Category Archives: Hezbollah

Israel Comfirms Use of Banned Weapons

Israel confirms use of phosphorous bombs

October 22, 2006

JERUSALEM (AP) – The Israeli army dropped phosphorous bombs on Hezbollah guerrilla targets during their war in Lebanon this summer, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Sunday, confirming Lebanese allegations for the first time. Until now, Israel had said it only used the weapons – which cause severe chemical burns – to mark targets or territory, according to Israeli media reports.

But Cabinet Minister Yaakov Edri said Israel used the weapons before an Aug. 14 cease-fire went into effect, ending its 34-day war against Hezbollah. Edri said he was speaking on behalf of Defense Minister Amir Peretz, according to his spokeswoman, Orly Yehezkel.

“The Israeli army holds phosphorous munitions in different forms,” Edri said. “The Israeli army made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground.”

The Lebanese government accused Israel of dropping phosphorous bombs during the war. Edri did not specify where or against what types of targets the bombs were used.

White phosphorous is a translucent wax-like substance with a pungent smell that, once ignited, creates intense heat and smoke. The Geneva Conventions ban using white phosphorous against civilians or civilian areas.

The United States acknowledged last year that U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004, but said it had never been used against civilian targets.

Israel is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. The Israeli military said in July its use of weapons “conforms with international law” and it investigates claims of violations based on the information provided.

Overall, more than 1,200 civilians were killed on both sides during the conflict, which started with Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in July.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have been accused by the United Nations and human rights groups of violating humanitarian law during the conflict.

Israel has been accused of firing as many as 4 million cluster bombs into Lebanon during the war, especially in the last hours before the cease-fire. U.N. demining experts say up to 1 million cluster bombs failed to explode immediately and continue to threaten civilians.

On Sunday, a cluster bomb exploded in a southern Lebanese village, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding his younger brother, security officials said. At least 21 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded by cluster bombs since the end of the war, the U.N. Mine Action Center said.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, has been criticized for failing to distinguish between Israeli civilian and military targets. Human Rights Watch also said the militant group fired cluster bombs into civilian areas of northern Israel during the fighting.

Is Israel using human shields?

I will preface this by saying that there is a lot I don’t know about, and I am genuinely interested in the answers. Unlike some other bloggers, I am not asking these to prove a point or be controversial for controversy’s sake. If you can shed a little light, or have questions of your own, please share them. This blog is about raising awareness of the world, and finding a glimmer of truth in the darkness of those who would rather be believed than be honest. Now on to what will inevitably cause me to be branded something by someone.

Last night, as I usually do before I go to sleep, I was watching TV. As I flipped between Hell’s kitchen, a couple different baseball games, and CNN’s “24 Hours of Death and Destruction,” I was struck by something very strange: the sound of outgoing shelling. Anderson Cooper was standing on a well lit street corner in a town in northern Israel. Every few seconds he was interrupted by another round of shelling. It sounded like the artillery battery was in the town, if not very close. So close in fact, I wondered if civilians would be in danger if Hezbollah attacked obviously military target. There were civilians in the town. A trailor full of farm workers drove by just as the show was ending.

I don’t know how close this obvious military target was to the village. I do know that this is a war of perception and public opinion as much as it a war of bullets, guns, and bombs.

Israel has used Hezbollah’s strategy of using human shields as a justification and excuse for the 900 dead Lebanese civilians. The Hezbollah rocket launchers are in civilian areas, and unfortunately there is collateral damage when these legitimate military targets are attacked. However, if that is Israel’s philosophy, what is the Israeli military doing so seemingly close to civilian areas. Why are they even allowing a situation when it could appear that they are putting their own people in danger, especially when Hezbollah’s notoriously difficult to aim rockets are taken into account.

The Israeli military should be far from civilian areas, and again maybe they are. The farther they are from civilian areas, the better. Hezbollah will have a smaller chance of hitting anything, and both the Israeli military and civilians will be in less danger. As long as the Israeli Military is based near civilian areas, both innocent Israeli’s, and what’s left of Israel’s support will be in even greater danger than they already are.

I could be wrong, and if I am let me know.

As merciful as Katrina: Israeli warnings do little to protect civilian lives

Israel once again dropped leaflets today warning residents of south Beirut to evacuate before air-strikes resumed. The assumption is that anyone who does not leave is a member or ally of Hezbollah. As the botched Hurricane Katrina evacuation demonstrated, not everyone who wants to can leave.

The US is the richest country in the world, has an advanced transportation network of trains, airports, sea ports, highways, and advanced communication systems to aid any evacuation attempts. With all these advantages, tens of thousands of people were unable to leave New Orleans, and hundreds died because of it.

Lebanon is a poor country with an equally poor transportation system. Few Lebanese, especially those in the impoverished southern part of the country, have access to cars, and public transportation is practically non-existent. Under perfect conditions, many would be unable to leave their homes for safe areas. Couple this with Israel’s bombing of nearly all bridges and transportation routes out of southern Lebanon, and it is surprising that the civilian death toll is not higher. Now take into account that any large vehicles such as trucks and buses are targeted by Israeli air strikes because of their ability to carry rocket launchers in addition to fleeing civilians, and it becomes clear that Israel is at the very least not living up to its commitment to protect the lives of civilians. Israel is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, which mandates certain protects for civilians including

No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Even after warning civilians to leave, Israel is unable to verify whether they have left.

IDF sources said the warning pamphlets the IAF disseminated to residents, calling on them to leave the area, were dropped several days before the strike, and not over the weekend.

The IAF does not have a way to verify whether villages have been vacated, or whether civilians remain hidden in bomb-shelters in locations otherwise believed to have been vacated, the sources said.

Paratroopers who fought in Bint Jbail last week said they noticed civilians hiding in the rubble while the fierce battle with Hezbollah militants was taking place.

It is possible for Israel to conduct a campaign of self defense against Hezbollah in accordance with International Law. In fact, doing so will result in a safer Israel and fewer civilians deaths on both sides. Despite weeks of air-strikes, Hezbollah has maintained its ability to attack Israel. Judging by the number of rockets and how far they have been fired into Israel, if anything, Hezbollah has gotten stronger. It is difficult for a conventional army to defeat a guerrilla army from the ground, but it is impossible from air. Israel has yet to report any Hezbollah deaths that are a result air-strikes, but has reported some modest successes from their ground campaign.

If Israel wants to achieve its stated goal of protecting its northern border and creating a buffer zone, it should have never engaged in its misguided air campaign. A focused ground campaign will disrupt Hezbollah’s attacks on northern Israel, and will go a long way to halt international criticism. Most importantly, civilians on both sides will be protected.

Hezbollah is committing war crimes, but Israel is committing war crimes in response. Protecting civilians is a just end, but the end does not justify the means.

Twenty years later, lessons learned about media bias are even more relevant

People have the amazing ability to create their own reality. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan one said that Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” but what about when everyone has the same facts? A ground breaking study of perceived media bias during Israel’s first foray into Lebanon revealed that for the most part, the media just can’t win. While media bias does exist, and perfect objectiveness is next to impossible, viewer bias may exist even more, and viewer objectiveness may be as rare as a peaceful night in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 24, 2006; A02

You could be forgiven for thinking the television images in the experiment were from 2006. They were really from 1982: Israeli forces were clashing with Arab militants in Lebanon. The world was watching, charges were flying, and the air was thick with grievance, hurt and outrage.

There was only one thing on which pro-Israeli and pro-Arab audiences agreed. Both were certain that media coverage in the United States was hopelessly biased in favor of the other side.

The endlessly recursive conflict in the Middle East provides any number of instructive morals about human nature, but it also offers a psychological window into the world of partisan behavior. Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon sparked some of the earliest experiments into why people reach dramatically different conclusions about the same events.

The results say a lot about partisan behavior in general — why Republicans and Democrats love to hate each other, for example, or why Coke and Pepsi fans clash. Sadly, the results also say a lot about the newest conflicts between Israel and its enemies in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and why news organizations are being besieged with angry complaints from both sides.

Partisans, it turns out, don’t just arrive at different conclusions; they see entirely different worlds . In one especially telling experiment, researchers showed 144 observers six television news segments about Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon.

Pro-Arab viewers heard 42 references that painted Israel in a positive light and 26 references that painted Israel unfavorably.

Pro-Israeli viewers, who watched the very same clips, spotted 16 references that painted Israel positively and 57 references that painted Israel negatively.

Both groups were certain they were right and that the other side didn’t know what it was talking about.

The tendency to see bias in the news — now the raison d’etre of much of the blogosphere — is such a reliable indicator of partisan thinking that researchers coined a term, “hostile media effect,” to describe the sincere belief among partisans that news reports are painting them in the worst possible light.

Were pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers who were especially knowledgeable about the conflict immune from such distortions? Amazingly, it turned out to be exactly the opposite, Stanford psychologist Lee D. Ross said. The best-informed partisans were the most likely to see bias against their side.

Ross thinks this is because partisans often feel the news lacks context. Instead of just showing a missile killing civilians, in other words, partisans on both sides want the news to explain the history of events that prompted — and could have justified — the missile. The more knowledgeable people are, the more context they find missing.

Even more curious, the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news sources that strive for balance. News reports from obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out, find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts that explore both sides.

“If I think the world is black, and you think the world is white, and someone comes along and says it is gray, we will both think that person is biased,” Ross said.

The experiment, of course, did not address whether news reports were in fact biased — who would decide? — or how the media ought to cover conflicts. Partisans argue that assigning equal weight to both sides is wrong when one side (theirs) is right. In any event, psychologists such as Ross are less interested in rating the news or in which side is right than in the curiosities of human perception: Why are partisans invariably blind to how news coverage might help their side?

If someone says several nice things about you and one derogatory thing, what sticks in your mind? People who are deeply invested in one side are quicker to spot and remember aspects of the news that hurt than they are to see aspects that help, said Richard Perloff, a Cleveland State University political communication researcher.

Perloff elicited the same clashing perceptions of bias from pro-Israeli and pro-Arab audiences when he showed them news clips with equal amounts of violence.

Ross and Perloff both found that what partisans worry about the most is the impact of the news on neutral observers. But the data suggest such worry is misplaced. Neutral observers are better than partisans at seeing flaws and virtues on both sides. Partisans, it turns out, are particularly susceptible to the general human belief that other people are susceptible to propaganda.

“When you are persuaded by something, you don’t think it is propaganda,” Ross said. “Israelis know they see the world the way they do because they are Israelis, and Arabs, too. The difference is people think in their case, their special identities are a source of enlightenment, whereas other people’s source of enlightenment is a source of bias.”

Question of the Week

I sometimes wish there were a voicemail number at the United Nations, the White House, or any location where world leaders congregate that anyone in the world could call to make suggestions. Of course this would never happen for any number of reasons, not least of which is the practicality of the whole matter. Who would listen to the several million inane ideas each day while trying to identify the three or four that could make a difference? However, at the same time, with so many intractable conflicts around the world, maybe we should listen to the know-it-all college student or the single mom who has somehow brokered a peace deal between her two warring preteens. In the spirit of no idea being too stupid to consider,  I bring you this weeks question:

How would you solve the Hezbollah/Israel/Lebanon/Syria/Iran crisis? Leave your answers in the comment section.

Hope

What makes hope for peace in one region reasonable while hope for peace in another region seems naive? With elections completed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and fighting continues without end between Lebanon and Israel, it seems that a small step in the right direction is all one needs to maintain reasonable hope.

After 40 years without a democratic election the DR Congo faces the precarious task of accepting election results with 32 candidates. This is a feat that Mexico recently proved to be difficult among four candidates, and the United States has had problems with only three. Yet the election itself was remarkably uneventful. Candidates have stated they would follow ‘democratic means’ if they were unhappy with results and spokespersons for the country are ‘cautiously optimistic’. There is hope for peaceful democracy in the DR Congo.

On the other hand, Israel cannot follow through with a 48 hour promise. Weeks of continued fighting is expected. How many people think peace is unattainable? How many more children must die while others lose hope? If Israel can make one step in the right direction we might have reason for hope.

Hope builds upon hope. One move towards peace creates an expectation for peace. Nobody knows how the elections will end in the DR Congo, but perhaps their efforts to maintain peace will inspire much need hope around the world.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

The Picture of the Week

A northern Israeli cemetery shattered by a rocket fired from Lebanon is investigated by Israeli soldiers in Kiryat Shmona, July 26. Israel has found itself more entrenched in battle with Hezbollah, with one top commander predicting “several more weeks” of fighting. (Eli Dasa, AP)