Robert Fisk: Why should Europeans protect Israel?

The enlarged Nato/Unifil force is not going to preserve 'peace'

The Independent

Published: 26 August 2006

First, it was to be a 15,000-strong foreign army to reinforce the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Unifil. Now it is to be about 7,500. And it will not disarm Hizbollah. And anyway, Hizbollah refuses to be disarmed.

The French would send 200 men; then they sent 400. Then the Italians would send 3,000. Then the French would send another 2,000, making their total contribution 2,600, including the company that has remained in Unifil since the French were hurled out of the peacekeeping organisation back in 1986 after fighting Shia militias in the Lebanese village of Marrake (of which no mention will be made, any more than it is on the BBC). And now the Belgians might send 700. And the Turks? Well, the Lebanese Armenians are objecting to their contribution on the grounds - perfectly accurate, though the BBC will not tell you this - that the Turkish army perpetrated the genocide of one and a half Christian million Armenians in 1915. Oh, what a wondrous plot we weave when first we practise to deceive.

This, of course, applies to everyone in the Lebanese swamp. Self-deception - or self-delusion - has become a cancer throughout both the Middle East and the west; and amid the EU countries that are now bidding to send their young men to sacrifice their lives in Lebanon. They are going to preserve peace, we are told; they are going to maintain a ceasefire; they are going to save lives.

So a big Ho-Ho-Ho from the world of reality. The enlarged Nato/Unifil force is not going to preserve "peace". It is going to maintain a " buffer" zone to protect Israel after the latter's dismal failure to destroy, disarm and liquidate the Iranian-armed Hizbollah guerrilla army over the past seven weeks. The UN may deny that it is a buffer zone for the Israelis - but if it was a buffer zone to protect Lebanese (the numerically higher victims of this latest war), it would be based, surely, inside the Israeli frontier. But no, it is there to protect Israel.

Note how the Arabs have accepted this. Note how we have accepted this - how we have sublimely gone along with the idea that Israel's security and happiness are more important than the security and happiness of the millions of Muslims also living in this region. Our soldiers are to be deployed to protect Israel. Do we really think that the Arabs don't realise this? And do we think that our western governments don't realise this when they huff and puff over whether to send soldiers to the Middle East?

Needless to say, the Americans and the British want no part of this mess. After Iraq and Afghanistan, they have no stomach to defend Israel, let alone Lebanon. Their job is to push the European masses into the bog they have created by their injustice and cowardice in the Middle East. President Bush promises "intelligence" assistance to the Unifil force - which means Israeli "intelligence", and we all know how good that is - while Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara offers not a single hero to give his life, which is as well after his outrageous sacrifice of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But while Europe's other political masters dithered this week, BBC World Service laid down a familiar narrative for its listeners. "It seems," said their man on The World Today, that the Europeans - how I hate these cheap clichés - "are prepared to talk the talk but not walk the walk." In other words, those bloody Wops and Frogs and Boche, not to mention the Dagos and the ungrateful Finns and Norwegians, were gutless little chicken shit when it came to standing by their European principles.

Those principles, it is now clear, are supposed to be the sacrifice of their soldiers' lives for the latest UN Security Council Resolution cooked up by America and France (and, a bit, by Lord Blair) in New York. But the BBC got it completely wrong. The Europeans are not nervous about military losses or unclear mandates. They had plenty of both in Bosnia.

What is happening in Europe is that a growing number of states that had nothing to do with the Balfour Declaration or the Sykes-Picot agreement or the 1948 Middle East war or the 1967 Middle East war or the 1973 Middle East war or the 1982 Middle East war in Lebanon or the 1993 Israeli bombardment of Lebanon or the 1996 Israeli bombardment of Lebanon or the latest 2006 bombardment and "petit" invasion of Lebanon (after Hizbollah's outrageous provocation by crossing the international frontier) are simply sick and tired of clearing up the dirt after these filthy Arab-Israeli wars.

Most of Europe had no part in the Balfour Declaration. Much of Europe had an unforgivable role in the Jewish Holocaust. But the decades pass by, and the generations now being asked to sail to the Middle East do not even have parental guilt to absolve for the genocide of the Jews of Europe, any more than modern Turks can be proclaimed guilty for their grandparents' rape and murder of one and a half million Armenians. The Europeans, to put it mildly, are tired of being asked to atone for the sins of their grandparents. Maybe it is time, they are asking, for the Israelis and Arabs to pay for their own sick wars.

There is nothing immoral in this. President Bush claims that the Israelis won their war against the Hizbollah and humbled the organisation's supporters in Iran and Syria. Yet not even the Israelis claim this.

Now the Europeans - and perhaps the Turks, and certainly the poor old Lebanese army - are supposed to achieve all Israel's failed objectives. And when they fail - as they assuredly will, because Nato is not going to go to war with Islam - Israel will accuse them of abandoning poor little Israel.

The French will be reminded - as they were under the first Unifil mandate - that Vichy France handed its Jews to the Nazis, and the Belgians will be reminded (no doubt) that half their country was pro-Nazi and the Italians will be reminded that they elected fascism into power, and the Spaniards will be reminded that Franco was a fascist.

And the Arabs will sit silently by and watch the Europeans betray them all over again. And the winners? Syria. Iran. And all those enraged by the injustice and hypocrisy of our "democracies".