Lebanon’s Obliteration 21 July 2006Posted by Todd in Democracy, News, War & Terrorism.
I’ve been struggling for the past week with Israel’s destruction of Lebanon, a country on the verge of forming a multicultural democracy, since the so-called “Cedar Revolution.” While I understand the threat of Hezbolla, which operates in Lebanon as if there were no Lebanese government, to the security of the State of Israel, I cannot wrap my mind around this out-of-proportion and unnecessary onslaught, destroying yet again an entire people caught in the middle. I can think of no possible political or moral justification for the actions of the State of Israel in this case. (I rarely find that I agree with the incredibly imbalanced response on the part of the Israeli government; a full-fledged democracy with, I assume, nuclear capabilities, owes more to the world than a non-stop bloodbath in the region.) In yesterday’s Salon.com, Juan Cole, professor of mideast studies at University of Michigan, examined the renewed war on Lebanon. I often find Dr. Cole’s analyses to be refreshing in their candor and rationality.
Cole believes that Israel’s plan is similar to their 1970 success in creating a refugee crisis in Jordan, which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Palestinian-Jordanians and ultimately the squelching of the PLO in Jordan. Laying aside the moral implications of a such an end, Cole argues that Lebanon is far different from Jordan–rather than a stable kingdom with a loyal army, Lebanon is a multi-cultural society and a fragile new democracy only recently freed from Syrian occupation. As reformers within the fledgling democracy were pushing to disarm Hezbollah, the growing conflict with Israel served Hezbollah’s political ends by justitfying their militia. Cole takes Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to task for his delusions and outright lies and for his acts of violence, which are not in dispute here. Hezbollah has never disarmed after the end of the civil war and they use Israel’s might to their south as justification for their continued violence and, frankly, as a means to continually garner support from the Shi’ite population of southern Lebanon. Although it doesn’t excuse its paramilitary actions, in recent years, Hezbollah has also morphed into a political party, it has been quite successful in bringing much needed social services to the poor shiites of the region.
And so what of Israel and its response to the most recent Hezbollah violence? Cole explains:
What of Israel? There is no question that Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket attacks, and to respond appropriately to Hezbollah’s illegal and immoral abduction of two soldiers and killing of others. A “proportional” response by Israel to Hezbollah’s initial attack, of the sort demanded by international human rights lawyers, would have involved killing three Hezbollah fighters and capturing two down at the border between the two countries — and a heavier response directly specifically at Hezbollah could also have been justified. Instead, Israel has bombed, blockaded, isolated and crippled the entire country. Why? In preparation for what?
Cole describes the Israeli plan, the hope that with an incursion into Southern Lebanon, they can turn the majority of lebanese against Hezbollah, so that the Sunni, Druze and Maronites will unite and use the army to disarm the paramilitary party. With already nearly 500,000 refugees (according to the U.N.) and already hundreds of civilian deaths in the bombing, Israel hopes that the civilians will leave the south of Lebanon so that the 5,000 or so Hezbollah militia can be more easily targeted; and they hope that a refugee crisis in Beirut will force the government to send in the army against Hezbollah.
Cole argues that the plan will not work because of Lebanon’s history, because the Lebanese are so deeply scarred by their civil war, which only ended barely a decade ago. He also argues that the Lebanese army is small and green, as yet untrained; and that thousands of the soldiers are sympathetic shi’ites. [Since Cole wrote his op-ed a few days ago, Israel has continued it’s bombing and issued orders for the total evacuation of southern Lebanon.] Cole also predicts that the shi’ites in Iraq are watching the situation carefully and that the already restive shi’ite population (anti-Israel demonstrations already took place earlier this week) will begin to fight against American occupiers as supporters of Israel.
Of course Israel has the right to defend its citizens against missile attacks and its soldiers against being attacked. But Israel’s disproportionate response and its overreaching plan to cleanse the entire south of Lebanon of Shiites will at best buy a temporary respite. If Israel could not destroy Hezbollah during 20 years of actual Israeli military occupation of the south, it cannot do so with intensive bombing raids and some ground incursions. […] The Israelis have responded the same way to military threats for decades — with overwhelming force. This is perhaps understandable, but each time they overreact they create future catastrophes for themselves. Just as their 1982 invasion of Lebanon and occupation of the south haunted them for a generation, they will be living with the blowback of their ill-considered war on hapless little Lebanon for decades to come. Tragically, the United States, as Israel’s closest ally, will also have to suffer for its actions.
In pop psychology, there’s an idea of “compassion overload,” when a friend just can’t muster the emotional strength to feel sorry for someone anymore, and may even turn critical or mean, to protect themselves emotionally from the person who is hurting. But what’s the term for watching someone you care about make repeatedly bad choices and then finally not caring anymore if they succede, and indeed, because their choices are unethical (or immoral) they are hurting other people, so you actually hope they “get caught” and someone puts a stop to it?
Israel has demonstrated in the past their ability to produce lightening speed, targeted and comensurate responses to terrorist acts. But over the past 15 years, it’s as if they have forgotten how, and now all that they can see is massive, widespread violence, and that’s all that will satisfy their needs. Such bloodlust must not be tolerated by the world community. If Israel was on the outs with the international community before, surely it will loose all credibility now. Eqbal Ahmad, a Pakistani philosopher, argued that terrorism comes in five forms: State, Religious, Criminal, Pathological, Oppositional. Israel’s actions are clearly state sponsored terrorism perpetrated against an entire ethnicity of a sovereign nation. But, as Ahamad notes, a state will refuse to give an accurate and empirical definition of terrorism, because then in doing so it loses the ability to control its own population with fear of the terrorist, and it further loses the ability to act with violence in the world.
To underscore my point that Israel has perpetrated an act of state-sponsored terrorism, the San Francisco Chronicle today reports that (like the U.S. invasion of Iraq) plans for the invasion of Lebanon were put in place over a year ago. The recent kidnapping just provided a convenient excuse to set it in motion, as if anyone could possibly believe that the displacement of more than a million people and the manipulation of a sovereign government at gun point could possibly be justified in the present circumstances.