Just who is winning, or has won, the war in the Middle East?
Lebanon has been virtually pulverized to powder. Over one thousand people have been killed [over half of them women and childen], and nearly four thousand wounded. An estimated $3 billion of infra-structural damage, with one million Lebanese displaced with no homes to return to. Fuel and food shortages are pervasive, critically endangering life. Its Prime Minister, Fuad Siniora, ostensibly supported by craven Arab leaders, is crying and pleading at the United Nations, begging for an end to the war.
Israel, on the other hand, has remained relatively unscathed. More than one hundred Israelis have been killed and 700 wounded. Three to four hundred thousand Israelis have been evacuated inland into camps from its northern borders. There has been virtually no infra-structural damage. Its Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, basking with the support of the Western leadership, seeks instead, to widen the war.
Yet, military pundits and analysts seem to suggest that Hizbullah, not Israel, are not only winning, but in fact, have already won the war, whatever happens in the coming weeks. In the Arab World Hizbullah has emerged as the winners, with its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah replacing Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nassar, as the most charismatic of all Arab leaders.
In 1967 Israel demolished the Arab armies in six days, with Egypt losing 264 aircraft and 700 battle tanks, Jordan 22 aircraft and 125 tanks, and Syria 58 aircraft and 105 tanks. The only equipment losses suffered by Israel in the 1967 war were 40 aircraft and 100 battle tanks. Since then, Israel has become the fourth strongest, thirteenth largest, and one of the world’s most highly trained and best-equipped militaries.
Israel has 125,000 soldiers with another 500,000 reserves; 3,600 tanks; 95 attack helicopters; 400 fighter aircraft; 5,500 assorted artillery; 10,500 armoured personnel carriers; scores of unmanned aerial vehicles, and of course 400-plus nuclear bombs. Hizbullah has about 5,000 fighters; 13000 short-ranged rockets; small-armed weapons including anti-tank, RPG’s, mortars and rifles. No aircraft, no helicopters, no tanks, no missiles.
Yet, Israel’s legendary military superiority is now in tatters. Hizbullah has effectively shattered the myth of Arab impotence, and Israeli invincibility. Observing carefully are Hizbullah’s comrades-in-arms, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They will certainly be bolstered by the effectiveness of the relatively primitive Katyusha rockets to overcome the 8 metre high Wall encircling Occupied Palestinian land.
Hizbullah’s discipline, steadfastness, planning, and perhaps paramount, secretiveness, which minimised Israeli intelligence infiltration, is just some of the valuable lessons that will undoubtedly be absorbed. This is evident when Israel claimed to have “eradicated their (Hizbullah) command and control structure” was met with a barrage of Katyusha rockets smashing into Israel.
The grotesque crime of colossal magnitude committed by Israel on the civilian population of Lebanon and Palestine have catapulted Hizbullah and Hamas as the only defenders of Lebanon and Palestine, as the paralysed Arab dictators and monarchies expose their military impotence and political bankruptcy.
Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East reporter encapsulates the new mood in the Arab streets: "The idea that if you continue to beat and beat and beat the Arabs, they will submit, that eventually they’ll go on their knees and give you what you want. And this is totally, utterly self-delusional, because it doesn’t apply anymore. It used to apply 30 years ago, when I first arrived in the Middle East. If the Israelis crossed the Lebanese border, the Palestinians jumped in their cars and drove to Beirut and went to the cinema. Now when the Israelis cross the Lebanese border, the Hezbollah jump in their cars in Beirut and race to the south to join battle with them.
"…the key thing now is that Arabs are not afraid any more. Their leaders are afraid, the Mubaraks of this world, the president of Egypt, King Abdullah II of Jordan. They’re afraid. They shake and tremble in their golden mosques, because they were supported by us. But the people are no longer afraid. Whether this is because they’ve grown tired of being afraid – you know, they say once you lose your fear you cannot be re-injected with fear, you can’t start being frightened again – or whether it’s because our western forces are now at war with ‘Islamists’, not with nationalists."
Even if Hizbullah’s resistance disintegrates in the face of overwhelming American-supplied Israeli firepower, its valiant stand against a brutal occupier has solidified a united Muslim front cutting across the ethnic sunni/shia divisions throughout the world. The paradigm of guerrilla military tactics of a determined and disciplined group of dedicated fighters against one of the most sophisticated armies in the world will surely be emulated, convulsing not just Israel, but the Arab palaces in the entire region and their supporters in the Western world.