Monday, July 31, 2006

BBCs Fergal Keane may need some guidance

The questions journalists in Lebanon should be asking the refugees

1. Were there missile launchers in your village?

2. Were there missile launchers in or near your home?

3. Anyone in your family fighting with Hezbollah?

4. Did you see missiles being launched?

5. Did you wonder if the Israelis might respond?

6. What kind of danger did you think you and your children might be in if missiles were launched from your village?

and finally

7. Did the Hezbollah build you any bomb shelters to protect you from return fire?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Truth about the UN post

Tactical Necessity
Kofi Annan may well have accused the Israeli military of carrying out a sustained bombing of the UN base on the Lebanon-Israel border that culminated in the killing of four unarmed monitors. But the barely recorded truth came from courageous UN Observer Canadian Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, one of the four victims.

'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces)," he said.

"What I can tell you is this," he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. "We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing. "The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity."

This account has been covered by the Israeli and Canadian press, but I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Not to be Missed

"Chapeau" to the brilliant bloggist Belmont Club. Click on 'Pulp Fiction' and then refer back to today's Guardian interview by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.

Myths, lies and videotape

July 29th

Lebanon's gain
Dan Gillerman, Israel's formidable ambassador at the UN made this memorable plea to his Lebanese counterpart at the start of the conflict two weeks ago: "You know, deep down, that if you could, you would add your voice to those of your brave countrymen. You know, deep down in your heart, that you should really be sitting here, next to me, voicing the same opinion. You know that what we are doing is right, and, if we succeed, your country will be the real beneficiary. I am sure many of our colleagues around this table and in this chamber, including many of our neighbours, share this sentiment.

Lebanon's fear
But the BBC in particular and the world media in general don't think so. They push the myth that nearly everyone they interview in Lebanon refuses to support Israel. So a warm thank you to today's Guardian newspaper for explaining why. Hezbollah cleric, Sayed Ali, says it all in this interview: "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

If you were Lebanese, what would you be telling the nice man from the BBC? Whenever you hear or see a Lebanese politician or opinion maker criticise Hezbollah publicly, think of the courage it takes.

And take a look at this ...
The IAF is not flattening Beirut, not even 99% of Beirut - although hard to tell if your only sources of information are the BBC, CNN and SKY. Check out this map and be aware of endless repeats of the same videotapes which help create yet another myth.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Truth about Life in Hezbollah Lebanon

23 July 22,

My aim is to let you consider stuff you will almost certainly not be reading in The Independent or hearing on the Today Programme in the UK. I watch world coverage of this unfolding disaster just like you do, and I am shocked by the damage and loss of life in Lebanon. Yes, civilian loss of life in Israel is minimal, but this is a much, much advanced country than that of south Lebanon. If Israel didn't have bomb shelters, a siren warning system and well-run police, fire and medical services (experienced from many years of suicide bombs) the losses would already be in high hundreds. Hezbollah took on a much more powerful enemy and it is not likely to back down.

First question – Who ARE the refugees on the run from the bombing?

1. They are in the main originally Palestinians, Shiite Moslem, who had fled Israel in the 1948 war of independence. The population is between 400 and 500,000; press reports say that 600,000 + refugees are on the move

2. They live in overcrowded refugee camps, villages and suburbs, mainly in south Lebanon and south Beirut. They survive through (a) UNWRA aid (b) menial labour (c) salaries and ex-gratia payments from Hezbollah – routed from Iran.

3. Palestinian refugees do not have Lebanese citizenship. (Not a well-known fact.)

4. They are excluded from Lebanese society. Palestinian refugees were banned from 73 professions (including law and medicine) in Lebanon until last year.

5. The Palestinian refugees provide Hezbollah its army and its civilian infrastructure. They provide their homes and land for bunkers, tunnels, and underground cells. Ready to fire rockets are tucked away in populated Hezbollah Shiite neighbourhoods, in apartment buildings, parking garages, out-houses, mosques and schools. Not exclusively, but mostly, Palestinian refugees and Hezbollah are one and the same.

6. Hezbollah is a closed area for the rest of Lebanon. It is entirely independent, providing its own services, its own policing, its education system, its own laws and its own army. The original Lebanese population has no connection with the refugees and their descendents. The Palestinian refugees have been mired in poverty and hopelessness, although shored up in recent years with millions of dollars worth of military equipment. Hezbollah is therefore extremely dangerous.

What does Israel gain by bombing Lebanese runways, roads and bridges?

1. To put a complete stop to more missiles getting to the Hezbollah by air, sea or road from Iran/Syria.

2. To buy time to bring the Hezbollah danger under control.

Is Israel out to destroy Lebanon?

1. No. Israel is bombing Hezbollah strongholds and missile bases, not Lebanese strongholds and missile bases.

2. Israel is assiduously avoiding those communities (between 65% and 75% of the population) which are anti-Hezbollah and anti-Palestinian. I have heard and seen interviews on BBC, Sky and CNN with Christian, Druze and Sunni Lebanese confirming they have not been bombed and that they are not afraid of being bombed.

What did the Palestinian refugees know before the Hezbollah attack?

1. They knew Hezbollah intended to attack Israel with missiles.

2. They knew where the missiles were hidden.

2. They were told that Hezbollah would wipe Israel off the face of the map.

3. They had been told, since 1948, that Israel would one day be destroyed and they would all return to the homes and villages of their grandparents and great grandparents.

What did the Refugees know after the Hezbollah attack?

1. They knew the Israelis were responding.

2. They knew they had to get out fast.

What am I afraid of?

1. That Ahmadinejad of Iran wants to annihilate Israel – he has said so many times.

2. That Nasrallah of Hezbollah wants to annihilate Israel - just take a look at their Manifesto.

3. Hezbollah has a build-up of 15,000* missiles with which to destroy Israel.
*Jane’s Defence Weekly (absolutely nothing to do with me)

4. Hezbollah is sending up to 10/15 missiles a day into Haifa (50 km north of here) – targeting the petro-chemical plants. The population of Haifa is 250,000

5. Nasrallah has 100 missiles with a 100km range which will target Tel Aviv.
The population of Tel Aviv and suburbs: 2.5 million

What am I sure of …

1. Hezbollah will fight until the last man, there will be NO compromise

2. The kidnapped soldiers are no longer alive.

3. It is going to be very difficult to get a cease-fire.

Is Israel concerned about the effects of the bombings on civilians?

1. Arabic language leaflets have been dropped and texts and answer-phone messages have been sent through the landline and mobile telephone system with up to 24 hours prior notice of bombings, covering the entire Hezbollah area. The refugees have responded in huge numbers, this is supported by NGO figures.

2. It will be discovered after this is over that no bombing in any raid or air attack anywhere in the world has ever resulted in such a minimal loss of life.

Is Hezbollah concerned about the effects of the bombings on civilians, any civilians?

What do you think?

Big Lie of the Week

"We Lebanese are one people."


The British press sees this as a battle of the weak against the strong. Israel is the cruel vicious bully in the playground.

But the real cruelty of the story is that Iran with Syrian help has given this poor, weak, rejected society billions of dollars worth of truly dangerous military equipment and the world of fundamentalist Islam expects Hezbollah will use it until the last missile is fired, until the last fighter is killed. Like cheering on gladiators in a fight to the finish contest.

Start of second week: Israel vs Hezbollah

July 20th, 2006

What is happening in Israel now?
It is almost like living in two countries.

From Haifa north up to the border, all tourist excursions, festivals and public events in the north are cancelled. About one million people are directly affected. Public institutions, community centres, restaurants and most businesses are closed. Air raid sirens go off intermittently day and night. Most people are holed up in or near their shelters. Tens of thousands have moved south, possibly over 100,000.

South of Haifa everything is functioning as usual, from Netanya to Jerusalem, from Beer Sheba to Eilat. Shops, restaurants, beaches, businesses, sporting events, etc all have been functioning as per normal, but with funerals every day, events linked to celebrations i.e.: arts festivals, parties etc are being cancelled.

What we have learned in this second week?
That Israeli public opinion has probably peaked and will now slip slowly. This is because (a) the longer the IDF is on the attack the greater the risk (c) the public does not want the army to take on the Hezbollah on the ground because loss of life will be too high and (c) Israelis are not immune to the suffering in Lebanon, they see the same film footage as shown abroad.

Knock on effects?
The support of the powerful Arab states will come with a price tag. Israel will have to knuckle under and negotiate with Abbas and willingly or unwillingly come up with a deal for which will reinstate his reputation. There will be a lot of empty cells in Israeli jails. This and other compromise deals will split the Israeli coalition.

Destruction in Lebanon
Note that suicide bombs in Iraq have killed over 3,000 in the past two months, and deaths in Lebanon so far are 300. Entire flattened areas have had zero loss of life.

Although it looks as though the whole of Lebanon is a bomb site, some 75% (Sunni, Christian and Shiite not supporting Hezbollah) of residential, business, manufacturing areas remain untouched. They are all however affected by the damage to infrastructure (main arteries, bridges, power and petrol stations) and this is where public opinion if not now, by this weekend will start to turn aggressively against Israeli bombing.

I am really praying that Sunday will be the cut-off day - when Condi gets here. But I think I am going to be disappointed.

Jane’s epiphany

Hezbollah was on the way to turning Lebanon into another Iraq. A few judiciously placed suicide bombers on consecutive days in Beirut is all it would take. I don’t know what they were waiting for.

Before everything really got going: Israel vs Hezbollah

July 15th, 2006

I am not entirely sure how to go about producing a blog, but I am in an interesting place at an interesting time, so here is my report from the Middle East for friends, relations and anyone else.

Is Israel in any danger?
No. Hezbollah has no tanks, no air force and no navy. It has thousands of missiles, of which only several hundred seem to have been used so far and which are fortunately absolutely indiscriminate in their direction; 97% falling on agricultural land.

They do have thousands of guns – but they are only useful in hand to hand fighting; but this makes them extremely dangerous inside Lebanon – but not to Israel, unless the army takes on hand-to-hand fighting across the border, which it won’t. The Lebanese army could not have taken on Hezbollah under any circumstances.

In fact, the truth is that you are still in greater danger driving in the north and in northern Galilee. Look at the English language Israeli press on the internet on Monday – you will see that the road loss this weekend in the northern region will be higher than the loss of life from missiles. Admittedly we do have a really bad situation on the roads.

What is Israel up to?
Israel is attempting to bomb the guts out of the Hezbollah and to stop the import of any other military equipment. The kidnapping is a red herring. If you look up the internet you will find all sorts of reports over the past six months regarding the build up of Hezbollah fighters the equipment on the northern border, some reports very recent.

Has it succeeded?
Well, so far – yes. Now Hezbollah can’t get any more equipment. Israel needs Hezbollah to use up all its missiles, firstly to trace the sources of shooting and secondly for Hezbollah to be left completely unarmed. So it is effectively good that Hezbollah are sending missiles over and important that everyone living on the northern border either move south to friends and family or stay in their shelters. In my opinion we absolutely do not want Hezbollah to save their fire.

Is the rest of the world really angry?
I think not. We know that Jordan and Egypt have enormous problems with Hezbollah and its linked fundamentalist organisations; not only Jordan and Egypt, just look at the whole Arab world. Watch for statements from Arab leaders, they may have to start softening up. Everyone else is paying lip service.

How come the Hezbollah were so well equipped?
This independent army has been funded exclusively by Syria and Iran. For some time the military consignments have been coming by sea, by air but mainly by road. This is because the Syrian border runs the length of Lebanon (apart from the 80 km Israel border) and it is thoroughly porous.

But won’t Hezbollah get more equipment now.
No. Israel can’t close the borders but has bombed all the access roads and bridges, the airport is close and the ports are blockaded. Nothing can get through now.

What do they really think in Lebanon?
Christian Lebanon – about a third of the population - is hugely relieved. Watch out for Lebanese vox pop reactions. Middle class and educated Lebanon must be quietly supportive but very concerned about potential damage. The Government has to play a role of the furious victim, but is it? The only screaming is coming from Hezbollah sympathizers. Look out for high-level hints.

What is happening in Israel?
Life in the rest of Israel is absolutely as normal. Apart from the northern border, people do not feel at risk. Because it is summer, the north Galilee is suffering economically, although there is very little economy to suffer. There is almost no manufacturing, no industry and very few towns. Any tourist industry there is very small.

The stray missiles which have hit Haifa and Nahariya do not seem to be causing panic. Victims of direct hits in the north are likely to be (a) very unlucky or (b) cows. The Israeli press is indeed making much of what is happening, but just keep an eye on the facts and not the emotions. The foreign journalists in Israel have to justify their salaries.

The greatest upset in Israel is that of the tourist business - having started so brilliantly this year, it will now plummet.

What can go wrong?

1. The Lebanese government could fall and Syria could move back (although I not sure how they would get there).

2. The Arab street – from Morocco to Pakistan – could become hysterical and what we saw as a result of the Danish cartoons would be as a vicar’s tea party. This could have unpredictable results.

3. The Israel army might sustain serious losses by an unlucky event – e.g. a direct hit on a military installation or worse, an unlucky direct hit in civilian Haifa (industrial, residential, power plant etc.).

4. The Israeli military might make a bad calculation and involve a huge loss of innocent Lebanese life – this could change everything. Israel would have to stop and the job might be only partially done, putting Lebanese citizens into terrible danger.

Jane’s conclusion
Well, I was very angry at first but am warming to the idea.