August 3, 2006
Israel's Raid on Baalbeck's Hospital
Time to Call It Quits
By SAREE MAKDISI
Israeli commandos staged a daring raid the other night on the ancient Lebanese town of Baalbeck, catching Hassan Nasrallah asleep, bundling him into a waiting helicopter, and spiriting him back to Israel.
They also nabbed his son, another relative, and a neighbor for good measure. Israel claims that the men are members of Hizballah, albeit not the ones they were hoping for. Their relatives and neighbors, and Hizballah itself, deny this.
The raid was focused on the , which was heavily damaged by the Israeli raiders and supporting fire from aircraft. The hospital, however, was found to be empty. The kidnapped men were, according to local sources, taken from their homes.
To provide cover before and during the raid on the hospital, Israeli aircraft
Israel's aerial torment of a population entirely lacking in air defenses and even proper air raid shelters has now killed some 900 people, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, and about a third of them children. It has displaced almost a million people from their homes. It has devastated Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. It has reduced entire towns in the south-including Bint Jbeil, once home to 30,000 people-to rubble. And it has left block after block after block of Beirut in total ruins. (All this while Israel is at the same time holding the 1.4 million destitute people of the Gaza Strip in the world's largest prison, bombarding them day and night, and sadistically depriving them of sleep at night by repeatedly breaking the sound barrier at low altitude).
After three weeks of devastating bombardment, Israel's much vaunted army finds itself unable to fight its way more than a few kilometers into Lebanon. The heavy resistance they have encountered on the ground is the most obvious explanation for why the Israelis prefer on the whole to go on dropping bombs on children from a safe distance: not only is it less dangerous, it also involves much less effort.
, including the refugees sheltering in Qana (an event whose cover story has gone through at least three variations, none of them convincing to anyone other than the Israelis themselves).
Surely this would be the right moment for Israel to give up and call it quits.
Saree Makdisi, a professor of English at UCLA, is the author of Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (University of Chicago Press, 2003). He can be reached through his blog or at: email@example.com