“It has been more than a week that Israel has been pounding Lebanon with hundreds of tones of explosives, all with the noble goal of dismantling Hezbolloah, a well-known terrorist organization. Of course, Israel has one of the most advanced armies in the world, meaning that they can surgically strike the Hezbollah targets, while keeping down civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. As the Israeli military actions were provoked by kidnapping of two of its soldiers, the international community, including many in the Arab world, but with the obvious exception of Syria and Iran, have been blaming Hezbollah for the crisis, and thus condone the Israeli initiative. Israeli action is even more-so justified as Hezbollah has been ruthlessly bombarding civilian targets in northern Israel with hundreds of rockets over the past week, killing over a dozen Israelis …”
This is a brief picture of the new “Mideast Crisis” as seen on the mainstream US news channels. It is amazing how every sane commentator or (ex-) diplomat is simply happy with the Israeli reaction, with a few exceptions; those who look crazy. Of course, there are other clues that you may pick on. For example, the number of Lebanese dead is some factor of twenty higher than the Israeli side, while the numbers of injured are comparable! But more important than the number of casualties, for Israel, is the nobility of the end goal. In the words of the Israeli ambassador to the UN: “In the getting rid of this terrorist organization, we are not just doing a favor to Israel, or Lebanon, but rather to the whole civilization …” It is truly a noble undertaking … or is it?
In observing this display of politics and power, it is hard not to wonder if there is more going on behind the scene that is visible to the naked eye. Is this all a devious plan by the Iranian policy makers in order to divert attention from their ongoing nuclear weapons program? Although this seems to be a common theory, I somehow think that we are giving the “Iranian policy makers” too much credit, by assuming that they could predict such a domino effect. Or may be they just got lucky!
On the other hand, there is an eerie familiarity about how events are unfolding in “the only democracy of the middle east”. Something about a new leader, starting a new noble war in order to avoid domestic problems or gain credibility (and credibility is what he gets). A not-so-distant war, in a not-so-distant country …
It is no secret that American and Israeli governments (and publics) enjoy close implicit and explicit ties. While the true underpinning of this close relationship is beyond the interest (and intelligence) of this piece, it is not hard to imagine why the politics of these two countries may become increasingly similar over time. An interesting side effect is that whenever you hear Israeli politicians on American TV, it is as if they are talking to their own constituents, as if it is the American public that is going to vote for them. In fact, I doubt that there would be many US elected officials who are as well-spoken as their Israeli counterparts, appearing on US news channels. Of course, when it comes to western politics, as always, selling the most hypocritical policies with the right choice of words is the name of the game.
Apart from this side, and coming back to the crisis at hand, the similarity between the Israeli latest offensive on Lebanon, and what we know as the “Operation Iraqi Freedom” are subtle, but yet unmistakable. Talking to a few Lebanese reveals that Hezbollah is far more than an extremist terrorist group, but rather intimately intertwined with the fabric of the Lebanese society. They are considered as the pride of the Lebanese society who are credited for ending Israeli occupation, and are popular, not only with the Shia muslims, but also with Sunnis and Christians. In fact, more than two thirds of the Lebanese public somehow benefit from the services of Hezbollah. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine that destroying Hezbollah takes nothing less than destroying Lebanon, and putting it back together from scratch.
Sounds familiar? Add to it the fact that Saddam Hussein was such an unpopular dictator, and yet US is in so much trouble for removing him. On the other hand, Hezbollah is the most popular political group in Lebanon (whose popularity increases by the minute).
I assume that the majority of the Israeli public have already made peace with the moral implications of the policies of their elected government (some of which bring about significant suffering and death, among other things). After all, this is a democracy. What this young democracy is constantly overlooking is the long term effects of using brute force to remove their enemies, in the process of which more bystanders are hurt. This is only a recipe for making more enemies.
For example, creation of Hezbollah was a direct byproduct of the occupation of Lebanon by Israel in order to remove PLO, some twenty years ago. While, depending on your moral criteria, this might have been justified, in the long run, it left Israel with a stronger enemy to deal with. Is there any question that the children who are raised under the Israeli bombardment will grow up to make the next, may be more brutal reincarnation of Hezbollah? Of course, many of the Israelis who have to deal with this problem are yet to be born, and thus cannot impact the undoubtedly high approval rating of the current Israeli prime minister.
The analogy of Iraq may again be used to predict what may happen in the next few months if the hostilities continue at this rate. There is no question that the US has made many enemies in Iraq, most likely more than the new friends it might have made. However, most Americans have the luxury of living on the other side of the globe, where most of these enemies cannot harm them. Unfortunately, most Israelis don’t enjoy this luxury when it comes to their newfound enemies.