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Hullabaloo


Sunday, August 03, 2014

 
The never ending story

by digby


This is very nice:
Jen Psaki

Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 3, 2014

The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.

We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.
I'm reminded of this from Robin Wright yesterday in the New Yorker recalling something she's written back in the summer of 1982 from Beirut. She recounts the Israeli invasion of Lebanon:
Two days before I arrived, a Jordanian gunman shot Shlomo Argov, the Israeli Ambassador in London, as he left a diplomatic banquet at the Dorchester Hotel. Israel blamed the P.L.O. (Britain subsequently tied the attack to the Abu Nidal Organization, a radical group named after a renegade who had turned against Arafat. Its goal was apparently to discredit the P.L.O., which had been gaining acceptance in Europe, amid a peace initiative proposed by the Saudis. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher later said that a hit list, uncovered in the investigation of Abu Nidal’s London cell, included the P.L.O. representative in London.)

Israeli warplanes immediately pummelled Palestinian targets across Lebanon, especially in the warren of refugee camps near the airport. On the day I landed, President Reagan, pledging to increase U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, urgently appealed to Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, for restraint along the border.
And so it went:
Washington condemned the P.L.O. repeatedly, but, as the siege dragged on, relations between the United States and Israel grew increasingly testy over the plight of civilians. In early July, Reagan pressed Israel to lift the blockade of West Beirut and to restore water and electricity. In late July, he put a hold on cluster bombs sent to Israel. On July 31st, Robert Dillon, the American Ambassador to Lebanon, angrily cabled Washington, “Simply put, tonight’s saturation shelling was as intense as anything we have seen. There was no ‘pinpoint accuracy’ against targets in ‘open spaces.’ It was not a response to Palestinian fire. This was a blitz against West Beirut. Our 21:00 ceasefire announced in advance over local radio stations was transformed instead into a massive Israeli escalation.”

On August 1st, on the eve of a meeting with Israel’s foreign minister, Yitzhak Shamir, Reagan told reporters, “The bloodshed must stop,” adding that he would make sure that the Israelis “understand exactly how we feel about this.” Pressed on whether he was losing patience, Reagan replied, “I lost patience a long time ago.”

At the meeting the next day, the President told Shamir, “When P.L.O. sniper fire is followed by fourteen hours of Israeli bombardment, that is stretching the definition of defensive action too far.” Both men were noticeably grim-faced in the official photographs.

Reagan had begun to feel repercussions at home and abroad. The American media savaged his Administration as weak and without direction. Time’s Walter Isaacson wrote,

Israeli attacks on West Beirut reinforced the impression that the U.S. is a helpless giant that can neither influence Israeli actions nor come to grips with events in the Middle East. Signs of U.S. ineffectualness in the current crisis have been conspicuous since the day in June when Reagan sent a well-publicized message from the Western economic summit meeting at Versailles urging Begin not to invade Lebanon. Begin sent his troops in the next day. … The stability of the Middle East and the credibility of American diplomacy hinge on whether words or rockets settle the status of the PLO in West Beirut.

The siege lasted ten weeks. More than seventeen thousand Lebanese and Palestinians died; most were civilians. Lebanese officials claimed that a quarter of them were under fifteen years old. Israel lost more than three hundred and sixty troops.
That was 32 years ago. In case you're wondering why some people my age react rather numbly to the Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed, it's probably because it's been happening with some regularity as long as we can remember. And we're old. The horror is undiminished over time but it takes on the quality of a recurring nightmare.

And consider this:
The Israeli campaign did little, however, to solve the problem of rival nationalisms vying for land to call their own. And its consequences triggered an entirely new set of challenges. The Arab world had given only lip service to the P.L.O. during the siege. Iran was the only country to step in, dispatching eighteen hundred Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. They did not engage Israel—they quietly fostered, funded, and armed the embryo of what became Hezbollah. After the P.L.O. departed, Hezbollah launched its first suicide bomb—then a novel tactic—against Israeli military targets. On April 18, 1983, a car bomber attacked the American Embassy in Beirut, killing sixty-three people. Six months later, suicide bombers blew up a barracks housing U.S. Marines who had deployed to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal. Two hundred and forty-one American servicemen died.

In 1985, Israel’s defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin, looked back on the war and reflected,
I believe that, among the many surprises, and most of them not for the good, that came out of the war in Lebanon, the most dangerous is that the war let the Shiites out of the bottle. No one predicted it; I couldn’t find it in any intelligence report. … If, as a result of the war in Lebanon, we replace P.L.O. terrorism in southern Lebanon with Shiite terrorism, we have done the worst [thing] in our struggle against terrorism. In twenty years of P.L.O. terrorism, no one P.L.O. terrorist made himself a live bomb. … In my opinion, the Shiites have the potential for a kind of terrorism that we have not yet experienced.
Yes. War has a funny way of doing things like that:
Extremists Seize 3 More Towns in Iraq After Routing Kurdish Forces

sigh








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