The bombing of Beirut in perspective

July 30th, 2006

Link: http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id56.html

By Maurice Ostroff

Contrary to the impression created by the media, Israeli bombing of Beirut has been confined to only 1% of the city. The targets have been confined to Hizbollah terrorist command centers in the south.

In an article “As bombs hit south, life goes on north of Beirut” in the Washington times Betsy Pisik wrote

But just north of Beirut, business remains strong in the lush resorts of the nearby Shouf Mountains. Nightclubs in the Christian suburb of Jounieh still rock to '80s disco and '90s Eurobeat, and Lebanese who weathered the country's horrific 15-year civil war still sip arrack and eat hummus late into the night.

Beirut, once the jewel of the Middle East, is wobbling back to its feet even as the Israeli army and air force pulverize its southern region.

In the Hamra area, home to students and the campus of the prestigious American University of Beirut, more shops reopen and traffic grows heavier by the day. Hotels that emptied at the beginning of Israel's assault on July 12 are raising rates again, even though most of the guests are foreign journalists.

In the Achrafiyeh neighborhood, which is predominantly Christian and Sunni, streets are peaceful and increasingly busy. The fabled night life, with its restaurants and nightclubs, is likely to pick up again by the weekend.

But in the glamorously rebuilt city center, shops selling luxury brands are not just closed, but swept clean. Fearing air strikes, the owners have taken the diamonds out of Cartier

Washington Times, July 26 2006

United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping

July 30th, 2006

Link: http://volokh.com/posts/1153523571.shtml

United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping
By David Kopel (http://www.davekopel.org)
(Reposted at ZionismOnTheWeb with permission)

After Hezbollah's kidnapping of a pair of Israeli soldiers spurred an Israeli counter-attack, many critics of Israel actions have suggested that the United Nations can serve as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah. To the contrary, the United Nations has a well-established record of collaboration with Hezbollah in the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been deployed since 1978, not long after Israel first entered Lebanon in pursuit of PLO terrorists. UNIFIL was created pursuant to Security Council Resolution 425, for the purpose of "confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area." Quite obviously UNFIL has utterly failed to achieve the Security Council's objectives, either before or after Israel's 2000 complete withdrawal from Lebanon. One reason is that UNIFIL does not interdict Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Instead, UNIFIL allows Hezbollah to set up positions next to UNFIL units, in effect using UNIFIL as human shields against Israeli counterstrikes. (Aluf Benn, Israel accuses UN of collaborating with Hezbollah," Haaretz, Sept. 11, 2005.)

UNIFIL's most notorious collaboration with terrorists involved the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers, and the subsequent cover-up.

On October 7, 2000, Hezbollah terrorists entered Israel, attacked three Israeli soldiers on Mount Dov, and abducted them Lebanon. The kidnapping was witnessed by several dozen UNIFIL soldiers who stood idle. One of the soldier witnesses described the kidnapping: the terrorists set of an explosive which stunned the Israeli soldiers. Clad in UN uniforms, the terrorists called out, "Come, come, we’ll help you."

The Israeli soldiers approached the men in UN uniforms. Then, a Hezbollah bomb detonated—-apparently prematurely. It wounded the disguised Hezbollah commander, and three Israeli soldiers.

Two other terrorists in U.N. uniforms dragged their Hezbollah commander and the three wounded soldiers into a getaway car.

According an Indian solider in UNIFIL who witnessed the kidnapping, "By this stage, there was a big commotion and dozens of UN soldiers from the Indian brigade came around." The witness stated that the brigade knew that the kidnappers in UN uniform were Hezbollah. One soldiers said that the brigade should arrest the Hezbollah, but the brigade did nothing.

According to the Indian soldier, the UNFIL brigade in the area "could have prevented the kidnapping."

"I’m very sorry about what happened, because we saw what happened," he said. Hezbollah "were wearing our uniforms and it was too bad we didn’t stop them."

It appears that at least four of the UNIFIL "peacekeepers," all from India, has received bribes from Hezbollah in order to assist the kidnapping by helping them get to the kidnapping spot and find the Israeli soldiers. Some of the bribery involved alcohol and Lebanese women.

The Indian brigade later had a bitter internal argument, as some members complained that the brigade had betrayed its peacekeeping mandate. An Indian government investigation sternly criticized the brigade's conduct.

There is evidence of far greater payments by Hezbollah to the UNIFIL Indian brigade, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for assistance in the kidnapping and cover-up.

The UN cover-up began almost immediately.

Lebanon's The Daily Star reported the story told by a former officer of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), which is part of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). ("UN 'destroyed' evidence after abduction of 3 Israeli troops," The Daily Star, July 20, 2001.)

A few hours after the kidnapping, UNTSO learned that two abandoned cars had been discovered. One was a white Nissan Pathfinder with fake UN insignia; it had hit an embankment because it was being driven so fast that the driver missed a turn. The other was a Range Rover; it was missing a tire rim, and was still running when it was discovered.

Rather than using the very-recently-abandoned vehicles as clues to rescue the kidnap victims, the UN initiated a cover-up. The next morning, eighteen hours after the kidnapping, a team of OGL and the Indian UNIFIL began removing the contents of the cars.

The Range Rover was soaked with blood. Among the contents of the vehicles may have been a cell phone belonging to the terrorists. The UNTSO officer confirmed that the cars contained "extremely sensitive" items which included "current and relevant information that could have been easily linked to the incident."

A UNIFIL peacekeeper videotaped the removal of the contents, and attempted to tow one of the cars. According to a much-later U.N. report, there were fifty items taken from the car, seven of them blood-stained. (Report of the fact-finding investigation relating to the abduction of three Israeli soldiers on 7 October 2000 and subsequent relevant events, Aug. 2, 2001.)

The end of the UNIFIL videotape featured armed Lebanese men confronting the UN forces, and taking the cars away from the UN. The UN personnel did not resist, because, they later claimed, the cars did not belong to the UN anyway.

The UNTSO officer told The Daily Star that the UN ordered its personnel to destroy all photographs and written reports about the incident.

The U.N. did not provide the Israelis with the automobile contents, or the videotape, both of which might have helped the Israelis rescue the kidnap victims. Instead, the seized contents of the cars were taken to a town in Lebanon, stored in a safe, and some were eventually returned to Hezbollah.

Israel found out about the videotape, and demanded that the UN let Israeli investigators see it. Kofi Annan and his Special Envoy denied that any videotape existed. It is not clear whether Annan was lying, or whether he was misled.

Nine months after the kidnapping, July 6, 2001, the UN admitted that is had the videotape. Annan ordered an internal UN Report, which was led by UN undersecretary-General Joseph Connor. (Connor was later implicated in the Oil-for-Food scam.) The report revealed that the UN had two additional videotapes—one of which contained still photographs from the kidnapping itself. The UN investigation declared that there was no evidence that the UNIFIL forces had been bribed, or that the UN had deliberately misled anyone.

Even after admitting the existence of the first videotape, Annan refused to allow Israel to view it. He claimed that letting Israel see evidence about the kidnapping would undermine the UN’s neutrality. Thus, Annan insisted on neutrality between innocent victims and terrorists who had used fake UN insignia and who had taken vehicles from UN staff a gunpoint.

The United States House of Representatives, on July 30, 2001, passed by a vote of 411-4 a resolution urging the UN to allow Israel to see the videotape. Annan relented, but only under the condition that the tape be edited so as to hide the faces of the Hezbollah perpetrators. He also agreed to give the Israelis some, but not all, of the items which the UN had seized from the getaway cars.

On January 29, 2004, the bodies of the murdered Israelis were returned to Israel by Hezbollah, as part of a prisoner exchange.

----------------------------------------------------------------

In response to one of the commenters, I've added the following analysis on two questions: 1. By what standard can the UN be considered an "accomplice" in the Hezbollah kidnapping? 2. Is anti-semitism the best explanation of UN behavior?

Regarding UN complicity in kidnapping
One can analogize from the rules that are used to decide whether a corporation is criminally culpable for the acts of its employees, or whether a government agency is liable under section 1983 for the acts of its employees. At the lowest level--the four bribed Indians--the trier of facts looks at the entity's efforts to prevent or punish the employee conduct in question, and whether the entity creates a culture in which the conduct is encouraged or tacitly tolerated.

For misconduct by higher-ranking employees, prosecutors and fact-finders tend to be more likely to conclude that misconduct is attributable to the entity. If you believe the UNTSO official who spoke to The Daily Star (not exactly a reflexively pro-Israel newspaper), or if you believe that reports of a vast bribery scheme are true, then you might well find culpability on the part of the UN.

But I think that my calling the UN an "accomplice" is supportable purely on the undisputed public facts about the UN's concealment and suppression of evidence — with some of the suppression being conducted at the direct order of the UN's chief executive. I believe the undisputed facts are sufficient to show, at the least, that the UN was an accessory-after-the-fact to the kidnappings.

Moreover, the activities of the UN's top staff in New York City, and of high-ranking UN officials in Lebanon, are also relevant evidence for whether there is UN corporate culture of tolerance for terrorism/kidnapping, which is relevant evidence for whether the misconduct of the Indian brigade can be attributed to the UN.

As some commenters have pointed out, there is a very long record of the UN being extremely lax towards crimes committed by its peacekeepers in many other places--for example, the rapes of women and girls in former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, West Africa, and the Congo. The global record suggests, again, a corporate culture of indifference (despite official statements to the contrary) towards employee on-the-job involvement in violent crime; the evidence of a global culture of indifference is more evidence which a fact-finder could use in concluding that crimes of the Indian brigade were attributable to the UN.

The UN and Anti-semitism
I don't think that anti-semitism is the root of the UN's problem with Israel. It's true, as some commentators have pointed out, that the UN is functionally anti-semitic; that is, the UN constantly condemns Israel far more often and more vehemently than it condemns other countries which (even if you believe the worst about Israel) violate human rights much more severely than Israel does. The Eye on the UN website provides copious documentation of the UN's functional anti-semitism.

Nevertheless, I think the UN's pervasive anti-Israelism, although anti-Semitic in practice, is not primarily motivated by hatred of Jews.

Hitler was genuinely committed to anti-Semitism. He harmed his own military interests by giving rail line priority to trains which were headed for the death camps, putting those trains ahead of military transport trains. Similarly, Hitler would have produced resources with which to fight the war if he had used Jews as slave labor (as many were used before extermination), rather than killing them en masse. Who else would harm their own self-interest in order to kill Jews. The answers include "the government of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the PLO." But only one of these has a UN delegation, and the UN had turned vehemently against Israel long before Iran's government was taken over by Islamonazis.

Way back in the 1950s, the Arab bloc at the UN had succeeded in perverting UNRWA so that UNRWA would perpetuate rather than solve the Palestinian refugee problem. The Arab dictators of the day may have personally despised Jews, but I think that the dictators were acting out of self-interest, not prejudice. They recognized that keeping the Arab-Israeli conflict festering was a good way to distract and divert the anger of their own nations' populations. In retrospect, we know that the strategy was only partially successful, since the fomentation of anti-Israel Jew hatred sometimes aroused local forces which the dictatorships were unable to control.

Arab government-incited anti-semitism had the advantage of building on historical prejudices against Jews. (It's true that, in the past, Arab Moslem regimes sometimes treated Jews better than did European Christians, but there was also a long record of atrocious abuse of Jews in the Arab world on which the post-WWII Arab dictatorships could build.)

But suppose that modern Israel had never been created, and that, after WWII, some other state for a stateless people had been born. Maybe sympathy for the Gypsies, who were also the victims of Nazi genocide, might have led to the creation of Gypsistan (or Romastan, according to the modern usage) in a part of Egypt. (The word "gypsy" comes from the "Egypt", based on the belief that the group originated there.) Or some other persecuted group might have established a homeland in the wastelands of Libya. In any case, I think that the establishment of a non-Arab state would likely have led to military confrontation, and if the attempt to exterminate that state by force had failed, then the Arab dictators would have found political advantage in fomenting hatred of that non-Arab state.

Although UNRWA was captured very shortly after it was born, the broader UN assault on Israel didn't get going until the 1960s; the assault peaked in the 1970s, and later receded slightly from its 1970s apex. The anti-Israel assault of the 1970s was merely one element in a successful Soviet strategy of aligning the new UN members, most of them former colonies of Europe, and most of them dictatorships, into an anti-Western bloc. Israel, having the misfortune of being located in the middle of a sea of dictatorships, was a natural target of this UN super-majority; but the same would have been true if Romastan were a pro-western democracy.

Today, the Islamic bloc at the UN continues to find local political advantage in anti-Israelism (as it would with anti-Romastanism), while the rest of the Third World finds it advantageous to go along. I don't think that the dictatorship of China, for example, cares one way or the other about Jews or Israel; but the Chinese dictatorship correctly discerns that voting with the Islamic bloc against Israel is a cost-free way to curry favor with Islamic states, and win their support on issues relevant to China.

Regarding Kofi Annan, and most of the rest of the UN's leading executives, I would say that, functionally, they are vicious anti-Semites, but that, in their hearts, they are not particularly prejudiced against Jews per se. Rather, their actions are explainable under the principles of organizational behavior. Annan is a career UN employee (the first one to become Secretary-General), and he has risen through the organization by shrewdly placating whoever needs to be placated. His anti-Israel actions are simply the result of his astute calculation of the balance of forces at the UN. If he could gain more power at the United Nations by denouncing Fiji or by defending Israel, he would do so.

So there is no anti-semitic conspiracy at the UN, in the sense of a conspiracy directed by people who are deeply motivated by hatred of Jews. Rather, the UN's criminal complicity in the kidnapping of Israelis, like the rest of the UN's anti-Israelism, is explainable as the logical result of a wide variety of UN actors behaving according to their self-interest.

Stuck in time warp, fails to notice time lapse

July 30th, 2006

An update on the post below. You would think, while two BBC reporters are in Lebanon, that one or other could find the time to do a bit of research and discover what is happening. I mentioned Fergal Keane, who was a Catholic before he pupated and became a journalist. Keane is too busy composing sentimental and what he hopes are deeply moving pieces intended to make the viewers weep into their handkerchiefs and then become enraged with Israelis.

He has failed to notice this strange time lapse.

IDF: Qana building fell hours after strike. Not a squeak about it from the emotional Mr Keane. Not even preceded by the usual BBC phrase "Israel alleges..." said with a sneer and a hint of a laugh.

An IDF investigation has found that the building in Qana struck by the Air Force fell around eight hours after being hit by the IDF.

A mystery!

Eshel and the head of the IDF's Operational Branch, Major General Gadi Eisnkot said the structure was not being attacked when it collapsed, at around 8:00 in the morning.

The IDF believes that Hizbullah explosives in the building were behind the explosion that caused the collapse.

Eshel said that an additional attack took place at 7:30 in the morning, but added that other buildings were targeted. "This was an attack on three buildings 460 meters away from the structure we are talking about. Four bombs were dropped and all of them are documented by the planes' cameras.

Why Hizbollah are killing Lebanese civilians

July 30th, 2006

Hizbollah have plenty of bunkers where civilians could be protected. Instead they put the civilians on the upper floors above the bunkers while brave Hizbollah terrorists (oops I mean militants) sit protected below them with their missiles.

If Israel had not evacuated the northern half of the country sending civilians (mostly children) south, Hizbollah would now be decimating the Israeli population. Even in this senario our TV screens would not be filled with pictures of dead Israeli children. Jewish law does not allow the dead to be used in this way and the Israel government respects this.

The other day Hizbollah hit a hopsital, luckily the patients were in the bunkers underground. If it had been a hospital in Hizbollah controlled Lebanon hit by Israel, believe me there would have been many deaths and many pictures of the bodies in the international press. Thankfully Israel does not respond proportionatly and hit a lebanese hopsital in return.

Hizbollah wants the high death toll:

  • To prove that the civilians there "need them" to get revenge against Israel (for this war Hizbollah started)
  • To get international support for a cease fire that recognises Hizbollah has a right to exist... something NOT recognised by the security council, Israel and Lebanon before this conflict.

In June of this year (just before the current conflict) The Military Balance reported that "Hizbullah is under increasing pressure to disarm from international and, increasingly domestic groups".

This war was started by Hizbollah for political reasons and to prevent the realisation of the international communitys expectations that Lebanon would control ALL its teritory and not have a Syrian proxy controlling half the country. Had this not happened, and had Lebanon been able to dislodge the Hizbollah based Syrian occupation... perhaps we'd be hearing about peace treaties right now and not the Lebanese children Hizbollah are using as human shields as they fire at Israeli children.

Lebanon with an army of 72,000 isn't strong enough to tackle Hizbollah... people outside the middle east need to re-evalutate estimates of Hizbollah's strengths. Add in the Syrian officers who are assisting them and the Syrian missiles that have been given to them. Then remember that Syria's armed forced are the 3rd largest in the region (after Iran and Egypt) and that their budget is US$1.5 Billion. For Hizbollah they can always spare a little.

The Syrian connection to Hizbollah must be stopped (which Israel has done by cutting off roads preventing resuply), but to prevent more Lebonese dead, Lebanon with support from friends needs to take over the task over cleaning out Hizbollah... as the UN security council agreed in resolution 1559. Only when the Syrian backed Hizbollah is out of Lebanon can the Lebanese people be safe. Other wise we will get a short respite as Syria rearms Hizbollah, then Hizbollah will attack Israel again, hide beneath Lebanese children again, and wait for them to die - again. If we want a better future we must hope for a long term solution and stand united against terrorists who use children as human shields as they wish for their deaths in order to make more impressive statistics.

Related story: Photos that damn Hezbollah

And we're back...

July 30th, 2006

Over the last 3 weeks as a new war has emerged in the Middle East we've been silent. The silence is not for a lack of things to say, but rather due to a visit to the region. The visit saw us leave an Israeli village 20 minutes before a Kassam Rocket fired by Hamas landed there. It saw us visit the Egyptian border and have 50 soldiers assigned to the research station we were visiting as 500 people broke down and crossed the Israel-Egypt border.

In the last three weeks we've met with commentators, analysts, drafted reservists and large numbers of refugees from the north of Israel. We've spoken to Palestinians and Israelis who want peace, yet recognise and insist Israel not stand idlely by as the Syrian backed Hizbollah terrorist group fires more misles at Israeli civilians. Stay tuned as we bring you up to speed.