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Israel's lies about Lebanese casualties

By Paul D'Amato | August 11, 2006 | Page 17

DURING THE 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Prime Minister Menachem Begin--the leader of a terrorist militia responsible for the 1948 massacre of 254 Palestinians at Deir Yassin--was asked if the population of southern Lebanon "should be punished" for providing "aid to the terrorists."

"And how!" he answered.

This answer--from a man who once described Palestinians as "two-legged beasts"--is far closer to the truth than the bland assurances by Israeli officials that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strain to avoid civilian casualties but sometimes fail because Hezbollah uses the civilian population as "human shields."

Israel is systematically destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. It has the country under at tight blockade, has killed upwards of 750 people (mostly civilians), and has driven almost a million from their homes.

These facts should be enough to dispel Israel's ludicrous claims to avoid targeting civilians. And according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, which documents the death of 153 civilians, 63 of them children, in a few dozen bombing attacks, "The image that Israel has promoted of such [human] shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong.

"In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around."

Moreover, as Nazareth-based writer Jonathan Cook points out, the complaints about human shields imply that "any Lebanese fighter...resisting Israel and its powerful military should stand in an open field" and wait to get mowed down.

If anything, it is Israel that uses civilians as human shields. The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem reports that on July 20 the IDF, in an invasion of the Gaza town of Beit Hanun, held six people hostage during an "intense exchanges of gunfire between the soldiers and armed Palestinians. "The soldiers also demanded that one of the occupants walk in front of them during a search of all the apartments in one of the buildings, after which they released her."

An April 2002 HRW report found that the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza "routinely has taken civilians at gunpoint to open suspicious packages, knock on doors of suspects, and search the houses of 'wanted' Palestinians during its military operations."

Amnesty International reported that in April 2004, Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Biddu tied a Palestinian boy to the front of their jeep "to discourage Palestinian demonstrators from throwing stones in their direction."

The truth is that the IDF strategy is to hold all of Lebanon "hostage"--to bombard, strangle and destroy it--until it agrees to disarm Hezbollah, i.e., leave southern Lebanon completely exposed to Israeli dictates.

Hezbollah is a popular, indigenous resistance organization with a strong base in southern Lebanon that is heroically resisting a full-scale invasion from the world's fourth-largest military power. Its "crime" is the same as the Lebanese people who support them--they are resisting Israel's conquest of Southern Lebanon and they act in solidarity with the Palestinian people whom Israel has dispossessed.

If you didn't resist, we wouldn't have to destroy you--that's the IDF's message to the people of Lebanon and Gaza.

The same strategy was used in the 1982 invasion. According to eyewitness reports, every Palestinian refugee camp--really towns--in Lebanon was reduced to rubble. In Beirut, every hospital but one was bombed--some repeatedly.

An Oxfam project officer in Lebanon described Israel's strategy at the time: "The Israeli strategy was obvious. They were hitting a broad belt, and they kept moving the belt up toward the populated area and pushing the people in front if it. The Israeli's forced an increasing concentration of people into a smaller space, so that the casualties increased geometrically with every single shell or bomb that landed."

They seem to be following a similar script in this war.

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