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Friday, July 21, 2006 

Tragedy after tragedy unfolds.

You have to wonder whether those trapped in southern Lebanon can see the funny side of the Israelis dropping leaflets telling the citizens who remain who haven't either fled or been blown up to leave.

Gallows humour it might be, but the irony involved in Israel telling the population to get out when it's already
blown up at least 55 bridges, attacked convoys which were either leaving or carrying medicine and made getting out as difficult as possible must be apparent even in terrifying moments. As Juan Cole notes, the bombing raids have been so intensive that citizens have no chance of getting out, Israeli leaflet drops or not:
So let's get this straight. The Israelis warn the small town Shiites of the south to flee their own homes and go hundreds of miles away (and live on what? in what?). But then they intensely bombing them, making it impossible for them to flee. The Lebanese have awoken to find themselves cockroaches.

I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population's way of life. Aside from ecology, it is no different from what Saddam Hussein did to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and the Israelis are doing it for exactly the same sorts of reasons that Saddam did.

The calls for a ceasefire, illustrated superbly by today's Independent front page, are continuing to be ignored. Tony Blair's spokesman said that "a ceasefire call would only "make people feel good for a few hours" and would have no impact," which is the biggest load of nonsense to come out of his mouth since he last opened it. A call by Britain, American's supposed top ally for a ceasefire would increase pressure on Washington to urge Israel to at least show further restraint, if not bring a quick end to the conflict. The spokesman's remarks came after the Archbishop of Canterbury added to the clamour for a stronger statement against Israel's continuing strikes on Lebanon.

It's obvious that what Rowan Williams referred to as "despair and dismay" at Israel's war crimes and collective punishment is growing. Chris Mullin, a former very New Labour foreign office minister who lost his job, described Israel's actions as just that. Lebanon's prime minister, Fuad Saniora, continues to speak out, now saying: "This attack is no longer against Hizbullah; it is an attack against the Lebanese and Lebanon." He's right, but it's been that from the beginning. Ever since the first missiles struck Beirut's international airport, it was clear what Israel was intending to do, and indeed some Israeli military officials gave the game away: knocking Lebanon back twenty years. And for what? This isn't just about destroying Hizbullah; it's also about Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz showing they can be just as tough and just as criminal as Ariel Sharon. It's also worth remembering that it wasn't until Israel had starting bombing Lebanon that Hizbullah started firing its katyusha rockets in response.

This is not to apologise for or justify Hizbullah's actions. They started this, whether over the years Israel has been the aggressor or not. UN Resolution 1559 needs to be enforced, but then so do the resolutions that Israel has been in breach of for decades. The Middle East will never be at peace until the Palestinians have their state. The efforts by Olmert and Sharon to create an emasculated state not based on the 67 borders but on the security wall will fail, and the international community has to make sure that any state is viable. Similarly, the efforts by Israel ministers to link Hamas and Hizbullah into the "war on terror" have to be resisted. These groups can and must be negotitated with. Until everyone realises this, the cycle of death, hatred and crimes against humanity will continue, and for the moment it shows no signs of abating.

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Does anyone not now regard Blair as a War Criminal?

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