The capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese resistance
movement, Hizbullah, to bargain for prisoner exchange should come as no
surprise – least of all to Israel, which must bear its own
responsibility for the abductions and is using this conflict to pursue
its wider strategic aims.

The prisoners Hizbullah wants released are hostages who
were taken on Lebanese soil. In the successful prisoner exchange in
2004, Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips
and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open. These detentions have
become a cause celebre in Lebanon…. The domestic significance of these
hostages is ignored by those who choose to reduce the abductions to an
act of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Indeed Israel’s media are
aware of recent attempts to capture soldiers, including a botched
attempt a few months ago in which three Hizbullah fighters were killed…

The regional significance of the abductions has also
been misconstrued. To suggest Hizbullah attacked on the orders of
Tehran and Damascus is to grossly oversimplify a strong strategic and
ideological relationship. Historically there has been an overlap of
interests between Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas… But the nature of
that relationship has changed much over the years. Since Syrian forces
left Lebanon, Hizbullah has become the stronger party. It has never
allowed any foreign power to dictate its military strategy…

It is ironic, given Israel’s bombing of civilian targets
in Beirut, that Hizbullah is often dismissed in the west as a terrorist
organisation. In fact its military record is overwhelmingly one of
conflict with Israeli forces inside Lebanese territory. This is just an
example of the way that the west employs an entirely different
definition of terrorism to the one used in the Arab world and
elsewhere, where there is a recognition that terrorism can come in many

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