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[Editor’s note: This article was written by the Reverend Naim Ateek, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Jerusalem.]

THE MADNESS OF WAR:
Hizballah and Israel


The pain! I can’t bear the pain!
My heart! My heart is beating wildly!
I can’t keep quiet; I hear the trumpets and the shouts of battle.
One disaster follows another; the whole country is left in ruins.
Suddenly our tents are destroyed; their curtains are torn to pieces.
How long must I see the battle raging and hear the blasts of trumpets?
The LORD says, “My people are stupid; they don’t know me.
They are like foolish children; they have no understanding.
They are experts at doing what is evil, but failures at doing what is good.”

[Jeremiah 4:19-23 (TEV)]

 

The words of the prophet Jeremiah are our words as we feel the pain and the
tragedy in our region. Nothing justifies the extent of the destruction and
the number of human beings that have been killed, wounded, and displaced.
It is insane and mad.

After Israel’s forced termination of its 22 year occupation of South Lebanon
in the year 2000, and having defied U.N. Resolution 425 for as many years,
it still held Lebanese prisoners and maps of land mines in violation of
mutual agreements. In addition, Israel continuously violates Lebanese
airspace against international law.

On July 12, 2006, Hizballah crossed the border into Israel, killed 8 Israeli
soldiers and took two captive, demanding to exchange them with Lebanese
prisoners held by Israel. Israel’s retaliation came with a vengeance.
Since July 12, the Israeli army has killed over 750 Lebanese and wounded
thousands, the majority of casualties being civilians.

Initially, it was believed that Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was aimed at
the release of the two Israeli soldiers, but the rate and extent of the
devastation of Lebanon soon made it clear that Israel’s goals reached far
beyond a simple rescue mission. The kidnapping of the soldiers became only
the excuse to start massive air attacks and infrastructural destruction –
three airports bombed; 62 bridges destroyed; three dams and ports hit; Tens
of thousands of homes damaged and approximately a million Lebanese displaced
from their homes. Countries around the world have been shocked by the
excessive use of Israeli power. Israel seemed to be bombing the Lebanese
and the Palestinians in Gaza into total submission, capitulation, and
resignation pushing their infrastructure decades back.

During the first 20 days of war, a number of massacres were committed by the
Israeli army against civilians. The worst, however, has been the massacre
in the village of Qana in the south of Lebanon on July 30th. This is the
second time within a decade that a brutal massacre is carried out by the
Israeli army against innocent civilians in Qana. Over 60 people were killed
more than half of them were children. No justification whatsoever is
acceptable. It is a crime against humanity -- thanks to America’s “smart
bombs” and Israel’s “most moral army in the world.” This carnage will go
down in history as one of the most shameful crimes in this conflict. The
pictures from Qana and the rest of Lebanon bring shame to Rome’s ministerial
meeting on July 26, 2006. Had the ministers insisted on a ceasefire as was
proposed, and not complied with the US Secretary of State, the children of
Qana and their mothers would be alive today.

As Israel was bombing Lebanon, Hizballah fired hundreds of its katyushas
into northern Israel sending approximately a million people into shelters,
causing considerable material damage, and killing over 50 Israelis, half of
them civilians.

All the while, as the eyes of the world turned to Lebanon, Israel continued
its killings in Gaza more ferociously. Sixty-seven people including
fourteen children were killed in the last two weeks. Seventy-six homes were
demolished.

ROOT CAUSES
1. In 1948 over 300,000 Palestinian refugees were forcibly displaced by the
Zionists from the north of Palestine into Lebanon and Syria where they have
been living in refugee camps ever since. Most of them were driven out of an
area that was slated for the Palestinian state according to the 1947 UN
Partition Plan. Israel refused to implement UN Resolution 194 calling for
their return. The Palestinians engaged in guerilla warfare against Israel
insisting on their right of return to their homes and villages.

2. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon to destroy the Palestinian Liberation
Organization resistance, killing almost 20,000 people, including the Sabra
and Shatilla massacre, and destroying much of the country. Israel’s
occupation of southern Lebanon lasted 22 years in defiance of UN Resolution
425 calling for its withdrawal.

3. In 1984, Hizballah, a Lebanese Shiite organization emerged as a
resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Hizballah
proved more formidable than the Palestinians and managed to drive the
Israeli army out of Lebanon in the year 2000.

4. In the 1990s, Israeli forces kidnapped Hizballah leaders including
prominent religious figures and carried out exchanges of prisoners with the
exception of three, in violation of mutual agreements.

5. It is important to point out that in the Middle East, it is the US and
Israel that are occupying other people’s land, and paradoxically, it is they
who brand the people they oppress and who resist their occupation as
terrorists.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
1. Immediate and unconditional ceasefire by all parties.

2. Implementation of all UN resolutions: The Middle East region has endured
so much suffering and pain over the last sixty years. The time is now ripe
for a comprehensive and lasting peace that will restore hope, and lead to a
new Middle East established on justice and dignity for all its peoples.
This can only be achieved by implementing ALL UN resolutions pertaining to
the conflict without exception. No agreement will hold without first
solving the Palestine-Israel conflict conclusively. This opportunity must
not be lost.

3. Implementation of UN resolution 1559: Israel insists on the
implementation of 1559 while ignoring its own obligations to dozens of UN
resolutions since its establishment in 1948. It is hypocritical of Israel
to insist on one resolution and totally disregarding others. If the
implementation of 1559 in Lebanon helps to bring security to Israel, we
believe that the implementation of UN resolutions 242 and 338 as well as
others pertinent to the Palestine-Israel conflict will bring peace and
security to Palestine, Israel, and the whole region. These include the
return of the Golan Heights to Syria, the withdrawal from the Shebba farms,
and the withdrawal from all the Occupied Palestinian Territories including
East Jerusalem.

4. Exchange of Prisoners: One of the major root causes for the present war
is the question of prisoners – Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, and others
– whom Israel refuses to free. The international community must find a
solution to this humanitarian problem. Without the release of prisoners the
conflict will be renewed. The release of the prisoners must be an integral
part of the solution.

FINAL THOUGHTS FOR CONSIDERATION:
FIRST: Israel is pursuing a short sighted policy based on power and
domination. It must consider the far reaching consequences of such a
policy. By its own doing, it is creating an atmosphere of hatred and
rejection which will be difficult to overcome. Palestinians and Arabs in
general have accepted the reality of the existence of the state of Israel in
the Middle East. In order for Israel to live in peace and security in the
region it has to guarantee the same for its neighbors. It needs to face its
past and present injustices squarely and responsibly. It can do that by
fulfilling the demands of International Law. It can then, with the
Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and other neighbors live in peace.

SECOND: The so-called “war on terror” is counterproductive. Injustice
breeds violence and the arrogance of power does not bring submission.
Solutions are within reach if they are established on International Law with
equity, compassion and respect for the human dignity of all.

THIRD: A new Middle East conceived by the US and Israel and inflicting such
horrible “birth pangs” on innocent civilians will be short-lived. A new
Middle East can only be born through the will of the people, in a natural
environment of justice, peace, and understanding among the nations of the
region. Only then can the new-born survive, be healthy, and prosper.

It is high time for the United Nations to assert its rightful responsibility
in guiding and implementing justice and peace in the world. So long as the
US dictates its will on the UN, the hope for just solutions in various
conflict areas is minimized. The peoples of the world want the UN and not
the US to be entrusted with issues of peace. As believers in God, we
reiterate our plea for a new Middle East where the international community
would faithfully commit itself to bring about justice, mercy, and freedom to
all the people of our region.

Sabeel Liberation Theology Center
August 1, 2006

Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
P.O. Box 49084, Jerusalem 91491,
Tel: 972-2-5327136, Fax: 972-2-5327137
Friends of Sabeel-North America | PO Box 9186 | Portland | OR | 97207