’t democracy matter when Israel is smashing Lebanon?
Answer: no, it doesn’t.
UN Security Council Resolution 1559 demanded a Syrian retreat from
Lebanon – which was accomplished – but it also demanded the disarming
of Hizbollah, which was definitely not accomplished. Many here
suspected that 1559, designed by the French and the Americans, was
intended to weaken Lebanon and prepare it for a peace treaty with
Israel. Well, not any more. It was the Lebanese President, Emile
Lahoud, who still cravenly follows Syria’s line – he is, after all,
Syria’s man – who said yesterday that Lebanon “will never surrender”.
Lahoud as Churchill. There is something obscene here.
Nasrallah, meanwhile, told the Israelis that: “If you do not want to
play by rules, we can do the same.” It was a grim little threat that
was obviously meant to counter Ehud Olmert’s equally grim little
threat that there would be “far-reaching consequences” for the missile
attack on Haifa. Nasrallah’s televised argument – that Hizbollah
originally wished to confine all casualties to the military – will not
wash with Israel, but may encourage those many Lebanese who were
originally outraged by Hizbollah’s attack across the border on
Wednesday, only to be silenced by the cruelty of Israel’s response.
“This is the last struggle of the ‘umma’,” Nasrallah said, the ” umma”
being the Arab “homeland”. Alas, that is what the Arab leaders said
when they joined Lawrence of Arabia’s battle against the Ottoman
empire in the First World War. It is always the “last struggle” .
The weapons of war
Fajr-3 missile
An Iranian-built rocket with range of 45km which can carry a 45kg
warhead. Israel accused Hizbollah of firing 240mm Fajr-3 missiles
against Haifa. Iran denies supplying the missiles to Hizbollah
Fajr-5 rocket
Longer-range version of Fajr-3 that can strike targets up to 72km away
Raad missile
Iranian-built missile with range of 120km. Could reach central Israel.
Israelis accused Hizbollah of firing Raad (“Thunder”) missiles
yesterday. Hizbollah said last week it had fired Raad for the first time
Previously the Hizbollah missile of choice, the Russian-designed
Katyushas have a range of 22km and variable accuracy. Israel accused
Syria of supplying Hizbollah with a longer-range model
Rockets with range of up to 10km, used by Hamas guerrillas in
Palestinian-ruled Gaza. Israeli town of Sderot has been a frequent
target of the notoriously inaccurate missiles
F-16 fighter
The US-made “fighting Falcon” is a multi-role fighter which has been
dropping quarter-ton bombs on targets in Lebanon