Israeli troops have quit Lebanon but the country is once again on the verge of chaos. The assassination of the Christian minister for industry, Pierre Gemayel (the sixth political leader to be assassinated in a year) has exposed the deep divisions in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people used his funeral to express their opposition to Syrian interference in Lebanon. At the time of writing, there are hundreds of thousands on the streets of Beirut in a Hezbollah counter-demonstration which the government has already denounced as a threat to democracy and a Syrian/Iranian plot. Directly egged on by various imperialist powers, the gulf between the different ethnic groups is widening. There is a momentary alliance between Sunnis and some Christian factions against the Shiites, while others, closer to France, are on the anti-government demonstration. Since the failure of the Israeli invasion, the political weight of Hezbollah, which is supported by both Syria and Iran, has grown considerably. This small Middle Eastern country seems to crystallise all the imperialist tensions in the region as a whole. The Lebanese drama is being directly affected by the weakening of the world’s leading power, the US, which has also exposed the weaknesses of Uncle Sam’s main ally in the region, Israel. On the other hand, Iran is affirming itself as a regional imperialist power with the most ferocious appetites. Its influence in Iraq and in Lebanon can’t be ignored by the US and Israel, especially because the other big imperialisms, notably France and Italy, have established a foothold in the region under the pretext of acting as peacekeepers in Lebanon. The growing tensions between France and Israel came to the surface recently when Israeli combat planes flew over southern Lebanon. The French armed forces reacted immediately and prepared their anti-aircraft batteries for action.
In Gaza, a further slide into barbarism
Over the past month, the Gaza Strip has again been in the headlines. Every day has seen violence and killing there. A population already living in the most abject poverty (over 70% of the population are unemployed) lives in a state of permanent fear and its overriding concern is to survive from day to day.
At the beginning of November, rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, hitting the town of Siderot in particular. In response to this attack, the Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz gave the order for the Israeli army to carry out a major air and land offensive. There has been a succession of air raids. On the night of 15-16 November, five air raids were carried out on houses supposedly harbouring Hamas fighters, in the refugee camps of Jabalia and Chatti and in Rafah. The Israeli bourgeoisie claims that these are precisely targeted attacks, but they are aimed at heavily populated areas. In Beit Hanoun, in one bombardment, 19 Palestinian civilians, most of them women and children, were killed.
The bourgeoisie, whatever its nationality, cares nothing of the suffering caused by the pursuit of its sordid imperialist interests. What difference is there between the blind terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinian suicide bombers manipulated by the armed wing of Hamas, and the murderous Israeli air raids? Each bourgeoisie uses the means at its disposal, with total disdain for human life. Thus the Israeli-Palestine conflict becomes a spiral of barbarism. The retreat of the Israeli army from Gaza in September 2005, after 38 years of military occupation, did not in any way signify a return to calm and still less a step towards peace. Violence has continued over the past year and last month accelerated even more brutally. The Labour politician Binyamin Ben Eliezer spoke plainly: “we have to hunt them down night and day. We will make them see what dissuasion means. If the rockets don’t stop, there will be no respite for Hamas, from prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to the last of his followers”. A ceasefire, agreed for 26 November, and immediately breached by both sides, can only be a moment in preparation of new conflicts as an Israeli source made clear: “We can’t afford to send our paratroops to chase Palestinian kids… They should train day and night for a real battle” (Sunday Times 26.11.06).
All the bourgeoisies are responsible for the chaos
The State of Israel, after its failure in the Lebanon is, like the US, becoming irreversibly weaker. The decline of US leadership and of Israeli dominance in the region can only encourage all the other imperialist powers, from the largest to the smallest, to get involved in the conflicts. The increasing number of divergences within the UN are testimony to this. Thus, the US used their veto on a resolution proposed by Qatar and supported by the Security Council, condemning Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, the ‘Peace Initiative’ for the Middle East put forward by France and Spain was immediately rejected by Israel and coldly received in Washington.
Lebanon, Gaza and the Middle East as a whole are being used by all the ‘defenders of peace’ to advance their own imperialist interests and block those of their rivals. All of them are equally responsible for the spread of violence and chaos.
Tino, 2.12.06 (Adapted from Revolution Internationale)