Friday, August 04, 2006

Adding to the War Crimes

Day 24 of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Twenty-seven farmers, including Syrians and Kurds, were killed when the trucks they were loading fruit in, on a farm, were bombed by Israeli aircraft. Surely, Hezbollah was to blame, another whitewash of in Israeli inquiry would reveal. Perhaps the fruit were Hezbollah, too. Bridges, buildings, highways, hospitals, airports, factories, communication towers, TV stations, vans, bicycles, children, women and men are not enough anymore. Food is targeted as well.

Speaking of which—Israel’s overnight bombing of four highway bridges in northern Lebanon has all but made it impossible for humanitarian convoys transporting food, shelter and other forms of aid to the hardest-hit areas of Beirut to reach the needy, or about 900,000 displaced civilians. As a result, both UNHCR and the WFP had to postpone trips to various cities. Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has stated that because of the embargo against his country, Lebanon will be running out of oil within a week or so. I wonder how Larry Hollingworth, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Beirut for UN OCHA and a former instructor of mine at the diploma in humanitarian assistance that I took in New York City in 2001, is dealing with the situation. I am sure he must be tapping into all the calm, resourcefulness and sense of humor I remember him for—but it can’t be easy.

The deliberate interruption of emergency aid—or even one that, if we stretch the imagination, is resulting collateral from the destruction of legitimate military targets (which is doubtful at this point)—for almost a million people should be seen as a war crime. It is, without any doubt, collective punishment, on the scale of the destruction of a country’s civilian infrastructure.

I don’t know which is worse: that Israel continues to pile up the war crimes, or that the international community would allow for such acts of savagery to continue. Despite the rhetoric of the Israeli government and its supporters world-wide, despite all the unconvincing claims that Hezbollah started the whole thing and that all Israel is doing is nothing but self-defense, we are well beyond that now. In fact, Israel’s bizarrely disproportional reaction to the July 12 kidnapping is starting to look like a premeditated attempt, concocted by Israel and its criminal backers in Washington, to weaken Lebanon and perhaps to provoke Iran. Or perhaps it is just blind stupidity, or hubris, or a miscalculation of gargantuan proportion. No matter what the reason is, it is a messy escalation from which it will take a long time to extricate ourselves.

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