Security Council resolution draft on Lebanon reflects a new stage of Western
colonialism in the Middle East, and perhaps a historic precedent: for the first
time, the UN Security Council – should the resolution draft be endorsed – breaches
the fundamental principle of the right of people under occupation to resist,
and in fact legitimizes the violent partition of the sovereign state of Lebanon.
The American-French draft reflects the interests of three central colonial
powers in the region: the U.S., the main colonial power in Iraq and Afghanistan;
its client and proxy Israel, which is occupying the Palestinian territories
of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Syria, and occupied south Lebanon
for 22 years (1978-2000); and France, the former colonial empire in Lebanon
after WWI. No wonder that the draft, which pays lip-service to Lebanon's sovereignty
and territorial integrity, in fact suggests a partition of this small land.
Lebanon's sovereignty has always been challenged.
France and Great Britain did not end their colonialism until after WWII. Syria
considered Lebanon one of its provinces. Israel's first leader, David Ben-Gurion,
believed the natural border of the Jewish state should be Lebanon's Litani River,
and this legacy has apparently guided the Israeli army ever since.
Up to the last half decade, Lebanon was in fact partitioned into two power
spheres: the Israeli-occupied south, and the Syrian-occupied rest of the country.
Both countries used each other's occupation of Lebanon as an excuse not to end
their own. Finally, Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, but it has not respected
Lebanon's sovereignty for a single day since. As every UN report for the years
2000-2006 stresses, Israeli jets have violated Lebanese air space by daily overflights,
sowing anxiety by sonic booms over populated areas. At the same time, pressure
grew on Syria to end its occupation. At last, the international – mainly Western
– community made president Assad Jr. withdraw the Syrian forces from Lebanon
These developments, which looked like the rehabilitation of Lebanon's sovereignty,
now seem to lead to the very opposite: a renewed Israeli occupation of south
Lebanon, supported by the U.S. and France and backed by a UN Security Council
With strong American backing, Israel is at present
in a four-week effort to reoccupy south Lebanon.
The decisive player in Israeli politics – the military – is aware of the painful
memories many Israeli families still have from 22 years in the so-called "Lebanese
mud." Therefore, the reoccupation has been carried out in what the Israeli
army jargon calls "a rolling operation." At first, the public and
the cabinet were assured that only the air force would be used. A few days into
the war, with dozens of Hezbollah missiles reaching as far as Haifa, military
sources started to indicate that "Israel cannot win by using air force
alone." Ground forces were sent into Lebanon, first in what was described
as limited commando operations, then to take over small enclaves close to the
border and "cleanse the Hezbollah front line." Four weeks into the
war, Israel is seeking to reoccupy the "security zone" it abandoned
six years ago, with indications that the Israeli-held area might stretch north
to the Litani River and perhaps even further.
Leaflets and heavy fire directed indiscriminately
at civilians have driven out most of the population of south Lebanon; many
have no houses to return to. The purpose of this ethnic cleansing – similar
to that carried out in Palestine in 1948 and in the occupied Palestinian territories
in 1967 – is to facilitate the Israeli occupation in the future.
Israel's Occupation Legitimized
The U.S. has so far blocked any attempt to make
Israel cease its fire. Now that Israel is about to reach its desired territorial
aims, the U.S. deems it the right time to anchor Israel's occupation in a UN
Security Council resolution.
According to the current resolution
draft, the UN Security Council "calls for a full cessation of hostilities
based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks
and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."
Note the asymmetry, as well as the term "immediate." While Israel
is occupying Lebanon, Hezbollah – or, as it is often called in Lebanon, "the
resistance" (al-muqawama) – is not allowed to take any military
action against this occupation. If it does, the resolution draft allows Israel
to defend its occupation militarily, as long as it uses "non-offensive"
means. Thus the UNSC, perhaps for the first time, waives the moral and internationally
accepted legal principle of the right of occupied peoples to resist occupation.
The resolution draft not only forbids Hezbollah resistance to the occupation,
but also legitimizes Israel's right to defend its occupying forces against any
No "International Force"
This immediate, interim
phase should end when a new UN-mandated international force is formed and deployed
to Lebanon. This seems to be the American concession to France. In order to
win the past colonizer's consent, the U.S. offered France a military foothold
in the form of an international force that would consist mainly of French troops.
The French, however, have been fooled: having betrayed Lebanon for the sweet
smell of a colonial foothold, they will get none. The resolution draft sets
no timetable for the creation of this new force, which at any rate needs to
be authorized in a further UNSC resolution before it is constituted.
Furthermore, this second, future UNSC resolution is made dependent on a "confirmation
to the Security Council that the Government of Lebanon and the Government of
Israel have agreed in principle to the principles and elements for a long-term
solution as set forth in paragraph 6 above, and subject to their approval."
As any experienced observer of Middle Eastern diplomacy knows, this condition
can be endlessly abused to gain time, just as we witnessed in the Oslo process
with the Palestinians, and Israel has a clear interest in procrastination. As
long as the two governments have not agreed – and this may take years – Israel
can stay in Lebanon as an occupying force protected by a UNSC resolution.
Not surprisingly, then, a senior Israeli official has already said that "there
would be no international force, because no agreement about it would be reached."
Aug. 7, 2006, Hebrew only; omitted in the English version, and not without reason.)
Lebanon cannot but object to the proposed resolution,
which in fact legalizes its partition. Indeed
Lebanon does object. This objection must have been anticipated by the colonial
powers. Therefore the mechanism set to implement Lebanon's partition is deliberately
bypassing its government. Since a new international force cannot be deployed
in Lebanon without its consent, the resolution draft uses UNIFIL instead: UNIFIL
is already on the ground in Lebanon, so it doesn't need any further Lebanese
consent. For this reason, Israel's request to get rid of UNIFIL had to be rejected;
this was portrayed in the Israeli press as a great concession (Ha'aretz's
top headline, Aug. 6, 2006: "Israel
Backs Down: UNIFIL Stays").
The Israeli plans to make Lebanon understand its role in the new regional
order – that is, to submit to Israel's superiority and give up its South – were
hinted at briefly at the outset of the war in the words of Israel's chief of
staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz: "we
will turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years." By now, we have a
more detailed plan:
"A senior General Staff officer told Ha'aretz that for the
first time since the fighting began, Israel plans to attack strategic infrastructure
targets and symbols of the Lebanese government […] 'we are now in a process
of renewed escalation. We will continue hitting everything that moves in Hezbollah
– but we will also hit strategic civilian infrastructure.' […] IDF will recommend
an additional significant expansion of the operation, including the conquest
of most of Lebanon south of the Litani River, including the area around Tyre,
and a significant increase in air strikes on infrastructure targets. 'It could
be that at the end of the story, Lebanon will be dark for a few years,' said
one." (Ha'aretz, Aug. 7, 2006)
In order to preclude any resistance to its partition, then, Lebanon should
The resolution draft has not been endorsed yet.
If endorsed and imposed on Lebanon, it will undoubtedly be good news for the
weapons industry: Lebanon will unite behind Hezbollah as the only effective
force fighting its partition. Syria will support Hezbollah, being doubly humiliated
both by the enduring Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights and by being
kicked out of Lebanon just in order to let Israel reoccupy it. Half of Israel,
perhaps more, will remain a frontier zone, constantly under the threat of rockets
and missiles from Lebanon. And this is just the optimistic scenario, in which
a regional war is avoided.
Another option is for the UN to demand immediate Israeli withdrawal to the
international border with Lebanon and Syria(!), urge all parties involved to
respect each other's sovereignty, and help Lebanon follow its own interest by
disarming Hezbollah or incorporating it into its regular army. This might be
bad news for the weapons industry, but good news for millions of Lebanese and
Israelis who are now under mutual fire.