And so the tree was cut down after all. Israel and its members of US congress are urging to end the (ridiculously scanty) American support for the LAF, while Dar Al Hayat reports that the IDF threatened to bomb ‘the Lebanese army’s positions along the border’ if they would be prevented from cutting down the tree (a scrub more like). Israeli officials are rambling about the ‘Hezbollization of the LAF’. The Israelis are furthermore trying, through UNIFIL – which has been playing a particularly unsavory role in the whole affair – to obtain the firing or court-martialling of the officer in charge of the shooting, and keep claiming – as does the UN – that although the territory the tree was on is lying north of their self-erected ‘technical fence’, it is ‘Israeli’ because it is south of the blue line. No mention in the international media that the blue line is not an international border, let alone an internationally recognised border, but an armistice line decreed by the UN in 2000 and simply marking the line of the Israeli withdrawal after its 18 year occupation of the south of Lebanon, which is disputed by both Lebanon and Israel in many places. Legally speaking, it is no man’s land in between two countries who have been at war since 1948. Gideon Levy, one of the few sane voices left in the land of zion, describes the Israeli attitude in an article fittingly named ‘Only we’re allowed’ in Haaretz: ‘Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty. Scandalous. The explanation here was that he’s “indoctrinating his troops” – only we’re allowed to do that, of course – and that this was “the spirit of the commander” and that he’s “close to Hezbollah.” The nerve. And now that we’ve recited ad nauseum the explanations of Israel Defense Forces propaganda for what happened Tuesday at the northern border, the facts should also be looked at.
On Tuesday morning, Israel requested “coordination” with UNIFIL to carry out another “exposing” operation on the border fence. UNIFIL asked the IDF to postpone the operation, because its commander is abroad. The IDF didn’t care. UNIFIL won’t stop us. At noon the tree-cutters set out. The Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers shouted at them to stop. In Lebanon they say their soldiers also fired warning shots in the air. If they did, it didn’t stop the IDF.
The tree branches were cut and blood was shed on both sides of the border. Shed in vain. True, Israel maintains that the area across the fence is its territory, and UNIFIL officially confirmed that yesterday. But a fence is a fence: In Gaza it’s enough to get near the fence for us to shoot to kill. In the West Bank the fence’s route bears no resemblance to the Green Line, and still Palestinians are forbidden from crossing it. In Lebanon we made different rules: the fence is just a fence, we’re allowed to cross it and do whatever we like on the other side, sometimes in sovereign Lebanese territory. We can routinely fly in Lebanese airspace and sometimes invade as well. (…) Three Lebanese killed, including a journalist, are not enough of a response to the killing of our battalion commander. We want more. Lebanon must learn a lesson, and we will teach it. And what about us? We don’t have any lessons to learn. We’ll continue to ignore UNIFIL, ignore the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country’s sovereignty.’
Meanwhile, more Israeli spies are being arrested in Lebanon, the last one being an ex-army officer who is now a high-ranking official in Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (allied with Hezbollah). Bellemare ( currently in charge of the STL) has been reported telling diplomats at the UN that the tribunal’s coming indictment of Hezbollah members for the assassination of Hariri will be based on ‘inconclusive circumstantial evidence’… US congress has just passed a (non-binding) resolution supporting an Israeli attack on Iran. Seems some parties are really looking forward to starting ‘the big one’, the mother of all wars to end all wars.
Update: I was interviewed by Radio Centraal in Antwerp on the subject of the tree incident. Those of you who understand Dutch/Flemish can listen to the audio on their website here.
Update 2: Ann over at the Pulsemedia blog quotes my above post on the ‘border that is not a border’ issue, and tells me Robert Fisk was the only one to even touch on this issue – which happens to be rather central to understanding or judging the whole incident – in the mainstream western press. Which just goes to show how much you’re not being told if you rely on the mass media for your information… as well as being rather serendipitous in regard to the ‘Pity the Tree’ title…
Update 3: An interview with ex-UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel on the indicdent was published here – he has this to say over the ‘blue line’ issue (but the entire interview is well worth reading, as he is one of very few people who have lived through most of UNIFIL’s history on the inside – emphasis is mine) : ‘‘When [the] UN marked the Blue Line in 2000 to determine the Israeli withdrawal (it was not a border demarcation) with the participation and consent of the two parties, it was discovered that in certain locations, not many, the Israeli security fence erected according to the lay of the land, did not correspond to the Blue Line. During the occupation years, Israel had built fences inside Lebanon, which they had to give up of course. They did not want to put up a new fence in those places. Lebanon did not want to put up a fence along a border that is not officially demarcated. So, UN painted some stones blue to say this is the border, while the fence was up to 200 metres to the south. The paint peeled away in couple of months. The shepherds, farmers, etc. (including myself) always get confused because you instinctively think the fence is the border not a couple of stones with faded blue paint. Israel usually refrained from crossing the fence for safety reasons of course but became more aggressive in keeping intruders away after 2006 when they felt that especially Hizbullah operatives were operating in that what the IDF calls “the enclave.” I have been talking about the perils of this situation for many years, and I think the UN finally got around to starting a project to better mark the Blue Line, with the participation of both sides. I don’t know what happened to the project, but knowing the inevitable bickering of the parties for half a meter here, 2 meters there, it is bound to take a long time.’