Rene — Robert Fisk: A terrible thought occurs to me – that there will be another 9/11

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Robert Fisk: A terrible thought occurs to me – that there will be another 9/11
The Independent/UK
05 August 2006
The room shook. Not since the 1983 earthquake has my apartment rocked
from side to side. That was the force of the Israeli explosions in
the southern suburbs of Beirut – three miles from my home – and the
air pressure changed in the house yesterday morning and outside in
the street the palm trees moved.
Is it to be like this every day? How many civilians can you make
homeless before you start a revolution? And what is next? Are the
Israelis to bomb the centre of Beirut? The Corniche? Is this why all
the foreign warships came and took their citizens away, to make Beirut
safe to destroy?
Yesterday, needless to say, was another day of massacres, great
and small.
The largest appeared to be 40 farm workers in northern Lebanon, some
of them Kurds – a people who do not even have a country. An Israeli
missile was reported to have exploded among them as they loaded
vegetables on to a refrigerated truck near Al-Qaa, a small village
east of Hermel in the far north. The wounded were taken to hospital
in Syria because the roads of Lebanon have now all been cratered by
Israeli bomb-bursts. Later we learnt that an air strike on a house
in the village of Taibeh in the south had killed seven civilians and
wounded 10 seeking shelter from attack.
In Israel two civilians were killed by Hizbollah missiles but, as
usual, Lebanon bore the brunt of the day’s attacks which centred –
incredibly – on the Christian heartland that has traditionally shown
great sympathy towards Israel. It was the Christian Maronite community
whose Phalangist militiamen were Israel’s closest allies in its 1982
invasion of Lebanon yet Israel’s air force yesterday attacked three
highway bridges north of Beirut and – again as usual – it was the
little people who died.
One of them was Joseph Bassil, 65, a Christian man who had gone out
on his daily jogging exercise with four friends north of Jounieh. “His
friends packed up after four rounds of the bridge because it was hot,”
a member of his family told us later. “Joseph decided to do one more
jog on the bridge. That was what killed him.” The Israelis gave no
reason for the attacks – no Hizbollah fighters would ever enter this
Christian Maronite stronghold and the only hindrance was caused to
humanitarian convoys – and there were growing fears in Lebanon that
the latest air raids were a sign of Israel’s frustration rather any
serious military planning.
Indeed, as the Lebanon war continues to destroy innocent lives – most
of them Lebanese – the conflict seems to be increasingly aimless. The
Israeli air force has succeeded in killing perhaps 50 Hizbollah
members and 600 civilians and has destroyed bridges, milk factories,
gas stations, fuel storage depots, airport runways and thousands of
homes. But to what purpose?
Does the United States any longer believe Israel’s claims that it
will destroy Hizbollah when its army clearly cannot do anything of
the kind? Does Washington not realise that when Israel grows tired of
this war, it will plead for a ceasefire – which only Washington can
deliver by doing what it most loathes to do: by taking the road to
Damascus and asking for help from President Bashar al-Assad of Syria?
What in the meanwhile is happening to Lebanon? Bridges and buildings
can be reconstructed – with European Union loans, no doubt – but
many Lebanese are now questioning the institutions of the democracy
for which the US was itself so full of praise last year. What is the
point of a democratically elected Lebanese government which cannot
protect its people? What is the point of a 75,000-member Lebanese
army which cannot protect its nation, which cannot be sent to the
border, which does not fire on Lebanon’s enemies and which cannot
disarm Hizbollah? Indeed, for many Lebanese Shias, Hizbollah is now
the Lebanese army.
So fierce has been Hizbollah’s resistance – and so determined its
attacks on Israeli ground troops in Lebanon – that many people here
no longer recall that it was Hizbollah which provoked this latest war
by crossing the border on 12 July, killing three Israeli soldiers and
capturing two others. Israel’s thr eats of enlarging the conflict even
further are now met with amusement rather than horror by a Lebanese
population which has been listening to Israel’s warnings for 30 years
with ever greater weariness. And yet they fear for their lives. If
Tel Aviv is hit, will Beirut be spared. Or if central Beirut is hit,
will Tel Aviv be spared? Hizbollah now uses Israel’s language of an
eye for an eye. Every Israeli taunt is met by a Hizbollah taunt.
And do the Israelis realise that they are legitimising Hizbollah,
that a rag-tag army of guerrillas is winning its spurs against an
Israeli army and air force whose targets – if intended – prove them
to be war criminals and if unintended suggest that they are a rif-raff
little better than the Arab armies they have been fighting, on and off,
for more than half a century?
Extraordinary precedents are being set in this Lebanon war.
In fact, one of the most profound changes in the region these past
three decades has been the growing unwillingness of Arabs to be
afraid. Their leaders – our “moderate” pro-Western Arab leaders such
as King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt – may be
afraid. But their peoples are not. And once a people have lost their
terror, they cannot be re-injected with fear.
Thus Israel’s consistent policy of smashing Arabs into submission no
longer works. It is a policy whose bankruptcy the Americans are now
discovering in Iraq.
And all across the Muslim world, “we” – the West, America, Israel –
are fighting not nationalists but Islamists. And watching the martyrdom
of Lebanon this week – its slaughtered children in Qana packed into
plastic bags until the bags ran out and their corpses had to be
wrapped in carpets – a terrible and daunting thought occurs to me,
day by day. That there will be another 9/11.