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A look at some of the myths and facts following Hezbollah's attack on Israel.
Israeli military operations in Lebanon are taking place in response to an unprovoked border attack which left 8 Israeli soldiers dead and two kidnapped by the Hezbollah. Since then many more Israelis have been wounded and killed by over 700 Katyusha missiles and mortars that have rained down on Israel's northern cities, including as far south as Haifa and Tiberias. Israel is exercising her legitimate right to self-defense.
Please stand up for Israel at this extremely difficult time and support our efforts to promote balance in the media, particularly as the volume of media coverage expands so dramatically.
MYTHS AND FACTS SURROUNDING THE CRISIS
Myth - "Israel's response is disproportionate."
Fact - The definition of a "disproportionate" response is a subjective one. The question that could be asked of any other country in the world is simply: "What would you do in the same situation?" When protecting its citizens, exercising the right to self-defense and responding to missile attacks over a recognized border, most countries would respond in a similar manner. After all, how many Israelis need to die before the world believes that Israeli responses are proportionate?
Any civilian casualties in a conflict are, of course, tragic and regrettable. Civilians on both sides are suffering. However, Israeli air strikes on Lebanon are not intended to kill civilians, unlike the hundreds of Hezbollah missiles that are targeted specifically at Israeli civilians who have been forced into bomb shelters for their own safety. Israel has even dropped leaflets on Beirut suburbs calling on civilians to stay away from Hezbollah strongholds to avoid being caught up in the fighting.
Israel has also been criticized for targeting Lebanese infrastructure such as the Beirut airport. However, it is also interesting to note what has not been targeted. For example, while the airport runway was bombed, other vital installations such as the control tower were left untouched and Lebanese civilian airliners were allowed to fly to safety. Transport hubs and bridges have been targeted in order to prevent Hezbollah moving the kidnapped Israeli soldiers deeper into Lebanon and possibly even as far as Iran, as well as to prevent the terrorist organization being re-supplied with arms from Iran and elsewhere.
Many of Hezbollah's facilities and missile launch sites are located near residential areas, such as the suburbs of southern Beirut. Terrorists hide within the civilian population and use this population as a shield. Israel's priority is to strike at the Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure that has been allowed to develop in Lebanon.
Israel has, so far, avoided initiating a major ground offensive into Lebanese territory and has barely used a fraction of the firepower available to the IDF.
Myth - "Lebanon bears no responsibility for the actions of Hezbollah."
Fact - UN Security Council Resolution 1559 of September 2004, which referred back to Resolution 425, called "upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon"; "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias"; and supported "the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory".
Syria eventually complied with 1559 and removed its occupying forces. However, the Lebanese government has not disarmed Hezbollah nor has it sent its armed forces to secure southern Lebanon and the border with Israel.
In addition, Hezbollah is actually part of the Lebanese government, which contains two Hezbollah members in the Cabinet. The Lebanese government, therefore, cannot abstain from responsibility for the actions of a part of its own leadership.
Myth - "Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese 'resistance' organization."
is a Lebanese umbrella organization of radical Islamic Shiite groups and organizations. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel. Hezbollah, whose name means "party of God," is a terrorist group believed responsible for nearly 200 attacks since 1982 that have killed more than 800 people.
Hezbollah and its affiliates have planned or been linked to a lengthy series of terrorist attacks against the United States, Israel, and other Western targets. These attacks include:
a series of kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon, including several Americans, in the 1980s;
the suicide truck bombings that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983;
the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, which featured the famous footage of the plane?s pilot leaning out of the cockpit with a gun to his head;
and two major 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina - the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy (killing twenty-nine) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (killing ninety-five).
In addition, Hezbollah is sponsored, funded and armed by Iran and Syria who use the organization as a proxy to fight Israel and to destabilize the region. Hezbollah is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department.
For more information on Hezbollah, see the following sources:
Myth - "Outside actors such as Iran are not fuelling the crisis."
Fact - A number of analysts have suggested that the timing of the Hezbollah operation is no coincidence, occurring just prior to the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. The G8 was expected to concentrate heavily on Iran's refusal to comply with demands to curtail its nuclear program. A wider Mideast crisis, provoked by Iran's Hezbollah proxies, has now moved to the top of the G8 agenda, thus relieving some of the pressure on Iran.
In addition, Iranian fingerprints are to be found in the current conflict. The Katyusha missiles that are currently raining down on the north of Israel are supplied by Iran. An Israeli Naval vessel was also struck by an Iranian-made C802 missile, killing four sailors.
Myth - "Israel continues to occupy Lebanese land, specifically the Shebaa Farms area."
As explained by Israel's Foreign Ministry, the Shebaa Farms area is not, and should not be, considered disputed territory - its status was clarified by a number of United Nations statements following the withdrawal of Israel forces from Lebanon in May 2000.
The United Nations views the Shebaa Farms area as Syrian territory. Therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 425 - which concerns Lebanon - does not require Israel to withdraw from this area.
While Lebanon claims to be the owner of the Shebaa Farms area, the UN has encouraged the Lebanese and Syrians to negotiate between themselves as to who is the rightful owner. If Syria were to cede ownership of the area to Lebanon, then it is probable that Israel and the UN would then reconsider the status of the territory. In the meantime, the issue of the Shebaa Farms is used simply as an excuse for the Hezbollah to maintain itself as an armed force in the region.
Myth - "Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails were kidnapped from Lebanese soil and should be released."
Some Lebanese and other Arab spokespeople have defended Hezbollah's actions as a legitimate form of "resistance" aimed at securing the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails from the period of Israel's presence in its southern Lebanon security zone.
Fact - The prisoner whom Hezbollah is demanding, above all others, be released, is Samir Kuntar, jailed in Israel since a 1979 attack in the northern Israeli town of Nahariyah, in which he entered an apartment and murdered three family members and an Israeli police officer.
Kuntar is quite simply a terrorist and a murderer who committed a terrible atrocity on Israeli soil. Those prisoners held in Israeli jails captured during Israel's stay in southern Lebanon are, likewise, held for terrorist offences and due to the inherent risk that they will return to their previous activities.
By BRIAN MURPHY Associated Press Friday, March 31, 2006; 5:29 AM
JERUSALEM -- It sounds like the setup for a punch line: What do you get when you cross an ultra-Orthodox rabbi with a mobile phone? But the "kosher phone" is real and its developers are serious about looking beyond the religious enclaves of Israel. Some Arab companies even have inquired about the phone's main feature: keeping out sex lines and other worldly temptations.
"There's interest out there in a conservative phone," said Abrasha Burstyn, the chief executive officer at Mirs Communications Ltd., an Israeli subsidiary of Motorola Inc. and pioneer of the kosher mobile that debuted last year.
The phones -- carrying the seal of approval from Israel's rabbinical authorities -- have been one of the most successful mergers of technology and centuries-old tradition in the ultra-Orthodox community, which is most widely recognized by the men's black garb based on the dress of 19th century European Jews.
The kosher phone is stripped down to its original function: making and receiving calls. There's no text messaging, no Internet access, no video options, no camera. More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services and other offerings are blocked. A team of rabbinical overseers makes sure the list is up to date.
These are the same rabbis who have told followers to scorn television and radio. But mobile phones are considered just too essential in one of the world's most tech-friendly nations. The ultra-Orthodox account for about 7 percent of Israel's 7 million people.
Now MIRS is thinking bigger. Talks are under way to introduce a kosher phone to Jewish communities in the United States and other nations possibly later this year. Israeli Arabs -- about 20 percent of the population -- have also taken notice of the phones as a possible option for those trying to protect conservative Islamic sensibilities.
Some Arab cell phone providers see the same attraction. They have sought information from MIRS via envoys from Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, said Burstyn, who declined to give further details of the contacts.
"This was a unique product for a unique brand of customer," he said. "But we see some potential beyond this niche market."
The kosher phone is an example of demand leading the way for supply.
In late 2004, a special rabbinical panel was formed to study how to bridge the need for cellular phones and ultra-Orthodox codes. The community was torn.
Some saw the phones as a non-threatening convenience. Others believed the sophisticated "third generation" phones offered an unhealthy freedom: the ability to download pornography or allow young people to make furtive contact with the opposite sex -- which is highly restricted in ultra-Orthodox society. The conservative magazine Family called the multitasking new phones "a candy store for the evil impulse."
The rabbis' solution -- find a cell phone that's only a phone.
"They saw the future and were frightened," said one of Israel's most prominent attorneys, Jacob Weinroth, who was asked by the rabbis to approach Israel's four main cellular companies with the idea of the pared-down phone. "In 10 years, we may have commercials coming over the phone. Maybe gambling, dating. The community wanted to keep the cell phones, but not allow this commercial world to enter their communities through them."
Mirs -- Israel's smallest cell phone in terms of market share -- was the first to take the challenge. But instead of simply blocking the non-call services, the new phones were specially engineered with hardware to prevent upgrades or sharing chips with other handsets.
The kosher phone was ready last March, backed by an unusual sales force: 80 men and 10 women from Israel's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who went through a crash course in cell phones and door-to-door pitches. The classes were arranged to accommodate synagogue prayer schedules and Torah studies.
"These people were figures in their community. They weren't nobodies. They started spreading the word in synagogues and wedding halls," said Matanel Shalom, chief of marketing at Sales & Direct Marketing Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based company hired to market the kosher phone.
By summer, more than 20,000 kosher phones were sold. But it was just a foothold in an estimated market of at least 180,000 cell phone users among Israel's 500,000 ultra-Orthodox. Two of Israel's other three cell phone players have developed their own kosher phones. The options now come in a range of styles and colors -- from staid black to enamel red.
"If you think about it, the (ultra-Orthodox) religious community is not going to movies and other things. These days, the kind of phone you carry is part of who you are," said Shalom. "Some rabbis didn't like it, but that's the reality."