Israel tries to whitewash its bloody legacy in Lebanon

Beirut motorists line up outside a petrol station amid an unprecedented fuel shortage and a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon (Marwan Naamani - DPA)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  July 7, 2021

Israel is once again trying to whitewash its crimes against Lebanon by offering the country “humanitarian aid”.

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz said Israel was “ready to act” and that he made his offer via UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, through Israeli army liaisons.

With Lebanon’s currency losing 90 percent of its value and supermarkets and pharmacies struggling to restock basic supplies, the country is experiencing a deep economic crisis.

Last August’s massive port explosion that devastated many parts of Beirut took the crisis to new levels.

Things were made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and by United States economic sanctions on neighboring Syria and Iran.

These sanctions, of course, are part of a longstanding US policy that aims to punish any country or organization that engages in or supports resistance to Israel.

“My heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon,” Gantz tweeted on Tuesday.

He added that he had made similar comments at a Sunday ceremony honoring former members of the South Lebanon Army.

The SLA was a collaborator militia that aided Israel during its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

That occupation ended in 2000 when Lebanese resistance fighters led by Hizballah drove Israeli forces out of the country. Many of the SLA members then fled to Israel.

The hypocrisy in Gantz’s offer is breathtaking.

Despite its withdrawal, Israel still violates Lebanese airspace and sovereignty almost daily, flying unmanned aircraft and fighter jets over the country.

But it was only last month that Gantz was directing threats at Lebanon.

“Lebanon needs to know that what Gaza experienced a few weeks ago is only the tip of the iceberg,” Gantz said in June.

Gantz’s threat referred to Israel’s killing of some 245 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over the span of 11 days during May, including entire families and dozens of children.

He was speaking at a ceremony honoring Israeli soldiers who participated in the occupation of Lebanon.

Gantz claimed to be the last Israeli soldier to leave Lebanon when Israeli forces abruptly abandoned their positions in May 2000.

He was serving as the liaison between the Israeli army and its SLA collaborators.

“The targets are ready. Whoever hides weapons in their house, endangers their children,” Gantz threatened – apparently laying the pretext to attack Lebanese civilian homes as Israel had just done in Gaza.

In February, Gantz also explicitly threatened Lebanese civilians while supposedly delivering a warning to Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Hizballah is Lebanon’s de facto defense and deterrent force against repeated Israeli threats and aggressions.

“If Nasrallah’s threats become acts – the result will be painful for Hizballah, its leaders and unfortunately also for the citizens of Lebanon, whom Hizballah has turned into a human shield,” Gantz tweeted.

Exploiting suffering

Gantz did not hide the political motive behind his “humanitarian” offer to Lebanon, saying it was spurred by “Hizballah’s attempts to deepen Iranian investments in the country.”

Far from being “humanitarian” then, Gantz’s offer is a ploy aimed at Iran, a country Israel sees as a regional counterweight to its domination.

Nasrallah said in a recent speech that if the crisis continues to get worse, Iran may help by sending fuel to the country “even if it causes a problem.”

This is not the first time that Israel has made cynical offers to Lebanon.

Following last August’s port explosion in Beirut, Israel rushed to exploit the tragedy by offering aid.

This is a propaganda strategy known as blue-washing.

A major Israel lobby group even tried to exploit the disaster in order to destroy the resistance.

The American Jewish Committee demanded in a tweet that all international aid to Lebanon be conditioned “on the long-promised, long-avoided disarmament of Hizballah.”

It later deleted its tweet – apparently embarrassed amid a backlash over its readiness to exploit the suffering of people in Lebanon to Israel’s advantage.

An Israeli-government funded outlet had also claimed with absolutely no evidence that the port explosion “stemmed from a storehouse of Hizballah munitions.”

Israel’s long record of crimes against Lebanon and Lebanese and Palestinian civilians is well known.

But Israel has also committed crimes against UNIFIL, the body to which Gantz said he reached out to make his aid offer.

In April 1996, Israel shelled a UNIFIL base in the village of Qana during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that year, killing more than 100 refugees and UN peacekeepers.

Israel’s recently sworn-in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett played a role in that massacre.

A UN investigation conducted by a Dutch general refuted as “unlikely” Israel’s claims that its shells hit the UNIFIL base by accident, but no one was ever held accountable.

Moroccan normalization

Meanwhile, a Moroccan warplane arrived in Israel on Sunday to participate in a joint military exercise with Israel.

The US is also taking part.

Last December, Morocco became the latest Arab state to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, normalizing years of clandestine relations.

The two governments will also open direct civilian flights in coming weeks.

In January 2020 – almost a year before the official normalization agreement – the Moroccan army reportedly received Israeli reconnaissance drones in a $48 million deal.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the two countries signed the deal in 2014 and “closed via the French company Dassault.”

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada