Qana update and Israeli "restraint."
Israel has apologized -- sort of -- for this "accidental" bombing and blames the whole thing on Hezbollah. An Israeli military investigation concluded that Hezbollah was using civilians as human shields and, "had the information indicated that civilians were present . . . the attack would not have been carried out." What many probably wonder about is how they couldn't have seen that the house was full of civilians. The Israeli military has the most sophisticated optical technology the US can provide. They can read the number on a license plate from 50,000 feet, yet some how they can't see a building full of civilians or 33 farm workers loading boxes of plums and peaches on to a truck.
HRW isn't buying this 'Hezbollah did it' line that Israel uses every time it does something horrific like bomb Qana. The organization accuses the Israeli military of war crimes in a report issued on Thursday. The 50 page report says that Israel's killing of civilians "cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on Hezbollah practices." It says also that the IDF has "systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign." Kenneth Roth of HRW said that naturally Hezbollah shouldn't use civilians as a shield, "that's an absolute -- but the image that Israel has promoted of such shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong. In many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms . . . had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around." The claim that civilians who have died were warned by leaflets and text messages to get out is debunked by HRW as well. These warnings "in no way entitles the Israeli military to treat these civilians who remain in southern Lebanon as combatants that are fair game for attack."
What HRW doesn't get, though, is that all of southern Lebanon is populated by Shias who probably support Hezbollah -- so they're all guilty. Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman told Tim Russert last Sunday that Hezbollah "has become part of Lebanese society. Hezbollah is not just in the south, Hezbollah is everywhere, including in Beirut, including in southern Beirut. It is controlling most of Lebanon." (They're everywhere, so where ever we bomb we're likely to hit some of them.)
Ehud Olmert explained to the FT in an interview this week that "no country in Europe would have responded in such a restrained manner as Israel did." [Yes, just look at all the restraint they showed in southern Beirut for instance!] "We responded in such a manner that it will be registered in the collective memory of not just the Lebanese, but any nation that has ever had any plans of attacking Israel with missiles he says." I'm sure the Lebanese people appreciate that they have to be collectively punished so Israel can instill this "collective memory" on all countries in the Middle East (if there's anyone left alive that is.)
If this is restraint I'd hate to see what they'd do if they really let loose. There are from 600 to 900 civilian’s dead already and although there might be Hezbollah fighters in those numbers no one can find a Hezbollah fighter to ask about it. Over half a million people have been displaced or are refugees; about 200,000 have fled into Syria and about 60,000 into Jordan. The rest are moving into the north of the country or just staying put as Israeli jets attack cars on the remaining drivable roads indiscriminately. Medicine, fuel and food are running out all over the country because Israel has bombed every route into Lebanon that supplies could get in through.
Ehud Olmert announced this week that the IDF had "entirely eliminated" Hezbollah's infrastructure. That's kind of a strange thing to say, because some how Hezbollah keeps managing to launch missiles into Israel, over 300 missiles in the last three days alone. Perhaps what he really meant to say was Israel has eliminated Lebanon's entire infrastructure.
The FT reports that, besides Israel's bombardment of roads and highways, power plants, whole city blocks of southern Beirut and the flattening of villages in the south of the country, Israel has destroyed the fabric of Lebanon's economy. Some 45 large factories have been destroyed according to a list compiled by Lebanese businessmen. These include: "factories for furniture, medical products, textiles, paper and a milk plant."
The FT: "Proctor & Gamble's warehouse in Beirut was bombed, with damage to $20 million in stock. In total, 95 percent of industry has ground to a halt, according to the Association of Lebanese Industrialists. Those companies not directly targeted have been halted by the Israeli blockade."
The FT reports that Lebanon was on the way to having the best economy it's had in more than a decade, now growth is expected to be zero. In the first 12 days of the war damage to business and infrastructure has cost Lebanon $12 billion. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Israeli strike on the Jiyyeh power plant in Beirut has caused a 15,000 gallon oil spill that has damaged much of the Lebanese coast line and is now moving toward Syria and could threaten Cyprus, Turkey and Greece if it isn't cleaned up -- which is can't be because Israel would bomb anyone on the beach or in the water trying to do so.
So, let's definatly wait on that cease-fire until the US and the international community can come up with a comprehensive peace settlement that will be to Israel's liking; but which, naturally, won't include the issue driving this endless cycle of violence: the Palestinian occupation.