Guardian Gaza War blog cites ‘expert’ on…platitudes and distortions

In the early hours of Tuesday, Israel launched a military operation against Hamas, Operation Protective Edge, in response to incessant Hamas rocket fire and the terror group’s refusal to agree to a ceasefire.  Though the Guardian was relatively slow to respond to the story, at 13:45 Israeli time they finally launched a Live Blog on the war, titled ‘Israel steps up offensive against Gaza – live updates‘, edited by Matthew Weaver. 

One of the first blog entries highlighted the analysis of Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).  (As BBC Watch has noted, CAABU is a pro-Palestinian advocacy group, and a well-established part of the Arab lobby in the UK “with no fewer than three MPs and two former MPs sitting on its executive committee“.)

Here’s a snapshot of the Guardian blog post:

quote

First, note Doyle’s odd understanding of Israeli history. We’re evidently supposed to believe that the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, and Yom Kippur War in 1973 - and even the 2006 Lebanon War! - all can be fairly characterized as examples of “invading and smashing Gaza“?

Further, concerning the actual recent wars in Gaza (2008-09 and 2012), and despite Doyle’s skepticism on the efficacy of military actions, it’s quite clear that both major IDF operations resulted in a dramatic and sustained decrease in Hamas rocket attacks.

Also of note is Doyle’s strategy for solving the conflict – ‘opening up Gaza’, presumably by easing Israel’s blockade of illegal weapons – which conveniently overlaps with the demands set by Hamas, whose spokesperson earlier today said the group would not agree to a ceasefire until Israel’s blockade of Gaza ends

Though Doyle does acknowledge that Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians represent a war crime, he of course fails to factor in to the political equation Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence within any borders, their antisemitic ideology, and the explicitly genocidal threats of their leaders.

The words ‘War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing’ are of course iconic song lyrics, but the sentiments they represent don’t provide Guardian readers with anything resembling a serious prescription for solving the myriad of problems caused by Islamist extremism in the Middle East.

Harriet Sherwood misleads on Syrian weapon crisis with distorted reading of Res. 1701

The Guardian has published several articles on suspected military strikes, over the last several days, by the Israeli Air Force, which likely targeted sophisticated weaponry (possibly Russian made SA-17 anti-aircraft missilesreportedly on its way to the Iranian backed terror group, Hezbollah, illegally based in Lebanon.

Israeli officials have been warning for months that the IDF will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons – including chemical and biological weapons – to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.  

Assuming reports of the Israeli strikes are accurate, it may indicate that Assad had decided test Israeli resolve to prevent such arms transfers.

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report on the conflagration in Lebanon, ‘Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace, Feb 1, included these passages:

Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon again on Friday, two days after air strikes targeted a convoy of arms or a weapons research base inside Syrian territory.

Under UN security council resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon. [emphasis added]

Sherwood is referring to the UN security council resolution which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Here are relevant provisions of 1701:

14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft;
a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and;
b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;

So, by any reading of 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) are prohibited and, therefore, Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers would arguably be justified, according to at least the spirit of the resolution.

Further, and more relevant to the current crisis, 1701 includes the following, which specifically prohibits the continuing presence and arming of Hezbollah – an illegal militia – in Lebanon, by calling for:

  • security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorised in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
  • No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;

Yet, it is widely known that Hezbollah has flagrantly violated 1701, as it has continued to maintain and develop a military infrastructure, including sophisticated offensive and defensive weaponry, south of the Litani river, and are believed to possess nearly 1,000 facilities in southern Lebanon, located in up to 270 civilian villages.

Here’s an IDF map illustrating Hezbollah’s ‘illegal occupation’ of Lebanon.

Hezbollah-map-southern-Lebanon

Not only has Hezbollah failed to disarm, but has in fact acquired (from Iran and Syria) an astonishing array of up to 50,000 rockets (4 x the amount they possessed at the end of the 2006 war) which threaten Israel and the entire region – all under the eyes of UN observers (UNIFIL) tasked with preventing the Shiite terror group’s re-arming. 

Interestingly, Sherwood does add, further in her report, that “Western…sources said Israel’s target was a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon”, but, not surprisingly, fails to note that such a transfer would necessarily violate 1701.

Even if Sherwood is to argue that reported IAF missions over Lebanon technically violate 1701, the absence of any context regarding Hezbollah’s flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the resolution for over six years represents another classic example of a Guardian omission which serves to grossly distort the political reality of the region.

Five years on: Guardian still tiptoeing around Hizbollah

Martin Chulov’s  July 12th article marking five years since the outbreak of the second Lebanon war is so anodyne in its omissions that it is positively soporific. Yes, the reader may be briefly awakened from Chulov’s Pravda-style descriptions of Lebanese construction work by the erroneous reference to Qana as a “biblical site” where Jesus “purportedly turned water into wine”, but apart from that the article tiptoes so cautiously around the issues at hand that it fails to inform its readers of anything remotely newsworthy or relevant.

“Summer has often been fighting season in the south. And in the densely wooded lands around the Litani, preparations have been made for the next war ever since the guns fell silent last time.” 

That is all Churlov has to say about Hizbollah’s flagrant violation of UN SC resolution 1701 and the UN’s turning of a blind eye to the process of its rearmament. No mention of an almost four-fold increase in the number of rockets and missiles held by Hizbollah since 2006 and the doubling of its forces. No reference to the known arms stores constructed in the heart of some 270 south Lebanese villages, turning the local population into automatic human shields or the extensive system of bunkers and other military facilities.

And above all, no reminder whatsoever of from where and how Hizbollah manages to rearm right under the noses of UNIFIL: Churlov’s only reference to Hizbollah’s connection to Iranian patronage is to state that via that organisation and Amal Iran has “dispense[d] hundreds of millions in cash to Lebanese who were caught up in the war” as though the Iranian regime were some sort of benevolent charitable organization.  

Hizbollah positions in Lebanon, March 2011

We may not know precisely when a third Lebanon war will break out, or what will be the incident which lights the touch paper, but we know that it will happen and that primarily it will be a war against Israel’s civilians, with Hizbollah now capable of firing several hundred rockets a day upon Israeli cities, towns and villages.

When it does commence, the next Lebanon war will come as a complete surprise to the somnambulistic Guardian reader who, thanks to articles such as this one by Chulov together with the Guardian’s disproportionate focus on the joys of the ‘Arab Spring’, remain safely and securely in the dark as regards the details of the complex internal Lebanese political situation, the rearmament of Hizbollah and the failure of yet another UN resolution to curb Iranian expansionism in the Middle East, as well as the true nature of Hizbollah itself.

Tehran itself could hardly have done a better job. 

CiF columnist offended by Tony Blair’s characterization of Hezbollah as the root cause of instability in Lebanon

Chris Phillips’ CiF piece, “Lebanon: Blair’s other Middle East mistake“, about Blair’s actions during the 2006 Lebanon war, quite predictably had no patience for “simplistic” views about Blair’s characterizations of Hezbollah (and their sponsor, Iran) as the cause of turmoil in the region:

From Blair’s perspective this religious struggle defines the Middle East. He states: “To me, you can’t understand Hezbollah unless you understand the role of Iran; or understand Lebanon unless you understand Syria … or understand either country in its present state unless you understand the history not just of the region but of the religion, how it saw itself, how it had developed its own narrative, how it saw its own predicament.”

This includes a remarkable simplification of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which he claims “is used as a potent source of friction and war because of religious difference”. The impact of other significant forces, notably…imperialism, are conveniently sidelined.

(Oh yes, of course, Western “imperialism” is the root cause of the conflict.  How naive of me to think otherwise.)

There are very few places, other than the Guardian, that a “progressive’ could seriously doubt the nefarious influence of the Iranian sponsored Shiite terrorist group on Lebanon and the broader region.

Just for clarity, it should be noted that Hezbollah has been involved in the death of approximately three hundred Americans.

Further, as testimony to the U.S. Congress (by Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism) in June, 2010, demonstrated:

While Iran continues to provide a significant portion of Hizballah’s funding, Hizballah has also broadened its sources of financial support in recent years. Hizballah is now heavily involved in a wide range of criminal activity, including the drug trade and smuggling. It also receives funds from both legitimate and illicit businesses that its members operate, from NGOs under its control, and from donations from its supporters throughout the world. Hizballah also has established its own commercial and communications networks outside the Lebanese legal system that in essence rob the Lebanese treasury of the tax revenues that would come via legitimate licensing, registration, and tax reporting.

Hizballah’s destabilizing actions also have a global reach. The recent conviction of a Hizballah cell in Egypt for spying, plotting attacks on resorts frequented by tourists, and arms smuggling illustrates Hizballah’s growing regional reach and ambitions. In Iraq, we are also aware of Hizballah providing training and other support to Shia militant groups. As of early 2007, an Iran-based individual by the name of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis formed a militia group, employing instructors from Hizballah to prepare this group and certain Jaysh al-Mahdi Special Groups for attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq. Hizballah’s web also extends to Europe and diplomatic missions abroad, where Hizballah planned to attack the Israeli Embassy in Baku. While this attack was foiled, and the perpetrators are now imprisoned in Azerbaijan, these actions illustrate the group’s continued disregard for the rule of law, both inside Lebanon and outside its borders.

Time and again, we have seen that Hizballah’s weapons and Syria’s support for its role as an independent armed force in Lebanon are a threat, both to Lebanon and Israel, as well as a major obstacle to achieving peace in the region. Hizballah exploits the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict to bolster its own interests and influence. The group claims to maintain arms in order to defend Lebanon from Israeli “aggression” and derives much of its popularity from its image as a “resistance” group. In truth, Hizballah is actively using the conflict with Israel in order to gain regional popularity and justify its vast arsenal, acting as a point of leverage in the region for Iran. One of Hizballah’s rhetorical points regards Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory. The UN Secretary General has cited in his reports on UNSCRs 1559 and 1701 that these overflights are a violation of UNSCR 1701, a resolution which we are all committed to seeing fully implemented. Yet there is an unmistakable connection between these overflights and Hizballah’s blatant and ongoing efforts to evade the arms embargo that is the essence of UNSCR 1701; Hizballah’s activities create the very conditions that Hizballah then uses as a pretext to justify its own destabilizing behavior, putting Lebanon at severe risk.

Hizballah’s insistence on remaining armed, aggressive, and unaccountable threatens important American interests and goals – especially our interests in Middle East peace and regional security, in containing the spread of destabilizing weapons and terror financing, and in a strong, democratic, and independent state of Lebanon.

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