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Posted Online on Sunday, 17 September 2006 01:15 IST

Lebanon: Aggression and Resistance

Final Report of the International Civil Society and Parliamentary Peace Mission to Lebanon

Introduction 

Muslim Islamic NewsAt the height of the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, a call came from civil society groups in that country asking the international community to send peace delegations to bear witness to the ongoing destruction of a nation and demonstrate solidarity with the Lebanese people in their hour of need.

Having worked with many of these groups to hold an international peace conference in Beirut in 2004, Focus on the Global South took the initiative in putting together such a delegation. It took about ten days to assemble the delegation. By the end of the first week of August, a 12-person Civil Society-Parliamentary Peace Mission was ready to go. Members of the mission came from a diverse spectrum, both in terms of background and geography. The mission included two farmers, one labor leader, two members of parliament, one journalist, two university professors, and three civil society activists. They came from India, the Philippines, Norway, France, Brazil, and Spain. Everyone was self-funded.

Members of the mission were:

Seema Mustafa, Resident Editor, Asian Age Mujiv Hataman, Member of Parliament, Anak Mindanao, Philippines Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Kjeld Jakobsen, CUT (Central Union Federation), Brazil and Hemispheric Social Alliance Gerard Durand, Confederation Paysanne, France, La Via Campesina Kari Kobberoed Brustad, Norsk Bonde -Og Smabrukarlag, Norway, La Via Campesina Mohammed Salim, Member of Parliament, Communist Party of India
(Marxist), India Herbert Docena, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Feroze Mithiborwala, Forum Against War and Terror, Mumbai Kamal Chenoy, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India Vijaya Chauhan, Rashtra Seva Dal, India (Youth Organization) German Guillot, interpreter (French/Spanish/English/Arabic)

Their tasks were straightforward:

- to witness and document the war crimes and abuses being perpetrated on the Lebanese people; 

- to show solidarity with the Lebanese;

- to discuss and work out ways in which the international community could assist in countering the Israeli aggression and in the reconstruction Lebanon;

- to investigate the plight of migrant workers caught up in the war.

On August 12, the mission entered Northern Lebanon at the Dabboussiyeh Crossing with Syria. In the next few days, they witnessed the destruction caused by Israeli airstrikes in Northern Lebanon, met with a broad range of political groups and civil society organizations, toured bombed out areas of South Beirut that were still being subjected to Israeli air and naval strikes, visited the wounded at Beirut University General Hospital, talked to refugees from South Lebanon, interviewed Filipino migrant workers in the Philippine evacuation center, met with Lebanese parliamentarians and with President Emile Lahoud, and observed the first two days of the ceasefire.

The mission members announced their key findings and recommendations at a press conference in Beirut on August 14, where they read a statement that was collectively drafted, fully discussed, and unanimously approved by everyone.

The mission left Lebanon on August 15.

A War against Civilians

The wounds of war were evident shortly after we crossed the Syria-Lebanon border at 11:30 a.m. on August 12, 2006. At Haisa, about three kilometres from the Dabboussiyeh border crossing we came across the ruins of a bridge hit by Israeli war planes just the day before. Villagers told us that 12 persons were killed and 10 wounded, all civilians.

Twenty minutes later, at a place called Abu Shamra, we came across the remains of gasoline station and another bridge, the targets of an Israeli air strike just eight hours earlier. At three other places, Matfoun, Halat and very close to the famous Casino du Liban near Junieh, we had to take detours around bridges and vehicles destroyed by Israeli attacks. These are locations right to the very north of Lebanon where the Hizbullah, the Lebanese resistance movement that Israel claimed to be fighting, has marginal presence. The fresh instances of destruction brought home to us one of the key features of the Israeli offensive: its deliberate targeting of non-military infrastructure to raise the costs of the war for the civilian population.

This was the pattern through out Lebanon. The main Damascus-Beirut highway had been completely destroyed by Israeli fighter planes. Bridges linking roads and highways had been bombed out of operation. Gas stations were targeted and destroyed with Lebanon being left with little fuel. At the Syria-North Lebanon border, refugees were fleeing, terrified and apprehensive about their future in the war-torn country. "They are fighting us, not the military," a young woman with four children pointed out quietly.

In Beirut the suburbs in the south populated mainly by Shias were almost completely destroyed. For 32 days Israeli planes bombed these areas continuously. The hotels, parks, schools in central Beirut have been turned into refugee camps for the one million displaced persons from south Beirut and south Lebanon. Villages in the south had been destroyed beyond recognition. Refugees in Beirut spoke of the death of relatives, the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure including roads, power stations, bridges and schools. It is clear that the "die-hard Hizbullah supporters" that the Israelis have been targeting are civilians and they returned to their villages after the 32 day war. Mohammad who had little to do with the Hizbullah but drove a taxi in Beirut said his eldest "will join the resistance, of course."

The sound of massive blasts punctuated the hours of every single day of our stay. The Israelis stepped up the bombing in the hours preceding the cessation of hostilities. Two hours after our visit to the Haret Hreik neighborhood in south Beirut on August 13, Israeli bombs hit the area, and we learned later that they wiped out seven families who had returned to the rubble that was once their homes in an effort to salvage some of their belongings. We were really lucky to have left the area before the bombs fell. In south Lebanon, pitched battles were reported between the Hizbullah and the Israeli military who suffered heavy military casualties as well. A day before the cessation of hostilities, Hizbullah leaders informed us that
24 Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles had been destroyed by their fighters in the south of Lebanon. At 6:00 a.m. on August 14, less than two hours before the ceasefire would take effect, we were awakened by Israeli warplanes bombing south Beirut yet again.

The cessation of hostilities was met with silence in Beirut. It was only 12 hours later, just after 8 pm at night, that people rushed to the television sets to hear Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah speak. He appeared on al Manar television, a television channel ran by Hizbullah.. The seven-storey building that housed the television channel in south Beirut had been among the first buildings to be bombed by Israel. Nasrallah announced 'jihad al binnah' (the jihad of reconstruction) and asked the people to return to their homes. He said that the Hizbullah cadres would be out to join them in the reconstruction process from 8 a.m. the next morning, and those who had suffered would be paid compensation. His words had an electrifying effect, and within hours the refugees in Beirut had climbed into their cars, vans, buses to begin the journey through the rubble that was once the highway, to their homes. The roads were jammed, with cars taking two hours to travel as little as ten kilometres.

At 8 a.m. sharp on April 15, the reconstruction started. In Beirut we saw the Hizbullah cadres with guns, bulldozers and fire extinguishers as they joined the civilians to clear the rubble and begin the long and hard task of bringing some semblance of normalcy to their lives. They all agreed that it would take months, if not years, but the thought did not deter the hundreds of men and women who came out on the streets to participate in the reconstruction. Within hours the Hizbullah cadres started handing out money to the victims to rent accommodations while they rebuild their destroyed homes.

In all this time there was little sign of the Lebanese government that had kept out of the war. It was not visible in the reconstruction and rehabilitation work while we were in Beirut. Subsequent reports from Lebanon confirmed that the Hizbullah had taken a decided march over the government in Lebanon with the civilians turning to the resistance group not just in war but in peace as well. This was not surprising, given the weakness of the Lebanese state, a condition that was attributed by President Emile Lahoud partly to Washington's massive support for Israel.

The Reasons for the War and its Political Consequences

The 34 day Israel- Lebanon War was supposedly sparked off by the 'kidnapping' of two Israeli soldiers by the Hizbullah forces who crossed over the border to attack the Israeli troops. In the backdrop of earlier events in this area, this explanation for the massive Israeli attack that followed was not credible. Hizbullah, a powerful military and political force had through its guerrilla attacks forced Israel out of almost all of South Lebanon in 2000. But Israel refused to vacate a 30 square kilometer area around the Shebaa Farms. Thus skirmishes between the Hizbullah and Israeli forces continued.

As a Pentagon consultant told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, prior to most recent incident, "there had been cross border incidents involving Israel and Hizbullah, in both directions, for some time." [Seymour Hersh, "Watching Lebanon", New Yorker, August 21, 2006, pp. 29-30]. Some of these skirmishes involved the capture of combatants for prisoner-exchange purposes.

Thus, the unleashing of a full-fledged land, air and sea assault by the Israelis within days of the Hizbullah's capture of the two soldiers indicated a preplanned attack motivated not by the release of its POWs but by the strategic goal of destroying Hizbullah. A central part of the strategy was to teach the Lebanese not to support or tolerate the Hizbullah by attacking the country's infrastructure. This was, in the very real sense of the word, a Roman-style "exemplary war" designed to teach the Hizbullah, Lebanon, and the whole Arab world a lesson.

The misrepresentation of the Hizbullah action is in keeping with the Western stand on West Asia, and Israeli occupation and aggression in particular. From1948 onwards despite the history of Zionist terrorism and the murder of the UN negotiator Count Bernadotte along with others in the Zionist terror group Irgun during the bombing of the King David hotel, the West has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli state terrorism and violations of international law. This is shown by the West's ignoring of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 which mandate a sovereign Palestinian state with Israel going back to its pre-June 1967 borders. The West has also striven to maintain a regional balance of power favouring Israel. The US facilitated the Israeli nuclear programme and provided it delivery vehicles for its nuclear warheads, ignoring the revelations of nuclear whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu. It has also used Israel to punish Arab states that worked against US interests.

The second Israeli-Lebanese war was a consequence of this. The US and Israel saw the growth and consolidation of Hizbullah, which in turn was supported by Syria and Iran as a threat both to Israeli and US plans to isolate and possibly overthrow the existing regimes in Iran and Syria. With the breakup of the Palestinian areas, which were physically separated with Israeli military posts in between, and no airport for independent communication with the outside world, the Palestinians in the Gaza strip and the West Bank were cut off from each other. The massive security wall built despite the International Court of Justice's opinion, further divided Palestinian towns, and made the resumption of armed struggle from these isolated enclaves against the Israelis extremely difficult and hazardous.

Thus in the absence of a Palestinian armed resistance, Hizbullah remained the only military force capable of facing the Israeli military force as it had repeatedly demonstrated from the mid-1980s onwards, and was along with the Amal militia a major ally of Syria and Iran. Thus the Israelis targeting of the National Resistance led by Hizbullah that also came to include the Amal and the Lebanese Communist Party [LCP]. This formation was supported from outside by, among others, the leading Maronite Christian party led by General Michel Aoun.

The Israeli government's efforts to isolate the Hizbullah were backed by the Bush administration, which had been "agitating for some time to find a reason for a preemptive blow against Hizbullah," according to a Pentagon consultant interviewed by Seymour Hersh. He added, 'It was our intent to have Hizbullah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it." [Seymour Hersh, "Watching Lebanon," New Yorker, August 21, 2006, pp. 29-30]

Destruction of the Hizbullah was perhaps even more vital for the United States than Israel, claims Henry Barkey, chairman of Lehigh University's International Relations Department and a former member of the US State Department's policy planning staff. In a recent article, Barkey claims that while Israel can live with a Hizbullah driven north of the Litani River, the US would not. The key reason has to do with the "Hizbullah model." According to Barkey, "it represents the nightmarish metamorphosis of a well supplied and trained militia. If it can work in Lebanon, the model can be emulated elsewhere around the world -- Hizbullah is far more sophisticated and entrenched than Al Qaeda. It is impossible to defeat it without inflicting civilian casualties. Therein lies Hizbullah's strength: it calculates that the outside world will relent in the face of civilian casualties." [Daily Star (Beirut), August 13, 2006, p. 1]

The socio-political basis of the Resistance includes not just the Hizbullah or the Shia community but is supported by the communists and the dominant Maronites. This makes a mockery of the claim that the Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, even though it has two ministers in the Lebanese government, along with Amal and the Maronites who are also represented by President Emile Lahoud. The fact that 12 communists died in the 34 day war starkly demonstrates that this alliance was firm and secular. The process of listing of terrorist organizations by the West is known to be politically partisan, and the targeting of Hizbullah is no exception.

Though France, Russia and China wanted a quick cessation of the war, the US with its veto power resisted adamantly. It obviously thought Israel would prevail, facilitating its attempt at regime change in Iran and Syria. The notorious statement by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, at the height of the war, that the region was witnessing the "birth pangs of a new Middle East," revealed clearly what the US intentions were and what the war was about. The two Israeli POWs, for which the Resistance wanted a prisoner exchange for three Lebanese prisoners, was just a pretext.

The US envisaged a new Middle East where all regimes would be like the pro-US troika of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, which would accept the regional hegemony of Israel and would not develop nuclear power to the extent that it might create the scientific basis of future nuclear weaponisation. The proposed "lesson" to Hizbullah and Lebanon, which was also meant also for Iran and Syria, was to be an object lesson in US-Israeli hegemony, where policies ranging from virtual denial of Palestinian rights through silence or lack of demonstrative action to unrestrained neo-liberal economic reforms as mandated by the US and the IMF-World Bank-WTO troika, were to be mandatory. This is the US neo-conservative vision as enunciated by Condoleeza Rice.

The pro-US Arab troika played ball during the first part of the war. But as the Lebanese Resistance led by Hizbullah continued to fight fiercely, not succumbing to superior Israeli firepower and the relentless air pounding by the unchallenged Israeli air force, the Arab street rose in support of the Resistance. This forced the Arab governments to recognize the likely Resistance victory and change tack. The Saudi Grand Mufti who had issued a fatwa against Hizbullah was forced to retract. The Egyptians also praised the resistance and called for an end to the war. Prominent Jordanian and Kuwaiti intellectuals praised the Hizbullah and argued that there was ?no longer an invincible army, an immune state,? a clear refutation of the long standing theory of Israeli invincibility.

Nullification of the victory of the National Resistance led by Hizbullah was one of the key objectives of the US-supported United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. It targeted Hizbullah as the aggressor, called for its disarmament and for an additional 15,000-member UN force to supplement the 15,000 Lebanese troops to patrol the Israeli-Lebanon border. There were no strictures against the Israelis who had willfully killed 4 UN peacekeepers and injured another, an Indian. There was not even a formal ceasefire, only a "cessation of hostilities." The right of the Israelis to "self defence" was also recognized, leading to an Israeli commando attack a few days later, in clear violation of the UN resolution.

Major changes have occurred in the Arab street, which have hailed the Resistance victory as unprecedented and as undermining the aura of US-Israeli invincibility. Posters and banners of Hassan Nasrallah and the Hizbullah sprung up throughout the Arab world. Posters showing Nasrallah with the local leader [like President Bashar Assad in Syria] and other leaders like the martyred Sheik Yassin [of Hamas] mushroomed. Citizens in Damascus whom we met on August 16 to 17, were ecstatic over the Hizbullah victory. On 16th August, President Assad made a strong speech calling upon pro-US Arab states to rethink their strategy, and for the Arab street to rise and force their leaders to change their policies to nationalist, pro-Palestinian ones following the Resistance.

After the stopping of hostilities o August 14, there was much criticism in Israel of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz, and the Chief of the Israeli Defence Forces [IDF] Dan Halutz. Public approval ratings of Olmert fell to 40% and of Peretz to 28%. Halutz was publicly derided for selling off his shares just the day before the war broke out. The IDF's military tactics, including its over-reliance on air power were widely debated. As the extent of the military defeat sinks in, there may be further upheavals in Israeli politics.

The 34 day Israeli-Lebanese war that started on 12 July had results and repercussions that took Israel, the US and its allies including those in West Asia by surprise. It was a monumental setback. As the Israeli Foreign Minister conceded, no force could disarm Hizbullah. The Arab street is at fever-pitch, and US-Israeli action against Iran and Syria would lead to popular pressure on Arab governments not to back the US and its allies. The
34 days of resolute struggle by the Lebanese Resistance and its victory against the much feared military Israeli machine may well prove a harbinger of profound political changes in the region in days to come. It may, as Arabs earlier skeptical of the Resistance have now predicted, lead to a 'new Middle East,' one completely different from that envisaged by Condoleeza Rice ? being instead one that is nationalist, self-reliant and assertive of Arab and Palestinian rights.

One worrisome outcome of this war could be a change in Israeli military strategy. With its conventional warfare capability now nullified by popularly supported resistance guerrilla resistance movements like Hizbullah, Israel may now be tempted to threaten to resort to the use of battlefield nuclear explosives, if not mega-nuclear weapons, in future wars to dissuade Arab attempts to support the Palestinian struggle and rectify territorial injustices. Threats can easily result in the actual use of force. It is well known that Israel has nuclear weapons. Being the only government with nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it is Israel, not Iran, that is the area's nuclear destabilizer.

Migrant Workers: the other Victims of the War

Among the victims of the war were not only the Lebanese people but also migrant workers in Lebanon. One of the workers we interviewed, Miramar Flores, a Filipina, exemplified the plight of the this work force. Miramar Flores was confined to a hospital with broken bones after she jumped from her employer's second floor balcony in an effort to escape Israeli bombs after her employer locked her in. As she tried to make up her mind whether to stay on under the Israeli bombardment or to flee, it may well have occurred to her that it was a choice between death and death. She chose to jump.

A great number Filipino workers in Lebanon are treated like slaves. In 2004 six Filipinos working in Lebanese households died under "mysterious" circumstances. In 2000, the last year when a database was compiled by the Lebanese Pastoral Committee for Afro-Asian Migrant workers, there were over 
400 reported cases of physical and sexual abuse of migrant workers, half of the victims being Filipinos.

Helen Dabu who is with the Kanlungan Center Foundation, an organisation that has been dealing directly with victims of abuse from Lebanon and elsewhere, said most complaints of this kind are received from West Asia. The cases outnumber those reported from Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia where the complaints most often involve contract violations rather than rape or maltreatment. Dabu's assessment was supported by Philippine labor attache Ma. Glenda Manalo who said that this view was shared by many other diplomats working in the region.

One disconcerting finding of the mission was that whereas workers signed contracts in the Philippines stipulating a monthly pay of US$200 a month, most of those we interviewed were actually receiving only US$150 from their employers. It is suspected that employment agencies in Lebanon and the Philippines, in collusion with some Philippine government agencies, are profiting immensely from this systematic violation of contract.

Lebanon is the tenth top destination of Filipino workers abroad. Philippine ambassador to Lebanon Francis Bichara said that the exact number of Filipinos in Lebanon was difficult to assess because many were smuggled in but research done by the organization Kanlungan indicated that the figure could be as high as 50,000. Filipino workers started going to Lebanon since
1978 but the numbers have increased, with the last year registering the entry of as many as 14,000 workers. Many Filipinas fled Lebanon to escape the war. Ironically, however, the war gave others the excuse to free themselves from their abusive masters with many interviewed by the delegation recounting horrific stories of abuse, low pay and inhuman living conditions. We were told that similar conditions afflicted Sri Lankan domestic workers, who are said to be less vocal in resisting abuse than Filipinas.

It must be pointed out, however, that not all Lebanese employers abuse migrant workers. There are said to be many decent employers. The Hizbullah, who are part of the government, are said to be the most sympathetic to the plight of the migrant workers. This would not be surprising since few in the lower-class Shiite community that is the base of the Hizbullah can afford foreign domestic help. And yet, at the same time, despite Hizbullah holding the labor ministry, migrant workers are still not covered by Lebanese labor laws.

Annex 1: Statement and Recommendations 

The following statement and recommendations were collectively drafted, fully discussed, and unanimously approved by all members of the delegation and read at a press conference in Beirut on August 14, 2006.) 

We, the members of the international peace delegation comprising India, Philippines, Brazil, Norway, France, and Spain express our solidarity with the people of Lebanon in their resistance to Israeli aggression. 

The victory of the Lebanese resistance over Israel has inspired the peoples of the world who see in this a reassertion of people's power. The resistance has for the first time broken the myth of Israeli invincibility, its supposed military and political superiority over the region. This victory is a defeat for the US-Israeli designs for a "New Middle East" that is another term for Zionist expansionism and US hegemony that are integral parts of the global imperialist project.

The courageous Lebanese National Resistance led by the Hizbullah and its secretary general Hasan Nasrallah has led to this historic victory. The unity of the Lebanese people across religions and classes, and the resistance of the civil society have also been central to the victory over Israel and the United States.

We join Lebanon in mourning the death of all innocent civilians. We condemn the Israeli policy of widespread targeted killing of civilians as an instrument of state terror. The Israeli attack on civilians is a grave violation of international laws and should be treated as a war crime.

We also express sympathy with the plight of foreign migrant workers in Lebanon who have been displaced in this aggression. We demand that their governments give all necessary assistance. This is an important part of the large-scale displacement of one million Lebanese creating a major humanitarian crisis.

The Israeli policy of "collective punishment" has destroyed civilian infrastructure including residential complexes, entire villages in south Lebanon, bridges, roads, power stations, gas stations that will require billions of dollars to reconstruct. We call on the international community to help the people of Lebanon in this gigantic task of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

We welcome the ceasefire and call for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon. Israel must pay reparation for the victims of the aggression. We call upon the global peace movement, including the Israeli peace movement, to resist the Israeli-US aggression. 

We condemn the partisan role of the international media that has been part of the US-Israeli disinformation strategy.

We recommend:

- the setting up of an international war crimes tribunal for the trial of Israeli policy-makers and the military for crimes against humanity; the international peace movement must facilitate this process;

- the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon including the Shebaa Farms;

- the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state;

- the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Syrian Golan heights;

- the release of all prisoners in Israeli jails;

- the end of US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; 

- the end to all US and Israeli threats to Iran and Syria.

Mission members:

Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Mohammed Salim, MP, Communist Party of India (Marxist), India Kjeld Jakobsen, CUT Brazil and Hemispheric Social Alliance, Brazil Mujiv Hataman, MP, Anak Mindanao, Philippines Seema Mustafa, Resident Editor, Asian Age, India Kamal Chenoy, All India Peace and Solidarity Organization, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament, India Kari Kobberoed Brustad, Norsk Bonde-Og Smakbrukarlag, Norway, La Via Campesina Gerard Durand, Confederation Paysanne, France, La Via Campesina Feroze Mithiborwala, Forum against War and Terror, Mumbai, India Vijaya Chauhan, Rastra Seva Dal (Youth Organization), India Herbert Docena, Focus on the Global South, Philippines German Guillot, interpreter, Spain

Annex 2: Declaration of Via Campesina 
16-Aug-2006

La Via Campesina is an international organisation working in defence of small farmers, fishermen and women, landless and agricultural workers. This movement includes over 130 organisations and represents tens of millions of farmers. It fights against the neo-liberal model of globalisation that places economic interests over and above social and environmental conditions.

La Via Campesina has participated with two delegates* in an international mission of solidarity with the people of Lebanon. The mission was organised in response to appeals from several Lebanese organisations. Twelve representatives of social movements, unions, human rights organisations and unions as well as members of parliament are part of this mission.

La Via Campesina was in Lebanon to meet the social movements, to visit the area, to witness and to make known the terrible consequences of this war for the population. We also want to give our direct support to the organisations of civil society which are confronted which the destruction of their country and the dramatic effects for the population. La Via Campesina is especially concerned about the consequences for peasants and agricultural workers in the South of the Lebanon who are heavily hit by this conflict.

The delegation has met different political parties that support the resistance in Lebanon as well as Hizbullah. Other meetings have taken place with Lebanese social movements (anti-war movements, environmental organisations), the president of the Republic M. Emile Lahoud and representatives of the External Affairs Committee of the Lebanese Parliament and members of the group led by Nabil Berri, president of the Parliament.

The delegation has visited the heavily bombed suburbs of South Beirut. Two hours after the departure of the mission other bombings took place. The delegation met wounded in a hospital as well as displaced persons that had sought refuge in a school.

Part of the La Via Campesina delegation made use of the cease-fire to go to Saida, about 40 km South of Beirut in order to meet peasants of the Organisation of Lebanese Farm Workers.

All the political forces and organisations that we have met have insisted on the fact that the Israeli aggression had nothing to do with the kidnapping of the two soldiers by Hizbullah but was planned already months before by the United States and its ally in the region, Israel, who only needed a pretext for their agression.

We were able to observe that the vast majority of the Lebanese population supports the armed resistance, mainly by Hizbullah but also by other groups. The civil population also resists actively through its unity in times of crisis - thereby resisting one of the objectives of this aggression aimed at the fragmentation of Lebanese society. Its resistance is also shown through the will to make a joint front against the chaos caused by the war, through mobilisation of solidarity helping the million of displaced persons and through preventive actions that have avoided an even bigger humanitarian catastrophe for the whole of the country.

In Lebanon there is only one general peasant union, non confessional and independent of political parties. This is the Union of Lebanese Farm Workers that have explained to us that the South of Lebanon has been devastated by the bombings. As much as 70% of the animal and vegetal production has been destroyed (sheep, goats, cows, bananas, coffee, tobacco etc.) as well as numerous houses if not entire villages.

La Via Campesina not only defends the right to justice, equality and solidarity for farmers, but for all people. That is why during the big international gatherings such as the World Social Forum and other spaces of struggle (such as mobilisations against G8, WTO, World Bank and IMF) and in its efforts to build alliances, La Via Campesina works with the international social movement to form a front of resistance to neo-liberal ideology and to promote alternative policies. When people are assaulted economically or militarily, as in the case of the Lebanese, we must respond with solidarity and a call for resistance.

Together with others of the social movement, La Via Campesina denounces the aggression against the civilian population and demands an immediate halt of the war, the retreat of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and the placement of an international peacekeeping force under the direction of the United Nations.

All hostilities must stop in order to facilitate a solution by the way of negotiation which recognizes the rights and the needs of all people touched by this conflict. We can never accept a military way as a solution to the conflict. A return to the negotiating table for an overall agreement is the only solution.

All people have the right to live in peace with the full recognition of their fundamental rights.

* Gerard Durand of the Confederation Paysanne - France and Kari Kobberoed Brustad of NBS (Norwegian Small Holders Union) - Norway 

The Milli Gazette Online
10 September 2006

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