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Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might have changed in the 10 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.

Map of the Middle EastIt’s all over the news, yet almost everyone I talk to claims they have no idea what’s going on this week in the Middle East. Now, my personal knowledge of Middle Eastern politics is abominable, but I’ve made it my mission to explain the current problem in the simplest possible terms. Yes, I’ve ignored hundreds of years of history here, and probably insulted everyone involved in the conflict by doing so, but I’m presenting this at the simplest possible level, the very basics, the ‘dumbed down’ version – that is, the level I understand it. So here goes.

Hezbollah is a political and military group in Lebanon, which was formed in the 1980s to drive Israeli troops out of Lebanon. By 2000, they achieved this objective, and so won lots of support from the Lebanese people. So much support, in fact, that they won lots of votes in Lebanese elections, and now have a sizable presence in the Lebanese parliament, and even a representative in the cabinet. Now, crucially, whilst they have a big political influence in Lebanon, Hezbollah is not the Lebanese government. Hezbollah is a separate political and military organisation.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah – this military group – attacked an Israeli town, and in so-doing managed to kill several Israeli soldiers, and capture two. Why they did this isn’t clear, but it may have been an attempt to capture some soldiers with which to bribe Israel into releasing some prisoners which Hezbollah beleives are being wrongly held.

Obviously, Israel didn’t take to kindly to this, with the Prime Minister calling it an ‘act of war’. But, of course, the action wasn’t launched by the Lebanese government, but by Hezbollah – a group that just happens to be in Lebanon, and has a lot of popular support there. Despite this, Israeli troops responded by dropping bombs on Lebanon, and returning into Lebanon for the first time since they withdrew in 2000. That pissed off Hezbollah somewhat, this being the group which had forced the Israelis out of Lebanon in the first place.

Israel attackedOn Thursday, Israel continued to pummel Lebanon with bombs, killing at least 35 Lebanese civilians, and essentially said that Lebanon and Hezbollah could forget the idea of keeping the border between the countries at the location they’d agreed when the troops withdrew. George Bush said that Israel was well within its right to beat the poop out of Lebanon given that they’d been suddenly attacked, but the EU were less happy, saying that Israel was being too harsh with their response, given the small scale of the first attack and its unofficial nature.

Also on Thursday, a big bomb was dropped on Israel’s third biggest city. Hezbollah said it wasn’t them, but (probably understandably) Israel didn’t believe them. So on Friday, Israel went and bombed the Hezbollah headquarters, which made the Hezbollah leader pledge ‘open war’ against Israel. By this time, the UN Security Council is starting to get a bit worried, and says that it’s unfair that Israel is killing a whole load of Lebanese civilians, and basically asked it to stop. They didn’t.

As Israel’s attacks on Lebanon grew, so Hezbollah’s responses grew. On Saturday, the Lebanese Prime Minister called for help, because his country was being turned into a ‘disaster zone’. Of course, the Lebanese Prime Minister has no control over Hezbollah, as they’re a separate group, so he can’t stop the attacks that Israel sees as Lebanon committing.

Lebanon devastatedSo now, the attacks are getting bigger and bigger. The worry now is that Israel might start being aggressive towards the countries that contribute funds to Hezbollah – namely Syria and Iran. Of course, if Israel attacks, they will be forced to respond, and then the whole region will be at war.

Obviously, war would be bad in and of itself, but it’s got the rest of the world worrying because much of the world’s oil comes from the Middle East, and getting that oil isn’t going to be too easy if there’s a war on. Which means oil prices will rocket, and that will destabilise all of our economies.

But how can we stop this? Hezbollah aren’t going to back down, even though their initial attack did appear to be somewhat provocative. But Israel’s at fault too, for a clearly disproportionate response. A very rough and ready analogy would be if the Lib Dems in the UK were to capture American soldiers to barter for the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, and America responded by bombing Leeds. There are no good guys in all of this – they’re all at fault.

Israel quite understandably won’t talk to Hezbollah, as it’s seen as a small radical group, and the Lebanese government who Israel will talk to have no control over Hezbollah. But it’s probably unreasonable to ask Israel not to respond to Hezbollah’s attacks, and Hezbollah will continue to respond to Israel’s attacks, tit-for-tat.

So how can it be stopped when the parties involved won’t even speak to each other? Beats me.

For more on the on-going crisis, see the BBC’s special site.

This 903rd post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.






More posts worth reading

What I’ve been reading this month (published 6th February 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 31st December 2016)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 30th November 2016)

Thoughts on the Aftermath of Hutton (published 29th January 2004)

For God’s sake: It’s Prescott again (published 3rd January 2007)

Photo-a-day 238: Rooftops of Newcastle (published 25th August 2012)

12,000 (published 8th March 2005)


Comments and responses

Comment from John Amanya


by John Amanya

Comment posted at 15:47 on 22nd July 2006.

Both parties should find a lasting solution in the region.We have alot of innosent lives lost because of ane mistake made by one man.Where is UN,US And all the G8?They should not take sides.What interest do they have in this case?Mach as they may support either side peace is what we need.And for it nothing should be speared for it to be achieved.Peace in our hearts peace between man,and peace on our bouders.And for peace we should shed our pride and sacrifice everything so thst the earth is a peacefull place to leave and enjoy.


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 23:04 on 26th July 2006.

In theory, I agree with you. I just doubt whether lasting peace can ever really be acheived in the Middle East.


Comment from D


by D

Comment posted at 23:25 on 10th August 2006.

How many Middle Eastern alies does Israel have ?


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 13:24 on 11th August 2006.

Approximately – erm – none.


Comment from Stephen


by Stephen

Comment posted at 14:16 on 9th July 2007.

Ah, so that explains it! Thank you – even if it’s taken me a year to look for a clarification and find one.


Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)


by sjhoward

Comment posted at 22:49 on 9th July 2007.

I’m glad you liked it, Stephen!


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