Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Has Committed "War Crimes," Says the Independent's Robert Fisk

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Has Committed "War Crimes," Says the Independent's Robert Fisk

Article excerpt

"Out of proportion," was how France's Le Monde of July 14-Bastille Day-described Israel's response to the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

"As always," the newspaper editorialized, " responding by using disproportionate military force, in violation of international law."

The view was shared by Belgium's De Standaard, which, on the same day, described the Israeli move on Lebanon as "an act of war."

Spain's El Mundo of July 14 agreed, saying that while Israel has reason to feel threatened, the solution to "terrorist provocation" does not lie in "massive indiscriminate attacks on its neighbors."

In Britain, after declaring itself a "proIsraeli newspaper" which supports "the right of Israel to exist," The Independent on July 16 also condemned Israel's offensive.

"It is precisely because we are pro-Israeli that we are so critical of the response of Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, to terrorist attacks," the newspaper explained. "In both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Mr. Olmert has elected to impose collective punishment on entire populations for the sins of a tiny minority."

The Independent's Robert Fisk reported on July 24 that the Israelis "ordered the villagers of Taire, near the [Lebanese] border, to leave their homes and then-as their convoy of cars and minibuses obediently trailed northwards-the Israeli air force fired a missile into the rear minibus, killing three refugees and seriously wounding 13 other civilians.

"For the second time in eight days," Fisk wrote, "the Israelis have committed a war crime."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung of July 19, however, expressed sympathy toward Olmert, describing him as "trapped." The Lebanon offensive will "aggravate hatred of Israel across the world," the newspaper noted.

"The longer this war waged for the purpose of deterrence lasts and the more civilian casualties it causes in Lebanon," it commented, "the more the images of destruction will push the party responsible for the war, Hezbollah, into the background."

Looking toward a possible solution, Britain's Financial Times of the same day welcomed United Nations secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for an international force to stabilize south Lebanon.

"The U.N. force would need to be bigger even than the force of about 10,000 that Mr. Annan and European Union leaders appear to be contemplating," the newspaper said. "[But] it should be possible to build this out of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, jointly sponsored by the U.S. and France in 2004, which, in addition to calling for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, mandates the disarmament of remaining militias and the deployment of Lebanon's army throughout the country, including to the border with Israel."

The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph commentator Con Coughlin took a different tack, warning on July 21 that the crisis in Lebanon was diverting world attention away from Iran's uranium enrichment program.

"Just as world leaders were steeling themselves to confront the threat that Iran's nuclear program poses to international security (the subject was also due for discussion [at the] G8 summit in St Petersburg), two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy militia in southern Lebanon, thereby lighting the current conflagration," he wrote.

"Just how much responsibility Tehran bears for initiating hostilities remains unclear," Coughlin added, but certain facts are now emerging that indicate the timing of the Israeli soldiers' abduction was no coincidence."

In the same edition, the Daily Telegraph editorialized that, in the short term, Ehud Olmert would prevail.

"But after the current campaign is over, he and his allies will still be confronted by the long-term ambitions of Iran to dominate the Gulf and destroy the Jewish state," the newspaper concluded.

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