Updated: Jun 8, 2018
To some, the 12th of July 2006 may seem
like a long time ago. Let me assure you,
using any reasonable measure of time, that
this date IS recent history. The following
research and subsequent article was developed
during July, August & September of 2006. I
am just getting around to placing this detail
on the web.
Lebanese - Israeli Conflict, Summer 2006
I am not the first to make this statement; I will not be the last. I aim to add my own voice to the growing numbers that have already made their position known. This senseless loss of life that continues in the "Middle East", each loss, meaning each and every loss of human life, regardless of age, sex, race, language or religion, is, in fact, an infinite loss.
For us in the West, particularly in "North America", many of us are confused and frustrated over what is happening on the banks of what "should be" a very beautiful, garden spot of the universe. In fact, observations through the wonders of modern technology regarding the quality of reporters from the World's NEWS agencies quickly demonstrate most of them are moocows. In my opinion, these moocows do not add constructively to the situation, their reporting continues to frustrate legitimate organizations, and does not assist in driving towards workable (and clearly obtainable) goals.
So let's be frank here, civil society is clearly asking for 1) a cessation of hostilities and 2) a comprehensive and final cease-fire that will bring ever-lasting peace and tranquility to the region. A "cessation of hostilities" means that, if you are in possession of a weapon of any kind, stop using this weapon. I don't care if it's a stick, rock, F-16, homemade RPG, rocket, missile, remote controlled drone or whatever. Stop using the weapon. Stop.
The cessation of hostilities will now create a space to address the dire humanitarian needs on all sides. Really folks, this isn't too difficult to grasp. It is hugely, incredibly, nearly impossible to provide even the most basic of humanitarian assistance in a hostile environment. So if you were thinking along the lines of, well, the UN (or others) can just get in there, dig people out from under leveled buildings, provide food, clothing and shelter (and hence security) without a cessation of hostilities, might I suggest that you have your head examined by a qualified physician? Attempting to deliver relief supplies while hostilities are happening gets you killed. Bullets, grenades and missiles do not; I repeat, do not magically go around, bounce off or leave you unscathed because of your "blue helmet"; "blue helmet" meaning the United Nations (UN). And for that matter, even the smartest of "smart weapons" are indiscriminate between regular forces, irregular forces and civilians. I don't want to get too far ahead here except to foreshadow that the cessation of hostilities also provides space and time for diplomacy to work. The process leads to an understanding of the issues, from all sides, a political (meaning non-military) solution to the problems, a formal cease-fire, reconciliation, ever-lasting peace and tranquility.
The ongoing hostilities and escalation did not begin on the 12th of July 2006. I need to make this blanket statement because, well, it's true, and, so I can focus on the recent events and provide an equitable solution, not only to resolve this incident, but any future incident of like or similar caliber. As we are all so painfully aware, Israel and Lebanon have had difficulties living in peace and tranquility for many years. Emerging out of WWII, key nation states established the UN to help prevent the devastating effects of war, promote peace and prosperity and an international vehicle for conflict resolution and other grievances.
Because of disruptions to international peace and tranquility in the Middle East, one of the things the UN did was establish a "blue helmet" presence in the south of Lebanon. This organization is named the UN Interim Force in Lebanon and was created in 1978 by the UN Security Council (resolution 425). UNIFIL was to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area. The internationally mandated force maintains an informative website concerning their activities and a nice fact sheet that provides background and current activities. Suffice it to say, though this will likely chance in the very near future, UNIFIL is currently comprised of 1,990 troops, assisted by some 50 military observers of UNTSO; and supported by 102 international civilian personnel and 306 local civilian staff. Contributors of the military personnel are from China, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Ukraine.
If you are like most people, who did not know about the existence of UNIFIL, you are likely scratching your head and asking why, why, why. Why didn't UNIFIL stop this most recent escalation? Why this, why that? So the first thing you need to do is understand the mandate of UNIFIL and then do us all a favor and spend some time reviewing the UNIFIL website and probably the fact sheet. I will get you started; the mandate of UNIFIL is spelled out by the UN Security Council from resolutions 425 and 426 and can be summarized as follows:
Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon;
Restore international peace and security;
Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area
Your job in life is easy; UNIFIL's job is not. There are active discussions within the UN Security Council that may lead to a change for UNIFIL; we'll need to hold on tight to see what happens. As of this writing, UNIFIL's mandate, typically extended in 6-month increments had been extended 30 days to 31 August 2006. A review of the UNIFIL reporting periods clearly documents a number of "blue line" transgressions since the confirmation of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. The "blue line" is the generally accepted boarder between Israel and Lebanon, it's not perfect but it is functional when it comes to observing transgressions by shepherds, IDF warplanes, Hezbollah rockets, bulldozers and the like (you get the picture).
Though I am sure there were independent (and not so independent) reporters on the ground, in and around the area on the morning of 12 July 2006, I will be using UNIFIL's detailed report (S/2006/560) in my analysis as well as other documents submitted to the UN by the parties involved and others. As the report goes, at approximately 9:00am local time Hezbollah launched several rockets from Lebanese territory, across the "blue line" towards Israel Defense Forces (IDF) near the coast and the Israeli town of Zarit. In parallel, Hezbollah fighters crossed the "blue line" into Israel, attacking an IDF patrol, capturing 2, killing 3 and wounding 2 others. These captured IDF soldiers were taken into Lebanon. In the afternoon of 12 July 2006, Lebanon requested that UNIFIL broker a cease-fire. The uninterrupted hostilities have continued and have escalated ever since; feel free to read the report for more details.
We get so caught up in who started this or they did that or this, we have simply lost sight of the mechanics for resolving conflicts such as this one. Furthermore the parties involved obfuscate the facts and hide behind, what they must think is sufficient justification for this senselessness, but in reality are thinly veiled positions that simply do not stand under closer scrutiny. To put an end to this tragic event, in fact the entire "situation in the Middle East", we need to stop. We need a cessation of hostilities that will provide a space for diplomacy and a political solution; and, so that you and I can better understand what has been happening.
So since it's been well over 25 days since this latest crisis began, it is reasonable to demand, where is the obvious Resolution from the UN Security Council? Where is the call for at least a cessation of hostilities? Where is the strong language from the UN Security Council condemning these events? Where is the Resolution from the UN Security Council that states that the current conditions are unacceptable, therefore, ceasefire? Where is the action from the UN Security Council? Many, many, many folks have noticed the UN Security Council's silence in this regard; I'm just another citizen that has also taken note.
I simply do not accept that the delay in action is primarily from the difficulty in negotiations in reaching a settlement, or a more comprehensive ceasefire. This inaction has lead to a perpetual escalation, the deaths of many innocent civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, environmental issues from an oil spill and the continued disenfranchisement, disillusionment of the people and the endangerment of peace and security.
It is clear, there is no room for mistake on this issue, the Lebanese Government called for UNIFIL to assist with brokering a ceasefire (a cessation of hostilities). The Lebanese Government followed up the very next day in New York, at the UN, stating specifically that their government did not endorse the [Hezbollah] actions and was willing to negotiate through the UN and third parties.
A scary number of you are of the position that Hezbollah deserves everything they get from the Israelis. Or think that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. These are probably the same people, accepting as a given, the deaths of innocent civilians during war. Jesus! A large number of you will not be swayed by the fact that purposefully targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure is wrong, that labeling Hezbollah a terrorist group is laughable. So let me be the first to tell you that purposefully targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure IS wrong, even during times of conflict. Characterizing Hezbollah as a terrorist group meets the political end of the US elite and Israeli aggression. Furthermore, Hezbollah HAS been legitimately elected, democratically, to the Lebanese government; they also provide social services like schools and hospitals in the southern portion of Lebanon.
I can still hear the "but, but, but," out there like: but they receive military support (and other aid) from Syria and Iran. To put it back to you, but, but, but the US provides military support (and other aid) to Israel (more on this later as well). So let me begin to break this down for you, you believe that Syria and Iran are our enemies because some elite government official told you to believe this nonsense, because the corporate elite are making profit by selling arms to Israel at your expense, using your hard earned income. We (meaning you and me) have so many more things in common than you have with the government and corporate elite. The real problem is that you continue to accept and be spoon-fed this line of bull, because let me be the first to tell you, the government and corporate elite are not on your side. The government and corporate elite have their best interests in mind, not yours.Lets begin to take a look at the Israeli justification (S/2006/515), which they submitted to the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council on the 12th of July:
"Israel thus reserves the right to act in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and exercise its right of self-defence when an armed attack is launched against a Member of the United Nations. The State of Israel will take the appropriate actions to secure the release of the kidnapped soldiers and bring an end to the shelling that terrorizes our citizens."
I invite you to read the entire letter; even for slow readers such as myself it takes just a few moments. The first question you should have in mind is, what is Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations?
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Maybe the first thing to note about the Charter of the UN, just from Article 51, is its plain, easily understood language. In fact reading the entire Charter would take less than an hour of your time. Probably the second thing of note is the specific mentioning of the, "inherent right of individual or collective self-defence." No one is denying this inherent right to anyone, including Israel. Article 51 also has a requirement; "Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council". Thus far we have Israel's claim of self-defence because of an armed attack and the requirement to report the measures taken in the exercise of this right, immediately to the Security Council.
We can bicker endlessly about weather or not Israel fulfilled the reporting requirement. I have read and re-read the statement and I simply do not agree that Israel has articulated the measures taken in the exercise of the right of self-defence. I'm not trying to be a stickler here. I simply do not agree that Israel's own statement, "The State of Israel will take the appropriate actions…" meets the requirements of Article 51 because appropriate actions does not explain the measures taken. We are in a circle here, what measures will you take? I will take appropriate action. And what measures are those? It will be the appropriate action. This is why bickering endlessly on this point is futile as it gets us nowhere.
What seems more important here from Article 51 is that action can continue to happen until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Meaning several things, first let's assume that the Security Council has not taken the necessary measures. With an armed attack, self-defence can be claimed and continue until the Security Council has taken the necessary measures that maintains the international peace and security. Ok, so let's assume that the Security Council has already taken the necessary measures, but there is no international peace or security, then self-defence can again continue until the Security Council has taken the necessary measures to maintain the international peace and security. And finally let's assume that the Security Council has taken the necessary measures and there is international peace and security, then in my estimation you can't continue to claim self-defence.
Israel's position is the maximum; they will continue standing on the self-defence of Article 51 until the Security Council has taken the necessary measures that maintain the international peace and security. Who determines when this condition is met? What are the criteria for meeting this condition? It's certainly not me and it's certainly not you as well. Someone might say, but the consensus of the international community. Really? The international community with few exception, is outraged, see the evidence attached. What Israel would like us to buy into here is that you cut out Article 51, stick it in your pocket (you'll need it a little later on), and ignore the remainder of the Charter of the UN.
There is much more to the Charter of the UN, much more that speaks to the Charter's purposes and principles. To think even for a moment that Article 51 is the "anchor" of the UN Charter caves into the Israel's dysfunctional thinking. Not only do Article 1 and Article 2 clearly and emphatically demonstrate that Israel's actions are wrong, wrong, wrong; the very Preamble itself damages their position irrevocably.
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
* to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
* to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
* to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
* to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
* to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
* to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
* to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
* to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS
Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.
The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.
The beginning statement of Article 2 is an important link between the "Purposes" stated in Article 1 and the "Principles" of Article 2.
Article 2 clearly states that "All Members", meaning if you are a member (Israel 11 May 1949, Lebanon 24 Oct. 1945), shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. The statement says shall and not some weasel word, for instance: could or may. Shall is a diplomatic way of saying you will, you must, there is an obligation. There is no wiggle room in this statement. The way "Members" will settle disputes will be by peaceful means, and on top of that "Members" will not cause the disruption of the international peace, security and justice in that pursuit.
If the previous "Principle" wasn't damning enough, let's look at the very next "Principle". All "Members", and again we see the diplomatic use of "shall", refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the, 1) territorial integrity, or 2) political independence; of any state, or 3) in any other manner inconsistent with the "Purposes" of the United Nations. Refrain means "avoid doing" if you have not begun, "cease" if you are currently engaged in the behavour, or "renounce" if actively promulgating, or in any other manner (and this is the kicker) inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
The "Purposes" of the United Nations is to maintain international peace, develop friendly relations and to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character. The Israeli's position becomes farcical at this point, but wait, there's more. Forwarding to Chapter VI of the Charter of the UN, Article 33 required different action than what Israel unilaterally decided to take:
PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES
The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.
The very title of Chapter VI of the Charter of the UN should draw your attention; it is a recurring theme throughout the entire Charter. Pacific, means peaceful, the Chapter (and a significant portion of the Charter) speaks about resolving issues peacefully. So let's return to the 12th of July when Lebanon (or Hezbollah if you prefer) began an armed attack on Israel.Israel has every right to defend itself, this is not in contention, but at what point in that self-defence, when it's continuance was likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security the parties "shall" seek a peaceful resolution? At what point should the parties have changed course? Good question, I'm sure some would say immediately, others would say the conflict has not yet endangered the maintenance of international peace and security and should therefore continue. Those folks that lean to the later should review my earlier medical advice. For those of us who are more level headed, I propose in this specific case, it should have been when the Government of Lebanon requested from UNIFIL to broker a ceasefire with the IDF, this request was made in the afternoon of the 12th of July. At this point, it is very clear from the UNIFIL report that international peace and security had already been well endangered.
Just as an added note, the second paragraph of Article 33 does provide the Security Council a way to make a statement concerning the current hostilities. In fact Chapter VII of the Charter of the UN provides many ways as well, mostly contingent on the will of the Security Council. This means the use of weasel words: may, like, could. A notable exception is Article 39:
The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
What's noticeably missing from Article 39 is some sort of timeframe, meaning the wheels of diplomacy can turn as quickly or as slowly as befits the needs of the Security Council. There is no question that the Security Council consolidates critical functionality when it comes to their primary responsibility, the maintenance of international peace and security. This is by design, as its "Members" confer this responsibility on the Security Council, I refer you to Article 24. Returning to our specific case, the facts are clear, I'm not asking the Security Council what have they done for us lately; I'm asking what the hell are they doing? The Security Council has resolved to extend the UNIFIL mandate to 31 August 2006. There have been several press releases (resulting in no action or vote), meeting notes and a communiqué. Great. This smells of obstruction. Of course things could change today (or tomorrow), after all, they've had over 25 days to issue something of substance.
Before I move on to my personal recommendations, there is another notion that needs to be explored. Quite a few people feel that these folks should just fight this whole thing out amongst themselves. This mentality is absurd for many reasons, but brings me to my next topic; you may have guessed it, proliferation. The proliferation of arms is a serious problem, for one, it is big, big, big business. A lot of, seemingly, experts, usually government officials and NEWS media point to what the "terrorists" have in the way of weapons, how they are supplied, who is supplying them, etc. Some of it is simply unfounded, like the proposition that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Well, there wasn't any, despite the many UN inspections before the US invaded Iraq, and there still aren't any. The point being, we are so quick to focus (are we being hypnotized?) on what the "enemy" could have, people forget we, meaning the US, is the single most prolific arms exporter in the world. We are the pusher.