Jonathan Cook: the View from Nazareth -

How Human Rights Watch lost its way in Lebanon

Because of the business that human rights defenders are in, they must be held to a standard higher than we demand of others. Unfortunately, one of the best – Human Rights Watch – has failed that test during the war in Lebanon this summer.

Will Robert Fisk tell us the whole story?

During Israel’s attack on Lebanon this summer, Robert Fisk did sterling work debunking the main myths that littered the battlefield. But possibly in an attempt at even-handedness, he also muddied the picture over Hizbollah’s actions and thereby contributed towards the very mythical narratives he sought to undermine.

Deception as a way of life: Israeli myths

In a state established on a founding myth – that the native Palestinian population left of their own accord rather than that they were ethnically cleansed – and in one that seeks its legitimacy through a host of other lies, such as that the occupation of the West Bank is benign and that Gaza’s has ended, deception becomes a political way of life.

After Lebanon, Israel is looking for more wars

Israeli scientists have developed a “missile-trapping” steel net that can shield buildings from rocket attack. The Israeli government, it is claimed, could use the net to protect vital infrastructure, while citizens could buy a net to protect their homes.

 The scheme tells us more about Israel’s vision of the “new Middle East” than acres of analysis.

Payback time

As soon as the guns fell silent on the battlefields of South Lebanon Monday, the knives came out: Israel is in for a lengthy period of bloodletting among its political and military classes following the army’s failure to inflict serious damage on the Lebanese militia Hizbullah in a month-long confrontation. Ehud Olmert, the recently elected prime minister who had hoped to prove that despite his lack of military experience he could fill the shoes of his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, is a certain victim. Although he may cling to power for some time, the question is not whether he will fall but when. Few in Israel appear convinced that the terms of the UN-brokered ceasefire — pushing Hizbullah back from the border and replacing it with an international peace-keeping force and Lebanese troops — were worth the cost in blood or that they will ever be properly implemented.

Real photo fakers: Real war crimes

During Israel’s war against the people of Lebanon, our media, politicians and diplomats have colluded with the aggressors by distracting us with irrelevancies, by concocting controversies, and by framing the language of diplomacy. One example is the “faked Reuters photograph” affair.

How I found myself with the Islamic fascists

It occurred to me as I watched the story unfolding on my TV of a suspected plot by a group of at least 20 British Muslims to blow up planes between the UK and America that the course of my life and that of the alleged “terrorists” may have run in parallel in more ways than one. Like a number of them, I am originally from High Wycombe, one of the non-descript commuter towns that ring London. As aerial shots wheeled above the tiled roof of a semi-detached house there, I briefly thought I was looking at my mother’s home. But doubtless my and their lives have diverged in numerous ways. According to news reports, the suspects are probably Pakistani, a large “immigrant” community that has settled in many corners of Britain, including High Wycombe and Birmingham, a grey metropolis in the country’s centre where at least some of the arrested men are believed to have been born.

Hypocrisy and the Clamor Against Hizbullah

A reader recently emailed to ask if anyone else was suggesting, as I have done, that Hizbullah’s rocket fire may not be quite as indiscriminate or maliciously targeted at Israeli civilians as is commonly assumed. I had to admit that I have been ploughing a lonely furrow on this one. Still, that is no reason in itself to join everyone else, even if the consensus includes every mainstream commentator as well as groups such as Human Rights Watch. First, let us get my argument straight. I have not claimed that Hizbullah targets only military sites or that it never aims at civilians. According to the Israeli army, more than 3,300 rockets have hit Israel over the past four weeks. How can I know, or even claim to know, where all those rockets have landed, or know what the Hizbullah operatives who fired each rocket intended to hit? I have never made such claims.

The Deadly US-Israeli Shell Game at the UN

If there were any remaining illusions about the purpose of Israel’s war against Lebanon, the draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a “cessation of major hostilities” published at the weekend should finally dispel them. This entirely one-sided document was drafted, the Hebrew-language media have reported, with close Israeli involvement. The top adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked through the resolution with the US and French teams, while the Israeli Foreign Ministry had its man alongside John Bolton [yet another of Israel’s men, Eds ] at the UN building in New York.

 The only thing preventing Israeli officials from jumping up and down with glee, according Aluf Benn of the daily Haaretz newspaper, was the fear that “demonstrated Israeli enthusiasm for the draft could influence support among Security Council members, who could demand a change in wording that may adversely affect Israel.”

Premeditated war

Seconds after the air raid siren fell silent, it came. A deep rumble shook windows and doors and made the earth tremble. This was nothing like the familiar crump of a Katyusha rocket. At the weekend Hizbullah fired for the first time what it calls a Khaibar missile into Israel, creating a deep crater and setting fire to woodland outside Nazareth. According to reports in the Israeli media, the shell was packed with 100 kilogrammes of explosives. The missile can apparently reach up to 90 kilometres; given that Nazareth is only a third of that distance from the border, it was probably fired from deep inside Lebanon.

Israel, not Hizbullah, is putting civilians in danger on both sides of the border

The problem is that Israel has been abusing very successfully its military censorship rules governing both its domestic media and visiting foreign journalists to prevent meaningful discussion of what Hizbullah has been trying to hit inside Israel.

Cracks in the consensus

Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens have largely lined up on opposite sides. Polls show as many as 90 per cent of the country’s Jews back further attacks on Lebanon to crush the Shiite militia Hizbullah. There have been no equivalent surveys of Arab opinion inside Israel, but straw polls by Arab radio stations reveal that 70 per cent of listeners favour Hizbullah, or the very least believe Israel is waging a war of aggression. The first cracks in the Jewish consensus over the war have been visible in the past few days too, with a spate of protests across Israel — still small at this stage but attended by both Jews and Arabs — to oppose the fighting.

Why do they hate us? Listen to Qana (again)

If Israel wanted to the expand the Lebanon war, it could not have chosen a better way than by sending war planes back to the village of Qana to massacre civilians there, as if marking a morbid anniversary. A decade ago, Israeli shelling on the village killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians sheltering in a local UN post.

The Lies Israel Tells Itself (And We Tell On Its Behalf)

When journalists use the word “apparently”, or another favorite “reportedly”, they are usually distancing themselves from an event or an interpretation in the supposed interests of “balance”. But I think we should read the “apparently” contained in a statement from the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan — relating to the killing this week of four unarmed UN monitors by the Israeli army — in its other sense.

 When Annan says that those four deaths were “apparently deliberate”, I take him to mean that the evidence shows that the killings were deliberate. And who can disagree with him? At least 10 phone calls were made to Israeli commanders over a period of six hours warning that artillery and aerial bombardments were either dangerously close to or hitting the monitors’ building.

Five myths that sanction Israel’s war crimes

I had the pleasure to appear on American radio pitted against David Horowitz, leader of Campus Watch, a McCarthyite organisation targeting American professors sympathetic to the Palestinians. It was a revealing experience for a British journalist rarely exposed to the depths of ignorance and prejudice in the US on Middle East matters.

Crossing red lines

Two myths are taking root as the carnage mounts in Israel and Lebanon. The first is that, while Israel is doing its best to target “terrorists” and fight a clean war, Hizbullah is interested only in killing Israeli civilians. The second is that Israel’s current bombardment was triggered by an unprovoked barrage of rockets on Israeli towns.

Israel’s disproportionate violence no surprise

Since its birth six decades ago, Israel has always been officially “going after the terrorists,” but its actions have invariably harmed civilians in an indiscriminate manner. The roll call of dishonor is long indeed.

Israeli-Arabs killed in attack

A cactus bush in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab town, was riddled with holes from the shrapnel that sprayed out as a Katyusha rocket slammed into a street here today. Playing in front of the bush at the time were two children, aged three and nine, who were killed instantly. This was not the first Hezbollah strike on one of the 100 or so Arab communities inside Israel – several have been hit in the past few days – but the two children, Rabia and Mohammed Abu Taluzi, were the first deaths among Israel’s 1.2 million Arab citizens. A second rocket strike on a car showroom in the centre of Nazareth reportedly injured one person.

Rockets don’t discriminate

After two Hizbullah rocket strikes on the largest Arab city in Israel yesterday, the residents of Nazareth might have expected a little sympathy from their Jewish compatriots. “Rockets don’t discriminate between Jew and Arab,” said one young hijabbed woman close to the site where two brothers died.

The racist subtext of the evacuation story

Israel has opened “windows” for the foreign powers to evacuate their terrified nationals from Lebanon. Obligingly, the foreign media have turned these “windows” into an opportunity to avert their gaze further from the death and destruction in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. On BBC World, for example, we have been following the progress of one 12-year-old British boy fleeing Beirut. When he observed that he was worried for the Lebanese family members he was leaving behind, reporter Clive Myrie noted his was a “very mature attitude”. If only the BBC was demonstrating such maturity. I have to keep reminding myself that this is BBC World, not its domestic news service. You would hardly know it watching the coverage of the past couple of days.