Hezbollah’s Qana Caper: Recent Socialist Rant Places Ideology over Facts

By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

Once again the world’s gullible and its ideologues have swallowed whole another terrorist claim of an “Israeli massacre.” The world was told that 54 people, mostly women and children, were killed after an Israeli rocket hit a residential building in Qana, Lebanon. And the reactions were swift to condemn Israel. Newspapers and blogs in Europe and the Muslim world called it a massacre. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council to condemn Israel. But while swift, the response was uncritical, despite the fact that contradictions almost from the moment it was first screamed should have called its veracity into question. As more facts emerge, it is becoming ever clearer that Qana is merely the latest “Israeli massacre” that never was.

Typical of the gleeful reaction was a piece in Asian Tribune by Australian socialist, Mike Head. The piece was full of sloganeering, ideology, hyperbole, and unsubstantiated accusations. But what it did not have was fact. He failed to provide any verifiable facts at all about Qana, but merely attributed it—with not so much as a “trust me” for the reader to go on—as the pretext for Israel expanding its war plans. And that was odd, as well, given Head’s reliance on a view of Israel and the United States as evil hegemonists, unconcerned about “world opinion.”

Since Head refuses to cite facts, we can do so here. The first is the time discrepancy. All parties agree that the last Israeli bomb to hit the building was at 1am. Yet, the first report of any deaths from the scene came at 8am, seven hours later. An explosion strong enough to “flatten” a building (as described in the press) would be loud enough to waken the town. The fire would light up the sky. But none of that was reported. This delay is characteristic of a pattern found frequently in this war: that due to secondary explosion. Specifically, Hezbollah has made no secret that it hides its stocks rockets and explosives throughout buildings in Lebanon, including apartments and other residential locations. Group members even pose for pictures with their deadly stocks in these residential buildings. Quite often, the Israelis will attack a location based on intelligence identifying them as legitimate targets, but the initial strikes cause only little damage. The real devastation often comes hours later when fires, structural damage, or heavy vibrations from the attacks go on to ignite and set off the Hezbollah munitions. This is one likely explanation for Qana.

Senior Israeli officials on Monday produced evidence of consistent intelligence that Hezbollah rocket launchers were concealed in civilian buildings in the village and fired on Israeli civilians. Interestingly, Head and his like show no concern for the Israelis murdered by these rockets in Kiryat Shemona, Afula, Ma'alot, and other Israeli cities and towns. And in fact, Israel has also released video footage of rocket launchers being driven into and fired from Qana. Further intelligence indicated that Hezbollah operatives were inside that particular building, along with Katyusha rockets and launchers. Numerous media, and Hezbollah members themselves, have reported that the group’s fighters typically run into nearby buildings after firing rockets. A senior Israeli officer noted that the air force “has been bombing Kafr Kana for three days already... Most civilians have left already, and most of those who remain are Hizbullah rocket launching cells.”

Most damning of Hezbollah were photographs smuggled out by journalists from the Herald Sun of Head’s own Australia. The photographs are powerful and show Hezbollah terrorists using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy caliber weapons. The photographs show them carrying automatic assault rifles and riding on trucks mounted with canon and wearing civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear. In east Beirut’s Wadi Chahrour area, images show one group of men and youths preparing to fire an anti-aircraft gun from an apartment block with sheets hanging out on a balcony to dry. Another depicts the remnants of a Hezbollah Katyusha rocket destroyed in an Israeli air attack without destroying the residential block where it was situated. The Australian man who smuggled out the shots out confirmed that he was close to the site when it was obliterated. Head was fond of quoting the UN’s humanitarian chief in Lebanon, Jan Egeland. But he conveniently neglected to mention that Egeland has become quite outspoken against Hezbollah. He recently called them “cowards” for operating among civilians. “When I was in Lebanon, in the Hezbollah heartland, I said Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending in among women and children,” he said.

But the terror group’s efforts appear at times even more insidious. Israeli General Amir Eshel reported that as recently as two days prior, military intelligence reported the building area had been used by the terrorists for storage or firing of weapons. It was a bad place to cram dozens of women and children.

Did Hezbollah purposely herd civilians into that place expecting an Israeli attack that they could use as a pretext to force a premature cease fire that would save them from devastation? CNN’s Ben Wedeman noted that the roof of the building was intact and observed that the building appeared not to have collapsed as a result of the Israeli strike. Hezbollah has cried that the victims were killed in their sleep. Yet, since the building was not destroyed, is it likely that they would have remained there or would have slept through the alleged thunderous Israeli raid?

Once journalists were called to the scene, Hezbollah fighters kept what they could see and where they could go carefully restricted. (As CNN’s Nic Robertson noted once he was out of Lebanon, the only way journalists have access to information in Lebanon is when it is stage managed by Hezbollah.) No one was allowed to evacuate the building until the camera crews came. This also means that Hezbollah already knew that everyone inside was dead, even before investigating it. And indeed, no live or injured people were extracted. This is highly unlikely in this sort of situation, and no one would assume it to be the case as it appears Hezbollah did. Or did they know in advance what was to happen?

Wedeman also noted that there was little blood, and that journalists were not allowed near the building. Rescue workers filmed as they went, occasionally flipping up the blankets so that cameras could show the faces and bodies of the dead. Israelis and others experienced with scenes of carnage noticed that the ashen faced victims already were showing rigor mortis; effects that would not have manifested so soon after the time of the attack. Did a cynical and ghoulish Hezbollah truck in dead bodies that they were hording for just such an opportunity? This is another possible reason for the carnage in Qana.

Whichever it is, there is less and less likelihood of an Israeli massacre. This would be in keeping with manufactured massacres in Jenin in 2002, on the beach in Gaza earlier this year, and the death of young Mohammed al Dura; all of which have been proven conclusively to have been staged. And in fact the debunkers were a German socialist magazine and others not known to be overly friendly toward Israel. The French journalist responsible for the al Dura libel has been disciplined.

Finally, it must be asked who benefits from the Qana incident? Certainly, Israel does not. It has come under increasing pressure to halt its anti-terrorist operations before it can finish destroying Hezbollah. That is precisely what happened after an incident in Qana it 1996, resulting in a Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure that provoked today’s conflict. Certainly, the United States does not benefit. It, too, is coming under great pressure to change its policy supporting Israeli success in destroying Hezbollah prior to a cease fire. And certainly, the people of Lebanon do not gain from more death and destruction.

No, the only winners in this are Hezbollah and Iran. Iran gains because the growing world attention and consensus to stop its nuclear weapon ambitions has been sidetracked with the Middle East violence. Hezbollah is attempting to use the incident cynically to take the moral high ground—reprehensible since it rejoices in the deliberate targeting of Israeli citizens. (That is not entirely the case. While it cheers the deaths of Israeli Jews, Hezbollah apologized to the parents of two Israeli Arabs killed by one of its rockets in Nazareth.) It is trying to advance its designs to survive the Israeli counterattack to its unprovoked attack by manipulating the international community in pushing for a pre-mature cease fire.

Mike Head has shown his bias before. The World Socialist Web Site, of which he is part, seems never to have met a terrorist it did not like. In a current article on the fighting in Sri Lanka, it consistently reports the LTTE position, while calling the government’s “biased.” “The rapid expansion of the conflict gives the lie to government claims that it is carrying out a limited, “humanitarian” [and has] exploited the issue as the pretext for launching an offensive to seize LTTE territory, in clear breach of the 2002 ceasefire agreement.” That sounds like the same refrain he used to explain the phantom massacre in Qana.

Head himself has made clear that he comes from a position that automatically sees the side supported by the United States and Israel as wrong; he has even said that Australian Prime Minister John Howard should be put on trial for war crimes! But, like many others, Head would prefer to wallow in his delusional ideology than to face the truth of what happened in Hezbollah’s Qana caper.

- Asian Tribune -