The Socialist 21 September 2006 |
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Is a lasting peace possible in Lebanon?
LASTING ONLY one month, the war in Lebanon between
Israel and Hezbollah left 1,400 dead and 5,500 injured.
In addition, it created 1,150,000 internal refugees of whom over
200,000 remain homeless. The cost of rebuilding will amount to around $3
billion. These facts show the devastating results of modern warfare.
At present, a shaky ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah is in
place while small numbers of international troops, under the United
Nations banner, are being deployed in southern Lebanon to keep the
But none of the fundamental sources of conflict which sparked the
34-day war have been resolved and nor are they likely to be given the
aims of the Israeli state and the Western imperialist powers, especially
In alliance with the Israeli state, the US and its British junior
partner want to dominate the oil-rich Middle East and to undermine the
regional powers of Syria, Iran and their allies.
And while the ruling classes of these states jockey for domination
and periodically clash, the underlying social and economic system of
capitalism condemns millions of workers and poor people to lasting
poverty and a future without hope.
Such is the contempt for the lives of ordinary people, that when the
population of Beirut and Southern Lebanon were being obliterated by high
explosives, US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, refered to the
carnage as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East".
And when an attempt to broker an earlier ceasefire was being made at
a summit in Rome, Tony Blair joined with George Bush to vote it down.
Clearly, Bush and Blair wanted a ceasefire only after the Israeli
Defence Forces (IDF) had crushed Hezbollah.
But the IDF quickly got bogged down in an unwinnable guerrilla war
with Hezbollah and other Shia-based militias. Consequently, the US and
British governments (already facing major difficulties in pacifying Iraq
and Afghanistan), having previously brushed aside the United Nations,
invoked the ceasefire resolution 1701 to create a UN 'buffer zone' on
the Lebanese side of the Israeli-Lebanese border. As well as exposing
the limitations of imperialism this episode also showed that the UN
largely serves the interests of the US.
But as Peter Taaffe writing in the socialist (7-13 September) put it:
"Why should a 'buffer' be established only on conquered Lebanese
territory? Why not on Israeli territory? And why is there no
'international' buffer between Israel and Gaza?"
The presence of UN troops in the Lebanon is not new. They have been
there since 1978. However, they did not prevent the IDF conducting a
full-scale invasion in 1982. Then, too, a 'multinational force' was sent
to the Lebanon as peacemakers but the Israeli forces remained in Lebanon
for another 18 years while a civil war in Lebanon raged unabated until
Significantly, the UN gave the Lebanese troops formal responsibility
for disarming Hezbollah in the buffer zone rather than the international
force. This was because the international forces face bloodshed if they
try to disarm Hezbollah, whereas the Lebanese forces will not even
seriously try to do so. Back in 1983 only months after arriving, 241 US
marines and 58 French personnel were blown up in their barracks by
suicide bombers. Hence the reluctance of many countries now to send
Internationally, some look to Hezbollah as a force capable of ending
conflict within Lebanon. The failure of the IDF to push the Islamic
guerrilla force out of southern Lebanon has strengthened Hezbollah's
political support. Its leader, Nasrullah, now has iconic status. Morale
of the Shias in the region has been much boosted, but also of the masses
in the Middle East who are in the main strongly anti-Israel and US
But can it extend its political base beyond its Shia muslim
heartlands and unite the workers and poor amongst Lebanon's various
As well as expressing Shia solidarity with Iran, Hezbollah has
emphasised its anti-Israeli stance and played up Lebanese nationalism,
to gain allegiance from non-Shia Lebanese people.
But Hezbollah is at root a pro-capitalist, Shia-based Islamist
organisation, which will not in the long term be able to unite all
sections of Lebanese society. And while it shows solidarity with the
poor, it does not deploy working-class struggle as a central method of
challenging the profit system of capitalism. It has ministers in the
Lebanese govenment which has carried through privatisations.
Socialists support the right of the Lebanese people to armed
self-defence against attacks and occupation. However, the firing of
rockets into civilian areas of Israel, which killed over 40 Israeli Jews
and Palestinians, was counter-productive.
Instead of turning the Israeli working class against its capitalist
war-mongering government it resulted in drawing them closer to the war
aims of the Israeli regime. Yet the social weight of the Israeli working
class is critical in undermining the Zionist ruling class and resolving
the region's long-time national and social conflicts.
But if imperialism, the UN, the ruling classes of the region and
organisations like Hezbollah are incapable of ending the continuing
nightmare of wars, poverty and conflict in Lebanon and the rest of the
Middle East, is there an alternative?
The only force potentially capable of uniting the poor and oppressed
is the working class. This class, unlike the capitalists, has no
material interest in grabbing land and resources, nor the exploitation
of workers to make profits. Only the working class as a movement against
capitalism can overcome sectarian division and the poison of narrow
nationalism. It is building a movement based on working-class and
socialist internationalism that will answer the problems of the Middle