By Jeremy Salt
What a chamber of horrors the third millennium has been so far in the Middle East, without even a quarter of it having passed. Iraq, Syria and Yemen on a scale unimaginable even at the high point of imperialism in the 19th century. An estimated 300 children under five dying every day in Yemen from malnutrition, Palestinians shot dead in their occupied country every day, Lebanon and Syria slowly strangled by US sanctions, Iran threatened with military destruction and the revelation of yet another massacre by the US, in Syria, where “about” 70 women and children were killed at Baghuz by bombs dropped one after the other to make sure that no-one escaped.
There is no suggestion that anyone should be punished for yet another ‘mistake.’ This is where thousands of years of drawing up covenants to make the world a safer place have ended up: back where we started, the law of the jungle.
This is what the guardians of ‘western civilization’ have given to the world just in the past three decades:
Two wars on Iraq, the ‘cradle of civilization’ shattered by the cradle of a violent hamburger junk culture, millions killed or displaced. Libya, the most developed country in Africa, pulled up by its roots, uncounted thousands killed, the leader of its 1969 revolution slaughtered as Hillary Clinton cackled with glee like one of the witches around the cauldron in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Syria torn to pieces, ancient cities and markets destroyed, and half a million killed. In Yemen, more than 230,000 dead, with 43 percent of prematurely born babies dying because of the lack of medical equipment and a genocidal famine – 75 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition – continuing even as fresh supplies of weaponry are dropped off in the Saudi kingdom by the US and Britain. Iran, Syria and Lebanon targeted with economic sanctions: in occupied Palestine, in Syria and in Iran the Zionist state continues its murderous march through history.
Not one of the global criminals responsible for these massive crimes against humanity has been punished. They play golf or roam the world picking up millions for their speaking engagements and their ‘philanthropic’ foundations. Not one word of contrition or remorse has been spoken by any of them for the lives they have ended or ruined. Not even the death of children has forced admission of guilt out of them. Others have been punished for lesser crimes but not this gang. They are completely remorseless.
Imagine the reaction if these crimes were committed in Europe and white people were being slaughtered or driven out of their homes, out of their countries and drowning in their thousands as they tried to escape across the seas.
Well, between 1939-45 it did happen and those responsible were hanged at Nuremberg. We have no Nuremberg now but we do have an International Criminal Court (ICC) which does punish the architects of war crimes and crimes against humanity – as long as their skin is the right color. With the exception of pale-skinned Balkan Serbs charged after the breakup of Yugoslavia, all those hauled before the ICC have been brown or black.
The tsunami of death and destruction which began rolling across the region when Napoleon landed in Egypt in 1798 shows no sign of receding. Almost no country from the Atlantic coast of West Africa down to the Arab Gulf has avoided being swamped by it and many have been swamped several times.
The prime beneficiary of all of the above in the past century has been the settler state implanted in Palestine after 1918. Israel is the heart and soul of US foreign policy. Indeed, US foreign policy is no more than the Stars and Stripes draped over the interests of the Zionist state.
Take Iran as an example. After the death of Ayatullah Khumayni, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami sought to repair relations with the US. They offered investment concessions, diplomatic rapprochement and a political pathway into a region of critical interest, central Asia. Iranian society is conservative and God-fearing, rather like the US itself, but as long as Rafsanjani and Khatami refused to drop Iran’s righteous defense of the Palestinians, nothing else counted. Even in the ‘moderate’ Khatami’s time, economic sanctions were tightened, paving the way for the election of the ‘hardliner,’ Mahmud Ahmedinejad.
The attempted strangulation of Iran and Syria through war, assassination and sanctions necessarily involves Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base. Since the 1980s Hezbollah has successfully fought off all attempts by Israel – backed to the hilt by the US of course – to destroy it. Far from being weakened, Hezbollah has gone from strength to strength, militarily and as a Lebanese political party. The lesson learned by the US and Israel is just that they have to try harder, to tear Lebanon apart if that is what it takes to destroy Hezbollah.
The latest provocation through Israel’s agents took place in Beirut on October 14, in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Chiyah, bordering predominantly Maronite Christian Ain Rummaneh, where the ‘bus massacre’ of 27 Palestinians on April 13, 1975, was the trigger pulled to start the civil war.
This time snipers positioned on rooftops shot at Amal and Hezbollah supporters as they moved towards the Palace of Justice in Al Tayouneh to hold a vigil calling for the removal of Tariq al Bitar as the judge appointed to investigate the Beirut port explosion on August 5, 2020, on the grounds that he is running a heavily politicized inquiry heading towards a preordained conclusion, that this was a crime committed by Hezbollah.
Holding Hezbollah or Syria responsible for the crimes they have not committed was first tried after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Initially, four ‘pro-Syrian’ generals were imprisoned for four years before an international tribunal took over the prosecution and released them for lack of evidence. It immediately pointed the finger at Hezbollah, eventually finding one person, Salim Ayyash, guilty of “involvement” on the sole basis of tapped phone calls made through communications networks known to have been completely penetrated and manipulated by the Zionist state.
The tribunal cleared Hezbollah’s leadership. What this actually means is that if the leadership did not order the assassination, no senior figure in the movement would have carried it out. Nasrallah and Hariri had differences but a good working relationship and it is virtually unthinkable that Nasrallah would ever have sanctioned such a heinous act.
The only beneficiaries of this monstrous act were the US, Israel and their agents in Lebanon. Syria was embarrassed internationally and had to withdraw its remaining forces from the Bika’a valley. Lebanon was thrown into the chaos that gave birth to the rise of the anti-Syrian/pro-Saudi, US and Israel March 14 alliance.
Hezbullah produced intercepted reconnaissance footage showing that Israel had been tracking Hariri with drones wherever he went for years and was flying an AWACS plane and another reconnaissance aircraft over Beirut at the precise time of the assassination. One of its agents had been located at the scene of the killing only the day before. None of this circumstantial evidence was ever followed up by the tribunal. Israel and the US have shed buckets of blood in Lebanon over many decades, have between them committed the most atrocious crimes, but the tribunal never even considered them as suspects.
The snipers waiting on the top of apartment buildings in Tayouneh on October 14 killed seven people, one a woman shot dead in her own home. Not just on rooftops, however, but on the ground, the demonstrators were surrounded by militiamen waiting to ambush them with guns, knives and even rocks. Despite denials by Samir Geagea (Ja’ja), the head of the fascist/sectarian Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces (LF), the armed men were clearly LF and acting on his orders. Of the 19 arrested, several quickly implicated him.
Geagea is one of the most murderous individuals in Lebanese history, which says a lot given the bloody track record of many others. During the civil war (1976-1989) he killed rivals within his own Maronite Christian ranks as well as Palestinians and other enemies outside them. In 1994 he was sentenced to four life sentences for the assassinations of former Prime Minister Rashid Karameh (1987), National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun (1990), Falangist (Kata’ib) head Elias al Zayek (1990) and the attempted assassination of Defence Minister Michel Murr (1991). In 1978 he and Elie Hobeika, at the behest of Bashir Gemayel, then head of the Falangists, led 1200 men in an attack on the north Lebanon family home of Tony Frangieh, leader of the Maronite Marada (Giants) faction. Geagea was wounded and had to be taken away before Frangieh, his wife and three-year-old daughter were killed.
In the 1990 attack, Dany Chamoun’s wife and two of his sons were also killed. If there is any poetic justice in any of this shedding of blood – including entirely innocent blood – it lies in the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the car bombing murder in 2002 of Elie Hobeika, Israel’s leading henchman in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982.
Geagea himself served eleven years of four life sentences before being released under amnesty after the assassination of Hariri and allowed to take up the leadership of the LF. His brutality is a powerful weapon in the hands of Israel and the US, whose ambassador, Dorothy Shea, has been open in her interference in Lebanese politics.
US economic sanctions against Lebanon have one primary target, Hezbollah; one secondary target, Syria; and one-third target, Iran. How many Christians die defending ‘Christian Lebanon’ is not an issue for the US and Israel any more than the number of Muslims who die fighting them. All they want is the chaos that will further their ambitions. They tore Lebanon apart before and they will do it again, mercilessly, ruthlessly, callously, without a care for the innocent blood of thousands that will be shed.
Whatever cause Samir Geagea thinks he is serving, the piecemeal destruction of Lebanon, indeed of the entire Middle East, is primarily about the protection of Israel. However, Israel is not as safe as it used to be or it might think it still is. It is confronted by enemies who have not backed off one meter from the struggle to liberate Palestine. Israel has tried hard to destroy them. Up to now, it has failed, so it is getting ready to try again. While planning/contingency planning is a constant, Israel now appears to be actively preparing for a massive military strike that would target Iran’s nuclear plants and missile capacity.
In September the Zionist chief of staff, Avi Kohavi, said plans for such a strike had been “greatly accelerated.” The military has been given an additional $1.5 billion to buy aircraft, drones and ‘bunker buster’ bombs that would probably include the USAF’s new 5000 lb. (2,267 kg.) GRU-72 Advanced 5k Penetrator, which would be aimed at Iran’s underground nuclear installations. Anticipating a simultaneous war with Hezbollah, Israel has also been carrying out extensive military exercises in northern occupied Palestine, coordinated with all emergency civil services to deal with an expected crisis on the domestic front once the missiles start falling. Israel is clearly planning for a big war, and can be expected to throw everything into this attempt to crush its principal enemies once and for all.
Unlike the white settlers in South Africa, the Zionist leadership sees no writing on the wall, no indications that history is not on their side even as it builds up against them. No more than Netanyahu does Naftali Bennett have any intention of giving anything back to the Palestinians except the smallest fragments of municipal responsibility. Like Netanyahu, he sees no need to negotiate, no need to give anything away. Why would he, when in the last resort Israel even has nuclear weapons to destroy its enemies? This is the question to which there can be no answer until the day comes when Israel faces the reality that even its conventional weapons are not sufficient to destroy its enemies.
All appearances to the contrary, unlimited US economic and military support has been a curse for Israel. It has created the illusion of power. Israel is like a plant with shallow roots. Only as long as the US keeps watering it, can the plant thrive. There is no permanent, unbreakable bond between states and all appearances to the contrary, there never will be between Israel and the US. Slowly, Americans are waking up and Israel’s incessant pleading is already beginning to fall on deaf ears, as the public becomes more aware of Israel’s criminality and as congressmen and women (mainly women) are emboldened to speak out. The time may come when the US can no longer afford Israel. The time may come when public opinion has changed to allow a US government to treat Israel as it treats other states.
US economic and military aid has had the same effect on Israel as steroids have on a bodybuilder. The 97-lb weakling is now the neighborhood bully swaggering down the street with pumped-up muscles. He smacks people around or they run in fright but Hezbollah and Iran are not running. They are standing firm and preparing to defend themselves. In any case, in the next war, Israel will take damage it has never experienced before, to the point where so many Jewish Israelis will just want to get out that Israel as a Zionist state is likely to crumble from within and die of its own contradictions. Is this what it is going to take for peace to become possible?
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.