Maron al Ras on the Lebanon border
You can see Akka, Palestine from my favorite Lebanese village, Maron al Ras.On any day, but particularly since September 21 of this year, you can also see beefed up IDF military patrols, assorted electronic listening posts and sundry spy devices, new Raytheon-produced surveillance equipment, two new supposedly camouflaged cinder block one room shacks with Zionist soldiers peering out. They frequently glare from widows heavily screened to keep out stones that tourists on the Lebanon side of the ‘blue line’ regularly throw at them when UNIFIL guys aren’t paying attention or shoo them away.
You can also see land mine fields, wide soft sand swatches along the wire fences to expose trespassing neighbors’ footprints, a couple of orchards, and the edges of three colonial settlements.
The increase in activity along the Blue line, especially near Fatima’s Gate is only partially in preparation for the rumored visit of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in mid- October. He is expected to appear and speak at Maron al Ras, presumably resisting the temptation to cast a few stones in solidarity with the Palestinian intifadas. UNIFIL personnel at the scene reveal that several Israeli military leaders have been visiting the area this past month, including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
It is here in this ancient verdant, war-scarred hillside village of Maron al Ras that tradition asserts that Jesus (Issa) from Nazareth, less than a day’s walk to the south, accompanying his mother Mary (Miriam), paused to rest on their trek to a wedding feast at Qana, some 30 km west.At Qana, the site of unspeakable massacres in 1996 and 2006, two of the more than 60 committed by IDF forces over the past six decades, the bearded Palestinian “terrorist”, so-listed by the Sanhedrin judges, performed at his mother’s request his first miracle.
According to a local priest who conducts tours of the Grotto of the Virgin Mary in Qana, where Mary and her son visited the wedding party, “By turning water into wine, Jesus dutifully fulfilled his mother Mary’s request to provide additional refreshment for the larger than expected gathering of nearby villagers.” The priest explains to visitors that the parents of the bride and groom wanted to avoid the acute social embarrassment of running out of refreshments and were concerned for the comfort of last-minute, uninvited guests, who they anticipated would arrive for their children’s wedding as word quickly spread that Jesus and his mother would be attending.
One guest who is receiving invitations even from March 14 pro-Saudi political parties for frank discussions this month and who has already been invited to Qana, but who probably won’t imbibe local the “miracle wine” sold by local entrepreneurs will be Ahmadinejad. He is said to be a devotee of Prophet Issa and Miriam, both venerated in the Koran. Two lovely and politically passionate Qana villagers (one giggling and claiming to be a “Shia-Christian” and her friend interjecting “I’m a Christian-Shia!”), both Muslims who follow the teachings of “Prophet Issa”, explained to me that while many Rabbis disparage Jesus’ miracle in Qana by claiming that it was the Hebrew Moses who was first able to turn water into another substance. They then gleefully counter that “Moses may well have done, but he turned water into blood as a message of harsh judgment and violence, whereas ‘our’ Palestinian Issa turned water into wine as a message of love, generosity and hospitality.” The discussion ended when an American Yeshiva student from Brooklyn appeared and entered the discussion, announcing to the villagers that both Bible stories “suck” and that that when the next war comes Qana may witness itself being miraculously turned into depleted uranium dust.
In both Maron al Ras and Qana, villagers believe it’s just a matter of time before Israel will invade Lebanon and it’s a subject of rare unanimous sectarian consensus in all of Lebanon. For example, in the course of no more than two hours the other day, while running errands around Beirut, this observer was informed, without even bringing up the subject, by (1) my Shia Muslim Hezbollah motorcycle mechanic patching up my bike after a slight mishap (again!) (2) Miss Idriss, the Maronite Christian lady who works at the corner bank and who truly adores “al Hakim” Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces (since 2006, Geagea and the LF has been siphoning off alienated cadres and youth from the ranks of Geagea’s rivals including the Gemayals’ Phalange and Michel Aoun’s Christian pro-Hezbollah Free Patriotic Movement, and (3) my Sunni Muslim greengrocer lady who has absolutely no use for any of the above, that a major war is coming and probably sooner rather than later.
Purveyors of Israeli Hasbara propaganda are also keeping busy with predictions of the inevitability of major war in Lebanon given the alleged rapid arming of the national Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah, and the Israeli-touted collection of yet more new ‘ ultra-tech super weapons’ including robotic insects, new stealth drones, Iron Domes, David Sling I and II missile shields, yet even more improvements to the “impenetrable” Merkava Mark IV tank that took such a beating in 2006 that three countries, including Belgium, cancelled Merkava purchase orders. Israel and its “academic agents” tout more than 20 other spectacular “game changing” technological breakthroughs ‘ just since the 2006 war which, according to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, likely will not function in real war conditions – despite the largess of the unknowing American taxpayers who pick up the tab for their R & D.
Virtually the whole waterfall of Hasbara studies, many handsomely paid for by various Israel lobby funders, conclude that the next Hezbollah/Israel war will be nothing like the 2006 July War. Hezbollah will supposedly lose to the spruced up, better-equipped and trained Israeli soldiers. Their defeat will not only shatter Hezbollah, but destroy Syria and Iran’s political power base and fundamentally changed the political scene in Beirut. This, they confidently predict, will lead to a pro-American and Israel-tolerant realignment of political parties and even achieve the long sought Lebanon-Israel “peace treaty.”
Some of the Israeli Lobby think-tank predictions may indeed materialize but history suggests that Israel will not fare well in any renewed attack on Lebanon. It is clear that Hezbollah has been studying its enemy.
Scorecard: Four Hezbollah conflicts with Israeli forces
The June 1982 Israeli invasion is not included in this brief survey because Hezbollah was not fully organized and in fact its birth was partially the result of the 1982 “Peace for Galilee” As a PLO replacement Hezbollah quickly became a far stronger and more sophisticated adversary. Many fighters who eventually joined Hezbollah but who fought in 1982 with the PLO or with a variety of affiliated militia inflicted much damage on Israeli forces during numerous mountain battles and at Khaldeh on the coast south of Beirut.
Between 1978 and 1985, Israeli forces occupied approximately one third of Lebanon including 801 towns and villages. The newly formed Hezbollah never stopped its resistance attacks. An important Hezbollah political victory against Israel was achieved on March 5, 1984 with the Lebanese Council of Ministers’ cancellation of the the 1983 U.S.-Israel created agreement that would have yielded significant Lebanese sovereignty and territory to Israel. Another was the expulsion of foreign “peacekeeping forces” that increasingly attacked the civilian population of Lebanon on behalf of Israel and its local allies. During this period Hezbollah and its allies surprised and hit Israeli forces hard all over the mountains and valleys and on January 14, 1985 Israel began withdrawing from 168 villages, being 55 per cent of South Lebanon or 11 per cent of Lebanon including Sidon, Tyre, Nabatieh and parts of the Western Bekaa.
Next came the July 1993 attac with “Operation Accountability”.Israeli Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, told the Lebanese government on July 31, 1993, “Disarm Hezbollah or watch Israeli do it.” Despite, 1,224 bombing attacks, according to UNIFIL data, and firing more than 30,000 artillery shells and rockets, Hezbollah retaliated with what AFP called, “A hell of a shelling last[ing] 10 hours without a pause.” For seven days resistance forces conducted at least 30 operations along the Blue line targeting Zionist forces and their Lebanese surrogates. The US and Israel, shocked at the absurdity of CIA-Mossad intelligence estimates that Hezbollah had only 500 rockets and this supply would be depleted in three days, decided to call for a cease-fire. The “July Accord” duly took effect and Israel withdrew and stood down, failing to achieve any of its objectives.
Next, the April 1996 Aggression, the so-called “Grapes of Wrath”.This started on April 11, 1996 with bombing attacks in Baalbek and down south in Tyre at the Lebanese army base and, for the first time since 1982, attacks on Dahiyeh in South Beirut. Israel bombed a wider area than in 1993, over a period of 16 days.This invasion became known among some in South Lebanon as the “ Four Massacres aggression”: Suhmor on 4/12/96; the bombing of the Al-Mansouri ambulance on 4/13/96; Nabatieh on Day 7; and the Qana massacre on the same day when 118 civilians were slaughter and 127 injured. Hundreds of thousands were displaced with 7,000 homes completely or partially destroyed. Total civilian casualties exceeded 250.
Having studied each preceding war with its enemy, Hezbollah succeeded in anticipating Israeli tactics, paths of entrance into Lebanon and targeting actions. Israel, not being able to find any, failed to target a single resistance fighter or to prevent any rocket pads from launching at will. Until the moment the US-Israel requested ceasefire took hold, having been arranged by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Hezbollah’s retaliation with Katuysha rockets continued unabated. Israel’s goals were again aborted. Among them was the hope to present Shimon Peres with a military victory to help his election campaign which was backed by President Clinton and staffed with some Clinton campaign staff. On May 29, 1996 Peres lost the election and Hezbollah emerged from “Grapes of Wrath” victorious and widely perceived in Washington and Tel Aviv as having exposed Israeli battle field errors or what the Resistance called “impotence”.
There then ensued the May 24, 2000 withdrawal of Israeli forces and the complete collapse of their surrogate collaborationist Lahdist forces. Israel’s notorious prison at Khiam was liberated by villagers. This resistance victory was perhaps its sweetest to date. A half century after Israel started its inroads into Lebanon, except for some border enclaves like Shebaa, Kfar Kouba and Ghajar that Hezbollah and the Lebanese army aims to recover, it was out.
The July 2006 War, the mis-named “ Second Lebanon War”: the results of the 2006 33-day Israeli attack are well known and documented, with none of Israel’s stated goals.
Preparing for the next war
Hezbollah believes Israel will indeed attack Lebanon soon. Lebanese national resistance allies in and around Parliament are claiming that the US is trying to organize a “northern second front” to help Israel by enticing right wing Christian militias, Al Qaeda mixed-bag “Salafists for lease”, and anyone else willing to fight a back door war against the Resistance while Israel kicks in the front door north of Safad and Nahariyah down south.
This week the Lebanese Forces were accused by Hezbollah’s Sheik Naim Qassim, Deputy to SG Hassan Nasrallah, of running new LF militia training camps with speculation that they are being trained on Russian-made BKC machine guns and the American MAG and small mortars. If so, they are not the only ones participating in an arms acquisition frenzy. A weapons run ignited during the May 8, 2008 violence, cooled down over the past two years flared up again last month with virtually all political parties and many private citizens buying up available stocks of M4’s (with a launcher $12,000) M16’s ($1,500) and AK47 Kalashnikov’s rifles (ranging between $750-$1,000) out of the back of cars or on road sides and alleys. Truck loads have been reported arriving from Iraq hauling US military supplies ‘shrinkage’.Some analysts believe that once the Israeli attack date is imminent, northern Sunni militia being clustered around Tripoli and Akkar and other locations will attack Shia targets diverting Hezbollah units and weakening its southern and eastern (Bekaa) resistance.They expect beefed up Saudi financed “Security-Plus Inc.” type units that were attempted in May of 2008. It may be recalled that effort soon fizzled and was ridiculed in Lebanese media as “Security-Minus Inc.” because when the green recruits got off their buses down in Hamra they quickly defected en masse deciding they did not want to fight Hezbollah “second team” forces after all.
FRANKLIN LAMB is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org