This article first appeared on the Official Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon.
As the Israeli occupation army withdrew from southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, Zeinab al Mohammad, a resident of Tyre, set out for the liberated village of Adaisseh with her sister Siham, Siham’s husband—a native of the village—and their children. En route, Zeinab’s jeep was attacked by Israeli helicopters, causing the passengers to abandon the vehicle, which was subsequently destroyed. There were no casualties, although Siham’s infant daughter was dropped during the family’s dispersal and only recovered once the helicopters had moved on.
This is merely one of a countless number of episodes confirming that unilateral Israeli territorial withdrawals are not indicative of a shift in the state’s bellicose orientation, something that was underscored yet again in July and August of 2006 with the murder of approximately 1200 Lebanese civilians. The July War was initially described as retaliation for Hezbollah’s behavior but was subsequently acknowledged to have been planned in advance; as for other Israeli actions incongruent with the term “withdrawal,” these include periodic incursions by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into Lebanese territory and regular violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft, some of which break the sound barrier as a courtesy gesture to Lebanese citizens below.
During my visit to south Lebanon earlier this month, predictions of an impending Israeli attack abounded, and friends reported keeping bags with essential personal items next to the doors of their homes in case they were required to evacuate at a moment’s notice. It is in denying the citizens of Lebanon a sense of permanence and stability that Israel attempts to prevent a consolidation of strength on the part of the Resistance, although judging from the course and outcome of the July War this policy has in fact had the opposite effect.
Before it became blatantly apparent that Israel was incapable of eliminating Hezbollah from the regional hierarchy of power, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice classified the 2006 assault on Lebanon as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Other prominent figures who have in the past identified a potential regional model in Israeli policy vis-à-vis Lebanon include The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, whose 2004 argument in favor of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was based on his claim that, by withdrawing from south Lebanon, Israel “went from holding the strategic and moral low ground, to holding the strategic and moral high ground.”
According to Friedman, Israel’s supposed multifaceted ascension occurred as follows:
When Israel was occupying south Lebanon it was embroiled in a guerrilla war in which it could never use its vast military superiority. It was going mano a mano with Hezbollah. Worse, any Hezbollah attack on Israel was seen by the world as legitimate resistance. Once Israel was out, it could use its superior air power to retaliate for Hezbollah attacks — and the world didn’t care.”
Not explained is how “going mano a mano” accounts for such events as the murder of over 100 civilians at the United Nations compound in Qana in 1996. As for the world’s cares, these are suggested by superpower machinations to postpone ceasefires in Israeli wars on its neighbors, such as the 2008-09 attack on Gaza in which Gazan civilians enjoyed 400 times as many casualties as their Israeli counterparts and which highlighted the strategic and moral high ground attained by Israel in its unilateral “withdrawal” from said territory in 2005. Additional moral high ground has been staked out by denying Gazans access to hospitals and preventing them from obtaining pencils and tahini.
Since its foundation, the state of Israel has consistently invoked victimhood to justify warmongering regional policies. A truly new Middle East would thus be one in which moral accreditation is not granted based on the deliberate inversion of aggressor and victim.