As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing political challenges at home he may seek to provoke a confrontation in Lebanon.
Last week, civilians in several towns on Lebanon’s southern border were faced with illumination flares and phosphorus munitions fired by the Israeli army into Lebanese territory.
The Israeli regime initially spoke of a “security incident” and later announced it was conducting strikes on “Hezbollah posts” without presenting any evidence.
Numerous international media outlets adopted official Israeli statements as headlines. It became breaking news that Israel took action “in response” to fire coming from Hezbollah. Lebanese narratives remain absent, as does Israel’s structural aggression.
But Tuesday’s incident and the reactions to it are part of a familiar pattern.
While international media focuses on the tense situation at the border every once in a while, Israeli incursions into Lebanon are neither new nor accidental. Israel violates Lebanese sovereignty several times a day, as the Israeli military infiltrates Lebanon by land, sea, and air.
Within the first five months of 2020, the Lebanese government registered over 1,000 Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty by land, sea, and air. The Israeli army has also repeatedly used Lebanese airspace to launch airstrikes on Syria.
Israeli military jets and spy drones are omnipresent. In fact, they have become part of the landscape in the south of Lebanon and are often heard and felt in Beirut as well. Israeli incursions include mock raids and reconnaissance flights.
Whether Israel intends to scare or intimidate civilians, collect intelligence, or provoke a reaction from Hezbollah, Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty are a form of state violence that affects millions of people daily – in particular the country’s south with its majority Shia population.
Lebanon has, on several occasions filed complaints at the United Nations, to no avail. Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council condemned the latest Israeli assault and announced it would bring the issue again to the UN.
Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and international law are a continuous component of Israel’s structural aggression towards Lebanon. This aggression needs to be viewed within the colonial and expansionist nature of the Israeli regime in Palestine and its role as a US proxy whose supremacy is guaranteed by its Western allies.
Israeli-Lebanese tensions precede the formation of Hezbollah by more than three decades. Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since 1948 when the Zionist movement proclaimed the state of Israel in Palestine and forcefully expelled the majority of Palestinians into neighbouring countries.
Israel has had a destabilising and destructive impact on Lebanon and played a significant role in the Lebanese Civil War. Israel kept South Lebanon under military occupation until the year 2000, with help from its local proxies. In 2006, Israel launched another war against Lebanon, targeting civilians and the country’s infrastructure.
Hezbollah, which in the 1980s emerged as a resistance and liberation movement against the Israeli occupation and Israeli proxies in south Lebanon, has naturally been labelled a “terrorist organisation” by Israel and its allies.
The Israeli threats continue today. Genocidal provocations accompany Israeli military jets in Lebanese skies. In the past years, some Israeli officials have threatened to destroy Lebanon altogether and bomb Lebanon back to the Middle Ages or the Stone Age.
On social media, Israeli government-linked accounts continue to ridicule Lebanese in general, and the country’s Shia population, in particular. Israel made clear it would target all of Lebanon - not only Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, several Western journalists and correspondents in Beirut rarely address this issue in detail. While the daily incursions of the Israeli military in Lebanon are nearly entirely absent from foreign media coverage, there seems to be a significant emphasis on Hezbollah’s reactions.
When Hezbollah shot down an Israeli drone that was illegally infiltrating South Lebanon last week, there was some “breaking news.” But, like with Tuesday’s incident, there is a tendency among many Western media outlets to base their headlines on official Israeli statements.
This is in line with Israel’s colonial tactic of dehumanising indigenous peoples, which is shared by Israel’s Western allies.
Tel Aviv usually presents any Israeli attack against Lebanon as a necessary self-defence against “terrorism.” This is not different from Israel’s violence in Gaza or the West Bank, where every Palestinian victim is either in advance or posthumously rhetorically converted into a terrorist, i.e., a legitimate target. Resistance is terrorism, and civilian homes are terrorist strongholds.
In Lebanon, those that Israel warplanes target are rarely presented as human beings, civilians, as survivors of previous Israeli violence, but rather as part of terrorist infrastructure. Sometimes even their indigeneity in Lebanon and loyalty to the country is questioned, as supporters of Hezbollah are referred to as Iranian agents.
There is of course, also a strategic component to Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanese sovereignty. Hezbollah remains Israel’s nearest threat. Tel Aviv has, along with other US proxies and partners, aggressively pushed for a broader conflict against Hezbollah, Iran, and their allies.
The Israeli army has also seemed nervous about a potential retaliation by Hezbollah, ever since the IDF killed Hezbollah member Ali Kamel Mohsen through an airstrike in Syria in July.
Following the assassination, the IDF has shown increased activity at the Lebanese border. On several occasions, Israeli residents have been ordered to stay indoors, and roads have been closed heightening fear that there may be an escalation.
We also have to pay attention to the ongoing protests against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption. An increasingly desperate Netanyahu keen on presenting himself as a hero defending Israel may well like to see a skirmish with Hezbollah or increase violations of Lebanese sovereignty to sure up his beleaguered position at home.
One thing is for sure the so-called Hezbollah threat is a potential lifeline for Netanyahu one that he is likely to grasp firmly with grave consequences for Lebanon.
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