Greens have no answer to war in Lebanon
Locke has been a fixture at demonstrations against the invasion of Lebanon, but when he has spoken at these events he has frequently sounded out of tune with many of his fellow protesters. In Auckland a couple of weeks ago he was heckled when he insisted on condemning Israel and the Lebanese resisting Israel's invasion of Lebanon equally. His call for a 'United Nations solution' to the conflict also met with some jeers from members of the audience who regarded the UN as hopelessly dominated by the US and other imperialist powers and unable to act in the interests of the Lebanese people.
Locke's latest statement is an example of everything that is wrong with the Green approach to international affairs. Locke calls for an immediate ceasefire by both Israel and the Lebanese resisting Israeli invasion. But such a call ignores the fact that the Lebanese are fighting a just and necessary war of self-defence against an Israeli invasion, which has cost the lives of close to a thousand civilians.
Contrary to what Fox News and the White House have been telling us, Hizbollah did not 'provoke' Israel when they took two Israeli soldiers prisoner last month. Hizbollah were merely responding under popular pressure to the continuing occupation of Lebanese territory by Israel in the Shebaa Farms area, to the refusal of Israel to release Lebanese abducted in cross-border raids, to a series of acts of aggression on the border and to the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army.
Israel had been preparing for a new invasion of Lebanon for a long time, and seized upon the two prisoners Hizbollah had taken as an excuse. Since the Israeli invasion began, Lebanese have united behind the Hizbollah-directed defence of the south of their country. The Christian, Druze, and Sunni Muslim sections of the population, which have traditionally been hostile to Hizbollah, have given their backing to the resistance. A recent opinion poll had 85% of Lebanese showing sympathy for Hizbollah. Even the Patriarch of the Maronite Christian church has given his blessings to Hizbollah's fighters.
Since he says he is giving his 'full backing' to the Clark government's position on the war in Lebanon, Locke has presumably decided to accept the plan hammered out by key Western powers like the UK, France, and the US for an international 'peacekeeping' force to occupy southern Lebanon under the cover of a UN resolution. It is clear that such a force will be designed not to relieve the Israeli military machine, which is being taxed by Lebanese resistance. These 'peacekeepers' will be charged with doing the job Israel cannot do for itself.
The resolution Blair and Bush are presenting to the UN does not require Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon as a condition for a ceasefire. The UN has already passed resolution 1559, which calls on Hizbollah to lay down its arms. Over the past three weeks Israel has tried and failed to disarm Hizbollah; now, in desperation, it is showing increased interest in getting a UN-backed international army to do the job for it.
By giving their 'full backing' to the Clark government's approach to the war in Lebanon, the Greens are supporting the institutionalisation of Israel's occupation of the south of Lebanon and the disarming of Hizbollah. They are also defying the opinions of the vast majority of the Lebanese people and the Lebanese government. What right does Keith Locke have to tell the Lebanese people that they should stop defending their homes and families, when their country is suffering such a violent attack? Locke should be arguing that the Lebanese have a right to fight back for as long as Israel occupies their country.
Of course, support for the right of the Lebanese to defend their country does not have to mean uncritical support for the political ends of Hizbollah. We can admire the courage of the rank and file Hizbollah fighters without admiring the anti-union, anti-Semitic and misogynistic practices of their theocratic leadership. The left should avoid following the example of the British social democratic politician George Galloway, who has praised the leader of Hizbollah as a great man at anti-war rallies in London.
Galloway's local supporters in the Socialist Worker group recently posted an article on indymedia which correctly said that Hizbollah was a mass organisation fighting a just war of self-defence, but which skipped over the group's execution of trade unionists, feminists, and gays, and its leaders' claims that the Holocaust never happened and that all the Jews in Israel should be driven into the sea.
Hizbollah's anti-Semitism is not only deeply obnoxious -it is counterproductive, because Israel’s government can only be defeated with the assistance of the Israeli working class. Hizbollah only forced Israel out of most of southern Lebanon in 2000 because the Israeli workers had grown tired of paying for the occupation with cuts in social services and dead soldiers. Today Hizbollah's few thousand fighters can never defeat Israel's new occupation by solely military means. Victory is most likely to come for the Lebanese if workers in Israel and in key Western countries turn against this war and act to put pressure on the Israeli government and military machine. Already a few Israeli workers' organisations like the Workers Advice Centres have come out against the war, and the first 'refusenik' has been jailed for refusing service in Lebanon. Anti-war rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have drawn thousands.
Internationally, a number of trade unions are placing bans on companies whose services or products are linked to the Israeli war machine. In Aotearoa, Auckland students have demanded that their university break ties with Israeli universities linked to the war on Lebanon, and the National Distribution Union is encouraging its members to come to anti-war protests. This sort of progressive grassroots internationalism is the true alternative to Keith Locke's pathetic faith in Helen Clark and the United Nations.