Saturday, August 19, 2006

Op-Ed: Israel's historic defeat By Neal AbuNab

Israel’s historic defeat
By Neal AbuNab

Syndicated Opinion Columns by Aramedia Suggested contribution: $40 There is no obligation to pay if you print article.If you decide to make a contribution please request a bill and tell us the amount you would like to contribute. Please state name of publication to be billed.Request bill by email: nealabunab@todaylink.comContact Neal AbuNab (313) 506-4409, for all other inquiries. Length of article can be edited according to requirements of editors.Aramedia, P.O.Box 7596, Dearborn, MI 48126, USA All Rights reserved 2006

This is not Israel’s first defeat and it won’t be its last one. But it will go down in the books of history as a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hizbullah defeated Israel the first time on May 25, 2000. The current Lebanese government was so ashamed of that victory that it banned all celebrations this year. We still celebrated in Dearborn and the Lebanese Consul in Michigan joined us at the Bint Jebail club.

The significance of today’s victory is that the war was waged on all fronts and Hizbullah and Lebanon came out ahead. On the military front where Israel has always behaved like a wild beast that can not be tamed or deterred, it was dealt a severe blow. In the air campaign it conducted more than 10,000 sorties that delivered more bombs than the combined nations of NATO in their war against Yugoslavia in 1999. Every bomb cost Israel about $40,000 while Hizbullah delivered approximately 4,000 Katyusha rockets that cost about $300 each.

It was an asymmetrical war conducted on the cheap but delivered the maximum effect for Hizbullah. Israeli missiles were striking fear in the heart of Lebanese civilians and the Katyusha’s were striking a similar fear in the hearts of Israelis. The Israeli air force with its state-of-the-art technology and weapons was neutralized by World War II-type rockets. Its precision-targeting systems killed hundreds of civilians while the antiquated technology of Katyusha’s killed only a handful of Israeli civilians.

Israelis claim that they had bombed Lebanon back to the Stone Age and that is victory. This is the logic of force that they deeply believe in. It’s like having a 20-year old beat up a 2-year old and calling it a victory. It is downright repulsive and criminal in nature. They are right when they say there is no moral equivalence with Hizbullah’s methods. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, challenged them to fight like men and to park their F-16’s and fight on the ground. After three weeks they answered the call and began their ground invasion. They pushed thousands of troops into southern Lebanon and every time they declared victory in a town they retreated from it the following day.

Over 100 Israeli Merkava tanks which cost $40 million dollars each were destroyed. When it became clear that the ground war was producing “diminishing returns” they agreed to a cease-fire. Wars are all about expectations and objectives. Israel has the fifth strongest military force in the world equipped and financed by billions of US taxpayers’ money. Israel was not only expected to crush Hizbullah easily but also to make an example of it in order to build a new Middle East that dares not question the right of Israel to exist.

Israel declared war on Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah and to release its two captured soldiers. It failed in achieving both objectives. The US had taken it for granted that Israel would crush Hizbullah and so it began working on a UN Resolution that provided International legitimacy to Israel’s aggression. It assured its allies that Hizbullah had no chance in surviving the assault and that the resolution should just reflect the facts on the ground. Henry Kissinger is famous for saying that “war is just another instrument of diplomacy.” He gained notoriety when he negotiated with the Vietnamese while bombing them into submission.

And so the US in the person of its top diplomat, Condy Rice, focused its diplomacy to reflect the expected defeat of Hizbullah; a fait accompli in the eyes of the administration. She went to Beirut to check on the pulse of Hizbullah. It was still beating. French officials went to Beirut to check for themselves and they found the pulse to be very strong. They also found that 90% of the Lebanese people had become united behind Hizbullah. And by the fourth week all the Arab countries lined up behind Hizbullah and an Arab League delegation went to New York to negotiate.

This was the first time Arabs united on one position and they all stuck to it. It was truly a historic moment and it only came about because of Hizbullah’s inspired resolve to defend Lebanon. The US stalled while Israel promised victory in a matter of days. In 1982, it marched to the Litani River in 3 hours. After 4 weeks of fighting it was still stuck in Bint Jebail, barely 5 Km north of the border. Then, last Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, gave an all-out ground invasion order pushing 30,000 soldiers into Lebanon. They met with resistance they had never seen before.

Hizbullah fighters began hunting Israeli tanks and bulldozers like a spider that invites flies to its deadly web. Israeli soldiers were reminded of the Lebanon “mud” they had left six years ago. A Hizbullah fighter talked to a CNN reporter after the war ended and described how one Israeli soldier was injured in the middle of one of these small border towns. His buddies would not come back for him and he laid there on the ground crying and begging Hizbullah fighters not to shoot him. They did not. But he died later of his wounds because Israeli soldiers waited too long before they came back to get him.

The myth of the Israeli soldier was shattered forever. It was replaced by a new reality on the ground. A reality that will be legendized and will become the new myth; that Hizbullah can not be defeated. Olmert realized this fact in less than 24 hours after giving his orders. On Thursday evening Israel declared that it was ready to accept a UN Resolution that declared a cease-fire. On Friday, UN Secretary General Kufi Anan, said: “war is the utter failure of diplomacy.” Then, they passed UN Resolution 1701 calling for the cessation of hostilities between the two parties.

Lebanese civilians were the greatest losers in this war. But their pain did not move the entire world to put a stop to the Israeli attack. It was Hizbullah’s fighters who proved that a military solution was impossible that put an end to the battle. Hizbullah proved that Israel can destroy the entire country of Lebanon and turn it into rubble but it can not defeat its fighting spirit. Nasrallah proclaimed that the Arabs had scored a “strategic historical victory against Israel.” On Monday night, fireworks lit up the skies of Beirut in celebration and a genuine sentiment of deep pride was evident on the faces of all Arabs. It was the first time in history that Israel was defeated militarily and diplomatically.

As for the Lebanese civilians Hizbullah began rebuilding their destroyed homes the next day. Many Lebanese investors lost their life savings in this war. This is a valuable lesson for them that unless their economic accomplishments are insured by political gains their efforts will always be at risk. It is the lesson that they refuse to learn even here in Dearborn. We’ve been telling them for years that all their money has no value and all their beautiful new buildings on Warren Avenue have no value unless city hall pays attention to their causes. Instead of having the mayor of Dearborn cut ribbons for new Arab businesses let’s see him march with us in our protests. He managed, as always, to keep his distance from the Arab pain. And so did every city councilman.

Arab money has no value without local politicians fighting to protect it by making our views mainstream to the American people. Unfortunately, this war has proved that most of our elected representatives are too afraid to champion Arab causes. The blind love for Israel is dragging America to hell and elected politicians must have the courage to face that reality.

This is the first time Arab pain has emerged triumphant. A handful of courageous politicians felt our pain and championed resolutions demanding an immediate cease-fire. But one of these politicians stands tall in our community. He was at every protest and he showed a deep commitment to social justice. He is Gary Woronchak, our elected commissioner in Wayne County. He proved to be a true friend of the Arab American community.

Our business leaders who are sobbing for their lost money must learn how to reward the politicians who stand with us and how to punish those who stood on the sidelines. President Bush has taught us that “you’re either with us or against us” and our business leaders must learn this fact if they hope to protect their investments in the future.

Hizbullah has released the Arab spirit and the genie is out of the bottle. The winds of liberty and freedom are blowing very hard in the Middle East and they are led by the two flags of Hizbullah and Hamas. America can choose to stand on the side of freedom or stay with the tyranny of Israel and the Kings of Arabia. The choice is simple and it will become clearer with every passing day.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”- available on An Arab American who advocates a balanced US policy in the Middle East. He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at: