This video was recorded by Vermont’s CCTV, Channel 17.
Finkelstein: … appearance… such a beautiful space. There’re only two places to live in the United States — San Francisco and Vermont. [audience laughter] Unfortunately, I’m in Chicago. [audience laughter] There’re older people in this room, mostly my age cohort, so you remember the button “War is not healthy for human beings and other living beings,” well, neither is Chicago. [audience laughter] And since… Chicago… to dispense with Dr. Finkelstein and judging from this crowd should be either Comrade or Tovarisch. [audience laughter] And I’ll take that… [inaudible] I’m going to not speak directly on the topic that was advertised this afternoon. During my travails with Professor Dershowitz of Harvard, who is not an old comrade, [audience laughter] one student once came up to me and accused me of plagiarism on the ground I was repeating the same speech more than once. [audience laughter] He was very emphatic about it. [audience laughter] I think quite …[inaudible] plagiarism. I did learn from that particular experience — if I’m gonna be speaking twice in the same day I should have two lectures with me so I don’t have to deal with that piece of lunacy.
|So this afternoon I’m not going to speak on the longer topic, in the evening I’ll go on at some length, roughly between the lengths of Castro and Chavez [audience laughter]… I smell sulfur… [audience laughter] But this afternoon, it’s a smaller… [inaudible] we can get to know each other and what I decided to do this afternoon is to speak on a narrower topic which is the most recent events in Gaza and Lebanon. Obviously, I could’ve included Iraq but there are many people that are more knowledgeable on Iraq and are more available, so I’m gonna speak on mostly some developments in Gaza and Lebanon, and also, at the end, to sort of reflect on where things are headed, because I do believe, it’s often used, the expression, “we’re at a turning point” or “we’ve reached a turning point” and most of the time… [inaudible] that expression is hot air. But I do believe that in the case of the recent war in Lebanon there were significant developments which will have a substantial impact on the the unfolding of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the conflict between the US and Israel on one hand and Arab, Muslim nations in the Middle East onthe other. I’ll get to that at the very end.|
Let me begin with the… [inaudible] of the most recent course of events, which begins January 2006 when Hamas, the Islamic leadership, is elected to power in the West Bank and Gaza. They were elected in January 2006 and in March 2006 they took office. Immediately, as they took office, the United States and Israel, and then the European Union, inflicted on Hamas a quite brutal sanctions regime… … and the sanctions were conditional on Hamas doing two things. The two demands which were imposed on Hamas were:
1. they have to renounce terrorism or renounce violence and
2. they have to recognize the State of Israel
… those two demands, the economic sanctions against the Palestinians would continue. So first of all, let’s look at those two conditions. On their face, it seems to me, the two conditions are perfectly legitimate. The bargaining [poor audio quality] of civilians for political ends is the basic definition of terrorism and any State or organization, or movement is legally bound and morally bound to renounce the resort to terrorism. That seems to me a legitimate demand. The number two demand, that Israel be recognized within its borders, the right, as the language has it, to territorial integrity and political sovereignty within its borders. That demand seems to me perfectly legitimate also, in fact it’s, frankly, uncontroversial.
So the issue is not the demands that were put on Hamas, those, as I’ve said, I think are pretty much uncontroversial. The question is the uniformity of those demands. That is to say — are they applied across the board to all the parties in the conflict? Or are they being applied to one party in the conflict? If they’re applied across the board then we can call them moral principle, if they’re applied to one side, the proper word is to call it hypocrisy.
Let’s see how the demands work out in terms of their uniform application to all parties to the conflict…. …
Let’s look at that first demand, the question of renouncing terrorism. … what’s been happening since what’s called the beginning of the second Intifada, which is to say, since September 2000 until today. If you look at the most recent numbers posted on the B’Tselem website — B’Tselem is the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — the most recent numbers from last night, you’ll see that there’ve been been 3800 Palestinians killed since September 2000, September 28, 2000, and approximately 1,000 Israelis killed, the ratio being roughly 3.8 to 1. On both sides, between one half and two thirds of the fatalities have been civilians. So if we limit ourselves to the total number of fatalities or the number of civilians killed on both sides, the ratio comes to roughly to about 4 times as many Palestinians killed as Israelis killed.
Some people want to go beyond those numbers and say that those numbers are still not capturing reality because, the argument is made, “ok, it’s true, Israel kills civilians but it’s not true that they target civilians. And one has to make the distinction between targetting civilians and civilians who are ‘collateral damage'” and that will be the last time I’ll use that expression. I alredy feel guilty using it now.
What does the record show? Once again we have quite extensive human rights reports, quite extensive documentation — the record shows that Israel has routinely targetted civilians for killing. I’ll get to that later when I discuss the question of Lebanon but we have quite a bit of documentation from Human Rights Watch, from Amnesty International and so forth, that Israel targets civilians for death. So at that level, again, there seems to be, pretty much, an equivalence between the actions of Hamas and the actions of the State of Israel.
It’s also true to say, and you’ll find this through out the human rights literature, that Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians. That is to say, it fires wildly into crowds and many Palestinians get killed. The argument, among human rights organizations at any rate, that technically — no, I shouldn’t say technically — in effect, there’s no difference between indiscriminately killing civilians and targeting civilians.
So let’s just take a couple of examples. If Hamas targets a bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and blows it up, and then afterwards, says, “well, we didn’t really wanna kill the civilians, we just wanted to destroy the bus,” people would laugh, that’s ridiculous. So if Israel drops a one ton bomb on a densely populated area of Gaza, as it did in July 2002 in order to “kill” a Palestinian leader, a fellow named Shahade, and then they said “well, yes, it’s true, 14 others were killed (9 of them babies) but we didn’t intend to. we intended only to kill the Palestinian leader.” The argument seems to me as silly and unacceptable as the argument of a hypothetical Hamas claim that “we wanted to just blow up the bus.”
Or if you take it on a larger scale, if the United States said “we dropped the atomic bomb on Heroshima because we wanted to kill Hirohito.” Well, that’s just silly. You know you are knowingly using violence in a way that’s going to inflict massive civilian casualties. And so even quite conservative Israeli — smart but very conservative — Israeli legal scholars, I’ll quote to you Yoram Dinstein, he was the president of Tel Aviv University and he’s the leading authority on international law, he writes in one of his… … says “there’s no genuine difference between a premeditated attack against civilians” — what Hamas does — “and a reckless disregard of the principle to distinguish between civilians and combatants.” They are, under international law, equally forbidden. Well, that raises the obvious question. Why is it that the demand to renounce violence is only imposed on Hamas? Noone has imposed during this whole period — which as I’ll get to in a moment, is turning into quite a horrific state in Gaza — nobody’s imposed the same demand on Israel? Why is it only one side is being asked to renounce violence, and for those who care about the numbers, the side which is numerically far less culpable of terrorist acts by a ratio of one to four?
Let’s turn to the second demand, namely the demand for mutual recognition, or, I should say, the demand of recognizing the State of Israel. As I said, already twice now, that’s an uncontroversial demand. Israel is a member of the United Nations, it has a right to have its territorial integrity and political sovereignty respected by its neighbors, the right to live in peace.
Well, fair enough, but now let’s look at the other side of the equation. You could say, first of all, just to return for a moment, Hamas’ statements on the issue of recognizing Israel have been ambiguous. I don’t think it’s incorrect to say they play down what their current position is. As far as one can tell, their current position is that they’re willing to accept a long-term ceasefire, the equivalent more or less of an armistice with Israel. They’re not ready to recognize Israel, except, they said, if a Palestinian government negotiates a settlement with Israel and the Palestinian population supports it, then they will not stand in the way. Which is basically the position that’s been articulated by the Iranian leadership as well as the Hezbollah. Philosophically, as a movement, they won’t accept recognition but if a government does negotiate a settlement, the Palestinians support it, they won’t stand in the way.
Ok, I’m willing to acknowledge that that’s an ambiguous position on their part. But now let’s look at the other side of the equation. The other side of the equation is pretty straight forward. In fact, it’s not complicated at all. Since 1967 no Israeli government, no Israeli political party, no Israeli senior official has ever recognized a Palestinian State within the June 1967 borders. Now, it is true that they’ve recognized, recently, since roughly the case of the Likud Party…[inaudible]… ’97, the case of Sharon, roughly.. early 2001, they’ve recognized the right of Palestinians to a State. That has no bearing and no reference to a State as it’s understood by the international community.
There has been, since roughly the mid 1970s, you could say for the past three decades, there’s been a consensus in the international community on how to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. And the consensus, I suspect, is familiar to everybody in this room — it’s called the Two-State Settlement. It’s not two States anywhere and of any shape. The two States have very specific meaning under international law. A fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter, as anchored in article two of the UN Charter, is that it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war or by force. You can’t change countries’, nations’ borders simply through the imposition of force. For those of you who know the technical side of the Israel-Palestine conflict, you know that a famous UN Resolution 242 from November 1967 lists out the basic principles for resolving the conflict at the very top. The first principle listed is the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war.
That principle was upheld in the recent 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the World Court. That means concretely that Israel has to “fully” withdraw from the territory acquired during the June 1967 war, for our purposes in particular, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Why? Because all of those territories were acquired in the course of a war and under international law you have no privy whatsoever to territory acquired in the course of a war. Now, no Israeli party, no Israeli government, no Israeli official has ever acknowledged a full withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. And we know that because the record, as I said, is quite clear. Every year, for the past 20 years, the United Nations, usually around December, has a resolution called Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question. Every single year. And every single year the vote is exactly the same. It’s the whole world on one side, I’ll quote to you from this year, the last vote was December 2005… It was 156 to 6, the whole world on one side and on the other side — I should just point out that this resolution calls for a Two-State Settlement on the June 1967 border — it’s the United States, Israel and depending on the year, it’s some variation of Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Martial Islands. That’s seven all together but usually one drops out. Each year they grow… [inaudible]… depending on who gets paid that year. [audience laughter] It’s the whole world on the one hand, the United States and Israel on the one hand and those South Sea …[inaudible]… on the other hand. And the record has been that way, you know, if you take the year 1989, it was 151 to 3, the three then were the US, Israel and the island State of Dominica. Dominica still comes in and out, you know like Grenada is also another major super power [audience laughter] … [inaudible] … depending on the year.
And it’s always been the United States and Israel who have opposed that Two-State Settlement. That’s at the level of rhetoric. Now, at the level of practicality.
So you could say on the Palestinian side Hamas has made ambiguous statements about a settlement on the June 1967 border. On the Israeli side there has been no ambiguity whatsoever, it’s a categorical “NO,” and we should add — a categorical “NO” across the board. There’s no issue here of a different political party having a different position. That’s at the level of rhetoric. We should also add two caveats.
There is this claim that the obstacle is that Hamas won’t recognize Israel, as if to say, if they did the problem would be resolved. But nobody disputes that for the past 30 years the Palestine Liberation Organization did support the Two-State Settlement but Israel still opposed it. So it’s can’t be, logically, the Palestinian side that’s the obstacle. Because all of those UN resolutions I mentioned, and I can go through a quite copious documentary record, the Palestinians always supported it. It’s true, a new element entered the picture with Hamas being elected in January but it’s simply not true that were it not for Hamas, there would be a settlement.
Let’s just give another relevant example. In April 2002 the Arab League met in… … the Two-State Settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict. And they even gave a very understated statement on the refugee question. Rather than calling for the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees, they only called for “a just solution of the refugee problem.” It was a major consession on the Arab side. Now, if you read the press, even the Israeli press, the question arises: “Will Hamas recognize the Arab League initiative of April 2002?” Well, it’s an interesting question but it seems to me an irrelevant one because Israel completely rejected that initiative. Israel did
denounced that initiative. So whether Hamas recognizes it or not is a mute questions. Israel opposes the Two-State Settlement as understood by the entire international community and has always done so, since probably within a month of the June 1967 war.
But that’s all at the level of rhetoric. We also have to look at the reality of what’s happening on the ground. While Hamas makes ambiguous statements about recognizing Israel rhetorically. In fact, on the ground, Israel is unambiguously destroying any possibility of a Palestinian State. As I stand here and speak now, as you in the audience listen, Israel’s building a wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice which will absorb about 10% of the West Bank, according to the most recent figures. Number two, Israel has now de facto annexed the Jordan Valley, which is about 25% of the West Bank and it has cut up, through its settlement building, it’s cut up the West Bank into 3 fragments. 1 fragment in the north, a settlement called Ariel, and 1 fragment to the north and south, a settlement block called Maale Adumim. And what’s being left to the Palestinians is what The Economist called a “Swiss Cheeze State” on about, they estimated about 50% of the West Bank.
That’s the level of practicality. Right now, as we speak, Hamas is being asked to verbally recognize Israel, while Israel is in fact, on the ground, systematically destroying any possibility of a Palestinian State.
And we have to bear in mind that it is the Palestinians are being subjected now to extraordinarily brutal economic sanctions. If they don’t meet the two conditions, no sanctions against Israel. A couple of days ago one of the raportuers on human rights at the United Nations, a smart guy and I think a principled guy, his name is John Dugard — he’s considered the “father of human rights” in South Africa, a South African white lawyer who now currently works for a human rights division of the UN, and his …[inaudible]… so to speak is Palestine — he said something, which I found quite resonent, he said, “in effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions — the first time an occupied people have been so treated. This is difficult to understand. Israel is in violation of major Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights and” Israel “has failed to implement the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice,” which called on Israel to dismantle the wall it’s building, “yet it escapes the imposition of sanctions. Instead the Palestinian people, rather than the Palestinian Authority, have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.” And now there’s an interesting footnote which the older people in the room will remember, he says “It is interesting to recall that the Western States refused to impose meaningful economic sanctions on South Africa to compel it to abandon apartheid on the grounds that this would harm the black people of South Africa. No such sympathy is extended to the Palestinian people or their human rights….”
That was all the first few months of the imposition of the economic sanctions. The most recent round of the disaster occuring as we speak. In Gaza [it] began on June 25 when Palestinians related to Hamas captured an Israeli soldier and demanded the release of the women and children prisoners in Israeli jails. There’re roughly at this moment 9,000 Palestinians being held prisoner in Israel of whom 215 are minors, about 700 are administrative detainees — which means no charges have been leveled against them, no trial has been given to them, they are, for all intents and purposes, they are hostages, no charges and no trial.
At that point Israel proceeded to starve Gaza into submission in order to get back that one Israeli and to stop the Qassam rocket fire into Israel. Just on this question of the Kassam missiles, about which we hear a lot, let me just give you a couple of statistics to keep in mind. The withdrawal from Gaza, which all of you remember, that Steven Spielberg extravaganza, occured in September 2005.
Between September 2005 and the beginning of the latest round on June 25th, Israel fired about 7,000 to 9,000 artillery shells into Gaza. In that same period as Israel fired seven to nine thousand artillery shells into Gaza, the Palestinians fired about 1,000 of these clunky Kassam missiles into Israel.
The casualties are also interesting to compare. Between January and June 80 Palestinians had been killed, while on the Israeli side, from these terrible, horrible, lethal, ghastly Qassam rockets, 5 Israelis had been killed in the last 6 years. 5 Israelis killed in the last six years, 80 Palestinians in the last six months but you’d never know it if you follow the media. All they care about are those [Qassam rockets]… … what is Israel to do?
Soon after, Israel began to impose the ruthless sanctions against Gaza, I’m now quoting Meron Benvenisti, one of Israel’s leading authorities on the Occupied Territories, formerly the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, he said, to use his words “Israel took about a third of the Hamas government hostage.” That’s his words.
In fact, if words have any meaning, the entire 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza have now been taken hostage by Israel. Since June 25, when the current round begins, 262 Palestinians have been killed, about half of them were not participating in any hostilities. 260 on one side, on the Israeli side 1 soldier has been killed. 50% of the work force is unemployed, poverty is at 80%. Let me just quote to you from the past couple of weeks, what Gaza looks like now, as we speak. Let me quote to you first Patrick Cockburn, the distinguished journalist from the Brittish Independent, he says “Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the verge of starvation. A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in prison in the most heavily populated area in the world.” …… “what most dread is an unknow voice on their cell phone saying that they have 1/2 hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal.”
Ok, some of you don’t trust the goyim, so read what Gideon Levy has to say, the chief Israeli correspondent in the Occupied Territories for Haaretz newspaper. He wrote (“Gaza’s darkness,” Haaretz, 09.03.2006) a couple of weeks ago “Gaza has been reoccupied. It is in its worst condition ever. The Israeli army has been rampaging through Gaza — there’s no other word to describe it — killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately…. In large parts of Gaza nowadays, there is no electricity. Israel bombed the only power station in Gaza… There’s hardly any water. More than ever, Gaza is also like a prison…. This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment.”
The Israeli Human Rights Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, just released a report this past week entitled “Act of Vengeance,” in which it describes the repercussions of Israel’s destruction of the only power plant in Gaza and it describes, accurately I think, what Israel did as a war crime.
Finally, let me quote again John Dugard. He says (Haaretz, 09.26.2006) “Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians where life is “intolerable, appalling, tragic” and the Jewish state appears to have thrown away the key… If … the international community cannot … take some action, [it] must not be surprised if the people of the planet disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights.” If the international community does not take any action, then they shouldn’t be surprised that the people of Gaza are skeptical about their commitment to human rights.
And that actually is a segway into the other side of the conflict, namely the one in Lebanon. Because amidst the destruction, rampaging in Gaza, on July 12, the Hezbollah, Islamic movement of Lebanon, decided to take action. They captured 2 Israeli soldiers, several others were killed in the course of a battle. Hizbullah’s action, the capturing of 2 soldiers, was generally attributed to 2 causes. Number 1, Israel was also keeping Lebanese prisoner and the Hizbullah wanted its prisoners released. And Hezbollah said not directly but by indirection instead that we were taking this action in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Gaza. And now I’ll speak off the record and I’ll just speak personally, I happen to think that’s a noble gesture. I don’t see any reason …[inaudible]… why the Palestinians have to be starved to death, starved into submission, and the whole world has to sit silently by while this gang of murderers and monsters proceed on their way. And if Hezbollah wants to take an action of solidarity I don’t know what international law says on that topic — I’m right now reading international law, it gives me something of a headache — and I finally don’t care. I think they have a right to act in solidarity with a people who’s being starved to death. Well, Hezbollah took the action, as I’ve described it and then the Israeli reaction set in.
On July 13th, I think, or 14th, Israel attacked Lebanon. The information we have was that Israel for a long time has been planning this invasion of Lebanon. Basically, had to teach Hezbollah a lesson because Hizbullah had inflicted a defeat on Israel in 2000 when after a guerilla war enduring about 18 years they drove Israel out of Lebanon. And Israel has to restore, what’s called, a fancy phrase they use, they have to restore their “deterrence capacity.” Deterrence capacity basically mean they have to restore the principle that what Israel says goes and to hold Arab neighbors in a state of terror. Israel used the attack by Hezbollah, the capture of its 2 soldiers, as the pretext to invade Lebanon and then Israel proceeded to use the tactics which it always does.
This is the 5th time Israel has invaded Lebanon — major invasion. Operation Litani in 1978, Operation Peace in the Galilee in June 1982, Operation Accountability in 1993, Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996. They sometimes had Biblical names, as when …[inaudible]… was in charge, Operation Grapes of Wrath, ’cause he likes to think he’s profound. And then there are certain beaurocratic names, Operation Accountability, that was Rabin, who was no nonsense. The one they’re currently using for the Gaza, it’s a very nice name, called — as they starve the Palestinians to death — they call it Operation Summer Rains. These are nice titles. I wonder which one the Germans dreamt up when they were destroying the Warsaw Ghetto.
In any case the tactics Israel used in the last war are pretty much typical. The tactic basically is — Hezbollah is a guerilla army, and they want to separate the army from the people — and the tactic basically is to fire, destroy indescriminately the civilian infrastructure and the civilians themselves in the hope that they will break with Hizbullah and blame Hizb’ullah for all of the destruction that’s brought. That was the expectation during the first few days of the war.
Anyone who knows the history, every time Israel enters Lebanon it does 2 things. It carpet bombs the south because it wants to teach the civilians in the south, if you support Hezbollah, this is what you’re going to get. And number 2, it drives the civilian population to take take root, hoping that enough pressure would be put on the government to disarm Hizbullah. It’s the same tactic over and over again. There’s a retired Israeli army colonel, he said, this past war: “the goal of Israel’s military campaign is to create a rift between the Lebanese population and Hezbollah supporters,” which is exactly what they wanted to do. To the credit of Israelis, I have to say, there’s a certain amount of candor about the kinds of tactics they’re using. So the Defense Minister [Chief of Staff of the Israeli army] Halutz said at the very beginning of the war, “if the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.” “Nothing is safe in Lebanon, it’s as simple as that.” You can also add that it’s as simple as that, that’s a criminal statement. Under international law, the most basic principle, the principle of distinction, distinguishing between the civilians and combatants, civilian areas and military areas. When you make a statement that “nothing is safe in Lebanon” you are uttering a legally criminal statement.
On July 28, Israel’s Justice Minister said “all those now in South Lebanon are terrorists.” And who are the terrorists? By July 28, those who had money, those who had the wherewithal, they had already fled to Beirut. Those who remained, estimates were about 50,000, they were the old, the infirm, the poor. Those who remained were to whom Ramon, Justice Minister Haim Ramon, were terrorists. That is to say they are fair game. Ehud Olmert, the …… he said, “All the population which is the power base of the Hezbollah in Lebanon was displaced. They lost their properties, they lost their possessions” (Matthew Tostevin, Reuters, 2 Aug 2006). He’s boasting about it. This was the big achievement of the war and who are their power base? Most of you in this room know it because you saw the scenes when Hezbollah had its victory demonstration a few days ago, it’s half the population of Lebanon. That’s the estimate. About half support, that’s the power base, which was displaced, they lost their properties, they lost their possessions. And then Mr. Olmert, the Prime Minister, then went on, got a little carried away, entered into fantasy land. He said “they are bitter, they are angry at Hezbollah and the power structure of Lebanon itself has been divided and Hezbollah is now entirely isolated in Lebanon.” Easily, you can judge for yourself, from that demonstration, the biggest one ever in Lebanese history.
What was the result of the war? About 1200 Lebanese were killed, the estimate is that about 90% were civilians. On the Israeli side there were 160 Israelis killed, 43 of the civilians. So if we look at the numbers absolutely, about 1,000 Lebanese civilians to about 40 Israeli civilians. It’s about a factor of 25. Or if you look at it relatively, on the Lebanese side 90% civilians, on the Israeli side 20% were civilians. However you look at it, the fact remains.
If Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, if you want to make that claim, I won’t argue with you so long as you say further that Israel is a terrorist organization by probably, at least, 25-fold greater. That’s what the numbers show. Whether absolutely or relatively, the record of Hezbollah is just much better than the record of Israel.
Human Rights Watch put out a report (Fatal Strikes) about 2 1/2 weeks into the war and this is what found. Let me recall a few passages. “In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target… Israel repeatedly attacked both individual vehicles and entire convoys of civilians who heeded the Israeli warnings [to abandon their villages]” …… The also attacked “humanitarian convoys and ambulances” that were “clearly marked.” While none “of the attacks on vehicles…resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons;” “in some cases…Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.”
And here’s an interesting finding by Human Rights Watch, register it in your memory bank — “no cases [were found] in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.” So all those claims that you heard in the media that Hezbollah was hiding among civialians, forcing Israel to target civilian areas against its will, because it was the only way to get the cowardly Hizbullah… Human Rights Watch, which is very far from a pro-Arab (whatever that means) perspective, very far — Human Rights Watch gets most of its funding from Jews, or a large percentage, they’re very touchy on this question — they couldn’t find ONE case, one, where Hezbollah was using the Lebanese population as shields.
They said [that] “on some limited occasions, Hezbollah fighters have attempted to store weapons near civilian homes and have fired rockets from areas where civilians live.” They found 2 cases of that and they conclude that Israel committed war crimes.
Amnesty International, about 5 weeks after the war, around 30 of August also came out with a report (Israel/Lebanon: Deliberate destruction or “collateral damage”? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure) that said “the country’s [Lebanon] infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale,” that much of this destruction constituted “war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility.”
I mentioned a moment ago that however you look at the record, the record of Hezbollah is much better than the record of Israel in terms of numbers. But there’s also a second issue.
Under the laws of war it’s strictly prohibited to target civilians as reprisals. That is to say, if they target your civilians, you’re not allowed to target theirs as a reprisal. Ok, we will grant that. Those are the laws of war and probably the laws of war are sensible, to the extent that “laws of war” has any meaning at all, I remain very confident that in a hundred or two hundred years, should humanity survive, that it will look back with sheer bewilderment and consternation at this notion of laws of war. It’s sort of like — etiquette of cannibals. It doesn’t seem to work. But, granting the existence of the concept of laws of war, and granting the fact that it prohibits reprisals, the fact remains that, according to Hezbollah, and Amnesty in its report did not dispute this, it only targetted civilians after Israel initiated such attacks and was aimed at stopping them.
At one point, in one of his speeches, Nasrallah said (Amnesty report, 09.14.2006) “any time you decide to stop your attacks on our cities, villages and infrastructure, we will not fire rockets on any Israeli settlement or city. Naturally, we would rather, in case of fighting, fight soldier to soldier on the ground and battlefield.”
That’s the war as seen through the eyes of its two belligerents.
There’s another element that ought to be of special concern to us in the audience because by, I would say, the 3rd or the 4th day of the war it ceased to be an Israeli-Lebanese war and it became an American/Israeli war on the one side and the Lebanese on the other side.
It was very clear that the United States fought, that here was an opportunity to deliver a real blow to that “Axis of Evil,” which has an element of truth. Just as, in my opinion, the domino theory has elements of truth. There is no doubt, no dispute, that there are forces in the Arab world which, to a lesser or greater degree, are opposing US hegemonic ambitions in the region. And those forces mainly manifest themselves now in terms of Iran, to much lesser degree Syria. There are some forces in Iraq, for example those represented by the fellow [Moqtada al-] Sadr. And then there is Hezbollah and Hamas. Hamas is obviously a very weak link and it’s now being, as I’ve said, decimated. The hope was, by the Americans, that if Israel can inflict a significant enough blow against Hizbullah, it would set back the regional ambition of Iran, Syria and the Sadr forces in Iraq. That is to say, they hope that they can salvage something from the mess they created in the Arab world — a mess in terms of their own interests, a mess they created…
And so then you have that horrifying scene of that freak from hell Condoleezza Rice saying that they’re not just being incinerated, she said this is the “birth pangs of the new Middle East” [Special Briefing on Travel to the Middle East and Europe, 07.21.2006]. That’s what they hope. They hope that they can set back, deliver a …[inaudible]… blow to the forces which oppose them.
It’s very interesting in this regard. I never read anything by Arab leaders because it’s such hot air, such nonsense, [with] no direct relationship to anything happening in the real world. But Nasrallah’s speeches were quite interesting. I wanna just quote on this point… As many of you know, since I see this is an informed audience, there’s this whole debate which recently ensued among those interested in this topic on the power of the Israel Lobby, the Jewish Lobby. There’s this paper written by a fellow from the University of Chicago John Mearsheimer and the Dean at the Kennedy School Steve Walt in which they were very emphatic about the power of the Jewish Lobby and claim that the Jewish Lobby is behind the war in Iraq, and so on. How many people are familiar with it? Good.
What’s very striking about is, while it used to be the case that the Left would claim that it’s US imperial interests that are behind what’s going on in the Middle East and it was the Arab world which claimed “the Jews are behind it, the Jewish conspiracy.” And now, oddly enough, there’s been a reversal. While we here are debating the power of the Jewish Lobby, it was very striking to me, at any rate, to read Nasrallah’s speech (BBC Monitoring International Reports/ Al-Manar, 09.23.2006). The last one, in which he said: “Brothers and sisters, we should today stress that this war was an American war in terms of decision, weapons, planning, and desire, and by giving several deadlines for the Zionists; one, two, three, and four weeks.” So now, he’s come around to the conventional leftist view. That it’s not the tail wagging the dog, it’s not Israel controlling the United States through the machinations of The Lobby. He’s saying, no, this is a war of American interests and desires, and they’re using Israel to do the demolition job.
Now …[inaudible]… the political implications of what’s happened. Usually these wars don’t have significant implications, the only one that actually did was June ’82, when Israel invaded Lebanon. Estimates are, they killed 18,000 to 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians. And that did have significant implications because they drove the Palestine Liberation Organization into exile and set in motion significant changes. But generally, these wars just result in “trivial” things, like the deaths of many, many people and the destruction of people’s possessions, belongings and so forth. This time I don’t think that’s the case.
I would say there are about 3 or 4 significant changes as a result of this war.
Number 1, Hezbollah demonstrated that you can defeat Israel. And you don’t need a large conventional army of the kind that Egypt had in 1973. You can defeat Israel through a guerilla war. That much is pretty obvious.
There’s a 2nd crucial lesson, which I think is much more important. Hezbollah showed not only that you can defeat Israel. It showed how to defeat Israel. It proposed a relatively simple, but to my thinking fundamental, formula. So in this speech, the last speech (09.23.2006), Nasrallah raised this issue: “what is the Hezbollah model?” He considers it as follows: “Resistance depends on planning, organization. This resistance experience, which should be conveyed to the world, depends – on the moral and spiritual level – on faith, certainty, reliance [on God], and readiness to make sacrifices.” Ok, you have to be committed. You have to be willing to go the full nine yards. The next sentence I found remarkably interesting. It says: “It also depends on reason, planning, organization, armament, and, as is said, on taking all possible protective procedures…. The pious, God-reliant, loving, and knowledgeable resistance is also the conscious, wise, trained, and equipped resistance that has plans. This is the secret of the victory we are today celebrating, brothers and sisters.” To most of you this doesn’t sound like anything particularly profound but, in fact, it is because at the end of the day Israel always depended on the fact that its adversaries were stupid, incompetent, blowhards and windbags, and hot air baloons, and, in fact, they were right… That when they were dealing with a Nasser, he was a blowhard; a Saddam Hussein, he was a windbag; when they were dealing with Yasser Arafat, he was a hot air ballon. They were nothing of any substance… [inaudible]… That was Israel’s ace in the hole. Now comes along an Arab leader who says we have to use “reason.” It’s a very remarkable thing to read. We have to use “reason.” We have to think, plan, organize. And he didn’t just say it … [inaudible]… As I’m sure, as most of you know, that the Israelis were reporting that their [Israeli] population was waiting anxiously for each speech from Nasrallah to find out what’s going on [Poll: Israelis believed Nasrallah over Peretz,Ynetnews.com, by Anat Breshkovsky, 09.03.2006]. They [Israelis] stopped believing their own media and they only believed what he had to say. No more of the Arab windbaggery — on the second day of the war in ’67 Nasser says ‘we destroyed all of the Israeli Air Force.’ Or when the hot air baloon Saddam Hussein, after defeat in 1991, gave out Victory Medals to the Iraqi Army. That era is over. This is a serious leadership whose commitment is matched by its intelligence and its incorruptibility. And that really is the formula. And now the United States and Israel are in living dread because they don’t fear Hezbollah — it’s 3,000 fighters — that’s not what they fear. What they fear is, throughout the Arab world all the anti — they call it American, I’ll call imperialist — all the anti-imperialist movements will now be emulating the Hizbullah model. Those who want to defeat the Americans, the American designs in the region, they’re going to look for the Hezbollah model and the Hizbu’llah model says you have to “reason,” you have to think, you have to “plan,” you have to anticipate, and if you do that, you can win. And the fact is, it’s true. If you do that, you can beat them.
Because as a fundamental fact, as Azmi Bishara (a leading member of the Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, an extremely smart fellow, he said — I thought it ahead of time [audience laughter], I was glad he confirmed it — he said, Israel can’t win. They can’t win because, for the older people in the room, there was an era of the proverbial farmer-fighter, the Israeli who was the farmer and the fighter, it was the equivalent of our own American West when you had the Settler-Fighter — that era is over. Israel is, for better or for worse, it’s a Westernized society and they don’t have… they’re interested in hi-tech, they’re interested in a good time, they cannot fight and win against the types who embody Hezbollah values. It’s just not going to happen. When they described in the newspapers how Hezbollah organizes, they said this is not an organization that you can knock on the door, can I join? No. They start from a quite young age and they learn discipline. What does discipline mean? [The Guardian, 07,29.2006] They tell a fellow, you go over there in that barn and you wait there until we call you. And sometimes they sit in that barn for 2, 3 and 4 days, waiting to be called and until they’re called, they don’t leave. You know, most people in the West can’t do that. I’m not knocking it. May be it’s for the better. I don’t know. But that kind of mental discipline, commitment, it’s not going to be replicated any longer.
The old Israel, yes, they could do it. That generation. The truth of the matter is, the old Zionist generation was completely incorruptible. They really were. They were totally dedicated on a level of dedication that is really quite awesome. Take someone like Abba Eban, he graduated with triple honors, triple A’s, from either Oxford or C …[inaudible]… and he goes to work for this crumby little organization called the Zionist Movement, you know, it was nothing then, when he joined. This is pre-’67. From commitment. From ideals. Now, the Israeli government, for those who follow, almost every single member of the government is now under indictment. [audience laughter] Who saw that article a couple of days ago, by Uri Avnery? He’s going through it, every single member is under indictment. One for sticking his tongue down 6 women, one for… [inaudible]…it’s now a level of moral corruption where they can’t compete. At the end of the day they always depended that they’re adversaries were corrupt, stupid blowhards who wanted to become part of the American system. Nasser wanted to be in the American system, the Americans rejected him. That’s when he went to the Soviets. They all want to be part of the American system. Hezbollah doesn’t. As far as one can tell now.
And that leads me to the last point because some people think that I am “anti-Israeli.” Actually, I don’t even know what the term means. Those concepts are totally alien to me.
But let’s say, you’re entitled to, I suppose, your first allegiance, your first commitment, your depest convictions are with Israel. My view is, if that’s how you feel, then — I’m not going to dispute it for the moment — really, you have more reason than anyone else to want to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Because now, I think, Israel is facing a very serious threat.
Its old tactic — the tactic has always been the same from the very first days of the Zionist movement — “the Arabs only understand the language of force.” So whenever they get out of line, take out the club and break it over their skull. That’s been the Israeli approach. And the Americans have now pretty much internalized it — that is the lunatics let loose, the Condoleeza Rices and the Rumsfelds that during the last war… take out the club and break it over their head — that isn’t gonna work. You know, the first day of the war, I’ll never forget, Nasrallah said “the universe can blow up, the stars can crash, the planets can collide — you are not getting back those two prisoners. There’s going to be a prisoner exchange, you’ll not get them back unilaterally from us.”
Well, Israel unleashed its Air Force, it unleashed its Army that went to work for 5 weeks. They didn’t get them back.
Taking out the club and breaking it over their skull won’t work. What’s happening is very different. This time they attacked Haifa — first time Israel’s rear was hit. There’s no question that next time it will be Tel Aviv. And then the time after that, well frankly, I don’t know if we’ll be around to see it.
So if your 100% commitment is to Israel, Israel Uber Alles, or whatever… I say, you should work with all of us to try to resolve this conflict peacefully, reasonably. Use the principles of international law and try to achieve, together with all of us, a just and lasting settlement to the conflict. Thank you.