Book Review: The 33-Day War

Global Dimensions

On July 12, 2006 Israeli forces attacked Lebanon. Authors Gilbert Achcar of Lebanon and Michael Warschawski of Israel investigated the ensuing "July War" or "33-Day War" and are already warning of a continuation. Beate Hinrichs presents their book

Israeli artillery pieces fire across the border into southern Lebanon (photo: AP)
Israeli's leadership was completely unprepared and in military terms ill-equipped to fight the war in Lebanon

​​The Israeli-Lebanese war in July/August 2007 was not only about Israel and Lebanon. It was also a proxy war. The USA wanted to deal a blow to its archenemy Iran, so it had its ally Israel attack the Iran-supported Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. And in the process it also used the UN as tool.

These are core theories put forth by Gilbert Achcar and Michael Warschawski. The Lebanese political scientist and the Israeli peace activist from the two "hostile states" joined forces to try to get to the bottom of the causes and consequences of the military campaign of July 12 to August 14, 2006 - the 33-Day War.

A whole country held hostage

The war was premeditated. This has not only been proven by US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, but has even been admitted in the meantime by Israeli politicians.

​​After Syria withdrew from Lebanon in spring 2005, Washington wanted to see Hezbollah disarmed – something that was provided for in UN Resolution 1559. But the power of Hezbollah remained unshaken.

What's more, in July 2005 the anti-American hardliner Ahmadinejad won the presidential elections in Iran, and in January 2006 the radical Islamic Hamas Party gained the majority in the Palestinian parliament. After these political setbacks, the USA wanted to at least "clean house" in Lebanon.

Washington and Jerusalem now only needed the right pretense. It was supplied by the Hezbollah when they abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006. They wanted to exchange them for Lebanese prisoners, a tactic that had already proven effective in the past.

But this time, no hostages were exchanged. Instead, an entire country was taken hostage in an effort to force the Hezbollah to give up – a serious miscalculation on the part of the Lebanese militia.

War at the expense of the Israeli citizens

The Israeli government made an even more glaring miscalculation, however. The Lebanese population would not let itself be incited against the Hezbollah – the war neither weakened the militia (let alone disarm them) nor did it effect the release of the two Israeli hostages.

Michael Warschawski (photo: &copy Edition Nautilus)
Michael Warschawski

​​Israeli's leadership was completely unprepared for this turn of events. Their "colonial arrogance" and "racist contempt for the Arabs," in the words of Achcar and Warschawski, induced them to feel superior to the enemy without knowing or understanding it – a typical mistake made by colonial powers who cede the field to their military forces.

But, even in military terms, Israel was ill-equipped to fight this war. Accustomed to exerting "unilateral repression" against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli troops now stood face-to-face with well-trained fighters.

The civil defense facilities and supply systems for the Israeli population were in a correspondingly desolate state. Israel fought this war at the expense of its own citizens.

Instrumentalization of the UN

Why didn't the Israelis mount mass protests against the campaign? Because it was sold to them as a "war in self-defense" – ostensibly part of the global battle against militant Islam, according to the authors.

The UN was also harnessed in this "global campaign." The USA blocked any discussion of a ceasefire in the UN Security Council for three weeks – in order to "buy more time for Israel" the authors discovered. They conclude that this stratagem represents "one of the worst cases of paralyzing this intergovernmental institution in the six decades of its existence."

Gilbert Achcar (photo: &copy Edition Nautilus)
Gilbert Achcar

​​Resolution 1701, which on August 11, 2006 demanded a ceasefire, came out correspondingly one-sided. It provides for stationing additional international troops on the territory of the occupied country. "The whole resolution is worded as if Lebanon were the aggressor!"

This is what Achcar and Warschawski see as the genuinely global dimensions of this war, with implications reaching far beyond the Middle East: "The UN is being used as a fig leaf for military operations that Washington is conducting with NATO and other allies, the way it has been doing in Afghanistan since December 2001."

The account written by the Lebanese-Israeli authors is not a detailed documentation of the course of the war, but rather a comprehensive and enlightening analysis of the political structures behind the conflict.

Because these structures still exist, the book also points beyond the 33-Day War. Achcar and Warschawski assert that Lebanon has become Israel's Vietnam, something the country refuses to own up to. And they warn that Washington and Jerusalem are already gearing up for a second round.

Beate Hinrichs

© 2007

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor-Gaida

Gilbert Achcar / Michael Warschawski: The 33-Day War. Israel's War on Hezbollah in Lebanon and Its Aftermath. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, February 2007. 128 pages, Paperback, $17.95

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