"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Details, Details 

Here's a question for my well-informed readers - or, at least, those better informed than I am (which is probably most of you): Where, exactly, were the two Israeli soldiers whose capture led to the current shooting war with Hezbollah captured from? We are told that Hezbollah fighters crossed the border into Israel to snatch the soldiers, but so far as I know, the only specific report is the timeline accompanying this graphic from last week's Newsweek (click on "detail," and scroll to the top) which says, "July 12 Hizbullah attacks military posts in the Shebaa Farms area and abducts two Israeli soldiers."

I have not been able to verify this information; even pro-Palestinian media have not repeated this specific detail so far as I can find. However, if this is accurate, then the whole Israeli story gets problematic. Shebaa Farms is disputed territory, claimed by multiple nations:
How Chebaa Farms, which the Israelis call Mount Dov, became so important in the ongoing battle between Israel and Hezbollah serves as a window into the byzantine complexities of Middle East politics and rivalries.

A relatively tiny piece of mountainous turf estimated to cover from four to 10 square miles, Chebaa Farms is now a closed military zone occupied by the Israelis. Outsiders are unwelcome and nearby residents merely grunt when asked about it. One U.S.-produced study describes it as "14 abandoned orchards, pastures and mini-farms."

"It's a totally artificial issue," explained Gerald Steinberg, director of the Program on Conflict and Diplomacy at Bar Ilan University. "It's clearly Syrian territory, but Syria doesn't really want it. Lebanon now claims it, but they clearly hadn't heard of it before 2000. Israel has it right now, but it's of no importance."

And yet it's symbolically important to everyone. One expert called it "a red herring, but an important red herring."

That importance, analysts say, grew out of the Israeli decision to leave troops on Chebaa Farms after their 2000 departure from southern Lebanon.

With Israeli troops gone from southern Lebanon, Israeli officials hoped Hezbollah no longer had an excuse to attack them as occupying forces.

The United Nations certified that Israel had left Lebanon, holding that Chebaa Farms belonged to Syria's Golan Heights, which Israel seized in 1967 during the Six Day War.

But Lebanese officials insisted that Syria had given them the land, and Syria agreed. That made Chebaa Farms the last piece of Israeli-occupied Lebanon, and Hezbollah has since attacked it more than 30 times. The most famous incident took place just months after the pullout. Three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and killed.

If anyone can confirm that the present conflict began with a Hezbollah "incursion" into the disputed territory - or, in the alternative, confirm that it did not - I would be most interested.

(Cross-posted to my diary at Daily Kos, to increase the likelihood that someone actually reads it and responds.)

 

Comments:

 

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The AP and AFP have both carried stories that indicated the incursion took place in Lebanon. Almost every other western source placed it at Sheba'a Farms. Unfortunately, it seems an accurate narrative is lost in the fog of war.
 
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