Archive for the ‘Lebanon’ Category


American leaders continue to demonstrate that changes in the rest of the world, and the deep flaws in our foreign policy which they reveal, will have no impact on our thinking whatsoever. The latest case in point is the position staked out by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) with regard to Lebanon.

Remember Lebanon? Subsequent events have pushed Lebanon out of the news in the United States and even, to a lesser extent, in Israel, which has more reason to be concerned with what goes on there. But the collapse of Lebanon’s government at the beginning of this year remains at issue, and, with all the consternation these days

Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain

about where a post-Mubarak Egypt will end up, Lebanon has at least as much potential for both international intrigue and internal strife as any country in the Middle East.

Lebanon’s political situation is always precarious; it’s only a matter of degree. But with a caretaker government currently in power and the still-looming announcement of indictments by the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), Lebanon is a powder keg. And it’s not happening in a vacuum.

The two competing coalitions are each in the favor of a different array of outside actors. The March 8 Alliance, which currently holds 70 of the 128 seats in Parliament, includes Hezbollah and is sympathetic to Syria and Iran. The March 14 Alliance features former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and enjoys much stronger relationships with France, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The STL was set up to investigate the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, a widely respected leader who was also opposed to the Syrian presence in his country.

Not surprisingly, the STL was, at first, expected to point the accusing finger at Syria. Now, the talk is centered on Hezbollah. The arrest and imprisonment for four years without charge of four pro-Syrian generals who were later freed for lack of evidence greatly increased the politicization of the STL, and this continued as Hezbollah went on a rhetorical offensive about it, including accusing Israel of Hariri’s murder.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s speculations about Israeli responsibility have only minimal evidentiary support, but they are not impossible either. But they served their purpose in further undermining the STL’s credibility.

Hezbollah and Syria both had motive to kill Hariri, and if both or either were involved, they would have every reason to do anything they can to discredit the STL. But the fact that supposedly key testimony has been retracted and that many accusations of false testimony have been leveled; that the direction of accusations was leaked to the public at such an early stage; that four Lebanese generals were jailed for four years without trial or charge and then freed for lack of evidence; that Hariri has publicly retracted his accusations against Syria for the killing of his father; and the campaign against it by Hezbollah and Syria, including the theory of Israeli involvement have all combined to cast the legitimacy into doubt should be giving us serious pause. It isn’t, apparently. (more…)

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As I sat to write these words, a pro-democracy demonstration in Tel Aviv was winding down. Reports I received from colleagues at the march estimated the number at 20,000 in attendance, and YNET reports 15,000. This is most welcome news, and one hopes it is an indication that Israelis have woken up and recognize the threat that has grown in their midst. Another, more important, albeit much slimmer hope, is that they will also collectively realize that the side toward fascism is the inevitable result of a society that is both embroiled in constant conflict and is holding millions of others under siege or under military occupation.

Avigdor Lieberman

Israelis have been forced to the streets out of self-interest, the decay of Israel’s democratic structures, however imperfect they may always have been. Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf sent out a tweet from the march saying that the “loudest booing to Ehud Barak, labor, for taking part in Netanyahu’s government.” But if we put a face to the assault on Israeli democracy, we inevitably see Avigdor Lieberman.

Is Lieberman, who makes the claim, with some justification at least for the moment, that he now represents the mainstream of Israeli society, really the boogeyman many of us make him out to be? Well, we have a chance to see it in his own words.

On Friday, Yediot Ahoronot, the major Israeli daily paper, ran an extensive interview with Lieberman. As far as I know, it appeared only in the print edition and only in Hebrew. For various reasons, I cannot reprint the entire interview here, but a few pieces of it will serve to allow Lieberman to demonstrate just who he really is. So, with my comments interspersed below, here is Avigdor Lieberman…

“This is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed: when the left wing wants to delegitimize someone in the right wing, they always find someone from the national camp to help them. Likud people like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin gave the left wing the seal of approval to attack me. This reminds me of global anti-Semitism, the anti-Semites also always find some Israeli to help them attack Jews. “ (more…)

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The precise details of the events on the Israel-Lebanon border Tuesday are still unclear. But from what we have now, a picture is starting to develop.

UNIFIL has confirmed that the Israelis who were shot at were on their side of the Blue Line, the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon. There is a security fence near there, but it does not follow the Blue Line precisely, and in

Israel-Lebanon Border

the area where the incident took place, the fence is inside of Israeli territory, leaving a small area of “no man’s land” that Lebanon claims as its own, but which is recognized internationally as part of Israel.

Back in 2006, Hezbollah operatives used surrounding growth to launch a sneak attack against Israeli troops, precipitating the massive Israeli response that led to the war that summer. As a result, Israel routinely removes some of the brush in the area. In this case, it seems UNIFIL and the Lebanese army was notified and, while UNIFIL asked Israel to delay for a day for their commander to return, Israel waited only a few extra hours. But the area in question was on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, so this cannot possibly be called anything more than an annoyance.

The Lebanese army commander in the area apparently was ordered to fire warning shots, and it remains unclear whether he ever did that or whether shots were immediately fired at an Israeli observation post behind the fence, where the one IDF officer was killed and another wounded. In the moment, when soldiers are fired upon from a distance, it is often impossible to know where the bullets were aimed—and, in fear for one’s life, one is not apt to start an investigation on the spot. (more…)

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It’s been a while since my last post. This has been due to my being in Israel since March 28. And I still have a few days to go. But I finally do have a new piece up at Allvoices.com. You can read it by clicking here.

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I have a new blog piece at http://www.allvoices.com examining the results of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Click here to read the piece.

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