Jared IsraelJared Israel is the Editor of the Emperor's New Clothes website, dedicated to analyzing patterns of lies by the media and political figures.
While claiming to support Israel's right to defend itself from Hizbullah and Hamas attacks, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have, in fact, mis-described the current Middle East war in a way that sets Israel up for media demonization, while creating public support for a "robust" (Kofi Annan's word) international intervention in southern Lebanon. Such an intervention would constitute a serious and possibly deadly threat to Israel.
In a defining press conference held 16 July, at the G8 meeting, President Bush said:
One of the interesting things about this recent flare-up is that it helps clarify a root cause of instability in the Middle East -- and that's Hizbullah and Hizbullah's relationship with Syria, and Hizbullah's relationship to Iran, and Syria's relationship to Iran. Therefore, in order to solve this problem it's really important for the world to address the root cause.Blair also blamed "...extremists backed, I'm afraid, by Iran and by Syria, who want to disrupt the positions in Lebanon and who want to create a situation of tension and hostility there."
We, of course, are in continued discussions with Israel. All sovereign nations have the right to defend themselves against terrorist attacks. However, we hope that there is restraint as people respond. And one of our concerns, of course, is the fragile democracy in Lebanon.
Blair and Bush focus on Syria and Iran as the root cause of the fighting, and stress that the Lebanese government is not only not a guilty party, but is itself a victim of Iran and Syria, which "want to disrupt the positions in Lebanon" and "create a situation of tension and hostility there." In the press conference, Bush and Blair refer to Syria and Iran collectively more often than Lebanon.
What is the sub-text here? That since Syria and Iran alone are guilty, Israel should not be punishing weak, innocent Lebanon. This idea is implicit in Condoleezza Rice's July 21 statement, as reported (and embellished) by the Associated Press. Rice portrays Hizbullah as Syria's attack dog: "'Syria knows what it needs to do and Hizbullah is the source of the problem,' Rice said at the State Department as she previewed her trip, which begins on Sunday with a first stop in Israel."
And concerning the Lebanese government:
Hizbullah "extremists are trying to strangle it in its crib," Rice said of the Lebanese government, which has been a less potent force in the fractured country than the politically savvy and well-armed Hizbullah guerrillas.... Hizbullah exerts political control over southern Lebanon, overshadowing the weak democratic central government in Beirut.Bush, Blair and Rice do say that Israel has the right to self-defense, but their stance - that the Lebanese government is blameless - has set Israel up for the massive demonization we have seen in the media, portraying Israel as a bully, overreacting to a fairly minor incident by Hizbullah by unleashing devastating attacks on an innocent, weak, struggling democracy.
The reality is quite different.
Hizbullah is not just "an Islamic militant group that operates in southern Lebanon" with Iranian sponsorship. Combining Islamic fanaticism with a modern anti-Semitic ideology derived from the Catholic Church and Nazism, with a media which spreads that ideology worldwide, and with a mass base and virtual state control of Lebanon, Hizbullah stands for the destruction of world Jewry and the creation of a world Islamic state, modeled on Iran.
The Lebanese government is not innocent. Facilitated by the US, the European Union and the UN, Lebanon has developed close ties with Iran. Hizbullah has been incorporated into the basic fabric of state domestic and international relations, giving free reign to Hizbullah's Nazi-like army, which makes democracy impossible, and defending Hizbullah's right to broadcast violent anti-Semitism worldwide. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora now calls on the world to help him disarm Hizbullah, the better to justify a NATO-like intervention. Yet, when he formed the first Lebanese government after the withdrawal of Syrian forces, Siniora said, "It is [a] good thing to have Hizbullah in this cabinet." (Turkish Daily News) He told Agence France Presse that Hizbullah's cabinet role made him "proud."
Officially, Hizbullah got control of the important water and energy ministry. But in reality, it got much more. Guided by a carefully worded statement from State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli, that "to the extent that there are active members of a foreign terrorist organization in a government, then our ability to interact and work with those individuals is circumscribed," Fuad Siniora arranged with Hizbullah to pick a foreign minister who was a) to their liking, but b) not an active or open member of Hizbullah. So, Hizbullah in fact, but not in name, took control of Lebanese foreign policy.
This was no mystery - the media knew, and of course the US knew, too. (Obviously they knew; as is clear from reading Ereli's press briefings, that was the purpose of his tortuously worded statement.) When the US says "protect this poor, struggling, fledgling democratic government," they are talking about a government they worked with to put Hizbullah in a key position of power - the foreign ministry! - without openly violating US policy.
And all the while, Hizbullah maintained its own terrorist army, attacking Israel. Despite prodding from the UN, the Lebanese government has refused to remove Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon, allowing them to man the so-called Blue Line, where they attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians, and fire antiaircraft weapons at Israeli towns. This is clear from the UN's yearly report on southern Lebanon, which, though worded to equate Israel and Hizbullah, makes it clear that a) Hizbullah is the provocateur, and b) they play this role with Lebanese government support.
Media reports focusing on civilian suffering - real, exaggerated and sometimes invented - and statements by Western leaders, all push for an armed multinational force for southern Lebanon. Such a force would likely be comprised of troops under the command of states that portray Israel's conflict with Palestinian Arabs as the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict (rather than the other way around), and that do not consider Hizbullah a violently anti-Semitic political army. Such a multinational force would have much in common with William Walker's Kosovo Verification Mission. It too had the stated purpose of separating belligerents in Kosovo in 1998. And its member states were hostile to Yugoslavia. According to Kosovo historian Cedomir Prlincevic, that multinational force was used as a cover for upgrading and training the Kosovo Liberation Army (for which substitute "Hizbullah") terrorists.
Once a powerful multinational force was ensconced in southern Lebanon, it would be in position to intervene directly in Israel and the disputed territories. That would be disastrous for Israel.