Monday, July 24, 2006

Sorry excuse for war

Day 12 of the conflict.

Two members of your armed forces are kidnapped, and an entire country and its innocent civilians must pay for this radical move by a lonesome terrorist organisation. Talk about disproportionality!

But two soldiers to Israel, a state that’s a black sheep in the predominantly Islamic and Arabic Middle East, is a big deal:

“[the] abduction of the soldiers was particularly combustible. As it is, such acts strike deep into Israel's soul. It is practically a sacred notion in the Israeli military that nobody is left behind. And because the nation has a citizen's army and Israel's population is so small, hostage taking is felt intimately; if it's not your son or your neighbor's son, it could be.”

Lisa Beyer, ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’, p24-29, 24 July 2006, Time

Israel is bitter that Hamas has managed to make the transition from a military force to a political force in the Middle East. From the very beginning Israel has refused to cooperate with the newly democratically elected government, and still claims that it is a terrorist organisation, on par with other organisations like the Hezbollah—the one responsible for sparking the current conflict—or Al Qaeda for that matter.

“Hizballah is the wild card. There is always the possibility it could try to order up terrorist attacks against Israeli and Western targets around the world. If pushed to stop fighting, the group could lash out against its critics in Lebanon, unleashing the forces of civil war that ravaged the highly sectarian country for 15 years until 1990, and creating a new field of instability even as the U.S. struggles with crises in places like Iraq and Iran. Israel's strikes against Lebanon have provoked Shi'ite radicals in Iraq, who are threatening to attack U.S. troops in retaliation.


[…] Hizballah, which was created in 1982 to resist Israel's invasion of southern Lebanon, has internal political incentives to act against Israel. […] Hizballah counters that given the weakness of the Lebanese Army, a disciplined guerrilla force is needed to deter Israeli aggression. And what better way to remind the country of that aggression than to provoke some by capturing a soldier or two?”
Lisa Beyer, ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’, p24-29, 24 July 2006, Time

But Israeli stubbornness and refusal to engage in dialogue is dangerous, and the hardened reaction to invade Lebanon and bomb whatever it pleases has again robbed Israel the image of ‘victim’ in the Middle East, and exposed the aggressor for what it really is.

“Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted on us?”

Lebonese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, 20 July 2006

To be fair, Israel is simply seizing an opportunity to disarm, or at best if possible decapitate Hezbollah, which among with other extremist (Palestinian) militants often fire home-made rockets into Israeli territory

“Most Israelis know the offensive has come at a heavy price--to civilians on both sides, to Lebanon's infrastructure and to Israel's reputation abroad. But from the government's point of view, it is necessary and it is working.”

Lisa Beyer, ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’, p24-29, 24 July 2006, Time

It is true that Israel is no longer fighting for its existence as it did in 1967 and 1973, when Arab forces penetrated the country. Today's issue is the degree of pain the enemies of Israel's hardline policies can inflict. The state is secure but this crisis has heightened every Israeli's sense of individual insecurity.

Jonathan Steele, ‘How could both sides have blundered so badly?’, The Guardian, July 21, 2006

In war casualties are not restricted to only military personnel. You do not shell cities and claim it was done as ‘self-defence’. What nonsense! Such indiscriminate attacks on civilians amount to war crimes and blatant violations of international law. And when you start blockading ports, cutting off power supplies and water, erecting barriers and checkpoints to prevent the flow of much needed food and medicine into already destitute areas, do not be surprised that the word ‘fascist’ comes to mind. Fascist, justified and upheld by the belief that they alone are the true inheritors of the ‘holy land’, and that all others who reside there are only third-class citizens susceptible to the whims and mercy of an ultra-religious state, which seeks shelters and approval from an equally belligerent and self-interested superstate governed by Bible-clenching neo-cons.

“The post-9/11 era has marked a new high in Israeli-U.S. relations, with Washington abandoning its past practice of criticizing Israel when it acts severely toward the Palestinians or other Arab parties.”
Lisa Beyer, ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’, p24-29, 24 July 2006, Time

And the conflict on the borders is just the frontline, frontline masking the continuing atrocities and refugee crisis in Gaza.

Violence only begets violence. And we’ve seen this in the last few days, that every time Israel attacks Lebanon, rockets are sent flying over Israeli territory. And the world’s greatest military force does nothing; not a even condemnation, just a few words of urging ‘restraint’.

The most alarming aspect of the unfolding crisis in the Middle East isn't how many actors are jumping in. It's who is opting to stay out. Hamas, Hizballah and Israel are directly involved; Iran and Syria by proxy; Lebanon against its will. The U.N. is dispatching its mediators; the European Union is contemplating doing the same. But the U.S., despite colossal strategic stakes, threats to its own security, potential repercussions in Iraq, not to mention staggering loss of life, remains on the sidelines. The world's sole superpower is also its only no-show.
Robert Malley, ‘Time to Start Talking’, p30, 24 July 2006, Time

Underlying this non-intervention in a cause that obvisouly calls for the world’s one and only superpower to be involved—if not out of moral and peace concerns, then at least out of trying to prevent the escalating tensions from drawing members of the ‘axis of evil’ into the conflict—is the belief that:

“[…] engagement is a reward, misbehavior ought not be rewarded; ergo, misbehaving parties are not to be engaged. The thinking is that isolation, ostracism and, if need be, sanctions are more likely to get troublesome actors to change their ways. And so the list of diplomatic outcasts only grows. Today the U.S. does not talk to Iran, Syria, Hamas, the elected Palestinian government or Hizballah.”
Robert Malley, ‘Time to Start Talking’, p30, 24 July 2006, Time

Or perhaps the Americans simply have too much (mess) on their hands, given the situation in Iraq, and a defiant Iran. Or perhaps the US are sitting by and even tacitly supporting, or even rejoicing at, Israel’s bullying of its Arab neighbours.

The EU is at least trying to do something, if only debate up till now, but seems genuinely preoccupied with the escalating war.

[...] there are actually four wars, or species of war, going on in the Middle East just now: in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. That is in addition to the occupation of the West Bank, the tension arising from Iran's perceived nuclear ambitions and Syria's involvement with the Hezbollah militias.
Peter Sain ley Berry
, 'Anything is possible but the violence first has to stop', EUObserver, 21 July 2006

In the wise words of remarkable and eruditory statesman, King George W. : “Stop doing this shit!”

TV War—on the televisation of war in Iraq

Letter to Israelby a Lebanese blogger

Heart wrenching—a story from the other side of the conflict: the civilian side.

“The Lebanese Red Cross in Tyre said 10 cars carrying civilians and three or four motorcycles had been hit by Israeli missiles yesterday. Red Cross ambulances were no safer […]”

A refreshing analysis from the leftTariq Ali on the current crisis.

“[…] Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.”

Possible diplomatic solution in a real humanitarian crisis:

“[…]Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, to denounce them as "a violation of humanitarian law".

"It is horrific," he said as he toured the ruined Haret Hreik district of Beirut yesterday. "I did not know it was block after block of houses. "It's bigger, it's more extensive than I even could imagine."

Israel’s indiscriminate attacks:

“In a powerful speech to foreign diplomats on Wednesday, the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, pointed out that Israel was not only killing civilians and destroying huge chunks of the country's infrastructure, but had also hit army barracks. "Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions? Is this the message to send to the country of diversity, freedom and tolerance?" he asked.”

No comments: