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Death in Southern Lebanon

Fred Halliday Visits Hezbollah in Lebanon

Fred Halliday writes:

A Lebanese fragment: two days with Hizbollah Fred Halliday - openDemocracy: Towards the end of the day, my guides took me a hill overlooking the Israeli frontier, and the town of Metulla. There, I sensed that another perspective, and another future, was equally contained within these seemingly peaceful hills.

From one roadside vantage-point, they had pointed to the still unresolved Shebaa area to the southeast. As we looked over to this Israeli town, with people clearly visible walking in the streets, the chief guide turned to me with an unambiguous message: "It took us twenty-two years to drive them out of here [Lebanon]", and it may take us up to forty years to drive them out of there [occupied Palestine]".

I long ago decided, in dealing with revolutionaries and with their enemies, in the middle east and elsewhere, to question their motives and sense of reality, but to take seriously what they stated to be their true intentions. Those words, spoken on the hill overlooking Metulla in 2004, were sincerely meant, and carried within them a long history of fighting, sacrifice and killing. In light of recent events, it would be prudent to assume that much more is to come.

It's quite likely that historians of the future will view this past week as a major strategic defeat for Israel. It's not just that sending hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians running for their lives (and killing not a few of them) as the IDF hunts 1,000 or so Hezbollah terrorists is a disproportionate response. It's that it undermines Israel's long-rune external support, and does so much more quickly than Olmert and company realize.

Not just a violation of the laws of war: a mistake.