Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Israel, Lebanon and the Future

Reuters has obtained a copy of the ROE (rules of engagement) for the UNIFIL peacekeeping force to be sent to southern Lebanon as a result of resolution 1701.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - New rules of engagement for U.N. troops in Lebanon permit soldiers to shoot in self-defense, use force to protect civilians and resist armed attempts to interfere with their duties, a U.N. document says.

The 21 pages of rules, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, adhere to the mandate laid down by the U.N. Security Council in an August 11 resolution and drafted by France and the United States. That did not call on the U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, to carry out large-scale disarmament of Hizbollah guerrillas in a southern Lebanon buffer zone.

The rules, given to potential troop contributors last week for approval, have been generally accepted, said Vijay Nambiar, a special adviser to Secretary-General
Kofi Annan.

Specifically, the new rules of engagement, marked "U.N. Restricted," permit the right of self-defense and "preemptive self-defense" against an anticipated attack. But in many cases, a senior officer has to approve force if U.N. troops are not under attack.

The soldiers can also use force against anyone preventing UNIFIL from carrying out its duties and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of U.N. personnel and humanitarian workers and to protect civilians under imminent threat, the rules say.

Israel is still opposed to having troops in Lebanon from unsupportive Muslim countries and the Europeans are still weighing their options. Italy, which Israel would prefer to have heading the UNIFIL mission, has asked for guarantees that its soldiers won't be killed by the IDF. Obviously, this is all going to take some time to work out, possibly three more months, while the situation in southern Lebanon is still incredibly tense.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post's front page headline story is this: Exclusive: Israel buys 2 new submarines from Germany - nuclear submarines to take on Iran, if necessary, and Olmert announced that the Israeli government just can't fulfill his biggest election promise of ridding the West Bank of some Jewish settlements right now because it can't afford it now that it has repairs to do in northern Israel because of the war. (Just how much do 2 German nuclear submarines cost again?)

Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday which concluded that Israel commited war crimes.

The report, Deliberate destruction or 'collateral damage'? Israeli attacks against civilian infrastructure, is based on first-hand information gathered by recent Amnesty International research missions to Lebanon and Israel, including interviews with dozens of victims, officials from the UN, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Lebanese government, as well as official statements and press reports.

The report includes evidence of the following:

* Massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages;
* Attacks on bridges in areas of no apparent strategic importance;
* Attacks on water pumping stations, water treatment plants and supermarkets despite the prohibition against targeting objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population;
* Statements by Israeli military officials indicating that the destruction of civilian infrastructure was indeed a goal of Israel’s military campaign designed to press the Lebanese government and the civilian population to turn against Hizbullah.

The report exposes a pattern of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, which resulted in the displacement of twenty-five percent of the civilian population. This pattern, taken together with official statements, indicates that the attacks on infrastucture were deliberate, and not simply incidental to lawful military objectives.

AI is also urging the UN to set up an independent inquiry to investigate breaches of international laws by Hezbollah and Israel.

I just have one thing to say to those supporters of Israel who still insist that Israel did not commit war crimes: prove it. The continued slams against critics of Israeli government policies and military actions as being anti-semitic should have already run their course, but they haven't. You can't be anti-semitic against government policies or actions. Look it up.

That smear is as hard to dispel as the belief many still hold that Islam is a so-called 'evil' religion. It seems no amount of global education can change peoples' minds because their willfull ignorance is just too strong to overcome. As long as that trend continues, there will be no peace in the Middle East - no tolerance by either or any of the sides involved - no progression - nothing but fear and war.

If we, in the western world whose daily lives aren't directly threatened by the killings and bombings can't even begin to discuss the situation rationally, what hope is there for those whose lives depend on some semblance of rationality while they contend with radical extremism on all fronts?

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