Beirut celebrates as Hezbollah resistance defeats Israel in Lebanon in 2006 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Gadi Eisenkot spelt out the strategy for Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon. The general made “harming the population” a central tenet of Israel’s wars.

His plan was given the name the “Dahiya Doctrine”, after the poor southern neighbourhoods of Beirut with their majority Shia Muslim population. It was here that the Hezbollah Lebanese resistance organisation was based.

The doctrine is simple—kill and maim as many people as possible with little or no loss of life to Israeli soldiers.

Once the people are terrorised, they would act as a restraint on the resistance, Eisenkot argued. The mass bombardment of the Dahiya neighbourhoods would similarly “happen in every village from which shots were fired in the ­direction of Israel,” he said.

“We will wield disproportionate power against them and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these [neighbourhoods and villages] are military bases. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorised.”

Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon gave the general a first opportunity to roll out his doctrine—and the destruction was savage.

The Israelis not only hit homes, they also targeted a milk ­processing plant in the Bekka Valley, an agricultural area far from any battlefield. They targeted bridges, Beirut airport and other vital infrastructure.

In an act of sheer spite, Israeli helicopter gunships fired on the historic lighthouse off Beirut, along with the old radio antenna in the mainly Christian town of Byblos, in the north of the country.

The Dahiya Doctrine was malicious and cruel. Yet despite its savagery it failed. Instead of intimidating the population, an unprecedented mass movement came to its aid.

The Israelis relentlessly bombed south Beirut but made no dent in the resistance. Instead, it grew in strength and popularity.

The Shia neighbourhoods ­emptied out, many of its residents finding refuge in Christian quarters and villages. Resistance fighters hid in deep tunnels and bunkers only to emerge to ambush hapless Israeli ground troops.

The war and the Dahiya Doctrine revealed a major Israeli weakness—its reluctance to engage in ground fighting.

When Israel soldiers did ­confront the resistance, they were humiliated. For example, in one battle ­outside Aita al-Shabb, a small village along the southern border, resistance fighters—including Hezbollah and Communist Party partisans—took a heavy toll on Israeli troops.

Some 50 Israelis were killed in their attempt to take the village while the resistance lost just 11 fighters.

The Israelis had hoped that its 2006 war would be a repeat of its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Then, a mass bombardment was followed by a ground invasion that brought Israeli troops to the edges of Beirut. The Palestinians and their allies, under siege for months, ­eventually surrendered. The climax of this invasion were the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

They marked the utter ­humiliation of a people who would never receive mercy, even after they put down the gun.

The Israelis eventually pulled back from Beirut and set up an occupation of southern Lebanon that would last 20 years.

But that occupation ended in Israeli humiliation. The resistance that coalesced around Hezbollah engaged in low intensity but effective guerrilla raids on the Israeli occupation.

But it was a mass movement that eventually put pay to it. An Israeli encroachment on a ­village just outside its zone of control triggered a strike by Lebanese students. Small protests then transformed into huge demonstrations that marched to Lebanon’s southern border.

The students retook villages as the Israeli army fled, abandoning its allies in its wake. That retreat turned its 1982 victory to dust.

And, in 2006, when Israel again tried to smash the Lebanese ­resistance, it faced a similar combination of armed resistance and popular rebellion. This coming together of a mass movement alongside armed ­resistance proved too much for them.

‘We need a new mass movement across the entire Middle East’

 There are parallels between Israel’s war on Lebanon and its war on Gaza today—but also a key difference.

The Palestinians in Gaza do not have the option of escaping their homes. Gaza has no shelters. Schools, mosques, hospitals and churches all qualify as “legitimate targets” for Israel.

In Gaza, Eisenkot’s strategy of “harming the population” can be implemented in full. Palestinians are trapped by the Egyptian regime’s control over the Rafah border in the south, and the mass of Israeli firepower to the north.

Despite this, Israel’s problems remain. Its planned ground invasion of Gaza aims to complete another stage of its ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

But it’s a big gamble. Palestinian fighters lack the weapons at Israel’s disposal, but they are dug in, and fighting for their very existence.

Another problem remains, the reaction of the Arab masses. In 2006, the idea of a mass revolutionary wave across the region was dismissed as utopian.

But the 2011 Arab Spring changed that. In recent weeks pro-Palestine movements that the Arab regimes worked hard to suppress have sprung back into life. The demonstrations in Jordan, a key Western ally, are the biggest in its history.

Mass protests are erupting in Egypt, the first serious street mobilisations since the 2013 military coup brought Abdel Fattah el­‑Sisi to power.

Another fundamental difference is that this war is taking place against the background of a string of defeats for US imperialism. Its vainglorious occupation of Iraq, and humiliation at the hands of the Afghan Taliban, made a mockery of the West’s “War on Terror”.

The encroachment of China into US fields of influence is another sign of weakness. For example, the Joe Biden administration was recently blindsided by a China‑brokered peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

There are other signs of this fading influence. As bombs rained down on Gaza, both Egypt and Jordan withdrew invitations to the US president, cutting short his tour of western allies among the Arab regimes.

That showed the dictators were more frightened of the street than the wrath of the US. If Lebanon needed a movement to blunt Israel’s military edge, the Palestinians need a mass movement across the entire region. That movement is beginning to emerge, but this time it carries with it the lessons of the 2011 revolutions.

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