Israeli & Lebanese analysts on Beirut blast & Israel

Israeli & Lebanese analysts on Beirut blast & Israel

The aftermath of Tuesdays blast in Beirut’s port area. Aug. 5, Reuters/Mohamed Azakir.

Two commentaries below about the recent massive explosion in Beirut felt by millions that killed at least 154 people, injured 5,000, & made 250,000 homeless…

Israeli writer: ‘Not a week had passed since Israel threatened to destroy infrastructure in Lebanon if Hezbollah dared avenge the killing of one of its fighters in a limited military action on the border, and Israel the destroyer becomes ‘Israel the merciful.’ Would you accept humanitarian aid from such a country? Is there a more sickening show of hypocrisy?’
2018 Israeli report: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened Hezbollah, saying ‘Israel knows what you are doing and will not let you get away with it’ notes Israeli army said Hezbollah had a weapons store underneath the port of Beirut
Lebanese writer: ‘We just witnessed the second largest explosion on planet earth, and we have no real clue why….. We live in one of the very few places on earth where such a catastrophe would occur and you can run multiple scenarios for who wants to murder us, and they would all sound rational…

Israel Is in ‘Shock,’ in a Sickening Show of Hypocrisy

By Gideon Levy, reposted from the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz

Official Israel presented itself as shocked at the disaster that struck its neighbor, Lebanon, yesterday. Almost everyone put on a sorrowful face. Except for Richard Silverstein, who writes a blog, Tikkun Olam, no one accused Israel of causing the disaster. Except for Moshe Feiglin and a few other racists, no one expressed satanic joy over it. Fortunately, former Israeli army spokesman Avi Benayahu ran Feiglin out of the race: “With such statements, you don’t belong to the Jewish people,” declared Benayahu, the man of Jewish morality, and the stain was removed.

Benayahu is right: The Jewish state never caused such disasters, and when our enemies fell it never rejoiced. [Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with Israel’s many attacks on Lebanon, Levy is being sarcastic in this paragraph.] The Israel Defense Forces, whose voice Benayahu was, never such caused destruction and devastation, certainly not in Lebanon, certainly not in Beirut. What does the IDF have to do with the destruction of infrastructure? An explosion in the Beirut port? Why would the most moral army in the world have anything to do with bombing population centers? And so the country’s leaders hastened to offer help to the stricken land of the cedars, such a typical Jewish and Israeli gesture, human, lofty and moving to the point of tears.

True, the Israel Air Force thumbs its nose at Lebanon’s sovereignty and flies through its skies as if they were its own. True, Israel has devastated Lebanon twice in war, but who’s counting. Israel’s president issued a statement of condolences to the Lebanese people, the prime minister and the ministers of foreign affairs and defense said they had “given instructions to offer humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.”

As if all this beneficence was not enough, the mayor of Tel Aviv ordered the municipality building illuminated with the colors of the Lebanese flag. Words fail. All past hatred has been set aside, Israel is now a friend in need to its suffering neighbor. Maybe it was Tu B’Av, the holiday of love, marked yesterday. But still, a vague memory threatens to spoil the how-beautiful-we-are party, which we love so much around here.

Was it not that same defense minister that only last week threatened that same Lebanon with destruction of infrastructure? Didn’t the prime minister also threaten Lebanon? And how does destruction of infrastructure look in Lebanon? Just like what was seen in Lebanon on Tuesday. The sound of thunder shook the city, black smoke billowed over it, destruction and devastation, civilian blood spilled, 4,000 injured at hospital doors, as described in horror by the ambassador of a European country in Beirut, who had previously served in Israel. She was injured Tuesday in the blast and was in shock.

Half of Israel and the entire IDF General Staff know how to recite the acclaimed Dahiya Doctrine. Every second politician has threatened to carry it out. That is our language with Lebanon and Gaza. It’s the doctrine espoused by the Israeli Carl von Clausewitz, former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, the current hope of the Israeli left, when he was chief of the Northern Command.

And what is this sophisticated doctrine? It’s the use of disproportionate, unbridled force against infrastructure, the sowing of destruction and shedding of as much blood as possible. “Flattening” – to teach the enemy a lesson “once and for all.” The IDF has tried this more than once in the past, in Lebanon and in Gaza, and it was a dizzying success story. It looks just like what was seen in Beirut on Tuesday.

Not a week had passed since Israel threatened to destroy infrastructure in Lebanon if Hezbollah dared avenge the killing of one of its fighters in a limited military action on the border, and Israel the destroyer becomes Israel the merciful. Would you accept humanitarian aid from such a country? Is there a more sickening show of hypocrisy?

When Israel demolished Dahiya and other neighborhoods in Beirut, the Tel Aviv Municipality building was not illuminated with the colors of the Lebanese flag. When Israel killed thousands of innocent women and children, old and young, in Gaza during the criminal Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge, the municipality was not lit up in the colors of the Palestinian flag. But on Wednesday we were all so humane, so Lebanese for a moment. Until the next Dahiya.

Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.

Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper’s deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the newspaper. Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists’ Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996. His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso Publishing House in London and New York.

From a Lebanese writer:

…Yesterday, an estimated 2.8 kiloton yield of TNT exploded in the port of Beirut. For reference, Hiroshima’s atomic bomb contained ~13 kilotons of TNT. To further understand how horrendous Beirut’s detonation is, know that the notorious Oklahoma City Bomber, who was able to shatter 286 buildings, did so with only 0.002 kilotons. Read that again. The devastation on Beirut is truly inexplicable.

Many suspect it’s ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer which also doubles as dynamite. Some also say it’s confiscated explosives. Some say it’s a combination of both.

One credible story links yesterday’s explosion to Moldovan cargo vessel called “Rhosus” that was destined for Mozambique, but had to make an urgent stop in Beirut due to “technical problems” back in September 2013. This vessel contained 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, and was forbidden from sailing, and has been stuck in our port ever since then. Due to the risks of keeping such large quantities of ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the Lebanese port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses where it has been sitting for 7 years since September 2013. To our bad luck, such a chemical decomposes in very nefarious ways making it much less safe over time, and when you have 2,750 tons of it, you run the risk of being catapulted into the world’s second largest explosion on planet earth.

So there was a chemical mushroom cloud… A mushroom cloud. Many pointed to the uncanny resemblance to the atomic bomb. Yes. Apparently, all massive chemical explosions will form a mushroom cloud, but such huge explosions are so rare that we are only used to seeing atomic bombs’ mushroom clouds. If there was a damn mushroom cloud, it means that the explosion was truly gigantic. And it was. Cyprus felt the explosion. Cyprus. That’s another country.

To add further ambiguity to this story, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech in 2017 saying, verbatim, that “containers of ammonia” plus “the explosion of rockets” chemically result in an “atomic bomb.” That’s actually a good course in chemistry. Liquid ammonia is literally what is used for rocket propellants in NASA. But Nasrallah didn’t want to put anyone on the moon, he was referring to “containers of ammonia” located in Haifa, Israel, and how he could cause “tens of thousands of deaths” if Hezbollah shot “its rockets” into said containers of ammonia, and that would be akin to an “atomic bomb”. And he laughed. Meanwhile, Netanyahu back in 2018, at a UN speech, held up aerial photos of Hezbollah weapons sites in Beirut which he accused of being locations for manufacturing and storing precision missiles, one of which was the airport, one was a football stadium, and one was a third adjacent site. And Netanyahu said, “Israel knows what you are doing, and Israel will not let you get away with it.” The next day, i24 News, the Israeli news channel, reported in an article that “another [site] is underneath the port of Beirut,” (Here is the link: Did they misreport? Or did they correct Netanyahu?

[Editor’s note: The Israeli report says:

“Netanyahu held up aerial photos of Hezbollah weapons stores in the Lebanese capital, saying “Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it.”

The Israeli army assesses that Hezbollah uses these sites to manufacture and store precision missiles. Netanyahu presented three of Hezbollah’s sites to the UN General Assembly: One is located near Lebanon’s International Airport, another is underneath the port of Beirut, and the third is located under a soccer field.

Okay. There is a saying in psychology, “the worst scars are in the mind.” So, in that spirit, were the Israelis inspired to turn Nasrallah’s threat into a re-engineered self-fulfilling prophecy? Yes? If yes, was it a tacit Israeli Mossad operation or did Israeli airplanes fire missiles, as some people are swearing that they saw? No? If no, was it a Hezbollah self-sabotage operation because it would serve them to divert attention away from their economic scandals? Who did it? No one? So it was all an accident? Yeah, maybe it was an accident. Maybe some inattentive lawless person was smoking a lawless cigarette in lawless Lebanon? Or maybe it was global warming? Container got too hot? No? Who was it? Who was it that killed all these innocent lives, and shattered the homes of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people during a deadly pandemic, and scalded us during a murderous economic and financial crisis?

Do you see those types of questions? They disgust me. Do you see the reasoning that I just did now? It is disgusting. It is disgusting that my people have to constantly guess who wants to kill them. Can you imagine? We just witnessed the second largest explosion on planet earth, and we have no real clue why. There are dozens of scenarios. We are able to devise several plausible murderous political rationales, all of which make sense. Isn’t that deeply unfair? We live in one of the very few places on earth where such a catastrophe would occur and you can run multiple scenarios for who wants to murder us, and they would all sound rational. Shake your head. Yes. The Lebanese people constantly have to guess who wants to kill them, and they never truly find out because they live in a world where so many hostile actors benefit from killing them. And there is no respite in wanting to kill my country people.

My people were killed nonstop for 4 entire decades. My people were killed during the civil war by a dozen foreign army suits, they were killed during the politically-accepted Syrian occupation, they were killed during the Israeli occupation, they were killed during Israeli attacks, they were killed during Lebanese attacks, they were killed in Iranian-led military interferences, they were killed during the deadly series of “anonymous” booby-trapped car assassinations in broad daylight for years, all the while being killed in masses by the lawlessness of traffic, killed by a murderous lack of urban planning, killed by corrupt medication, killed by the environmental holocaust, killed by rampant cancer rates due to the pillaging of their environment, killed by staggering poverty brought about by systemic corruption, killed by suicide due to hopelessness, killed by a 2,750 ton liquid nitrate explosion in the middle of their capital that probably will require 2 billion USD to rehabilitate just the physical damage of inert stones, not the human capital loss.

The impact of this detonation will be more devastating than you could even imagine. Not just in terms of sheer number of deaths, but in terms of destruction of livelihoods, of disappearances, of infrastructure breakdown, of environmental damage, of future birth defects, of the deterioration of the already very, very fragile Lebanese social fabric. So many people were killed in their own homes. The sister-in-law of my friend died. The neighbor of my friend died. The mother of my friend’s friend died. My own brother has a friend that is missing, and he was looking for him in hospitals all night. Most of these people died in their own homes as a result of shattered glass or cement.

I do not want to hear people’s self-righteous nonsense about it “not being the time to point fingers”. It is the goddamn time. Where do they live? Are they ostriches? I will not stomach anyone’s narrow-minded moralistic vapidness of trying to play fake Jesus when nothing, NOTHING, in this hideous game is holy. Let me tell you, the answer to ‘who did this’? It is our political system, and each and every one of its fabricants has blood on his hands. The Lebanese political system and its henchmen did this. This was a pure political fire-starter par excellence, imbued with the wretchedness of their ignorance, their laziness, and their incompetence that has continually killed the Lebanese people for 4 decades.

The customs must be held accountable. The General Security must be held accountable. The Lebanese Intelligence must be held accountable. The Ministry of Interior must be held accountable. The Ministry of Defense must be held accountable. The Ministry of Health must be held accountable. The Ministry of Justice must be held accountable. The President of the Republic must be held accountable.

Every political party with their imposed parasitic pawns in the port must be held accountable. And Hezbollah, master rulers of the Port, must be held accountable.

Justice can only be found in the destruction of this wretched political system, and retribution must be served on the platter of the annihilation of each of its henchmen’s massacring politics.

 – Sara El-Yafi (pen name of a correspondent who sent out this widely circulated piece)

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