George Monbiot, writing in today’s Comment is free section of  The Guardian, and radically revising something he stated as fact in a previous column, states that far from being a response to Hidbullah’s unprovoked attack, Israel’s assault on Lebanon wholly premeditated and “simply waiting for an appropriate excuse.”    

There has been a heated debate on the internet about whether the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah that day were captured in Israel or in Lebanon, but it now seems pretty clear that they were seized in Israel. This is what the UN says, and even Hizbullah seems to have forgotten that they were supposed to have been found sneaking around the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab. Now it simply states that “the Islamic resistance captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine“. Three other Israeli soldiers were killed by the militants. There is also some dispute about when, on July 12, Hizbullah first fired its rockets; but Unifil (United Nations Interim Force inLebanon) makes it clear that the firing took place at the same time as the raid – 9am. Its purpose seems to have been to create a diversion. No one was hit.

But there is no serious debate about why the two soldiers were captured: Hizbullah was seeking to exchange them for the 15 prisoners of war taken by the Israelis during the occupation of Lebanon and (in breach of article 118 of the third Geneva convention) never released. It seems clear that if Israel had handed over the prisoners, it would -without the spillage of any more blood – have retrieved its men and reduced the likelihood of further kidnappings. But the Israeli government refused to negotiate. Instead – well, we all know what happened instead. Almost 1,000 Lebanese and 33 Israeli civilians have been killed so far, and a million Lebanese displaced from their homes.

In answer to a question of what he would have done, a question Israeli government’s supporters might put to him, he says: 

So it is not hard to answer the question of what we would have done. First, stop recruiting enemies, by withdrawing from the occupied territories in Palestine and Syria. Second, stop provoking the armed groups in Lebanon with violations of the blue line – in particular the persistent flights across the border. Third, release the prisoners of war who remain unlawfully incarcerated in Israel. Fourth, continue to defend the border, while maintaining the diplomatic pressure on Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah (as anyone can see, this would be much more feasible if the occupations were to end). Here then is my challenge to the supporters of the Israeli government: do you dare to contend that this programme would have caused more death and destruction than the current adventure has done?

This is thought-provoking stuff that it behoves our worthy leaders to ponder upon before making their grand pronouncements or grand plans.

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