By Walden Bello*


BEIRUT, Lebanon – The wounds of war were evident shortly after we crossed 

the Syria-Lebanon border at 1130 in the morning on August 12.  At Haissa, about 

three kilometers from the Dabboussiyeh border crossing, we come across the 

ruins of a bridge hit by Israeli war planes just the day before.  Villagers tell

us 12 people were killed and 10 wounded, all  civilians.


An Anti-Civilian War?


Twenty minutes later, at a place called Abu Shamra, we come across the

remains of a gasoline station and bridge, the targets of an Israeli

airstrike just eight hours earlier.  “Now, what was the military logic

behind that?” asks Seema Mustafa, an Indian journalist with our

international peace delegation of 12 people.  It is a question shared by the

Lebanese who tell us what happened.


At three other places, Matfoun, Halat, and near the famous Casino du Lebanon

at Jumieh, we have to take detours around bridges and vehicles destroyed by

Israeli attacks.   These are sites very far from the front in Southern

Lebanon, in a part of the country where Hezbollah, the movement Israel is

fighting, has very little presence.  These very fresh instances of

destruction bring home to us one of the key features of the Israeli

offensive:  it has deliberately targeted non-military infrastructure to

raise the costs of the war for the civilian population.


With evidence of Israel’s anti-civilian strategy fresh in our minds, we are

not surprised when we hear, after arriving in Beirut, about the strafing of

a convoy of civilians leaving the town of Marieyoun in the South.  On

Friday, several hundred cars left the town, after negotiations between the

Israelis and the non-belligerent Lebanese Army.  As it snaked up North, it

came under fire repeatedly from Israeli planes with at least six people

killed and many others wounded.  What was the reason for violating the

agreement? The Israeli excuses ranged from “it was a mistake” to “suspicion

that the convoy was carrying Hezbollah guerrillas.”  Nahla Chahal, one of

the coordinators of international civil society delegations to Lebanon,

tells us: “The deliberate attacks on civilians is a new element in Israel’s

redrafting of the rules of war. It’s nothing less than a war crime.”


Herbert Docena, one of the members of our delegation who spent time in

occupied Iraq, says, “What is different between Iraq and here is that in

Iraq, the US does seem to have a modicum of concern about international

public opinion.  Here, the Israelis simply don’t care about public opinion.

So it’s more dangerous.”


Israel and Hezbollah: Contrasting Strategies


The delegation is told at a briefing on the evening of our arrival by our

Lebanese hosts that the contrast between the war strategies of the Israelis

and the Hezbollah is evident in the nature of the casualties: most of the

more than 1000 Lebanese killed by the Israeli armed forces are civilians,

while most of the more than 100 Israelis who have died in the war so far are



There is, in fact, a strong sense of pride in the Hezbollah’s military

performance that is evident as we are briefed that evening by

representatives of several of Lebanon’s political parties, including the

right-wing Free Lebanon Movement led by Gen. Aoun, the centrist “Third

Force,” the Lebanese Communist Party, and the Hezbollah itself.  According

to Dr. Issam Naaman of the Third Force, the war has now lasted 31 days, more

than any of the previous Arab-Israeli wars. “At this point, it is clear that

Israel has lost the war on the ground and is trying to get at the diplomatic

front, with the support of the United States, what it has lost on the

military side.”


A New Nasser?


The destruction of some 34 Israeli Merkava tanks in Friday’s fighting, the

death of some 19 Israeli soldiers—the highest so far in this month-long

war–and the downing of an Israeli helicopter are cited as proof not only of

a victory by the Hezbollah, around whom some 87 per cent of the Lebanese

people, according to the polls, now seemed to have gotten behind in its

resistance to Israel.  Equally important, it becomes clear to us at the

briefing that for Arabs, the successful resistance of a few hundred

well-motivated and well trained Hezbollah guerrillas has ended the era of

Arab humiliation by Israel’s military might.


“It’s really quite interesting and exciting,” comments Seema Mustafa, the

Indian journalist, “the way the Arab Street has come behind Hassan

Nasrallah.”  Indeed, the man one Hezbollah representative at the briefing

fondly refers to as “our baby faced” leader is achieving a status once

reserved for Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader.  This point was

brought home to me by Taufik, the driver who ferried us from Damascus to

Beirut, who said as he steered us through the detour around one of the

bombed bridges earlier in the day, “I belong to no party except the one that

can bring food to my family.  But I really like this man Nasrallah.  He has

brought pride to all of us Lebanese.”




*Walden Bello is a member of the 12-person Civil Society-Parliamentary Peace

Mission that is currently in Lebanon.  He is a professor at the University

of the Philippines and the executive director of the research and advocacy

institute Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok, Thailand.