The chickens are finally coming home to roost. After a failed war that ended up killing 1,000 Lebanese and 150 Israelis and caused billions in damage to both Israel and especially Lebanon, a partial bill has been presented to Israel by the UN:
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will demand that Israel pay Lebanon $1 billion in compensation over damages caused during the Jewish state’s 2006 war against Hizbullah, Lebanese media reported Saturday.
According to the report the sum, based on World Bank appraisals, is aimed at covering the environmental and material damages caused by the Second Lebanon War to neighboring countries as well.
The fundamental part of the compensation demanded is for the damage caused to the Lebanese coast due to an oil spill following an Israeli bombing of a southern Beirut power plant, which the Lebanese said had caused “an ecological disaster.”
According to the report, Ban plans to submit a report to the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month, stating that damage Israel caused to the oil reservoir polluted Lebanon’s coast, and that the pollution spread to neighboring countries, especially Syria.
…The oil spill, which was defined the greatest natural disaster in Lebanon’s history, took place after Israel Air Force planes hit a power plant and caused some 110,000 oil barrels to leak into the Mediterranean Sea.
The report said that the UN wants Israel to compensate the countries harmed by the oil spill and restore the environmental situation along the Lebanon coast.
By way of comparison, the Exxon Valdez disaster spilled 250,000 barrels of oil. The UN has basically called Israel the Joseph Hazelwood of the Mediterranean, with the only difference being the skipper of that boat didn’t set out to cause an environmental disaster while Israel arguably did. Or at the very least didn’t give a fig if it happened.
I’m pleased that an international body like the General Assembly will take up this matter. One can argue from the left or right whether Israel deserves to be brought up on war crimes charges for its behavior in Lebanon. But it’s much harder to make this particular claim into a political one. The damage was done and it is quantifiable. The author of the damage is not in doubt. The only item at issue is whether Israel can be made to own responsibility for this environmental crime.
Interestingly–and speaking of the Exxon Valdez–Richard Steiner, University of Alaska professor and environmental conservation specialist, makes a strong case that the Jiyeh bombing WAS a violation of the laws of war. But one needn’t even go this far in order to assign culpability to Israel for the disaster. Prof. Steiner also published an extensive report on the oil spill for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
I say this monetary claim is a good thing because the Israeli people need to know that war waged in their name which ravages an entire region will have a price not just in human life, but in cold, hard cash. And if Israel does not pay, then it will face the opprobrium of the international community not just for its military actions, but for the ecological disaster it caused.
If one thinks back, the last Middle Eastern leader to cause such an environmental disaster was Saddam, who blew up Kuwait’s oil wells. Does Israel want to be thought of in the same breath with him?
NOTE: I subsequently found a far more comprehensive and well-reported article on this at The National.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.