One incident south of the Litany River… two stories



 
On July 14, an explosion took place in a deserted house in a village on the southern Lebanese border - an area closely monitored by Israel, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, and the Lebanese Army. In a familiar refrain, fire and gun-power are serving as perfect symbols for the political visions of those who don’t care to ask why unarmed citizens would risk throwing rocks at international peace keeping forces.
 
By SASEEN KAWZALLY
 
Lebanon Unifil


BEIRUT, July 24, 2009 (MENASSAT) - The explosion was immediately followed by numerous reactions from all parties concerned - starting with Israel. Lebanon’s bellicose southern neighbor was quick to consider the explosion as proof positive that Hezbollah has continued stocking their weapons cache since a UN brokered ceasefire ended the 34-day Israeli aggression in Lebanon in 2006.

Some Lebanese political parties surprisingly labeled it a "violation of resolution 1701,” while Hezbollah, who never denied his continued efforts to arm and even develop their weaponry arsenal in preparation for any future confrontation with Israel, declared the storehouse dates to before the 2006 war.

A French battalion working within the United Nations peacekeeping force (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon, tried last Sunday to search the village's houses carrying out what it called an investigation into the explosion. But the residents blocked UNIFIL from entering their homes, which led to the villagers blocking roads and throwing stones at the international forces, injuring 14 soldiers and damaging some vehicles.

Although the relation between UNIFIL and the south Lebanese is generally positive, actions of this sort by UNIFIL is highly insulting to its citizens, even though numerous media outlets have portrayed the stoning incident as if "party members", referring to Hezbollah, had provoked the attack, or pulled the strings behind the scenes.

Worse than the media, Faris Soaid, the general secretary coordinator of U.S.-backed March 14 ruling government coalition said, "It's true people have a patriotic sense, but they couldn't have acted on the spot, attacking UNIFIL couldn't have happened without orders from someone.”

This rhetoric found its way to various media sources, which only saw the people's actions as perpetrated in advance.

The citizens at the time of the clash with UNIFIL stressed to the UN and to the media later that it's not within the UNIFIL mandate to break into people's homes without being accompanied by the Lebanese army, knowing that the Lebanese army announced they knew nothing of any investigation being conducted by the international forces, admitting that their troops were surprised by UNIFIL raiding houses.

The incident sparked conflicting reactions on all sides of the borders, with increased Israeli talk in the media and diplomatic circles about the need to change the UNIFIL "rules of engagement", which at the moment, is obliged to coordinate with the Lebanese army before carrying out any arrests or searches.

The official Lebanese position has always maintained that Israel never really upheld the 1701 UN Security Council resolution that put an end to Israel's 34-day war on Lebanon. The Lebanese government has repeatedly sent letters to the United Nations complaining about routine violations, especially aerial violations.

But ground violations have also continued, last among them a fence Israel built close to Kfarshouba lake inside Lebanon's southern borders, which UNIFIL refrained from removing, allowing a state of doubt to seep into the resident's minds regarding the UN peacekeeping mission.

UNIFIL has not taken any measures to reassure the citizens despite continued calls by locals, which culminated in "civic violations” of the fence Israel created there by an organized protest at the site. [A civic violation is not a violation in fact, since the point the protesters reached, is still within Lebanese borders, and even if it wasn't, this clearly falls under "passive resistance.”]

Ghajar village is also a subject of permanent Israeli violation, since Israel still occupies half the town and refuses to evacuate. UNIFIL is still incapable of dealing with this violation.    

Some of the Lebanese media driven by politics as always described the incident as an "aggression" against UNIFIL. The media will often, when it's suitable for the owners of such media, portray any movement or gesture happening in what they call "Hezbollah strongholds" as intentional well perpetrated moves on the party's behalf.

Yet, military sources have called the incident "nothing more than a mis-coordination between UNIFIL's battalions,” knowing that the French embassy in Beirut said that Hezbollah is confused, and caused them to be confused, in order to cover up the deserted house's explosion. Still, the embassy is working closely with Lebanese sides, including Hezbollah, to overcome the potential negative consequences from the incident, clearly, having in mind its own soldiers deployed in "Hezbollah stronghold” of south Lebanon.

Television stations also missed the mark. Reports broadcast by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), some from the Israeli side of the border, some from New York, conveyed a sense of imminent war, and that everyone should get ready.

The same thing can be felt by the Israeli reactions as well, a sense of a heated border, and of course the rhetoric will blame those responsible for "aggression" against the innocent UNIFIL peacekeepers, innocent of being biased towards Israel, and innocent of constantly over-looking Israeli violations, and most definitely, innocent of ever trying to prevent an Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty.  

The same T.V. channel Israel, aired a report about Israeli preparations to face a "possible operation" by Hezbollah in which special forces with the Party of God would blow up an Israeli school - along with interviews of concerned Israeli "citizens" in settlements, expressing their fear of an imminent Hezbollah attack.   

It appeared as though some Lebanese media found in the incident a reason to support Israel's concerns of Hezbollah's dangers.

LBC did not bother to interview Lebanese citizens on the scene, or ask them why they threw rocks at the blue helmets, or how they feel about the constant state of castration that UNIFIL is in when it comes to Israeli violations of their lands.

The French peacekeepers have only been used to glorify the UN peacekeeping role in Lebanon. Perhaps a few angry citizens with their rocks would remind them that putting an end to Israeli violations of Resolution 1701, is their duty as well, and that they are not the masters of this land, as they believed once upon a "mandate.”