The IDF Can’t Wait to Go to War

Israel wants you to believe "Iranian-backed forces" are the threat to peace in the region. That's pure propaganda — it's Israeli aggression that we should really be worried about.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference on May 30, 2019 in Jerusalem, Israel. Amir Levy / Getty

In recent days, Israel has launched attacks against “Iranian-backed” forces in three countries. The motive for the violent triple-violation of sovereignty was not lost on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which ran the headline: “A Looming War Lifts Netanyahu’s Spirits” and explained that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked hale and hearty this week … The more security tensions escalated and captured headlines, the more his self-confidence soared.”

Why? Because “the attacks in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, some of them open and official, others less so, and the saber-rattling in the direction of Iran and Hezbollah, were fuel for the fire of his campaign” ahead of the Israeli elections, scheduled for September 17.

On Sunday, Hezbollah retaliated by shooting anti-tank missiles into Israel, while Israel fired “volleys of artillery against three villages in southern Lebanon.” For now, Reuters reports, all is quiet following the cross-border exchange between “Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group and the Israeli army” (forever immune in the US media from relevant modifiers like “US-backed” or “insanely US-backed”).

But while an all-out physical war may be on hold, Israel’s propaganda war is in full swing. Over at the official Twitter account of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), videos are being churned out that purport to reveal the sinister activities of Iran & Co., including “surveillance footage of Iranian Quds Force operatives in Syria carrying a killer drone that they intended to use for an attack on Israel.” Though the quality of the footage is so poor that one is just as likely to perceive Ewoks traipsing across an extraterrestrial landscape, the IDF has helpfully labeled the video “Syria” and drawn a circle around the blob that is allegedly the killer drone.

Then there’s the video, complete with dramatic musical score, about the “senior Iranian commanders running Hezbollah’s precision missile project in Lebanon” — and the one suggesting that “terrorists” in Lebanon are on the verge of being able to direct missiles to specific Israeli addresses using something like the Waze navigation app.

Even CNN felt compelled to draw attention to the IDF’s “propaganda offensive” and “barrage of agitprop,” although in a grotesque oversight the article’s author, Sam Kiley, refrained from including Lebanese civilian deaths in his casualty count for Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, “during which the IDF lost nearly 120 troops and scores of civilians and about 270 Hezbollah fighters and 50 Lebanese soldiers and police died.” In reality, some 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon during Israel’s thirty-four-day assault, the overwhelming majority of them civilians.

Among the casualties, for example, were south Lebanese children fired on at close range as they fled their homes in a pickup truck. Veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk provided some details of the grisly aftermath: “Two small girls … were blasted into such small body parts that they were buried together in the same grave after the war was over. Other children lay wounded by the initial shell burst and rocket explosions as the helicopter attacked them again.”

Talk about “precision.”

There was also the massacre in the village of Qana, not to be confused with the previous Qana massacre in which Israel slaughtered 106 refugees at a United Nations compound in 1996. (Assisting in the logistics for that inaugural affair was none other than an Israeli drone, which should add some perspective to the current hullabaloo over “killer drones.”)

In 2006, Israel not only razed much of the country but saturated select territories with cluster bombs. As Human Rights Watch notes: “During that short conflict, the IDF rained an estimated 4 million submunitions on south Lebanon, the vast majority over the final three days when Israel knew a settlement was imminent.”

The sinister beauty of cluster bombs, of course, is that they often fail to explode on impact — meaning that, to this day, there is no shortage of headlines like: “Israeli cluster bomb kills child in south Lebanon.”

Since 2006, Israeli officials have continuously warned that, in any future conflict with Lebanon, they will refrain from distinguishing between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state — although it’s not really clear when they ever did so. Over the past five years in particular, much Israeli energy has been expended unveiling evidence and annotated maps purportedly demonstrating that — despite all the so-called schools and hospitals and mosques and people — south Lebanon is actually one giant Hezbollah arms depot and launchpad for anti-Israeli attacks.

The function of this approach — which has been enthusiastically endorsed by the New York Times and other obsequious media outlets — is to preemptively exonerate Israel in the event of a massive civilian bloodbath.

The IDF’s current pinned tweet, dated September 1, reads:

It’s time to stand up to Hezbollah.
It’s time to stand up to Hezbollah.
It’s time to stand up to Hezbollah.”

It’s accompanied by a video reminding us that Hezbollah is “developing precision guided missiles for a larger attack” and that “Lebanon has done nothing to stop them.” The video goes on to allege that “Hezbollah is inciting violence” because its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, once said that “if [Israel] imposes a war upon Lebanon, Israel will face a destiny it has never expected.” Though perhaps awkwardly translated, Nasrallah’s sentiment would appear to be pretty much the opposite of “inciting.”

And while the present round of Israeli incitement could just be a bit of preelection fun, there’s always the chance — particularly given the persistent imperial drumbeats for war on Iran — that things could escalate and Lebanon will be in for another dose of Israeli imprecision.

It thus seems time to stand up to something else — like the entity whose bloody 1982 invasion of Lebanon fueled the rise of Hezbollah in the first place.