Growing international criticisms towards the Israel-Hizbollah conflict, fuelled further by inadequate response from the UN and different positions taken by major powers, may produce dire consequences.
The death toll (mostly civilian) has climbed, reaching close to 500 in Lebanon, since the conflict began on July 12. Following Israel’s rejection of UN’s call for a truce to aid civilians trapped by the war, an airstrike – the deadliest of the Israeli attacks so far – in the south Lebanese village of Qana killed 54 people (with more than half of them children).
In the aftermath and as indicative of growing impatience over a weak UN response – calling only for an “immediate investigation” and holding an emergency meeting with the Security Council – several thousand rioters ransacked the UN headquarters in Beirut in protest, amid chants on the streets proclaiming “death to Israel, death to America…we sacrifice our blood and souls for Lebanon.” Elsewhere, Hizbollah and Hamas militants also vowed vengeance.
A UN mandate to send an international force to help the Lebanese army deploy in the south has yet to be approved by the Security Council, and only expected to be reviewed later this week. While France – with the support of the EU – has circulated a draft resolution for an immediate ceasefire, the US and Britain are continuing their stance of not joining the call, and insisting instead for a change in the status quo of Hizbollah influence in Lebanon.
Analysts have warned that the Israel-Hizbollah stalemate with increasing bloodshed has negative ramifications beyond its immediate region, leading to heighten fervour of terrorism whose dimensions are ever-changing under the rhetoric of ‘globalisation of jihad’.
The US in particular, has received the bulk of growing international criticisms for its thinly-veiled intent to ride on Israeli aggression to stamp out Hizbollah militants. An observation by a Lebanese soldier in Beirut reveals the cold comfort and irony of US intervention: “They [the US] send the Israelis smart bombs and they send us blankets.”
Not to be ignored are current responses from countries such as Malaysia (current chair of the world's largest grouping of Islamic countries, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC)) and Indonesia (the world’s most populous Muslim nation) in Southeast Asia – home to an estimated 230 million Muslims (20 percent of the world’s total).
Ahead of the 3rd August OIC Meeting (chaired by Malaysia) to discuss the escalating Middle East crisis, PM Abdullah Badawi dismissed calls by Umno and the Umno Youth for Muslim countries to quit the UN on July 30. “I reckon that the OIC members will not pull out of the UN because the organisation can play an active role in raising issues in the world body,” Abdullah remarked.
Protests against the ‘tyranny’ of US-Israel alliance are growing within Malaysia and Indonesia. On July 28, Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) members protested against Israeli attacks in front of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, Umno Youth held a protest at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre during the 39th Asean Ministerial Meeting, targeting particularly the US. On the same day as well, thousands of Indonesians participated in rallies in several cities across the nation, waving banners that call Israeli and US leaders "the real terrorists." They also warned the West that such violence would only inflame Islamic militants, a point which Indonesian counter-terrorism officials are paying heed as they fear ongoing violence in the Middle East will help revive terrorist organisations such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI).
The greatest threat of terrorism in the region comes from a group – under the name of Jihad Bombers – for Palestine that allegedly bands together 70 Indonesians and more than a hundred other citizens from countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore to attack Israel's strategic interests.
Such developments, to the detriment of security around the world, demonstrate how a more concerted action to bring about swifter resolution to the Israel-Hizbollah conflict would be prudent.
When a local quarrel has extensive global implications (The Straits Times, Review, 27 July 2006)
Heed the voice of Asia in peace talks (The Straits Times, Review, 27 July 2006)
Umno youth protest (The Star, 29 July 2006)
Indonesia warns that Israeli attacks could fuel terrorism (Jakarta Post, 29 July 2006)
Israel shuns UN truce plea, Rice heads to region (Reuters/The Straits Times, 29 July 2006)
Malaysia rejects call for OIC to quit UN over Lebanon: report (AFP, 30 July 2006)
World leaders condemn attack on Qana (Reuters/AFP/The Straits Times, 31 July 2006)
Beirut protesters attack UN offices (Reuters/AFP/AP/The Straits Times, 31 July 2006)