A protracted colonial war

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A protracted colonial war
With US support, Israel is hoping to isolate and topple Syria by
holding sway over Lebanon
Tariq Ali
Thursday July 20, 2006
The Guardian
In his last interview – after the 1967 six-day war – the historian
Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and
whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: “To justify or
condone Israel’s wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad
service indeed and harm its own long-term interest.” Comparing Israel
to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: “The Germans have summed up
their own experience in the bitter phrase ‘Man kann sich totseigen!’
‘You can triumph yourself to death’.”
In Israel’s actions today we can detect many of the elements of
hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness
of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it
wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its
racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and
Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli
soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.
The offensive against Gaza is designed to destroy Hamas for daring to
win an election. The “international community” stood by as Gaza
suffered collective punishment. Dozens of innocents continue to die.
This meant nothing to the G8 leaders. Nothing was done.
Israeli recklessness is always green-lighted by Washington. In this
case, their interests coincide. They want to isolate and topple the
Syrian regime by securing Lebanon as an Israeli-American protectorate
on the Jordanian model. They argue this was the original design of the
country. Contemporary Lebanon, it is true, still remains in large
measure the artificial creation of French colonialism it was at the
outset – a coastal band of Greater Syria sliced off from its
hinterland by Paris to form a regional client dominated by a Maronite
The country’s confessional chequerboard has never allowed an accurate
census, for fear of revealing that a substantial Muslim – today
perhaps even a Shia – majority is denied due representation in the
political system. Sectarian tensions, over-determined by the plight of
refugees from Palestine, exploded into civil war in the 1970s,
providing for the entry of Syrian troops, with tacit US approval, and
their establishment there – ostensibly as a buffer between the warring
factions, and deterrent to an Israeli takeover, on the cards with the
invasions of 1978 and 1982 (when Hizbullah did not exist).
The killing of Rafik Hariri provoked vast demonstrations by the middle
class, demanding the expulsion of the Syrians, while western
organisations arrived to assist the progress of a Cedar Revolution.
Backed by threats from Washington and Paris, the momentum was
sufficient to force a Syrian withdrawal and produce a weak government
in Beirut.
But Lebanon’s factions remained spread-eagled. Hizbullah had not
disarmed, and Syria has not fallen. Washington had taken a pawn, but
the castle had still to be captured. I was in Beirut in May, when the
Israeli army entered and killed two “terrorists” from a Palestinian
splinter group. The latter responded with rockets. Israeli warplanes
punished Hizbullah by dropping over 50 bombs on its villages and
headquarters near the border. The latest Israeli offensive is designed
to take the castle. Will it succeed? A protracted colonial war lies
ahead, since Hizbullah, like Hamas, has mass support. It cannot be
written off as a “terrorist” organisation. The Arab world sees its
forces as freedom fighters resisting colonial occupation.
There are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gulags.
That is why Israeli soldiers are captured. Prisoner exchanges have
occurred as a result. To blame Syria and Iran for Israel’s latest
offensive is frivolous. Until the question of Palestine is resolved
and Iraq’s occupation ended, there will be no peace in the region. A
“UN” force to deter Hizbullah, but not Israel, is a nonsensical notion.
· A demonstration against the Middle East war has been called by the
Stop the War Coalition and others on Saturday www.stopthewar.org.