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US Peace Coalition Calls for End to Attacks on Civilians in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel
United for Peace and Justice, USA
July 18, 2006
US Antiwar Organization, United for Peace and Justice, Says “Stop Killing Civilians in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel! Immediate Ceasefire! Start Negotiating!”
George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are creating a humanitarian and political catastrophe in Lebanon and Gaza. Israeli military strikes have killed 210 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians; destroyed much of Lebanon's infrastructure; put Israeli citizens at much greater risk (29 Israelis have been killed since June 27th); and made a full-scale regional war a possibility.
UFPJ opposes all violence against civilians. We condemn Hezbollah's attacks on Israeli civilians, and we condemn the Israeli assault in Gaza and Lebanon. We also see the vast differences in the scope and scale of these actions. As the French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, described it, Hezbollah's seizure of the soldiers and firing rockets into northern Israel were "irresponsible acts"; Israel's bombing of the Beirut international airport was "a disproportionate act of war."
Israel's military offensive in Lebanon comes while Israel continues a separate siege of the Gaza Strip. Three weeks of Israeli air strikes and attacks have killed more than 60 Palestinians, stripped most of Gaza's 1.4 million residents of access to electricity and water, and plunged them into further deplorable living conditions. Just last Wednesday, 23 Palestinians were killed, including a family of nine.
George Bush is giving a green light to Israel's use of force, which is being conducted in part with U.S.-supplied weapons. The Bush administration's trampling of international law and national sovereignty in its war on Iraq has also emboldened Israel to disregard international condemnation of its behavior.
These U.S.-backed Israeli actions -- the disproportionate, collective punishment of civilian populations -- are illegal and irresponsible responses to the capture of two Israeli soldiers and killing of eight others in southern Lebanon, and the capture of an Israeli soldier in Gaza. In fact, Israeli peace activists have been in the forefront of pointing out that these are being used as pretexts by an Israeli government determined to use force to impose its will on Palestinians, Lebanese and other neighboring peoples.
United for Peace and Justice urgently calls on the Bush administration and Congress to:
pressure Israel to immediately cease its military operations in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip;
work with international partners to broker an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel;
commence negotiations to peacefully resolve outstanding disputes, including the release of prisoners held on all sides, an end to Israel's 39-year-old occupation of Palestinian lands, and implementation of U.N. resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
For a cease-fire and negotiations to have a chance, the Bush Administration's unconditional, one-sided backing of Israel's actions must end. Now, it is more important than ever for the U.S. antiwar movement to be speaking out for a peaceful and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and an end to the U.S. role in sustaining it.
Bush says repeatedly that "Israel has a right to defend herself," both with respect to Gaza and to the new assault on Lebanon.
If, as it appears, last Wednesday's attack was Hezbollah's initiative in crossing Israel's border, it constitutes a violation of international law, despite its claimed intention of aiding the Palestinians and helping achieve the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. However, it was a border skirmish -- something common on borders all over the world all the time and hardly new on the Israel-Lebanon border. A border skirmish is not the beginning of a war unless one side wants it to be. The Israeli government wanted it to be.
Israel could have responded by negotiating a prisoner swap with the Palestinians and Lebanese, as it has frequently done. Instead, it chose to attack Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, along with Gaza's, and it has killed more than 196 Lebanese civilians. These aren't defensive acts; they are acts of aggression.
Every Lebanese airport has been attacked and rendered unfit for travel. Every seaport has been attacked. Several major gas stations and electrical stations have been destroyed. The major bridges in the country have been destroyed. The main arteries of the country have been destroyed -- from the south to the north -- making travel between main cities throughout Lebanon -- and therefore escape from Israel's bombs -- physically impossible. The Israeli army has been calling upon villages in South Lebanon to evacuate, yet they have destroyed the roads on which people can travel and have bombed two vehicles full of civilians attempting to leave.
Israel's reckless actions have endangered not only Palestinian and Lebanese citizens, but also their own people. By straining the delicate balance among Lebanon's ethnic and religious groups, Israel also risks igniting a new civil war.
Worse, the possibility that Israel's assault on Lebanon will trigger a full-scale regional war grows daily. Even before Israel's assault Bush's occupation of Iraq has destabilized the region and inflamed Arab and Muslim opinion. Now Israel has attacked near the Syrian border; Hezbollah is supported by Syria and Iran; Syria says it will defend itself if attacked; and Iran warns that if Israel attacks Syria, Tehran will retaliate against Israel. Then Bush would have a pretext for bombing Syria and Iran.
But if Israel could not defeat Hezbollah during its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, neither can it do so now with air strikes, blockades, and buffer zones, nor even with another occupation. For four decades Israel has tried to deny Palestinians a meaningful state -- using a military occupation to take their land, and responding with excessive force whenever it is attacked itself. But security for Israelis seems as far away as it was in 1967. Just as in Iraq, there is no military solution to the current crisis. The only real and lasting solution is to resolve the source of conflict by negotiating a resolution based on freedom from occupation and equal rights for all as enshrined in international law.